Golf is the only sport where wearing an orthotic has been demonstrated to improve performance. To the tune of 10 extra yards with your driver!
If your foot is not properly supported and aligned, you will have aching feet and your swing mechanics will not be consistent. In older adults, many of the structural knee issues contributing to knee and hip replacements can be linked to fallen arches and the changes that makes in lower body alignment.
Having your arches fall is normally a sign of age, yet in this case, it is also a result from poor footwear choices, the lack of proper lacing, and worn out golfshoes. In golf, there is a general lack of understanding of sizing and in-shoe support for golf athletes and how the two work together.
The foot has three arches. The lateral arch is normally what collapses in motion, resulting in a loss of balance, stability and distance. The golf shoe can only partially make up for this lack of stability if the foot is unstable. The minimalist shoes found in some brands are less than optimal if you have foot problems. Off the course, wear shoes with laces that fit properly. In short, your feet should be supported essentially the same way all the time.
It has been estimated that 80% of people in the U.S. need orthotics or insoles. This is even higher with golfers because of the added load and rotational stress of the swing. In addition, at least 75% of people, including golfers are in the wrong size shoes. The two go together in that you will perform better if you have the right size and right type of shoes, and will avoid arch issues in the future with proper in-shoe support. Don’t assume the type and size of shoe you needed two years ago is right for your feet now. Feet actually can change significantly year to year in dimension and structure. Some people actually go up two full sizes and one additional width in that time!
Just because there is an orange, charging animal on the shoe does not mean it is a good shoe for everyone! Some feet do better in straight lasted shoes, and some do better in curved last shoes. Find someone who can tell you what is best for your foot type and needs, and can measure your feet on a yearly basis to monitor changes. And, it is rarely the shoe person at the golf store.
Have you feet evaluated for structural soundness and tendencies in both basic standing and gait, and then if necessary, you can have anything from simple support in an insole to a medical orthotic placed in the shoes. The sock liner in most shoes provides almost no arch support. Both shoe fitting and foot structure are specialized approaches, just like club fitting. And just like club fitting, off-the-rack rarely works for most golfers.
Golf orthotics are significantly different than street shoe orthotics, so if you decide on that route, make sure the orthotic is both geared to your foot and golf game. Golf orthotics should provide slightly more rigidity under the midfoot to help with weight transfer, and have a special bar under the toes for extra power generation. My own research suggests they greatly improve walking efficiency and comfort on the golf course as well.
If you get an orthotic or insole, always try on new shoes with that insole instead of the foam sock liner, as that level of support will change foot size inside the shoe.
There is mounting evidence that minimalist shoes are not ideal for athletic training in the gym, so err in the direction of more conventional shoes in both areas if you have foot problems. My personal feeling is the five finger shoes are great for watching football while on the couch, end of story.
So, this time of year, get your feet evaluated. If you need an orthotic, get that before you get new golf shoes. Use that orthotic to help size the golf shoes as your foot is generally a little shorter and narrower with the orthotic or insole.