Traffic jams, honking horns, ringing cellphones – there’s plenty of chaos involved in an average day. Dropping the kiddos off at school, getting to work on time, meeting those deadlines, keeping the house in order… Does life ever stop?
Sometimes it may seem life is pulling you in all different directions, and there is only one thing that can bring you some much-needed peace of mind: nature. There’s really nothing like the stillness of a forest, the calming effects of chirping birds, and the gentle breeze of a warm afternoon, right?
That’s why our very own Dr. Barbara Kaiser gathered a couple good friends and decided to hit the El Camino trails in Spain! And with so many beautiful adventures – and even a few setbacks – along their hiking trip, we thought it’d be cool to share this story with you.
Perhaps this blog post may even inspire you to go on your own hiking trip! (And the good news is you don’t have to hop on a plane to find the perfect trail for you. There are plenty of amazing routes you can enjoy right here in our backyard.)
So, strap on those hiking boots and let’s get to it. There’s 115 km to cover in only 5 days!
Did We Say 115 Kilometers?!
We absolutely did.
But before we get to the nitty gritty, here’s some background on the El Camino Trail:
It was during the Middle Ages when this hiking route was responsible for the largest movement of people in Europe. Millions of people – rich and poor – made their way to Santiago Compostela through the El Camino Trail. They hoped to “spend less time in purgatory” by acquiring a certificate of pilgrimage.
The trail begins in St. Jean Pied-du-Port in France, cuts across the Pyrenees, and continues westward for 60 miles through the south coast of Spain. Hikers on this trail will pass through Pamplona, Burgos, Leon, and many smaller towns and villages along the way. It’s a total length of about 500 miles!
Despite its current popularity, the trail route was almost lost to history. That is, of course, until the past couple of decades, when a growing body of literature about the trail sparked a renewed interest in its hiking routes – and that is where Dr. Kaiser and her hiking friends come in!
The Start of a Hiking Adventure
Dr. Kaiser and her two companions joined a group of hikers to start their adventure in Sarria. They planned on hiking through 115 kilometers in order to reach Santiago by the 5th day. This means they would have to average 8-12 hours of walking to cover about 12-20 miles each day.
We know; this may seem like torture to your feet, but Dr. Kaiser had fully prepared her lower limbs for the job several months prior. This is an important aspect of keeping feet and ankles healthy during sports activities like hiking (and as an expert podiatrist, she certainly knew just how to protect her feet).
Although Dr. Kaiser had participated in several marathons and hiking trips in the past, preparing her feet for the El Camino trail was different in some ways. Walking such a long distance over many consecutive days meant very limited time for recovery, and strengthening her lower limbs required her to start training 6 months in advance.
Here is what preparation entailed:
- Walking for an hour every day for 6 months (and up to 4 hours on the weekends). This helped strengthen muscles, ligaments, and tendons in the feet and ankles, which would help prevent any unwanted pain or injury, like ankle sprains, during her hike in El Camino.
- Choosing the right footwear (and testing its fit 6 months in advance). This ensured her hiking shoes would actually protect her feet and provide proper comfort and support during her hike in El Camino. (Something Dr. Kaiser is glad she did, as the footwear she had initially purchased ended up damaging her toenails. Fortunately, there was plenty of time to not only find a better fitting pair of shoes, but also break them in before her trip.)
- Packing extra thick socks. This helped prevent painful corns and blisters from developing during her hiking journey. (One of her hiking buddies was not so lucky in steering clear from this problem – but more on that in a bit.) In order to allow plenty of room for her toes to move freely in the toe box while still wearing thick socks, Dr. Kaiser went a size larger than her usual hiking shoes.
- Wearing custom orthotics with a shock absorbing cover. This helped reduce impact on her lower limbs during her trip, which in turn was a great way to prevent stress fractures and other painful injuries to the feet and ankles.
- Packing a small first-aid kit. This allowed Dr. Kaiser to be prepared with the tools necessary to immediately treat any small injuries, like blisters. Together with a first-aid kit, she also included an antiseptic skin prep and a 2nd Skin blister protection pad.
Now, the preparatory measures listed in the previous section may sound too simple to be true. But they can go a long way in protecting one’s feet during activities that require a lot from lower limbs. And we are glad to report that Dr. Kaiser was able to go through this arduous trek without any foot troubles whatsoever! (And all it took was a little commitment and preparation.)
Unfortunately, one of her walking partners did not fare as well. Multiple severe blisters developed on her feet, causing pain and threatening to bring this beautiful adventure to a screeching halt. Dr. Kaiser quickly stepped back into her role of podiatrist and offered to help her travelling companion, draining and dressing the injuries.
And guess what? They were able to complete the walk without any further incidents!
This part of the journey is a great example of why choosing the right pair of shoes is so important. Although Dr. Kaiser’s hiking companion suffered a minor injury (blisters), things could have been much worse. Wearing ill-fitting shoes, especially when performing activities such as hiking, can easily cause serious foot and ankle injuries, including ankle sprains and fractures.
Ending a Beautiful Adventure with a Confident Stride
As Dr. Kaiser and her hiking group passed through the various medieval villages along the way, they quickly fell into the cadence and rhythm of constant walking. There were many moments in the trip where everyone was mostly silent, which created a sort of meditation. This allowed Dr. Kaiser to work on personal rejuvenation, inner rest and introspection – something that is not easily available in our fast-paced society.
By the end of the 5th day, when they completed 115 kilometers through the El Camino trail to Santiago, Dr. Kaiser couldn’t help but feel a momentary sadness. This wonderfully magical experience was coming to an end; it was time to get back to “real life” and all the hustle and bustle that comes with it.
And, now, with an extra pep in her step, Dr. Kaiser is back in Charlotte doing what she does best: Caring for our patients’ feet and ankles so they too can go on amazing hikes!
Want to hear more about Dr. Kaiser trip? Looking for more tips on how to keep your feet safe and comfortable during your next hiking adventure? Give our office a call today! We have two convenient locations ready to serve you:
- Myers Park: (704) 334-8682
- South Charlotte: (704) 542-8253
You can also reach out to us via our online contact form, and a member of our staff will reach out to you shortly.