People of all fitness levels are able to enjoy the Camino de Santiago. Long-distance walking beginners will find it easier to start with short daily stages (less than 15km). There are no “set” stage lengths for the Camino, and pilgrims should have flexible itineraries to fit with how their bodies are responding. I’ve noticed some people tend to push through injuries to keep to a set schedule. This practice can result in extensive damage and may prematurely end the entire Camino journey. It is good practice to have extra days built into the schedule for unexpected foot pain, knee discomfort, and other physical maladies. If vacation time is a constraint, consider completing a section, or choosing a short Camino route to finish in Santiago de Compostela.
During “peak season” on the popular routes it is possible to arrange for daily luggage transfer for a small fee. This service is wonderful to alleviate the stress of wearing a large, heavy backpack. It is challenging enough for average folks to walk continuous long distances with variable elevation change. The freedom of a small daypack can make for a much more comfortable time on the Camino. It is also a great solution for pilgrims who bring heavy or bulky items (eg. CPAP machine, photography gear).
Although it isn’t mandatory, training before the trip is beneficial to having a more enjoyable pilgrimage. Walking on compacted, hard flat surfaces can be more stressful on the feet and joints than a hiking path.
At home, it is easier to recover from blisters and learn how to manage walking injuries like plantar fasciitis. Being fit can be the difference between exhaustion during the evening, and having the energy to walk into the city centre to admire the cathedral.
Pilgrims with an excellent level of walking conditioning have increased options for choosing various Camino routes. The less popular Camino routes usually have long daily stages (sometimes 40+ km). These routes can often travel through remote, mountainous areas with limited services and challenging trail conditions.