5 Ways to Be a Golf Swinger without Killing Your Feet

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Ok, I've just got to ask: is 2020 over yet? No? Well, then I guess we've just got to push through. Because, let's face it, everything is different this year. And I'm guessing that has impacted pretty much every part of your life, from how your kids go to school, to how and where you work, and even how you exercise!

I've seen a lot of runners turn away from their usual routes because they're too crowded...or even just because it's so freaking hot out! But, runners need to run, or at least channel that energy. Which is why I'm here to tell you about the perfect social distance sport today: golf. Now, I know what you're thinking: golf is for Tiger Woods. Or a bunch of guys who care more about the beer and the business talk than the actual game. 

But here's the thing: golf is actually a serious sport. And it can give you a serious workout, especially if you skip the cart and decide to walk the majority of those 18 holes. Unfortunately, however, it can also take a toll on your feet, especially if you're new to the sport and unfamiliar with potential pitfalls. So...that's where I come in. Today, I'll walk you through some of the most common golf injuries. Then I'll give tips on how to avoid them. And, as promised, I'll turn you into a true swinger in no time!  golf triggered pain in foot

Avoiding Common Golf Injuries

Because this sport involves a lot of standing, it's only natural that your feet may get a little beat up your first few times on the green. But it doesn't have to happen. So let's beat down these common pain in foot culprits. Starting with: 

1. Dislocated toes.

This is a common golf-injury—especially for professional players, but sometimes affecting amateurs as well. When golfers are on the circuit, they may walk as much as 20 miles each week between holes. And that pressure amounts to a small series of traumas that, overtime, can affect your toe joints. Now, the problem here is how much time you spend on your feet. It's not necessarily unique to golfers. So, if your job demands that you spend long hours standing or walking, you also need to worry about your toe joints. Whether on the green or on the job, here's how to avoid dislocated toes. Take plenty of breaks. Put your feet up when you can to take the pressure off your toes. And last but not least: wear sensible, supportive shoes, ideally with orthotic inserts. Then, to top off a long day on the job or at the golf course, give your feet a nice, warm soak when you get home.

2. Heel Pain

Also known as plantar fascitis, this condition is a result of inflammation or tears in the connective tissue at your heel. It's often caused by excessive pronation in your feet.  (Pronation is the fancy podiatric word for describing body’s response to running or walking. In feet, pronation involves the elongation and flattening of your arch that lets your foot roll inward.) Since golfers often walk in cleats (yes, ladies, golf can be a new opportunity for a shoe closet expansion) inflammation is a problem. These cleats are hard, and don't move with your feet. So, if you walk in them, especially for long distances, it can be a major heel pain cause. And this type of heel pain is typically worse first thing in the morning, right after you get out of bed. Hoping to avoid this? Of course you are! To limit golf related heel pain, avoid cleats between holes (if possible.) Or invest in orthotics for your cleats to take the pressure off your fascia. And, as always, build in breaks to your golf game. Or take days off between your games. 

3. Corns and Calluses

Over time, you may notice calluses and corns form on your feet. These hardened areas of skin develop because of repeated pressure or friction on one area of skin. That pressure actually kills the living cells in your skin, forming a hard, protective surface in their place. Ill-fitting golf shoes could cause your feet to develop these spots. So get professionally fitted for your golf cleats to avoid this kind of friction.  orthotics for golf

4. Tendonitis

This golf pain in the foot is caused by inflammation of the tendon that runs along the arch of your foot. It is a very common golfing injury because gearing up for a swing put tons of pressure on this area. Once again, your feel-good solution is actually pretty simple: orthotics! When you wear custom insoles in your golf shoes, you allow your body to establish a better point of contact with the ground when executing your swing. Orthotics also stabilize your feet, distribute your weight evenly and correct your posture during golf, helping prevent or alleviate many sport-specific injuries. Some research even suggests that orthotics can improve your game and help you hit the ball with more force. 

5. Ingrown Toenails

For golfers, ingrown toenails are actually an overuse injury. Here's the story. As I mentioned earlier, your feet pronate (roll.) It happens a lot to golfers. And while your feet roll, your toenails may get damaged. You see, ingrown toenails develop for lots of different reasons. You may know how to be super-careful when cutting your kids' nails, in order to avoid ingrown nails. 

But other things also cause ingrown toenails. Things like foot abnormalities, trauma and even bunions: basically anything that makes your big toe rotate onto its side. Why is that an issue? Because, when your toe rotates,  it pushes up the tissue right around your nail. And that could force the edge of your nail into that skin. 

Even if that trauma is temporary, it could be enough of a force to change your nail growth. So, in a few weeks, or even months, you might notice the skin around your nail is red. It may be sore, swollen or even develop pus. In fact, you may not notice the issue until these signs of infection pop up. 

Now, listen to me carefully here. First, I want you to protect your toes while you play golf. We've talked about fitting your shoes well and adding orthotics. And now we'll talk aftermath. If you do develop an ingrown toenail, don't try to correct the problem at home, on your own. I call this bathroom surgery--a very bad idea that typically results in pain and a worse infection. Instead, if you're dealing with foot, heel, tendon or toenail pain, just come into the office. Or, if your prefer, schedule a telemedicine consultation. That way you can safely return to your "new normal" on the golf green! 

 

Dr. Andrew Schneider
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A podiatrist and foot surgeon in Houston, TX.
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