Do you really need golf shoes? | Gear Questions You’re Afraid to Ask

best waterproof golf shoes

Golf shoes are a critical piece of equipment to play better golf.

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Welcome to Gear Questions You’re Afraid to Ask, a series produced in partnership with Cleveland/Srixon Golf. This week we discuss whether or not you truly need to wear golf shoes.

Does wearing golf shoes really make a difference? – Ralph G., Arizona

Mind if we answer your question with a few of our own? Ever watch the footwork of top PGA Tour players? More specifically, the newly crowned No. 1 player in the world? It may seem as though Scottie Scheffler has some sloppy footwork as he moves through the downswing, but sometimes what you see and what’s actually happening aren’t the same.

If you watch Scheffler’s footwork on slo-mo you can see how powerfully he maneuvers his weight from his trail foot to his lead foot on the downswing. More specifically, Scheffler masterfully shifts his weight away from the forefoot of his trail foot to the heel of his lead foot with such power that his trail foot practically lifts off the ground. And because it happens so fast, Scheffler’s trail foot slides and sometimes wobbles a little — always after he’s already shifted his weight forward and usually after he’s already struck the golf ball. We’re convinced even the world No. 1, with all his innate talent and skill, would never be able to swing the way he does if not for the hard work his golf shoes do in keeping him stable and balanced.

Scottie Scheffler hits tee shot at 2023 Players Championship
Scottie Scheffler has become well known for his footwork. Getty Images

Here’s our point. We don’t expect you to have footwork like Scottie, but that doesn’t mean support and traction is any less important for you or anyone else. The feet play a huge part in the body’s ability to create torque and leverage — without a firm foundation, the golf swing gets very difficult.

Let’s look at some reasons why we think golf shoes are a must if you want to play better golf, as well as cover some of the differences found in a golf shoe versus a traditional athletic or running shoe.

Golf shoes have better turf traction than trail runners do

Most trail shoes and running shoes pack pretty good traction but remember that kind of traction is for taking steps on surfaces like dirt or sawdust trails and in some cases, concrete or sidewalk paths. And, traction patterns on running shoes aren’t for locking the foot into the turf to withstand lateral forces as you stand and swing. Golf shoe traction, via removable spikes or a built-in sole pattern, is carefully designed to hold the foot securely on the ground for as long as possible, not to hold it in place for a split second as you walk or run.

Golf shoes flex in the right places

Golf shoes are typically more rigid than other athletic shoes. That’s a good thing because more rigidity in the right places can help you add torque and make a more powerful golf swing. For example, some golf shoe manufacturers separate the rearfoot section from the forefront section of the shoe only to bridge the divide with firm arch support (that sometimes doesn’t even touch the ground). You can see this in the Asics Gel-Ace Pro shoes, which feature a raised-off-the-ground, X-shape TPU Trussic design that cradles the arch — a feature that not only adds torsion but also makes it easier to shift the weight from your trail forefoot to lead rearfoot on the downswing (just like Tour players do it).

Golf shoes such as the Asics Gel-Ace Pro M have separate heel and forefront traction areas for added performance. ASICS

Golf shoes have better lateral support

Speaking of support, it’s hard to argue that running shoes don’t have support. They do! Only, most running shoes have support geared from toe to heel and not necessarily from side to side. Golf shoes usually have wider soles than running shoes do, making them better for maintaining balance as you swing. Also, golf shoes usually pack less toe drop than running shoes. Meaning, a golf shoe sits flatter on the ground than a running shoe which is designed with the heel much higher than the toe to promote a faster forward stride.

Golf shoes can better protect your feet and keep them dry

Finally, today’s modern golf shoes have come a long way from leather dress shoes with metal spikes. You can find a golf shoe that both looks and feels as comfortable as a running shoe, but still has the above features (such as a wider sole and added rigidity in spots) that are needed in a golf shoe. And for that matter, golf shoes do a much better job at managing the elements — meaning most golf shoes come with at least some sort of water resistance to keep your feet dry and comfortable in inclement weather. Athletic shoes? Not so much.

Srixon Asics Gel-Ace Pro M

The Flex Groove traction sole pattern places spikes and channels exactly where they need to be for a stable yet free feeling while swinging.

Want to overhaul your bag for 2023? Find a fitting location near you at GOLF’s affiliate company True Spec Golf. For more on the latest gear news and information, check out our latest Fully Equipped podcast below!

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Ryan Noll Contributor