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Improving Your Performance on the Golf Course – Starting with your Feet

Posted on September 30th, 2016

The Ryder Cup 2016 starts today and we asked our new podiatrist, Tom to divulge his expert knowledge on the sport and how best to improve your performance starting with caring for your feet – they do carry you from hole to hole!

Being a keen golfing nerd myself, the Ryder Cup is one of my favourite sporting events. The team competition brings together individual stars in a cross-atlantic battle that never fails to disappoint. The match play element duelled out between two proud teams can get a bit heated, at least in golfing terms anyway. This adds another dimension to the contest with pressure and intensity notched up, the players have to be ice cold to not let it affect them; add to this playing two rounds of golf a day, which roughly accumulates to 20km of walking. Fatigue, be it both mental and physical, can come in to it.

For anybody walking those sorts of distances, comfort is of course essential. Recreational runners are said to use their in-built ‘comfort-filter’, in order to select appropriate footwear (Nigg et al 2015) that may reduce injury risk. In the same manner, it is important that golfing footwear is chosen based on comfort to minimise injury risk. In addition to comfort, function is naturally important and although the appearance of golf shoes has changed in the last few years, the basic anatomy of the shoes have remained the same. One main feature development is the heightened cushioning, in a move to a more running shoe style of footwear (Worsfold, 2011), and more recently shoes with cleats or spikes which is hypothesised to have consequences for weight transfer during the golf swing itself.

Out with the old and in the new; however jazzy, there is currently no evidence to show that the new-style trainer-like shoes are any more comfortable, but alas it does provide more choice, which is never a bad thing.

One of the most common injury complaints of golfers is knee pain (Marshall and Mcnair, 2013). This may be explained by intrinsic factors to do with person-specific biomechanics, such as weak, gluteal muscles causing medial knee thrust, or collapsing of the arch of the foot similarly contributing to poor tracking of the patella or knee-cap. Knee pain can be caused or aggravated by the twisting forces required from the golf swing (Lynn and Noffa, 2010). One way to counteract the potentially harmful overloading of the knee is with a customised orthotic. This can be designed specifically to reduce excess forces acting on the knee and tailored to the specific complaint.

Extrinsic factors such as poor footwear choice, can also act as a contributory factor. This is all compounded by the physical act of the golf swing itself, which involves high torsional stress around the knee. Foot orthotics are one intervention that have been shown to be effective in minimising pain for amateur golfers (McRitchie and Curran, 2007) and this may just be the difference of a few yards off the tee in a match play situation like the Ryder Cup.

To enquire further or arrange an appointment with Tom, contact us on 0161 832 9000.

Lynn, SK. &  Noffa, GJ. 2010. Frontal Plane Knee Moments in Golf: Effect of Target Side Foot Position at Address. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, Vol 9, p275 – 281.
Marshall RN. & McNair PJ. 2013. Biomechanical risk factors and mechanisms of knee injury in golfers. Sports Biomech. Vol 12(3), p221-30.
McRitchie, M. & Curran, MJ. 2007.  A Randomised Control Trial for evaluating over-the-counter golf orthoses in alleviating pain in amateur golfers. The Foot, Vol 17(2), p57–64.
Nigg, BM, Baltich, J, Hoerzer, S & Enders, H. (2015). Running shoes and running injuries: mythbusting and a proposal for two new paradigms: ‘preferred movement path’ and ‘comfort filter’. Br J Sports Med doi:10.1136.
Worsfold, PR. Golf footwear: the past, the present and the future. Footwear Science, Vol 3(3).

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