Sneakers are comfortable, go anywhere do anything type of shoes, and many of us wear them every day. Our sneakers play an essential part in our podiatric universe for work, sport, exercise, and leisure. We even wear them to the golf course, but should we?
While sneakers are general-purpose shoes, golf shoes were created for a particular purpose: to give the golfer stability and traction. Over the years, they have evolved from the brown leather and steel foot cages to the more comfortable and efficient shoes we see today.
Even so, their primary purpose hasn’t changed even though their appearance has, and while some sneakers could almost pass for golf shoes, no golf shoe could ever pass for a sneaker. Can you wear sneakers for golf? We’re going to find out.
The Golf Course Is A Tough Place For Shoes
While the urban jungle may be considered a harsh environment for shoes, with the concrete sidewalks and tarred roads, sneakers spend most of their time walking on softer, even terrain like floors, carpets, corridors, and platforms.
Most of these surfaces are homogenous, i.e., they don’t have different materials of varying densities as part of their composition.
A golf course is undulating and has grass, sand, and stone of various thicknesses and densities. It also has mud, water, and everything in between. Trees, bushes, and undergrowth are intricate parts, and all of this adds up to one fact – the golf course is very tough on the footwear and the feet that walk it.
Are Golf Shoes Mandatory For Golf Courses?
In many cases, no, golf shoes are not mandatory. For the more high-end clubs, they may undoubtedly insist that proper golf attire be worn, including golf shoes.
To maintain the game’s history, discipline, and respect, the dress code should be standard for playing golf on a course, regardless of the course. This dress code should be enforced as it maintains a level of decorum and respect.
There is a certain etiquette in dressing correctly for the game. There’s excitement and anticipation that builds before tee-off, and lacing up your shoes is the final step before you stride out to the first tee box.
Somehow, lacing up your Nike Airs before teeing off doesn’t have the same feel to it.
Golf Shoes VS Sneakers – Horses For Courses!
While sneakers can handle the everyday stresses of day-to-day living, they would not find the golf course a very hospitable environment at all, and conversely, golf shoes would not be thrilled to be in your everyday life either.
Can you imagine getting up for work and putting your golf shoes on for the day in the office? By the day’s end, your feet would be screaming at you! Why? Because golf shoes are not designed for that environment.
Now you may argue that you could conceivably wear your sneakers to play golf, and while they would probably do better on the golf course than your golf shoes would do in everyday life, you may very well have by the end of the round regretted that decision.
In the city, if you walk through a puddle or you’re caught in the rain wearing sneakers, your shoes will get wet, as will your socks and feet. However, at worst, you could remove them to dry for a few hours and put them on again when dry.
On the golf course, that isn’t plausible. You CANNOT walk a course and play golf barefoot. Think about playing 15 holes of golf without shoes on. Your feet would be a mess, and there is no way you could conceivably execute a golf swing successfully as your bare feet would offer ZERO traction.
Now, think about playing 15 holes of golf in wet sneakers. You see, sneakers aren’t built to deal with that kind of environment for an extended period of time. Golf shoe designers are fully aware of the course conditions and create their shoes accordingly.
Waterproof or water-resistant layers and moisture removal through intelligent airflow design allow moisture and sweat to evaporate during play without congregating in the shoe’s sole.
If that were the case, most golfers would be spending a fortune on athlete’s foot medication! There is one more critical aspect separating golf shoes and sneakers, aside from the environment, and it’s the essence of why golf shoes were made.
Golf Shoes VS Sneakers – The Forces Of Traction
When looking at sneakers and golf shoes, ironically, traction is one of their elements in common! The sneaker sole is designed to create traction between urban surfaces and the wearer, so they don’t slip and slide everywhere while walking.
They are specially designed to give the wearer optimum traction IN THE ENVIRONMENT they are operating in. Through decades of research and development, golf shoe and sneaker manufacturers have zeroed in on the best composites for soles, inners, and outer layers to provide the best protection, comfort, and grip possible.
Consider the effect of regular tires on an icy road. Without proper traction, cars slip and slide everywhere and mainly into each other. Braking is impossible, and the tires don’t grip and will spin on the road under acceleration.
The same is valid for golf shoes and sneakers. Golf shoes with their soft spikes or specialized traction patterns on the sole play the same role as the traction patterns on the soles of sneakers.
That role is to keep you connected to the ground, whether you are walking or running, or swinging and here is where the path of sneaker and golf shoe part ways.
Sneakers VS Golf Shoes – The Focus Of Force
When you are walking or running in your sneakers, directional forces in your stride work in opposition to keep you moving forward. The traction in the sole creates a grip between you and the ground.
While this is similar in principle in golf, there are far greater forces involved in the golf swing than walking or running, and here is where the genius of golf shoes shines. Without them, the game of golf would be far more complicated than it already is.
You have two points of important contact in your golf swing, Your hands on the club and your feet on the ground. Without a good solid grip on either, your golf game is doomed. Without the proper grip and the right amount of grip pressure, your swing won’t be effective.
When you make a golf swing, there are forces at play in your body, and much of that is played out through your feet and the quality of contact they have with the ground. The golf shoe IS the connection you hold with the earth, and without that, your golf game is doomed.
If You Want To Be A Good Ball Striker, You Need Golf Shoes
Without the traction your golf shoes give you, you would sway around all over the place in your swing. The force needed to swing the club with power and accuracy is totally dependent on the ability of your feet to stay stable and connected with the ground during the execution.
Your body rotates and coils up on the backswing, transferring force down through your legs into the ground as you reach the apex of your backswing, then it reverses and moves that force to the other side on the downswing.
All of this happening successfully and consistently are massively dependent on your feet’ ability to maintain their traction and grip on the ground. Without it, well, hitting the ball with any force and accuracy becomes a total lottery.
To be effective as footwear, sneakers do not have the grip of golf shoes to maintain stable traction and withstand the forces in operation during the swing. Now, this doesn’t mean that you can’t wear them to the range to hit a few balls.
Golf Shoes VS Sneakers At The Driving Range
If you’ve been to a driving range that has the hitting mats and you’re wearing sneakers, you’ll know that there are times when your sneakers slide on the mat surface while you’re swinging.
Conversely, you will also know that when you are wearing golf shoes, those incidents of slipping diminish or disappear entirely.
The result is that you can swing with confidence and focus when wearing golf shoes as you aren’t worried about your feet sliding away from you during the swing.
If you’re in sneakers, you ALWAYS have that thought in the back of your head that your shoes could slip at any moment, and that has a very definite impact on your ability to remain focused on your swing.
Being disconnected from the ground during a golf swing will cause your body to sway and move erratically, which will cause inconsistent golf shots. Since being at the range is to learn to hit the ball better, anything that negatively affects this, including your footwear choice, has to go.
Rest assured that should you opt for golf lessons and you pitch up in sneakers, the very first thing you’ll be told to do is,” Go and get yourself a pair of golf shoes.” The coach is saying that meaninglessly.
He’s telling you this because he understands that without absolute stability in your feet and legs, you don’t have stability in your hips and body, and without that, you cannot execute the golf swing correctly. Period.
Golf Shoe VS Sneakers – The Modern Game
Like other sports that need spiked shoes for traction, golf shoes started life as tough brown leather shoes with steel spikes, and those slowly evolved to more comfortable shoes in a more modern style, but still with steel spikes.
Baseball and football all started with requiring special footwear to make the athletes more effective in the game’s action.
As the game and the athletes evolved, shoe design and understanding the impact of footwear on performance became more apparent. Consider a sprinter running on a cinder track barefoot as opposed to proper running shoes.
They could not be effective, and could Usain Bolt achieved his world records without the proper footwear? No. Absolutely not.
Golf footwear evolved as the game did. As players could exert more force and hit the ball harder, the clubs and shafts evolved too, and footwear hopped on for the ride. The real turning point came in 2010.
When Fred Couples walked out onto Augusta that fateful day there were collective gasps of surprise from the galleries. They had never seen shoes like that before and weren’t sure whether they were golf shoes or sneakers.
Golf Shoes VS Sneakers – The New Alliance
The Ecco shoes cross-bred the golf shoe and the sneaker and forever altered the watercourse of golf footwear. Bringing a more comfortable casual look and feel while still keeping the purpose of the golf shoe intact allowed players to wear lighter and more comfortable shoes without losing grip on the ground.
As technology and understanding developed, modern golf shoes have become a lot more like sneakers. They’re stylish, comfortable and provide the players with everything they need to produce the performance required.
With the new soft spikes, golf shoes could easily be mistaken for sneakers, with brands like Nike, Puma, Under Armor, Adidas are all making top-quality shoes that appeal to all markets and ages.
The new lighter, stronger materials allow shoes to be custom fitted to provide the player with maximum comfort and can be contoured to the foot shape, and the same applies to sneakers.
A Word On Socks
Much of the comfort and performance of the shoe is dependent on the type of socks worn as well, and this is true for any shoe, whether sneaker, golf shoe, or formal. Socks that are too thin will cause the foot to move and slide in the shoe.
This will cause discomfort and blistering on the feet due to friction. Conversely, socks that are too thick will constrict the movement in shoes and cause sweaty feet, resulting in blisters.
Athletic socks that are breathable and come with light cushioning an ideal for golf shoes and sneakers and will make them more comfortable whether you are running, walking, socializing, or playing golf.
The Conclusion – Golf Shoes VS Sneakers
With all of the developments in golf shoes, from spikes to spikeless, the manufacturers have not forgotten why players need good golf shoes. They have eliminated the need to ‘wear your shoes in’ like you had to do with school shoes!
Now, they are ready to go right out of the box, and like sneakers, they have a range of shoes to suit every style and budget.
Even though they appear to be more sneaker-like than before, they are at heart, still the rigid, rugged leather shoe with steel spikes that tells the golf course undeniably,” I am here to play.”