Appearing in the April issue of Golf Digest and debuting on our website today, we feature 45 different pair of golf shoes that are new for 2015. Many of them fall into the categories of "casual" or "performance" because of their lighter, modern designs. In the past golfers have relied almost solely on personal fashion taste when purchasing golf shoes. But considering the evolution of shoe design, one biomechanist thinks more thought should be given to functionality.
Washington State-based biomechanist Katy Bowman, author of Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement, cautions that the reduced stability in some of the lighter, sneaker-type styles of golf shoes could cause problems for golfers who haven't previously worn them.
"A shoe with less stability means the body of the golfer has to do the work previously outsourced to the shoe," Bowman says. "In the same way it takes time to train the body to do anything, time and exercise is needed to strengthen the legs to handle the added workload."
This is especially true of golfers who walk. For years, golf shoes were built to be incredibly stable. The muscles of the feet and legs didn't have to work as hard to control the body when walking up steep hills or swinging at high speeds. But then Freddie Couples started wearing the Ecco Street—a casual-looking, spikeless shoe (pictured below). Suddenly a golf-shoe revolution occurred as hundreds of thousands of golfers dumped their traditional saddle shoes for Eccos or similar "street" models from just about every company in the business. The new mantra was buy and wear the most comfortable pair of shoes you could find. Spikeless-shoe sales increased 136 percent in 2012.
A similar phenomena happened with running shoes, Bowman says. So called "minimalist" running shoes did $400 million in sales in 2012, as people began to believe that all the cushioning and support of traditional sneakers came at the detriment of performance and comfort.
Bowman cautions runners who want to wear minimalist shoes to first walk in them before doing their normal roadwork. Golfers should take note, she adds. "I'd recommend that a golfer train for less-rigid footwear off the course—in their everyday life—before changing to a shoe with less stability."
In other words, strengthen the leg and feet muscles. Then gradually incorporate new golf shoes into daily walking before going out and trekking six or seven miles on the uneven terrain at the local golf course.
"Going long distances in less stable shoes can potentially create an injury because the legs aren't strong enough, yet," she says. "A foot-strengthening program and step-wise approach can mitigate issues."
Ron Kaspriske is the fitness editor of Golf Digest.