How to Choose Golf Shoes for Men

The Search For Perfection: How to Choose The Best Golf Shoes for Men

There are many reasons a golfer might choose to walk the course rather than ride in a cart. He may be interested in burning extra calories, which walking does much better than riding. Or, he may prefer the extra time to size up his shots as he approaches his ball in the fairway. He may also be a purist, wishing to play the game the way it was originally intended to be played.

Whatever his reason for walking, by the time a golfer hits the 18th hole, he will have walked five miles or more, depending on the length of the course and his accuracy. For this reason, it is essential for golfers who walk the course to get footwear that fits properly. The best golf shoe for you will fit snugly on your feet and keep them warm, dry and comfortable throughout the entire round. (Maybe this article on webmd.com about the benefits of walking for your heart will convince you to leave the cart at the clubhouse.)

Shoes that meet all those conditions will likely be expensive, but the money is usually well-spent. A cheap or poorly made pair of golf shoes can cause blisters, aching feet, sore ankles and inflamed heels. They can tax your performance and reduce your concentration, which is the last thing you want on the course.

A great-fitting, proper pair of golf shoes provides traction during your swing. The forces generated during the golf swing can exert tremendous angular pressure on the golf shoes, which must provide the necessary grip to withstand it. However, the perfect pair of golf shoes is an elusive thing, and getting this pair of shoes may be difficult because there are numerous suppliers in the market, such as Nike, ECCO, PUMA, Adidas and TRUE, who claim to offer the best quality golf shoes. How can so many be the best?

Therefore, you need to be an educated consumer when buying a golf shoe. Choosing a golf shoe is important, because your scores depend greatly on every piece equipment you use. And make no mistake, golf shoes are part of your equipment. You should ensure that the shoes you buy are comfortable enough to allow you to concentrate on your game. They should blend into the scenery as you play, unnoticed. If a golfer notices his shoes during a shot, he will likely be searching for the ball.

Because there is a huge difference between golf shoes vs. regular shoes, it is crucial to equip yourself with the understanding and knowledge of how to choose golf shoes that it takes to pick the perfect pair. This article is intended to give you guidelines on how to choose your own best golf shoes, but remember, ultimately the choice is up to you. You are the one who must live with the results.

What To Look For In The Best Golf Shoe:

Spikes or No Spikes

The first consideration you need to make when deciding on your perfect pair of golf shoes is whether to go with spikes or search out the best spikeless golf shoes. This one decision will remove half of the pile of options, and narrow your choice down to a more manageable list of candidates. There are good and bad things about either option, but each type is a vast improvement over the golf shoes of previous generations.

Whether the conditions you are playing in are wet or dry, spikes will offer more traction than the stubby lugs on spikeless golf shoes. Spikes will give you considerably more traction and stability when playing in rain and on very wet and hilly grounds, though.

On the other hand, spikeless shoes are usually more comfortable because they are lightweight and have more flexible soles. The newest generation of spikeless shoes can resemble running shoes, tennis shoes or several other types of casual athletic shoe. Their performance has come a long way in the short time since their introduction.

Are spikeless golf shoes good? Yes, they are, but remember both types can be an option. However you feel about one or the other, you should make your decision based on the conditions you play in most.

The Benefits of Spikes

Manufacturers have been producing the modern, soft-plastic golf cleat since the mid 1990s. It offers all the traction benefits of the traditional metal spike, but plays much nicer with delicate greens surfaces. The older metal spikes were a nuisance on greens, and most golf courses have long since banned them from play. Like the old metal spike, the plastic spikes screw into threaded holes in the shoe’s outsole.

These newer cleats are designed to dig into the tangles of grass and grab hold tightly, but let go easily. They aid in the buildup of energy in the backswing and provide tremendous grip for the sometimes-violent change of direction at the beginning of the downswing. They also help the golfer hold his finish in the through swing.
(Here is a YouTube video that explains the evolution of spike traction in golf.)

However, the golf cleat is a fragile thing. Over time, the thin plastic fingers that provide their superior traction begin to weaken. Eventually, they will lose their strength and snap off, one by one. As this occurs, the outsole of the golf shoes will begin to provide an uneven platform, which becomes more pronounced during the critical moments in the swing when pressures are greatest. When this occurs, you must install a new set of replacement spikes, as the situation will only get worse.

Another problem with spikes is that they tend to clog with loose turf and debris. This condition worsens in damp conditions, such as early-morning dew. While the ensuing trail of grass clippings can be messy, the real issue is the loss of traction from clogged cleats. Wearing these shoes to play golf means regular spike cleaning is in order.

The Benefits of Spikeless

Spikeless golf shoes are a relatively new invention, only making their first appearance in golf during the 2011 PGA Tour season when Fred Couples used a pair during that year’s Masters tournament. The golf world was buzzing with questions about these shoes, which looked more like sneakers than anything else then on the market, and much more than any saddle-top golf shoe ever had. Since then, nearly every manufacturer has gotten into the spikeless, casual-golf-shoe game.

The spikeless golf shoe, as the name implies, nixes the replaceable plastic cleat in favor of small protruding lugs that cover the surface of the outsole. Normally made from a mold, this design makes for a one-piece outsole with fixed spikes. So, spikeless is a misnomer of sorts — The spikes simply aren’t changeable.

At first, these shoes always resembled tennis shoes more than golf shoes, but manufacturers have begun to produce more varied styles in recent years. Styles now may still resemble tennis shoes, but they can also be based on running shoes or may even look remarkably like spiked golf shoes.

While there is no need to ever change spikes on these casual golf shoes, the downside is that, once the spikes have worn down, they lose their traction forever. But, the tradeoff is that you can wear them to and from the course, and they have close to the same tractions as spikes when in good condition. If your course has a lot of elevation changes, or if it rains a lot where you are, you may want to opt for spikes. (This Golf Digest article discusses other issues with spikeless golf shoes.)

Comfort

Comfortability is a major concern when it comes to golf shoes, but what does it mean? A comfortable golf shoe fits securely. It does not move at all on your heel while you are walking. To be comfortable, the shoe should fit perfectly in the toe box as well, so your toes won’t feel cramped. The best golf shoe for you is the one that will easily fit your foot. A narrow shoe will do just fine if your foot is narrow, but otherwise, if your foot is wide, ensure that you get a shoe that does not squeeze your toes.

Sizing is just one part of the equation, though it is certainly crucial. Manufacturers develop reputations for producing wide golf shoes, or narrow ones. Some may run small, where others tend to be a little bit big. Searching out and applying this information, and trying on shoes before settling on a purchase, will help you get a perfect size. But, other factors contribute to the ultimate comfort of a pair of golf shoes as well.

Factors of Comfort

So, what makes one golf shoe more, or less, comfortable than another? Let’s start by looking at the materials that golf shoe manufacturers use to make the modern golf shoe the marvel of engineering it has become. The days of the one-style-fits-all saddle top are gone. Modern golf shoes have the technology for days and provide comfort unheard of a generation ago, and that technological drive manifests itself in one thing: modern materials.

Urethane Midsoles

Polyurethane has become a common material in several sections of the modern golf shoe. Some manufacturers are currently experimenting with its use in the midsole, one of the most important elements for producing the most comfortable golf shoes. Long the material of choice in skateboard wheels, where toughness is mandatory, polyurethane is robust yet flexible. It provides a spring to the midsole that has transformed the device, as the material will flex quite readily but always wants to return to its original form.

Until recently, the polymer — ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) — had become ubiquitous in golf shoe midsoles. This long-chain polymer is lightweight and provides a cushioning and bounce reminiscent of rubber. EVA remains popular, but more manufacturers are coming around to the possibilities of urethane. Either choice will contribute to the comfort and effectiveness of this often overlooked golf shoe component.

Advanced Uppers

There was a time when you had three choices in golf shoe uppers: white leather, black leather or brown leather. Thankfully, those days are long gone. The modern golf shoe utilizes the most recent technology in materials to produce golf shoe uppers that flex in the exact places the foot requires while supplying the utmost in stability where the swing demands it.

While leather is still the most common material in golf shoe uppers, modern leather golf shoes utilize techniques like tumbling to make them soft and pliable, like a broken-in pair of shoes right out of the box. For a time, synthetics meant cheap, faux leather shoes that were stiff in all the wrong places. Modern, lightweight materials now give manufacturers the ability to make thin, mesh uppers that are the most breathable and best waterproof golf shoes ever produced.

Advanced Outsole

No area of the golf shoe has seen such remarkable technological innovation in recent years as the outsole. Manufacturers have begun to utilize advanced polymers in unique ways to produce specialized compartments within the outsole itself. Some of these compartments are there to provide structure, while others impart flexibility. The best golf shoes of 2017 use this construction method to lend incredible pliability to shoes where the foot flexes, while retaining substantial support for even the most violent of golf swings.

The small traction lug seems to be here to stay. Manufacturers are now utilizing these little nubs even on spiked golf shoes, and they afford the opportunity to be more strategic in the placement of spikes. The best spikeless golf shoes are employing these traction devices strategically as well. And concepts like flexion slits are being borrowed from other sports — running in this example — to lend ever greater flexibility to the outsole.

Golf shoe reviews tend to focus on the comfort factor of a shoe for a very good reason. The golf shoe does more work during a round of golf than any other piece of equipment in the golfer’s arsenal. Any perceived lack of comfort, even on the last couple of holes, becomes a distraction, and distractions cost strokes. You owe it to your dogs to give them the most comfortable golf shoes you can afford. They — and your score — will thank you. (This PGA.com article discusses the connection between on-course comfort and golf scores.)

 

Stability

The object of golf is to get the little white ball around the golf course and back home in as few shots as possible. There are some critical elements that affect a player’s ability to successfully play the game and move that ball around effectively. Some factors, like wind, weather and course conditions, are outside of his control, and a golfer will always be limited by the extent of his own ability. The equipment he chooses to utilize, however, is the one factor over which the player has complete control.

While swinging the golf club, there is far more foot action going on than many players realize. The pressure on the back foot builds during the back swing, and great potential energy is stored. This energy becomes kinetic gradually, and the feet are the instigators of that action. The weight is shifted toward the front through impact, until finally, all the player’s weight finishes directly over his front foot. Throughout this dynamic action, the golf shoe plays a critical role. (This article on Golf.com explains the connection between stability and distance.)

For this reason, the more stability a shoe can impact on the swing, the better. Some shoes may have built-in stabilizers along the arches to help keep your feet from swaying from side to side, while others may utilize strategic areas of high-tech polymers to get the job done.

The role of spikes and lugs

Golf shoes with plastic soft spikes can be a good choice in shoes, thanks to their boosted stability and inherent traction. But, simply having spikes doesn’t necessarily make a shoe more stable. Today’s cool golf shoes, the casual spikeless type, can be just as stable as the most advanced, tour-level spiked shoe. There are other factors in stability that you should consider.

More important than which type of traction device the manufacturer chooses to utilize in a pair of golf shoes is the placement of those devices. Some of the best-rated golf shoes now use protrusions toward the sides of the outsole, which imparts incredible stability during the through swing, a common point of slippage.

Some of the best golf shoes of 2017 use varying materials to allow motion at some points of the outsole while restricting it in others. This seamless structure provides the best sort of stability: the barely noticed kind. As manufacturers begin to play around with directional lugs that counter the lateral forces of the swing, expect stability to improve even more going forward.
(This YouTube video explains the weight shift in the swing.)

Stiffness

Conventional holds that golf shoes should be stiff, at least in strategic places, to provide the stability that powerful golf swings require. (Read this article on Golf.com for a counter argument.) For a time, the soft, relaxed and casual golf shoe was rising in popularity. Comfort, it seemed, would soon be king. But, manufacturers have learned to work within the comfort framework to find ways to add structural support. The newest of both types of the shoe provide rigidity in all the right places for the swing, but allow for ease of motion where needed.

The FootJoy Hyperflex II is an excellent example of this concept. The upper of the Hyperflex II is a nylon mesh fabric (waterproof and breathable) inside of a stiff polyurethane exoskeleton. The lattice-like exoskeleton provides phenomenal stiffness in certain, critical spots, but couples with the mesh to allow flexion in other areas.

This concept, that stiffness can be optimized, is a new feature in golf shoes. While only some of the best golf shoes in 2017 may feature this technology, you can bet that most manufacturers will be throwing their hats into the ring in the next few years. In the modern age, golfers are unaccustomed with compromise. Wooden drivers held on for a few years, because the use of metal in woods entailed certain compromises. When was the last time you saw a wooden wood? It will likely be the same with golf shoes. The Hyperflex looked crazy to young eyes on its arrival, but the concept of flexible stiffness will likely soon become ubiquitous.

Your search for your perfect pair of golf shoes should include a careful consideration of the tradeoffs between flexibility and stiffness. The technology in providing both may not be in its infancy anymore, but it’s not much more than a toddler. Checking out the latest tech in golf shoes has become more than just a fun exercise, it is crucial to ensuring your purchase works as hard for you as you did for it. The future looks bright — and stiff, and flexible.
(This YouTube video of a FootJoy commercial shows the Hyperflex II in action.)

Flexibility

Owing to the fact that most golf courses are located on irregular and hilly grounds, your being proficient at taking swings on awkward slopes is a requirement. Therefore, you need a golf shoe that is more flexible than you may imagine. Good golf requires a bit of elasticity, which means a golfer should require elasticity in his footwear.

So, then what happened to stiffness? This statement will be familiar to anyone who has played golf for a while: Golf is a game of opposites. You swing down; the ball goes up. You swing left; the ball goes right. To hit farther, try less hard, and so on. The same applies to golf shoes.

The areas of the foot that are most supple require a stiff section of shoe for support. In turn, the areas of the foot that are most stiff require flexibility to impart comfort. In the modern era, the best golf shoes are the ones that can do both equally well.

Outsole Flex

Golf shoe outsoles are barely recognizable when placed against the outsoles of a generation ago. At that time, the spike was king, and the sole of the golf shoe was flat as a plate and typically as stiff as a board. The change came suddenly, and golf shoes have come a long way since then.

Modern golf shoes use so much technology in their outsoles that it can be confusing to an aerospace engineer. To the layperson, the high-tech jargon manufacturers use in their sales pitches can be so much nonsense and noise. All you really need to know is this: look for golf shoes that utilize both flexible and stiff traction sections in their outsoles. You will be getting the most comfort golf shoes have to offer and more playability than any shoes have ever given your game.

Upper Material

The Hyperflex II from the previous entry is a perfect example of the marriage of flexion and stiffness in modern golf shoe design, but it has plenty of company. That FootJoy wears its tech on its sleeve, but some of the best-rated golf shoes on the market utilize similar technology. They just try harder to conceal it.

The utmost in upper flex technology is the modern mesh design. Some manufacturers are combining mesh and stiffer, but still flexible, modern polymers like urethane in an attempt to give golfers the best of both worlds. (Check out Golf.com’s Puma Faas Lite Mesh 2.0 review for proof.)  Even golf shoes that use more traditional materials like leather are now making use of these hybrid concepts.

Early on, Nike was at the forefront in the current race for functional flexibility. It’s FI Impact shoe borrows flex technology from Nike’s super-flexible Free running shoes. Several manufacturers have now followed suit, however, and the mesh upper and flexible-in-places outsole has become commonplace.
(Watch this YouTube video of the Nike FI Impact for exploded views.)

In your search for the perfect golf shoe, keep in mind that you no longer need to settle for golf shoes that are either functional or comfortable. The most comfortable golf shoes in the game are now extremely playable, and vice versa. As long as you make this technology part of your search criteria, your new golf shoes should compliment your game.

 

Waterproof

For your perfect golf shoe, you should choose one made of waterproof material because it ensures that your feet are kept dry, even during a downpour or when playing in the morning hours when the grass is heavy with dew. Wet shoes reduce stability and make your feet slide from side to side on the insole, which is one of the worst things possible for your swing. Be sure to look for a shoe that will endure all kinds of weather without becoming soggy.

Manufacturers achieve varying degrees of waterproofing through different means. Leather, which is notoriously porous and soaks up water, can be made waterproof using spray-on chemicals. Sketchers’ Go Golf Pro uses this type of waterproofing, which is applied in manufacturing.There are also new waterproof microfiber mesh uppers on the market as well.
(This Vimeo video shows 360-degree views of the Go Golf Pro.)

Skechers Go Golf Pro Golf Shoe (N) from Clubhouse Golf on Vimeo.

The Benefits

Like many issues in golf shoe design, the true benefits of waterproofing are not realized until you reach the back nine in a round of golf. On a rainy day or a dewy morning, the feet can get soaked quickly, but even the weakest among us can handle wet feet for a while. Only after your wet feet begin to cause fatigue — thanks to falling body temperature through heat loss — does the effect become noticeable. By the time you reach the 18th tee, you will be completely out of gas and off your game.

The best waterproof golf shoes keep your feet dry in even the worst of rainstorms, and dry feet equal comfort. The more comfortable you are, the better you will perform, so lower scores can be a direct result of the comfort waterproof golf shoes provide.

The Drawbacks

Often, waterproof shoes require a significant compromise: They lack breathability. Without air flow, the feet get hot and begin to sweat. On a hot day, your feet may become just as soaked with sweat as they would in the rain without waterproof shoes. The most modern waterproof golf shoes provide previously unheard of levels of air flow in a waterproof design, though. So, the modern golfer continues to get away without compromise in his search for perfection. (If you are not a fair-weather golfer, check out this GolfDigest.com bad weather survival guide.)

 

Breathability

In earlier times, golf shoes were made from solid, thick leather. The heavy hide provided the stiffness that golfers of the period deemed necessary, but it held in heat to a terrible degree. The foot was locked in this little hot box for the entirety of a round, and fatigue set in quickly thanks to the ensuing dampness. (Click here for tips on keeping your feet healthy)

Breathability is crucial in keeping your feet dry and comfortable. A good golf shoe should be designed with a breathable material in the upper that allows air circulation and keeps your feet cool. This also prevents the development of fungus and bad odor, which is caused by sweaty feet.

Manufacturers of these cool golf shoes (get it?) employ differing means to get the job the done. Some use the mesh we discussed earlier, which allows for a free flow of air through the shoe. Others use perforations in leather uppers to allow fresh air to seep into the shoe. These perforations must be adequate to permit air flow, though. For this reason, you should go for a shoe with enough perforations that will allow your feet to breath.

The Benefits

As mentioned, breathability is the shoe’s tendency or ability to let air flow through it. On the face of it, this may seem like an unnecessary, even obvious consideration. Perhaps it is, but the results of stifling heat in the golf shoe affect more than just comfort levels.

As the foot begins to attempt to regulate its temperature, it produces sweat. As a result, the socks are soon dampened with liquid and lose their elasticity. Wet socks then begin to slide across the insole during swings and, just like in the case of non-waterproof shoes, stability is lost. Breathable shoes help you maintain your footing during your swing. The confidence you have in your traction translates into better focus, and hence better shots will follow.

The Drawbacks

When they first appeared on the market, breathable mesh shoes lacked the structure and waterproofing of tour-level spiked shoes. The porous mesh allowed rain in like a civ, so the mesh upper was only useful on days with definite sunny forecasts. The newest mesh golf shoes are now utterly waterproof, yet retain their breathable functionality.

Mesh may or may not be your thing, but its rise to prominence in the marketplace signals a shift in the industry toward non-traditional materials in golf shoes. Some of these shoes look like Spiderman’s slippers, but others camouflage their use of mesh in a more tasteful appearance. Your perfect golf shoe might just be one of these lightweight modern marvels. If not, you should not discount the importance of air flow in a comfortable, high-performance golf shoe design.

Even if you’re determined to stick with leather, be sure to check for perforations before you make your final decision. Even a slight amount of air flow is better than none, and those little holes no longer signal a lack of waterproofing.

 

Style

Call this the last-but-not-least category. In a previous era, this would have been the first, and maybe only, entry on this list. After all, the first thing you think of when you ponder a shoe isn’t the technology in its midsole. No, the main thing you perceive is that shoe’s appearance. Golf shoes are no different from dress shoes in that regard.

In every other way, though, golf shoes are unlike any other footwear in sports. They can positively or negatively affect the performance of the person wearing them to a greater degree than footwear has any right to do. (This pga.com article discusses technology in golf.) In the modern game, form is following function more than it ever has, and the humble golf shoe has subdivided into distinct styles, or types.

There are three main styles in the golf shoe market — athletic, traditional and spikeless. Traditional golf shoes are usually made of leather and are therefore very durable. However, they lack breathability and flexibility. Athletic shoes, available with or without spikes, are famous for their lightweight and are high degree of flexibility. Most of the top brands make some form of these casual athletic shoes, which are highly sought after and respected, especially in younger generations. (This article discusses the evolution of golf shoe style.)

When choosing your perfect golf shoe, letting your performance needs dictate your style preference will go a long way toward making sure you are a happier golfer. Trying to fit a mold, even if it’s the mold of yourself from before golf got technologically advanced, can end with you looking the same as ever, and shooting the same old scores. The golf shoes you are wearing when you shoot your best-ever score are the most beautiful shoes in the world.

The dos

  • Fit your shoe before buying
  • Objectively search for the qualities mentioned above
  • Look for a store with a wide variety of choices

The don’ts

  • Do not choose style over comfort
  • Do not assume that the size you wear for regular shoes is the same for golf shoes
  • If the shoes are sneaker-styled, choose the size that you wear for regular shoes
  • If you’re buying leather golf shoes, the sizes are usually a tad bit smaller

 

Conclusion

With all that there is to worry about while playing golf, the comfortability of your feet should not be one of them. Choose a golf shoe that will provide comfort, stability, and flexibility throughout your game. Don’t underestimate the validity of a solid foundation when you swing your club. All the energy starts from the ground up, so the golf shoe that gives you that foundation is invaluable.

The perfect golf shoe will become invisible. It will not interfere with your swing. It will be unobtrusive to the extreme and you will not notice it until the end of your round, when you realize how great your feet feel.

Narrow your choices down in a wise and thoughtful manner. Buying the latest fad is a sure way to misery on the back nine. Advertisers know how to work the masses, but the only great design makes for great golf shoes. When you’ve narrowed your list, read golf shoe reviews to get a better idea of what you’re getting yourself into. The best golf shoes will likely have the most stellar reviews, but don’t discount the new kid on the block.

Begin your search by deciding if you want spikes or spikeless shoes. Just remember, the average golfer does not swing with enough force to dislodge the modern traction lugs from their perch. And the benefit of wearing your golf shoes to the 19th hole is priceless to those of us of a certain age.

Next, consider the basics of performance — stability and flexibility. These two factors are critical to shooting your best scores. If a golf shoe fits the other criteria outlined in this article perfectly, but lacks stability and flexibility, it is useless. It will cost you strokes and you will not wear it, except perhaps to mow the lawn.

Waterproofing and breathability play major roles in the usefulness of a golf shoe as well, but none of it will matter if they aren’t the most comfortable golf shoes for you and your game. In the end, you will be happier the more of these criteria you check off your list. And in truth, the perfect golf shoe is a myth, which is why they keep making new ones. It’s just like the swing. You keep chasing perfection, though you know it’s unattainable. The fun is all in the hunt.