The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

It’s in the Hole! Golf and Foot Injuries

Posted by on Monday, April 2nd, 2012

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When you think of golf injuries, you probably think of back, shoulder, wrist, maybe knee problems. But can foot injuries spoil your good walk? Abso-swingin-lutely. Think of it–when Tiger Woods walked off the course with an injury a few weeks ago at the WGC Cadillac Championship, it wasn’t because he’d tweaked his back, but because he felt pain in his Achilles tendon.

Luckily for TV executives everywhere who dream about a Tiger bump in the ratings during their golf broadcasts, Tiger returned last week to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill and is primed for the Masters this week. So with that in mind, let’s take a look at golf and your feet. Or the feet of people you know who play golf.

Golfers just stand there. What do their feet have to do other than hold them up? I don’t know, I think that’s pretty important. Try standing without your feet.

In all seriousness, feet provide the base for a golfer during the swing, so if a golfers feet don’t feel good and are not positioned right, that can affect the whole swing. Worse, if a golfer is standing awkwardly to try to alleviate foot pain, he or she risks hurting another body part, which is now out of position.

Here’s a breakdown of how a golfer’s feet operate during a swing, courtesy of Podiatry Today:

“…the golf swing can be broken down into the following phases: set up, takeaway, downswing, impact and follow-through.

At set up, the weight should be evenly distributed on both feet with slightly more weight on the inside of the balls of the feet. During the takeaway or backswing phase, the front foot should pronate, placing more pressure on the inside of that foot while the back foot stays stable as it receives more weight. The front foot heel may come off the ground and place more pressure on the ball of that foot. This is necessary to promote a full shoulder turn.

During the downswing, weight rapidly shifts to the front foot until impact when the weight should be evenly distributed between the feet again. There is a lateral shift of the hips and knees during downswing that continues through impact and will continue slightly into the follow-through phase. During the follow-through phase, the front foot supinates and the back heel comes off the ground with the weight of the back foot being placed on the big toe.

Got that golf pros?

golf shoes black and white
Image: sportspodiatryinfo

Okay, so what about those injuries? Golfers aren’t likely to have traumatic injuries like in other sports–you don’t often hear about two golfers colliding at high impact or suffering an ankle dislocation from jumping up and down during a hole in one celebration. Golf injuries are more likely to be repetitive use injuries.

Here are a few to look for:

Problem: Plantar fasciitis – As we’ve discussed before, plantar fasciitis is heel pain caused by inflammation of the plantar fascia, the band of tissue that runs through the sole of your foot to your heel. A common cause is tight calf and Achilles tendon muscles, as well as constant overpronation of the foot, or a tendency to roll your foot inward. Some golfers say that the problem comes from golf shoes that tend to be stiff and that can limit mobility and flexibility of the foot.

Solution: Treat it with ice, anti-inflammatories, and rest. You can even try relieving pain by massaging your foot with a golf ball, just to keep in the spirit of things. Prevent it with stretching–here’s a good stretch for plantar fasciitis, orthotics to correct the overpronation, and shoes that have some flexibility.

Problem: Morton’s neuroma – As you no doubt remember from our earlier post about this (you read them all, right?), Morton’s neuroma is thickened nerve tissue typically found between the third and fourth toe. It comes from repeatedly striking the ball of your foot, as you do a lot while walking a golf course, or during the follow through of a swing, when the nerve between your metatarsals can be pinched while your foot rolls inward. It hurts a lot (I know–I’m pretty sure I have one).

Solution – I know you don’t want to hear this, but the best thing to do is rest. Take some pressure off your feet for a bit. But I know you don’t want to be off your feet too long, so if you see a podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900) you can be fitted for metatarsal foot pads or orthotics to take some pressure off the ball of your foot. Better golf shoes may also help, especially if you’re wearing ones that are to stiff. If the neuroma is beyond that, the podiatrist at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine (212.996.1900) may also suggest cortisone shots to alleviate the pain or surgery to remove the neuroma. Once the neuroma is dealt with, you should see a golf pro or physical therapist to evaluate your biomechanics and correct any problems that might make you prone to neuromas.

Problem: Big Toe Bruising and Bleeding – Black toenail, just like the runner folk! Bruising of the big toe comes when golfers put excess pressure on their big toe at the end of their follow through. Do this enough and bruises develop. Blood vessels break, letting blood seep under the toenail, giving it a blackened appearance.

Solution: If you’ve already got the dread black toenail, then just leave it alone, other than to keep an eye on it for signs of infection. It will fall off when a new toenail has grown in underneath it. To prevent it from happening again, work on slightly rolling your foot away from the big toe at the end of your swing, to shift some of the pressure from your big toe to the ball of your foot. Ask a pro to help you with that.

Whether you’re a pro, amateur golfer, or mini-golf fanatic, you need to keep your feet in top shape to keep your swing at its best. If you have any problems with your feet, whether from playing golf or anything else, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine. Dr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, and Dr. Ryan Minara have helped thousands of people get back on their feet.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.