Are golf shoes worth it? Improved Grip and Comfort?

Introduction

If you’ve recently taken up golf then you’re probably aware of how much equipment you need to buy to play the game. One thing you might not have considered yet is golf shoes.

When you realize a typical round of golf will mean you walking somewhere between four and six miles then it pays to give your footwear some thought.

Many people starting in the game who aren’t sure if they want to commit to it might begin by playing in sneakers or trainers. I’ve even seen people playing golf in ordinary dress shoes and on one occasion someone was actually playing in rugby boots. You might imagine the sort of damage that rugby boots did to the greens on that course!

Adidas spikes
Adidas golf shoes

Golf Shoes: Mandatory or Not?

If your experience of golf is limited to driving ranges then you’ve probably been fairly happy to just turn up in sneakers and hit some golf balls.

As your level of interest in the game increases, you’ll find that having the right equipment can be important to your enjoyment and improvement.

Many public courses and I would assume all semiprivate and private courses expect players to wear recognized golf shoes. I certainly can’t recall visiting a golf club, other than a municipal, that didn’t require you to wear golf shoes. Given the costs and effort invested in producing a quality putting surface, no greenkeeper will want to see players wandering around with inappropriate footwear that will damage the course.

Don’t forget that just like the tires on a car, your shoes are your connection with the ground. If you don’t have sufficient grip during your swing it could cause you to lose balance and hit a bad shot or even fall over.

Golf shoes have also been designed in such a way as to provide maximum support for your feet during the golf swing.

Look after your feet and they will look after you.

Anon
Skechers golf shoes
Skechers golf shoes

Types of Golf Shoe

For many years golf shoes were basically just normal shoes with spikes fitted to the sole.

Over the years manufacturers have made their shoes lighter, more comfortable and athletic.

There are currently two types of shoes available in the market, spiked and spikeless.

The design of golf shoes has changed significantly in the last 30 years or so. a massive shift towards a more athletic sport-type shoe rather than the more classic brogue styles. We also seem to have lost the ‘Kiltie’, the small piece of material that sat on top of the lace and tongues to help prevent water from getting into the shoe.

With the possible exception of certain Puma models, you’ll also note the design of golf shoes doesn’t cover the ankle bone.

This is partly because you want to maintain freedom of movement in your ankle during your swing and while walking.

Dr. Vernon Cooley points out that restricting your ankle movement could put you at a greater risk of injury. Specifically, patellar tendinitis is an inflammation of the tendon that joins the kneecap to the shinbone. Dr. Cooley is a surgeon that has worked on Tiger Woods.

Spiked Golf Shoes

The improved grip is the primary reason why people would wear shoes designed for golf.

Traditionally golf shoes had metal spikes to help stabilize your swing and also to give you better traction when walking the course.

The rotational movement in a golf swing means that you need a stable base to be successful. Spiked golf shoes had been the answer until relatively recently.

Unfortunately, it is very easy for people wearing metal spikes to cause small amounts of damage to the green called spike marks.

A number of companies developed “soft spikes”. This is a generic term to cover a wide variety of different shaped plastic spikes or cleats.

In recent years I have seen more golf courses stipulate that you can’t wear shoes with metal spikes. Only soft spiked shoes are allowed in an effort to avoid spike marks. My personal opinion is that on soft or wet greens soft spikes can actually cause more problems but I think I am in a very small minority!

Stability is the second advantage of golf shoes over trainers. Golf shoes are designed to help support your foot during the swing, sneakers or trainers aren’t designed for that purpose.

Another major reason to consider purchasing some golf shoes is protection from wet weather. Indeed if you have a tendency to play early morning then it doesn’t need to even rain in order for your feet to get damp from the dew on the grass.

Try to avoid allowing your spikes to get worn down too much as it will make them more difficult to replace. It will also make them somewhat useless in terms of offering grip.

Skechers spike less
“spikeless”

Spikeless Golf Shoes

If you tend to play on courses that are flat and rarely get wet then you might be able to take advantage of the recent trend in spikeless golf shoes.

Many models of spikeless golf shoes now appear more like sneakers or tennis shoes than traditional golf shoes. However, they will still have some form of special sole intended to improve the grip for the golfer.

Spikeless shoes can indeed be useful during the all too rare event, a dry and warm British summer. Should you play a lot of golf on a course that has clay-based soil then a prolonged dry spell could mean even soft spikes start to become uncomfortable. This is where spikeless shoes come into their own.

UK weather is just too unpredictable for spikeless golf shoes to be useful all year round though.

Walking on uneven ground when it’s wet can be quite treacherous so spiked shoes certainly tend to be my preference so I don’t slip.

The big advantage spikeless shoes have over their spiked cousins is that once you are finished golfing for the day you can go and run errands without having to change shoes. No one is going to look too closely at your spikeless shoes since they most likely look like the sneakers or trainers that other people are wearing.

Cost

Like every other aspect of golf equipment, golf shoes can vary wildly in price.

Own brand shoes at your local sporting goods store or Walmart for example could probably be picked up for around £25-£30 ($30-$40). Discontinued models from last year can probably be picked up for around half price. For example, Adidas shoes often seem to be on sale and you can pick them up for around £40 ($50). At the time of writing, golfdiscount.com has Adidas shoes starting at $40.

Premium brands such as Ecco could easily set you back £200 ($275). Some of their models could be had on FairwaygolfUSA.com for around $250 or less.

For the ultimate in footwear, you could always go hand-made. Someone like Alan James Raddon will make custom golf shoes for you for around £600 ($827) a pair.

Despite some research, I’ve been unable to find a directly comparable service in the US. There are a number of manufacturers that will allow you to customize their shoes with logos, initials et cetera. There are a number of manufacturers that claim their shoes are handmade. I can’t seem to find one that will take measurements of your actual feet and create the shoes specifically for you. I suppose that’s one reason why Mr. Raddon’s shoes are so expensive. 

Adidas golf shoes
Adidas are usually discounted

Form or Function

Many people purchase shoes or sneakers for their looks. This is one time where you want to concentrate on the features of the shoe and their comfort above all. Don’t forget you’ll be wearing them for anything up to 4 hours.

You need to find the best shoe you can afford that will do the job. It needs to fit you correctly, provide stability and grip. How the shoe looks should be more or less irrelevant.

Best Manufacturers

Of the mainstream manufacturers, Ecco probably offers the best levels of technology but it tends to come at a high price. I would say Adidas tends to offer the best price-performance ratio. They do tend to make their shoes quite narrow so I am always looking for the wide fitting!

For probably the first 10 years or so of my golfing life, I was very much a fan of FootJoy shoes. I tended to purchase their midprice offerings but the quality seemed to drop, so I started purchasing mainly Adidas.

I recently purchased a couple of pairs of Sketchers and have been impressed with their comfort so far.

Probably the most comfortable pair of shoes I have ever had was actually a pair of Nike spikeless shoes. I particularly liked that they had a wide forefoot rather than the generally narrow fitting you get the most shoes and trainers these days. They were great when it was dry but pretty useless if the ground was wet.

Benefits of Wearing Golf Shoes

  • Improved Grip – the cleats or tread on golf shoes will give you much-improved grip over ordinary trainers or sneakers.
  • Better comfort and support – well designed golf shoes will offer support to your feet over the 5 miles that you will walking and swinging a club.
  • Waterproof – if you aren’t fortunate enough to live somewhere warm and sunny then having some waterproof shoes is going to make a round of golf much more pleasant.

Are golf shoes worth it: Conclusion

If you have any desire to take golf seriously then you really need to invest some money into proper golf shoes. The primary benefit will be better grip during your swing. Depending on where you live you should also look at waterproof shoes to keep your feet dry during the round.

If you play regularly then your feet will certainly reap the benefits of wearing proper golf shoes rather than trying to play in sneakers.

If you are happy with just occasional visits to a driving range then you can probably just carry on wearing sneakers or trainers.

are golf shoes worth it

Frequently Asked Questions [FAQ]

Do pros wear spikeless golf shoes?

A number of them do. It is a little surprising to me, considering they have higher swing speeds. They probably need the grip more than a typical amateur but they also play in better weather. More pros seem to be opting for spikeless shoes.

No doubt comfort is a major factor in their decision-making process given the number of hours they spend practicing and playing golf.

Do pro golfers wear metal spikes?

A number still do, including Phil Mickelson, I believe. On a recent TV broadcast, I noticed quite a few spike marks on the greens so clearly at least one of the players was still wearing metal spikes!

Is golfing barefoot legal?

If by “legal” we mean, “is it within the rules of golf?” then I don’t recall seeing anything specific that forbade you from playing barefoot.

However, I’ve never come across a golf course that would allow you to go out without some form of footwear. In the majority of cases, they would expect recognized golf shoes.

It just seems strange to consider someone might want to spend four hours walking around not knowing what they might be treading on.

I think Sam Snead was renowned for playing in bare feet in his younger days but I don’t see much chance of a barefoot player getting around a golf course without some form of damage to their feet. I really wouldn’t think this advisable.

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