Last year I walked the Camino Frances, 500 miles (800 kilometers) in a pair of hiking shoes. Or, I should say, in a couple of pairs, since my Keenes gave out halfway and were replaced by a pair of Columbias. I walked it in early spring (late March to early May) and it was occasionally muddy from St.-Jean to about Carrion de los Condes. Not the entire way, but enough that I was glad to be wearing shoes. Lots of people walking create lots of deep mud… I also walked through at least one snow/rain storm. I carried along a pair of Birkenstocks (no backstrap) for the evenings, though I would have preferred to have taken my Chacos along. But my pair of Chacos weigh nearly a kilo and the Birkenstocks were half that, so the Birkenstocks made the journey.
I have feet that are nearly flat and I have had problems in the past with Plantar Fasciitis. The flat feet also exacerbated problems with my knees. I averaged 25 kilometers per day on the Camino and each evening my feet were sore. It felt good to put them up. Still, I wondered what it would have been like to have been wearing my Chacos when the weather suited? Now I know.
Chacos have a triple arch support, which includes the main arch and the metatarsal arch. A podiatrist told me that they were the best thing for hiking in general, but particularly for someone with flat, or nearly flat feet.
My wife and I just completed 150+ kilometers on the Via di Francesco in Italy, eight days, from Rieti to Assisi and I walked nearly the entire way in my Chacos, as did my wife. What a difference they make! No more sore feet. Except for a couple of points crossing some mountain passes, where I put on my shoes, they were perfectly suitable. This path has been a mixture of blacktop and dirt road. The weather has been warm (20 plus Celsius or 70 plus Fahrenheit) and no rain. I feel like I’m walking on a cloud. I’m even carrying a pack that’s slightly heavier than what I carried on the Camino (8 kilos compared to 6.) There is the occasional nuisance of small pebbles getting caught under my foot, which means stopping to get it out, but otherwise I find it preferable. There were even some people walking by in high-top hiking shoes who were shocked when they saw us. But I’m glad to say that there were no injuries. And when you descend, your toes do not push against the tip of the shoe, a great benefit.
One more benefit: fewer blisters, since there are fewer contact points with your feet, than with shoes/boots.
Walking in sandals can dry out your feet, so use lotion at night to help moisten them.
If you are considering a long walk on the Camino de Santiago, or the Via di Francesco, or anywhere in warmer weather, I highly recommend Chacos, or something similar. My feet are very thankful.
(Full disclosure: this is NOT an advertisement for Chacos, or any other brand. I’m not paid by them. Just happens to be the brand I’m wearing and I’m sure pilgrims can also find something else suitable.)
And lastly, if you are interested in reading about my own walk on the Camino de Santiago, you can read about my book here.