Camino Tips – Dealing with Tendonitis
Here are some further tips I just shared with someone on the Camino Forum who was struggling with Achilles pain.
This is based on making it all the way to Santiago…..and the things I learnt along the way about self treatment.
Of course, please do seek professional medical advice!
- Reduce the weight you are carrying. Carry the bare essentials and send your pack forward for a few days. (maybe for the rest of your Camino) You need to reduce weight on those tendons.
- Buy some heel wedges. (Pharmacy) Small foam wedges that you stick under your shoe inserts. 4 or 6 mm. Going up steep hills, add an extra one. Going up from St Jean I had three in one side = 12 mm. It reduces the stretching of the tendon. Just leave one in on the flat. Take any extras out once you are up the hill.
- Use Ice frequently. Every couple of hours. Take shoes and socks off and get some ice in a small zip lock bag. 4 or 5 cubes is enough. With a bit of water. Rest your heels on the ice bag for 15 mins up on a chair at the breaks. And again at night.
- Stretch. Carefully. In the mornings, at the breaks and at night. Feet flat on the ground, step forward with the other foot, and gradually lower and bend the knee on the rear foot, stretching the Achilles tendon. Then swap. This will often give instant relief.
- Medication. Take Ibuprofin (as long as you do not have stomach problems). Get advice from a pharmacist. I was taking 400 mg every 4 hours, twice a day whilst walking and again at night. You can take paracetamol on top of them for pain. At night you can try Inbuprofen cream instead of tablets. (not both)
- Raise your feet at night. Put a rolled up blanket, towel, pillow under the foot of the bed.
- Raise your feet at breaks. A few times when it got very painful, I just lay on the ground with my feet up on my pack for half an hour.
- Physio. I went any chance I could get. It’s very cheap in Spain. About 30-35e. They may offer to tape your feet. that helped me a lot. The non stretch tape worked best. Non Elastico. Shower with a bag on your feet and it may last a week. Ask the Physio to show you how to do it and you can replace it yourself if required. You won’t do a professional job, but it will help.
- Poles! If you are not using trekking poles, get some. You need two. And really put your weight on them. Use the straps. The weight goes on the straps not the handles. It takes the weight off your heels. Push down on them hard…..and the weight in taken on your arms, not your heels.
- Surface. It is walking on hard surfaces that leads to Achilles Tendonitis in the first place. (Hence I got it in training). Wherever possible seek out the softest part of the ‘trail’. Earth, grass, fine gravel, is always far kinder on your tendons than asphalt or concrete! ‘Tread softly’ and your tendons will get you to Santiago
All these steps are a bit of a pain in the ass ……but they will reduce your Achilles pain.
Shown below are the Heel Wedges I used.
The inner sole is an Orthotic provided by my Physio pre Camino. I fixed the heel wedges to these with a piece of duct tape folded over, to make a small piece, maybe 1cm square, of double sided tape. This was enough to keep the wedge in place. For longer wedges, I used two pieces.
This made it easy to swap in and out extra wedges when going up steep hills.
In the photo it might look like there are two wedges. The tiny thin second one on the far side, my Physio fitted, to angle my heel in slightly.
My ‘standard’ setup up was this, with one wedge under the left heel. This was the most swollen tendon. Nothing under the right heel.
Extra wedges when required were just ‘stuck’ on top of the existing wedge that always remained there. When adding extra wedges I put them in both boots. I carried a few ‘extras’ as they are very small and weigh nothing. A couple of other Pilgrims tried them and loved them 🙂
Extra Duct tape was carried wrapped around my walking poles…….. came in handy for many things!