℞ for Pilgrim Blisters

You will probably get blisters on the Camino.

I’ve always been of the leave-it-alone-and-let-it-heal school, and this was my tack for the first week. My body made little juice-pillows on my heels and toes for a reason, right? I should just leave them alone . . . right? Wrong. On the Camino, blisters don’t get a chance to heal naturally. Those juice-pillows, which form where your foot rubs your shoe, will now rub even more — creating double and triple blisters. I assure you, such things are possible.

Here’s how to deal with blisters, and why it is essential to bring a travel sewing kit (and some antiseptic). Do this at night before going to bed, after your feet are clean:

1. Thread your needle with a small amount of thread.

2. Disinfect the needle and thread with disinfectant.

3. Poke needle through the blister, and draw the thread through. Gently press the blister to expel the juice.

4. Remove the needle, leaving a small length of thread inside the blister. The thread should hang out of the blister on either side, about 1 cm or so. This prevents the blister from sealing up again and re-filling with juice.

5. Put on a clean sock and say your prayers.

6. Remove the thread in the morning before setting out. Some people leave the thread in their blisters while they walk, but to me it seems risky, as infection can be introduced during the many sweaty hours your foot will spend in your not-exactly-sterile shoes.

If this seems disgusting and counterintuitive, I promise you that this tactic, which was taught to me by another pilgrim, saved my butt. By the end of the Camino, I was sewing other people’s blisters for them, Florence-Nightingale-style. Be consistent, and keep your feet clean. Wear rubber thongs in the shower. Most of the showers we used were clean enough, but you really don’t want to be stomping around on wet tile that hundreds of other pilgrims have been stomping around on. Surely I don’t need to explain why.


Some pilgrims swear by the little jelly band-aids for blister care. I didn’t love them because they became weirdly involved with my socks, but Jim liked them. I think they work best for blister prevention. After you’ve already got a blister, they’re not really going to help, and unlike a band-aid, they’re going to stick to the injured part of your skin, making threading impossible. If you peel it off, you risk peeling off the entire blister, which you DON’T WANT TO DO.

If you do opt for Compeed, then use it wherever you feel rubbing and sense a potential blister. Warm the Compeed up in your hands before applying it. It will stay stuck to your foot for a couple of days, which you may or may not think is awesome.


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