Following on from our previous foot health articles, it's time to take a deep dive into footwear. What goes into great footwear? How does footwear affect your feet? What impact does that have on the links, and life in general?
If you are going to all this effort to improve your foot strength and mobility, the next logical step is to look at your footwear. At the very least, your shoes should protect your feet from the elements - that's a given. They shouldn't cause your feet any issues, either (although many do). If you take our advice, your shoes may even help your game... read on. they should even help your game.
What shape are your shoes?
If you asked a child what shape shoes should be, most of them would suggest they should be shaped like feet. Seems pretty logical, but more and more these days shoes are becoming more tapered, cramming toes together and causing all manner of foot health issues. Think blisters, bunions, and frankly, misshapen feet.
Stepping into shoes that are naturally wide and match the actual shape of your foot, allowing your toes to spread out and interact with the ground can improve your balance and comfort on the links. If you have wide feet, get wider, natural-fitting shoes. If you have narrow feet, get more neutral natural fitting shoes. The good news is there are wider and neutral-fitting options available. Understanding the actual shape of your foot is very important in finding the best shoe shape for you.
Golf shoes shaped like real feet... who'd have thought.
How do your shoes interact with your feet?
Your shoes work with your foot's natural movement, not against it. They shouldn't be artificially stiff or force your feet into an unnatural posture. Look for shoes that are more flexible through the forefoot, allowing your toes to flex and move. Increased stiffness through this area reduces the foot's natural ability to propel forward and interact with the ground effectively. If you develop blisters, corns or areas of hard skin, your shoes may be too narrow or small. These areas of rubbing and irritation can be an indication of how your feet are interacting with your shoes. Again, look for shoes that match the shape of your foot.
A flexible forefoot promotes improved ground interaction.
Do they provide your feet with a platform that enables optimal ground reaction forces (interaction with the ground) during your golf swing?
Shoes with higher heels push weight onto your toes and alter your natural walking mechanics. You may have heard the term 'zero drop' or 'neutral heel' shoes. This simply means that your feet sit nice and level from heel to forefoot, as opposed to your heel sitting higher, which is the case in many athletic shoes. For a more natural experience, the amount of heel lift should be zero, or as close to it as possible. We weren't born with high heels for a reason!
This doesn’t mean zero cushioning either. Ideally, we want a more neutral platform that works with your foot's natural movement, without excessive cushioning. Many golf shoes are over-engineered in this respect. If you require a layer of cushioning, no problems, but try and keep it as thin as you can tolerate. You may even find over time you can reduce the level of cushioning you require on the links. After all, it is one of the most manicured surfaces you are likely to walk on.
Zero drop shoes provide a more natural platform for your feet.
If your feet are starting to feel the pinch halfway down the back nine, it's probably time to look at upgrading your footwear. Fortunately, you've landed in the right place to do just that.