- You can play golf in all sorts of shoes
- Using a minimalist shoe helps you ‘feel’ the ground
- Be careful of grip without spikes
Let me start me saying that shoes really aren’t my thing. I am never going to enjoy spending time shopping for them, it just isn’t in my DNA. That said, I love golf and will often have a look at the latest and greatest in the shoe section at my local shop. Without ever buying! As a minimalist, I just can’t seem to fit minimalist golf shoes into my vocabulary to be honest.
Why Minimalist Golf Shoes?
There are a couple of things that bother me with golf shoes. The first one is price. I am sure there is a lot of tech in them (actually, I really am not all the sure..) but seeing the latest from Footjoy or whoever costing more than a new putter doesn’t work with my idea of values. If it works for you, that’s great, but I would guess if you are reading this, minimalism is more your thing and you might well think the same as me.
The second thing that bothers me is the one-dimensional aspect to most golf shoes. Generally, you can’t even wear them until you get to the course and take them off as soon as you have finished. This shouldn’t bother me because I have played, and still play, plenty of other sports which require specialist footwear and other equipment. For golf, I just like this approach less.
Being able to put something on my feet, grab a carry bag with a half set and head to the course just feels right. I don’t want to change shoes, warm up for an hour on the range or whatever else. This is pretty personal I suppose, but I really do like parking the car and hitting the ball off the first tee about two minutes later. The fact that this first shot generally might be my best of the day always surprises me too.
I currently own two pairs of golf shoes. I have had them both for at least 3 or 4 years now. They are both perfectly fine. One is a pair of Sketchers with rubber spikes and the other is a lightweight Adidas pair that has an out sole more like a trainer. I can (and do ) certainly wear this pair to drive to the course.
Of course, two pairs of shoes specifically for golf is hardly minimalist and looking for a third option is even worse! I don’t need anything else but I am tempted by the idea of a proper minimalist golf shoe. What do I mean by this? Well, I am not looking at playing in a pair of Vibram five fingers, other I have thought about it, but I am looking for something that is a true piece of minimalist footwear.
Flat Soles and Foot Health
To me, this means a thin sole and no or very little heel build-up at all. It also means something that lets me foot and especially my toes spread out as nature intended. I think this promotes healthy feet which in turn leads to healthy joints, gait and overall well-being. I am no expert in this, but there is quite a bit of evidence that points to the benefits of this type of shoe and you can read more about it here and here.
This type of shoe is fairly common now. Despite what some pseudo-scientific shoe sellers will tell you, it can also be very simple and affordable. So game over. Just get a pair of chuck Taylor copies for cheap and you are good to go.
Actually, no, it isn’t quite that simple. The first problem is that the vast majority of golf course will impose some sort of dress code which means that you can’t just wear what you want on your feet. In fact, the modern golf shoe that looks more like a pair of sneakers/sports shoes is frowned upon on some courses. Turning up in something better suited to the beach is likely to get a polite (or not so polite) refusal when you get to the pro shop to sign in.
This isn’t too big of an issue if you take care. For example, I have a pair of very-thinned soled training shoes that cost me, I think, about 3 euros in the sales and look fine, or at least fine enough to get past anyone in the golf shoe police!
Grip is Key
The real issue is actually playing golf. The is a reason why traditional golf shoes have spikes and even more recent iterations have moulded rubber out soles. Grip is far more important than you would think. This is even true of a great surface on a Summer’s day. As you swing a club, you generate a lot of force. Coming back to my cheap, minimalist shoes. I have tried to play in them. They are nice and comfy and very light. However, when I swing, I can feel that I am not anchored. MY feet feel like they are going to move, slip or twist.
Even when this doesn’t happen, just having this thought in my head makes it very difficult to make a proper swing and good connection with the ball. There is no way you can expect a solid result if you are constantly worried about falling over at worst or your foot moving at best. If you have ever seen the readings from a golfer hitting off force plates, you will know just how much is going on between the balls of you feet and the ground. You can see professional golfers using the ground to generate force. Doing this is anything that isn’t good at gripping the ground isn’t going to work.
The other issue I have with most minimalist shoes is that they don’t do a great job of keeping my feet dry. This is true when playing in the rain, but also a lot more often than you would think in other situations. For example, I like to play a few holes very early in the morning during the Summer. Carrying a few clubs and being the first person on the course or close to the first, is a real joy. This means that there is still dew on the ground and nothing is better than getting your socks and shoes nice and wet than walking through dewy grass.
Even waterproof golf shoes aren’t infallible as far as this goes so your average lightweight canvas offering stands no chance at all.
Do Minimalist Golf Shoes Actually Exist?
For the moment, then, it seems like I am destined to keep playing in ‘proper’ golfing shoes. However, I have found a few options that look like they could work. For example, the Vivo barefoot range is an interesting idea in that it is a minimalist shoe that is really made for outdoor activities. There also also the added bonus of finding something that will align with your values, whether it be vegan or fair trade and is also, at least in theory, made to stand up to the elements. On the downside, this isn’t a cheap shoe so if that is one of your selection criteria, look elsewhere.
Personally, one area that I have found promising is the trail shoe. Think of these as being more hard-wearing versions of running shoes. You can certainly find lightweight, minimalist versions too. Once again, this isn’t the cheapest option out there, but it is genuinely something that is not confined to the course. I don’t mind the idea of paying for something that is both high-quality and also multi-function as well as fitting in with my idea of minimalism.
Of course, there is my good old Adidas adicross. They certainly have more heel and a thicker sole than I would like, but it isn’t a ridiculously big shoe by any means and is both light and comfortable.
So the quest goes on. If there are any shoe manufacturers out there reading this, we are talking to you. Give us something that is minimalist in design, affordable and will both perform on the course and also can be worn at the very least to get there and back. If this does exist already, I would love to hear about it.