A Step Ahead: Fore! Don’t let foot pain handicap your golf game.

by Ralph J. Napolitano, Jr., DPM, CWSP, FACFAS

The Masters. The tradition of this major professional golf tournament that takes place every year as April rolls in is truly unique, and many believe it to be second to none in the world of golf. From the iconic green blazer jacket the winner receives to the indescribably beauty of its home, Augusta National Golf Club, The Masters is truly an inspiration for the golfer and golf fan. Has The Masters inspired you and are you ready to hit the links? Perhaps you already have a few rounds in this season. Don’t let foot pain handicap your game this golf season.

golf playerIf we look at how our bodies are connected to the game of golf, we can consider a “trio” of connections. First and foremost, the golf club is connected to the ball—granted for a fraction of a second but nonetheless an extremely obvious important connection. A second important connection is that of the hands and the golf club. And third, our foundation if you will, is that of our feet. They’re connected to the ground. And what our feet do, or do not do in the golf swing is quite important. And speaking of the golf swing, a detailed analysis of the golf swing is certainly a gargantuan topic that we’ll need to avoid just like Rae’s Creek at Augusta so we can keep pace of play for this month’s blog. To keep it brief, foot function during the golf swing is truly unique and feet do things in golf unlike any other sport. The transfer of weight from the trail (back) foot to the from lead (front) foot require adequate range of motion within the foot and ankle joints. Certain limiting foot factors such as arthritis and tendinitis can impact what the feet do quite negatively in the golf swing. In addition, foot architecture and foot type impact foot function as well and can also affect the golf swing for the worse. Let’s discuss the 2 broad categories of foot architecture and what they mean to the golf swing. They are a flat foot and high arch foot.

To put it somewhat informally, the flat foot type can be described as a floppy bag of bones. As such this type of foot is prone to instability problems such as plantar fasciitis, rearfoot tendinitis, namely posterior tibial tendinitis, and toe deformities (bunions and hammertoes). Therefore, correct weight transfer from the trail foot to the lead foot may not be optimal or even possible in severe cases. Addressing these problems will pay dividends to lower your golf score. Custom foot orthotics can certainly help and reconstructive foot surgery may be indicated but only when conservative means have been exhausted.

Conversely, the high arch foot functions as a rigid lever and not as flexible as a flater foot type. As such it is more prone to arthritis and other biomechanical problems. If we look at our golf swing, a golfer with a high arch fot may never be able to transfer the appropriate weight shift. In this case, custom foot orthotics can help with the biomechanical imbalance and provide some needed cushion. Foot surgery depending on the severity of the problem may be necessary.

Sometimes golfers need some extra help with their golf swing off the driving range in addition to their teaching professional. At OrthoNeuro, we’re proud to offer the Titleist Performance Institute Golf Fitness Program. The OrthoNeuro /Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) Golf Fitness Program begins with a physical screen that identifies the areas of the body that are the limiting physical factors in the golf swing. The physical screen evaluates the legs, hips, torso, shoulders and addresses posture, dynamic posture (backswing, downswing, follow through), and the ability to coordinate and sequence various movements. After the initial evaluation, the results are entered into the TPI database and an exercise program is developed to meet their individual needs. OrthoNeuro has two certified Titliest Performance Institute Instructors, Jay Holdgreve and Kyle Folsom. For more information about the OrthoNeuro TPI Golf Fitness Program, please contact Jay Holdgreve at jholdgreve@orthoneuro.com.

No matter where your golf game is, it’s certainly no fun at all if you have foot problems. Above and beyond what was mentioned, even the smallest of foot problems such as a chronic ingrown toenail or irritating athlete’s foot can affect your game. Let’s start your golf season on the right foot and address your swing now from the ground up so you can hit the links pain free this season.

Keep it down the middle!

Dr NapolitanoDr. Napolitano is a double board-certified podiatrist and wound care specialist physician. (CWSP). He specializes in medicine, surgery and wound care of the foot, ankle and lower leg. He was the first podiatrist in the state of Ohio to earn the board certification Certified Wound Specialist Physician (CWSP).

“I strive to educate my patients thoroughly about their problem and offer a comprehensive and holistic treatment plan both medical and surgical. I believe healthy feet are the foundation for healthy living and will do my very best at all times to keep you active and moving along life’s journey—whatever your interests and wherever your feet may take you.”

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