Gear Questions You’re Afraid to Ask: Are traditional golf shoes necessary?
Welcome to Gear Questions You’re Afraid to Ask, a GOLF.com series produced in partnership with Cleveland Golf. This week we look at the myriad of golf shoe options available in the marketplace.
Golf shoe manufacturers have done an incredible job in the last couple of decades, pivoting from uncomfortable leather shoes with painful metal spikes, to more athletic-inspired options with alternative spikes made from synthetic materials.
Hooray for that. Many of us can remember wearing metal-laden spikes and they were flat-out awful compared to what we wear today. And for what it’s worth, I strongly believe that alternative spikes — albeit not new — never garnered the recognition they should have in terms of the lasting effects they’ve had on making the game more enjoyable for more people. They’ve been a game-changer in every respect for millions of golfers.
Within the last few years, we’ve seen yet another shift in sole technology to golf shoes with integrated traction patterns built into the sole, eschewing the need for having removable spikes altogether. Question is, though, are today’s alternative spikes and integrated sole designs any better than what you might get from a rugged running shoe?
The easy answer is obviously yes. Golf shoes, whether spiked or with spikeless sole designs, are better for golf than running shoes or even cross trainers.
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Asics Gel Course golf shoes
The simple reason is this: Golf shoe soles are designed specifically with the golf swing in mind, which means they’re structured to limit lateral movement and come with features to keep the medial foot region supported and steady as you swing (an area that’s usually more flexible in an athletic shoe).
They also are designed to cradle the foot differently than a running shoe with less toe drop, meaning the heel in a golf shoe doesn’t rest as high as it does in an athletic shoe to help you better sense the ground beneath your feet. Lastly, golf shoes tend to have larger and wider footprints than do running shoes, meaning they are made for helping you balance better with added traction while standing and swinging from side to side, not for when you’re running forward.
That said, this isn’t to say running/athletic shoes don’t have something to offer to golfers. Much of the same technology found in running shoes is borrowed and used in many of today’s top golf shoes. Things like added cushioning for better shock absorption and synthetic mesh materials for improved breathability can be found in dozens of styles.
Asics, for example, a company that’s perhaps best known for making running shoes favored by cross country and marathon runners, recently partnered with Srixon to develop a collection of golf shoes that marry performance and comfort in a variety of models. They look and feel as comfortable as an athletic/running shoe but are made to perform from tee to green with the aforementioned stability and traction required for maximum power delivery into the ball.
To help make the process easier for you come time to pick up a new pair of golf shoes (yes, you need to), below are five tips to speed up your decision-making.
Tip 1: Spiked golf shoes offer better traction in wet conditions
This is by no means a scientific conclusion — rather a real life one. I spent years playing hundreds of rounds in the rainy Pacific Northwest, and spiked golf shoes simply worked better when it was wet or damp. And because I often changed the spikes, I had a fresh-as-new pair of golf shoes every season.
Tip 2: Spikeless shoes are more comfortable, and work just fine in dry conditions
Spikeless shoes tend to have thicker sole designs, making them feel more cushioned and easier on the feet. In my experience, too, if conditions were dry, they help hold my feet securely on the ground just as well as spiked models did.
Tip 3: Golf shoes don’t require “breaking in” anymore
Your shoes aren’t baseball mitts. They should feel great out of the box and if they don’t, they’re probably too small or narrow. Instead, get a pair that feels just right at the store. Your feet will swell once you start walking and playing, but with today’s leathers and synthetic materials, they should stretch ever so slightly.
Tip 4: Socks are almost as important as the shoes
You may not realize it, but the kind of socks you wear can adversely affect how well a shoe fits, not to mention how well it performs. The biggest fail usually comes from wearing socks that are either too thin or too thick. Too thin and your feet will probably slide in the shoe, causing blisters and hotspots. Too thick and your shoe will be tight and your feet will get sweaty which can again cause blisters and hotspots. Always, if you can, wear an athletic sock that is breathable and comes with light cushioning. This is true for long or no-show socks just the same.
Tip 5: For the love of golf, please dry them out properly
After an extraordinary golf trip to Ireland, replete with more than a few rounds in heavy rain, I was so high on golf that I forgot to both clean and remove my drenched and muddy golf shoes from my shoe tote so they could dry before loading them into my travel bag for the long flight home to Los Angeles. That was a mistake to begin with, but the more brutal sin is that I didn’t play golf for a few months after that, so my soggy golf shoes hid tucked away in my musty travel bag in a hot garage for several weeks. Not only were my shoes ruined with mold and mildew from the inside out, I had successfully cultivated a most potent eco-system in my entire travel bag. I ruined my favorite golf shoes, and was down a travel bag as well. So please, don’t be like me. Treat and care for your golf shoes as needed — especially if you get them wet.
Want to overhaul your own bag for 2021? Visit the expert fitters at our sister company, True Spec Golf. For more on the latest gear news and information, make sure to check out our recent Fully Equipped podcast in the Spotify link below.