Golf has often been called a good walk ruined, but golf involves so much more than walking. The demands of golf on your feet are like no other sport. During most activities, your feet are either moving forward in a steady gait or side-to-side with quick cuts and sudden direction changes. A golf swing is a unique blend of passive and active motions that both strain and twist the feet, causing a variety of problems.
Shin splints occur when the stress of walking or running slowly tears muscle away from the bone. It is a painful condition that is all too often ignored. Shin splints can be brought on by starting with too much exercise too fast, changing from flat to hilly terrains, exercising without stretching, and playing in worn out or unsupportive shoes. Because bones, muscles, and ligaments are involved in this injury, it is important not to “play through the pain.” Give yourself a rest, use RICE at home, and if your shin splints return, come see a podiatrist immediately.
Characterized by heel and arch pain, plantar fasciitis is a condition affecting the band of tissue across the bottom of your foot that connects your toes to your heel and supports your arch. In other words, it’s important. Repeated stress on the plantar fascia may result in small ligament tears. Most people will experience this pain first thing in the morning as they are getting out of bed. Your podiatrist can create a custom plan with you that involves tapings, arch supports, stretches, and strengthening exercises.
The Achilles tendon is the largest tendon in the body and connects your heel to your calf muscle. It needs a certain degree of flexibility for an effective and proper golf swing. Repeating the same swing over and over again with a tight Achilles tendon can lead to damage and pain. Overuse injuries are the most common foot and ankle injuries in golf. Be sure to stretch before each game and wear supportive shoes.
If it feels like there’s a pebble constantly underfoot, you most likely have a Morton’s neuroma. This is caused by a thickening of the tissue around a nerve, usually between the third and fourth toes. Golfers may experience tingling, pain, or numbness in this area which can throw off balance and concentration. Wearing tight footwear that leaves little toe room can contribute to a neuroma.
Your balance can be thrown off significantly if you suffer from hallux rigidus, a stiffening of the big toe. At first, this may be minor, but as the condition worsens, you will experience pain, loss of balance, and even difficulty walking. After all, the big toe takes about 40% of the weight load when you walk and is the last part to push off from the ground. Non-surgical solutions are available if this condition is caught early. Wear properly fitting shoes and get to the podiatrist at the first sign of a stiff big toe.
Foot and ankle injuries in golf are more common than you know. Golfers who don’t stretch, don’t wear proper footwear, and don’t have a proper golf swing, could be putting themselves at risk of any number of foot ailments. Get training from a professional to ensure your golf swing isn’t damaging your feet.