HAPPY FEET = BETTER GOLF!
Golf Fitness Magazine Advisory Team Member
President Body Balance for Performance
You may have not heard much about it, but the foot is one of the most critical areas of the body for the golf swing and player performance. You walk 4 miles carrying your golf bag. Your foot supports you for every step. You make a golf swing. Your foot supports that and offers stability so you can push off and generate power. Yet most of us have little awareness about how important our feet are, and often times, even less concern towards the importance of how the shoe affects the cause and purpose of what our feet are designed to do. The problem golfers face, is the simple fact that many golf shoes of the past (and current) are usually too rigid or too soft to help the foot work correctly. Most consumers are happy picking out something stylish with the perception that good cushion is most important for comfort and function. In reality, a golf shoe that promotes neutral foot position and allows the foot to bend correctly, are the most critical elements of support for the foot and most importantly, your golf performance.
Golf shoe technology is beginning to catch up with these important principals and there are methods for choosing shoes that will get you close to something that promotes proper function for your feet, but in the end, most shoes, golf shoes included, do not provide the needed support and neutral foot correction that the majority of us need. This is where the use of orthotics or shoe inserts can get your shoes and feet working to promote a healthier and improved golf game.
Orthotics are simple devices that are inserted in the shoe that either makes the shoe accommodate the foot or when possible correct the foot alignment challenges that the many of us have. The most common challenges are fallen arches or more commonly known as flat feet. In my years in the golf fitness and healthcare industries, I have seen all kinds of feet, but certainly flat feet are most common. This is usually caused by the heel tipping into what is called Valgus. Valgus is when the top of the heel tips toward the midline, and the bottom of the heel migrates away from the midline. It is like the angle in most knees.
This valgus moVement of the heel causes the front of the foot, the forefoot, to collapse toward the ground. This causes lengthening and widening of the foot. The lay term for collapse of the arch is called “splat” and the widening and angulation of the forefoot is splay. As splat and splay increase we see significant biomechanical changes in the foot. This puts huge tension on the structures of the bottom of the foot. We also see a loss of rigidity in the foot and as a result a loss of spring in the foot.
We commonly see plantar fasciitis, or pain at the front of the heel that hurts first thing in the morning or with walking. We can also see alterations in gait pattern that puts excessive strain on the knee, hip and lower back. If left out of check long enough we begin to see permanent deformity in the foot, over stretching of ligament, muscles and fascia, change in shape of the bones of the foot, and complete loss of arch. Once this happens, custom shoes are the only option. We can prevent this all with good inserts and good foot and ankle mobility.
But how is this relevant to your golf? When we have a collapsed arch with heel valgus, the foot becomes unstable on the ground. We have seen extreme cases where the arch collapses and even reverses so we have a convex foot. It is rare, but it happens. Somewhere between there and a normal foot, we have most all foot disorders. We begin to compensate for that lack of stability by the calf muscles and thigh muscles overworking and getting tight. This also puts a great deal of strain on the inner aspect of the knee, and the can prevent rotation of the hip. No rotation in the hip is a killer of the correct body movement for the golf swing. With no hip rotation, you will be swaying or sliding in your swing. This is one of the most common issues golfers have and completely prevents consistent striking of the golf ball.
For many of us there is a way around all of this with the use of orthotic shoe inserts. At Body Balance for Performance we use an orthotic that is prefabricated and allows us to modify the angle of the heel to correct the biomechanics of the foot, knee ankle and hip. We have used it in all kinds of shoes, including golf shoes. The shoe insert I prefer is called ALINE. It is fitted to the client in a way that will correct the fallen arch and heel position. A word of caution though, if you have a rigid foot or inverted arch (see a qualified healthcare practitioner to find out if that is the case) this technology can make your foot hurt more because a rigid foot has no mobility and cannot be corrected mechanically with an insert. A simple assessment of the foot can tell you if ALINEs can help your feet.
One of the reasons I like to use ALINE with our clients is that it has a unique technology that makes it work. The BFAST technology is a suspension system for your feet. The patented ribs called RibTech flex and rebound to support and ALINE you during the most critical and explosive movements of your golf swing. Basically what this device does is restore the foot’s natural transitioning functions to maximize the foot's power and reduce injuries in almost any shoe.
The end analysis is this. Get your foot examined by an expert who understands your sport and your body. Make sure that person looks at the foot, and if possible get an insert in your shoe that helps to correct the foot mechanically. The reward will be better golf and happy feet.
David Ostrow is the CEO of Body Balance for Performance and a GFM Advisory Team Member, for more information about feet in golf and ALINE technology from David, log onto www.golffitnessmagazine.com/advisoryteam.