You’ve probably heard of barefoot running, or seen some of those crazy glove-like five-toed shoes. Well, it turns out that far from being just a fad, the science behind the “barefoot” movement in sports is actually catching on with mainstream athletes.
The story goes that all the extra rubber and padding that makes up conventional shoes actually gets in the way of our feet functioning the way they are meant to. Running barefoot, or with thin, puncture-resistant “barefoot-style” specialty shoes, is thought to better allow your body’s mechanics to operate more effectively. This permits the barefoot runner’s body to connect to the ground in a healthier way and avoid injuries associated with the impact of striking the ground during running.
Giving better biomechanics a chance
Although there isn’t much running in golf, there are still a lot of foot strikes in an 18-hole game walking (even riding) the course. Spending four hours on your feet every time you play definitely adds up.
Athletes in more and more sports have begun to see how the natural benefits of going barefoot can be beneficially applied to their own sports, and golf is no exception. Will we soon see a trend on all the links throughout the country — playing golf in special “barefoot” shoes or actually playing barefoot? Time will tell, but here’s how golfing barefoot can help your game.
Barefoot golf benefits
1. Golfing barefoot or in “barefoot” shoes lets you stand in a true neutral posture with proper alignment.
2. Your weight is dispersed evenly over your stance.
3. There are no spikes to get caught or twisted during your swing.
4. Being barefoot lowers your center of gravity since there is “zero drop” from your heel to your toes. This creates greater stability and a firmer connection to the ground. The heels on shoes create an unnatural hip tilt, which you no longer need to correct for.
5. With the hundreds of steps you take when walking the golf course, you may feel decreased stress and pain to your joints.
6. Putting barefoot lets you feel the contours of the grass and better understand the lay of the land.
7. Walking barefoot into a sand trap lets you get a feel for the type and density of the sand, so you can better understand how to deal with the hazard.
8. When toes are free from shoes, all 26 bones in each foot are able to grip better and maintain a steadier balance.
9. PGA teaching professional Barry Goldstein says “You’ll actually hit better golf shots in bare feet than with your shoes and socks on… Hitting golf balls barefooted can help you develop good footwork and good balance.”
But what about the rules?
You may be wondering how the buttoned-up folks at a formal private club would react to seeing you strut up to the green with your feet bare. And this is a reasonable concern.
While golfing with no shoes does not violate any USGA Official Rules of Golf, it certainly does violate the dress codes of many clubs and courses. If that’s the case at your local links but you would still like to “free the foot” and reap the benefits of your natural biomechanics, your best bet is to get yourself a pair of specially designed “barefoot shoes.”
Look for ones that are built with a very thin, waterproof, puncture-proof base instead of a rubber sole. This will allow your feet to work naturally, while still keeping them clean, safe and unoffensive to others.
— C. Pedroja