How Do Golf Shoes Affect Your Swing?
There are more books, articles, and studies on the mechanics of the golf swing than any one person could read in a lifetime, and it’s no wonder.
The golf swing is pivotal to the sport of golf, and learning to understand, improve, and master the swing it is the key to improvement and the success as a golfer.
Yet, there are many different schools of thought on what makes a golf swing.
Is it the macro mechanics or the micro mechanics?
Is it all in the hips or the wrists or the elbows?
While the truth is that every element is a key component and matter’s, it’s understood that without having a proper stance, you’ll never get all of the swing dynamics to come together.
This is where golf shoes play a significant and important role.
Many are quick to dismiss golf shoes as only an optional piece of equipment, the way you might scoff at buying an expensive tour bag to hold your clubs when a regular stand bag could do the trick just as well.
But, that’s the wrong way to look at it. Imagine instead you are playing football and instead of studded boots, you decide on wearing a pair of running shoes, you are more likely to slip and hurt yourself, well that is exactly the same with Golf shoes.
Golf Shoes are built specifically to support and enhance the performance of the players who wear them, and for a golfer, performance=swing.
So, just how can a pair of shoes impart greater distance or accuracy to your swing? The answer begins with the importance of your feet.
The Role of the Feet in Your Golf Swing
A golf swing is a complex interaction between nearly every part of the body. You grip the club with your hands, eye your target, begin the takeaway by swinging the club back with arms straight and shoulders engaged.
Your wrists hinge, you turn at the hips into your backswing, bending at the knees, and then reverse the motion in one fluid, explosive swing.
All the while your core is engaged to stabilize you throughout the process.
Try to imagine that series of motions, and you’ll quickly find yourself asking “How am I standing during this?“
I purposely neglected to explain how the feet fit in to underscore just how important they are when trying to make sense of, and learn, how to swing.
The effectiveness of the swing depends upon the stance.
Look at any guide you like: they’ll start with telling you how to stand.
The Importance of the Stance in Golf
Your stance varies with the type of shot you’re attempting.
You’ll have a wider stance, just beyond shoulder width, when you’re using your driver, and a narrow stance for putting or wedge shots.
Regardless of width, the basic stance begins with both feet pointed forward, perpendicular the “target line,” which is the imaginary line stretching between the ball and where you want the golf ball to go.
Then there’s foot flare. From the initial set up, you can decide if you want to angle your left foot slightly outward to clear the way for your follow through.
Some people flare their right foot as well, though this can have a negative impact on the power delivered.
Already, before you’ve even raised the club, the position of your feet is dictating the direction of your swing, the arc of your follow through, and the maximum force you’ll be able to apply.
But this isn’t where their influence ends.
Foot Movement During the Golf Swing
Your power is created and produced from the turf interaction with the ground.
Does this Sound familiar?
This is an often-repeated phrase when hammering home the point that the more solidly and structured your feet are grounded, the more power is able to be transferred through the golf swing.
Another way of looking at this is the less you move your feet during the swing, the better.
When you start the turn on the back swing, your left foot will lift at the heel, and your weight will transfer to your right foot.
This will reverse during the downswing. In either case, the motion will cause the movement of the foot. Your job is to keep your feet as stable and grounded as possible.
If you are lifting them more than they need to be lifted, you will lose stability, balance, power, and accuracy.
At this point, you can see how the position of your feet can make, or break, your swing. By extension, the kind of golf shoes you’re wearing will have a similar impact.
How Golf Shoes Effect Your Swing?
Based on the information above, we know that the position of our feet must be stable throughout the golf swing.
It’s also important that best way is for the feet to be allowed to flex naturally in response to the upper body’s motions.
That flexing causes the back of the foot to rise, engaging the golfer’s ankles and calves, and placing the bulk of our weight on the balls of our feet.
Golf shoes have been designed to support these motions, helping you to balance, and have the required stability and mobility to deliver solid golf shots.
They accomplish this by way of the following features:
The Soles on Golf Shoes
Golf shoe outsoles come in two variants: spiked and spikeless. The spikes in question are specially designed cleats, meant to hold the feet in place, vs the cleats in other sports made to provide traction for running around.
Spikeless soles trade the hard plastic spikes for rubber nodules or prongs arranged so that they provide similar holding power, while allowing the wearer to walk around in them.
Both of these innovations keep the feet from breaking stance due to slipping on wet grass or loose soil. This translates directly into greater power behind your swing.
The midsole of these shoes is also different.
They tend to provide more arch support to reduce the impact on the heel and Achilles tendon that occurs when the heels rise and fall during the swing.
This, in turn, helps players to reduce the incidence of tendonitis. Please see our article on Best Golf Shoes for Achilles Tendonitis
As for the insoles, more cushioning is afforded to the ball of the foot and the heel, to lessen the impact during the swing. Without this, the areas in question will experience more wear and tear.
The resulting pain and soreness would cause you to adjust your swing to compensate.
The Golf Shoe Toe Box
The front of a golf shoe is almost always wider than that of another athletic shoe.
When you rise up during the swing, a narrow toe box will cause your toes to crowd together.
This friction can be painful on it’s own, but it can also lead to blisters or bone deformity overtime.
The wider toe box means you won’t shorten or pull your swing in anticipation of pain.
The Golf Shoe Upper
The upper part of the shoe, or the body, has to be flexible to allow your foot to bend as intended.
Imagine trying to swing properly wearing hard work boots.
They are an extreme example, but any shoe not designed to flex in the ways specific to a golf swing will impact your output.
For this reason, golf shoes are constructed using the most flexible materials like mesh, knit composites, and microfiber leather.
Even when using the typical materials, golf shoe manufacturers will alter them to better suit the needs of play.
ECCO, a well-known manufacturer of golf shoes, went so far as to create their own tannery to produce leather that performs ideally for golfers.
That shows you how important a role the material plays.
The Golf Shoe Collar
Even the opening of the golf shoe is designed to help your swing.
The collar is generally of a height and shape that it does not interfere with the motion of the ankle.
Remember, your ankles are engaged during the swing, they flex on the downswing, and when you squat at the knees.
If this motion is obstructed, so is the entire flow of your golf swing.
When you take all of these features together, you have a class of shoe that both amplifies your performance while providing protection tailored to a golf player.
Sure, you can still play golf without wearing golf shoes.
But if you want to unlock the full potential of your golf swing and be more consistent, then they are the key.