Health & FitnessJune 12, 2013

Feet First

Remember that scene in "Die Hard" when Bruce Willis' character, John McClane, had to walk barefoot across shattered glass? Big deal. Try hoofing 18 holes for four straight days across an array of dunes in Ireland or Scotland! The feet might be the most used—and abused—part of a golfer's body. To protect yours over the long haul, follow this guide.

Ashley Mayo

COMMON INJURIES

Blisters
Moisture and friction cause irritation, and a small pocket of fluid forms just under the skin.

Remedy: Cover small blisters with athletic tape. Lance and drain bigger ones with a sterile needle. Leave the dead skin on. Wrap with a bandage, and cover with tape.

Morton's neuroma
Toe pain (usually the third and fourth) from thickening tissue surrounding the interdigital nerve can be caused by golfers shifting their weight.

Remedy: Change in footwear, orthotics, physical therapy, corticosteroid injections.

Plantar fasciitis
Inflammation of the tissue connecting the heel bone to the toes, often caused by excessively rolling the foot inward or ill-fitting shoes. Pain is usually felt on the bottom of the heel.

Remedy: Rest, calf stretches and anti-inflammatory drugs.

Tendinitis
Inflammation of the tendons in the arch of the foot is caused by the repeated excessive pressure of most golf swings. Pain is usually felt on the portion of the foot above the arch.

Remedy: Rest, arch support and anti-inflammatory drugs.

EXERCISES

Achilles stretch
Lean forward with your palms on a wall. Lift a foot up but leave the other flat on the ground. Hold this position for 10 seconds. Switch leg positions, repeating five times.

Alphabet drill
While seated, straighten one leg and draw the alphabet with your foot. This works the tendons and ligaments.

Calf stretch
Place the front of both feet on an elevated stair while leaning into the staircase. Hold for 60 seconds with knees straight and 60 seconds with knees slightly bent.

Marble drill
To increase strength and flexibility, place several marbles on the floor, and try to pick them up with your toes.

EQUIPMENT

Cleats
Like tires that aren't properly balanced, the cleats on the bottom of your shoes wear out at dramatically different rates. It's best to change all of them often for proper balance.

Fit
Golf shoes should be a little tighter than a sneaker so your foot can't move around. When you play, you want your ankle to be mobile, but your foot to be stable.

Orthotics
Formed shoe inserts are good if you have asymmetric feet (e.g., one foot pronates, one foot doesn't). Orthotics help re-align, but they should be prescribed by a specialist.

Sneakers
It's fine to play golf in sneakers if your course is flat and dry, but you'll sacrifice power. Cleats allow for a better transfer of force into the ball.

THE EXPERTS

*Josh Zander, Golf Digest Teaching Professional; Mark Lorenze, orthopedic surgeon who has a 3.1 Handicap Index; Ed Reidy, rehabilitation physician who has a 2.9 Index; Jeff Hendra, physical therapist on the PGA Tour; Ralph Simpson, Golf Digest Professional Advisor; Dr. Rob Neal, founder of Golf BioDynamics. *