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Enjoy the game without pain by following these expert strategies

The joys of golf—a physically and mentally challenging game played in the great outdoors—make it the seventh most popular sport in the United States.

However, the repetitive nature of the golf swing, combined with long periods of walking and navigating uneven terrain, can put golfers at risk for various foot and ankle injuries.

Dr. Michael Lacey, Dr . Peter Lovato, and Dr. Rimi Statkus, three of the top physicians at Northern Illinois Foot and Ankle Specialists, explain these risks and offer advice on how golfers can protect themselves from the most common injuries.

Plantar Fasciitis

Dr. Lacey explains, “Plantar fasciitis is a common issue among golfers due to the prolonged walking and standing required on the course. The plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of the foot, can become inflamed from overuse.'

'To prevent this injury, golfers should stretch their calves and the bottoms of their feet regularly. Using a foam roller or a golf ball to roll under the feet can also help. On the course, well-cushioned golf shoes with good arch support are essential.” suggested Dr. Lacey.

Dr. Statkus mentions, 'Inflammation and heel spurs develop from repetitive impact on the heel. This can cause significant heel pain.'

Dr. Statkus suggests preventive measures include stretching the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon and using orthotics or inserts in shoes. Rolling a golf ball under the arch can help stretch and massage the plantar fascia. On the course, well-cushioned shoes with good heel support are recommended.

Ankle Sprains

Dr. Lacey notes, 'Ankle sprains often occur from walking on uneven terrain or twisting the ankle during the golf swing. Strengthening the muscles around the ankle is important to prevent these injuries.

“Strengthening exercises such as calf raises and ankle circles can be done at home. Balance exercises are also beneficial. On the course, golfers should be mindful of their footing and wear supportive golf shoes.”, added Dr Lacey.

Achilles Tendonitis

'Achilles tendonitis is another overuse injury we see in golfers,' says Dr. Lacey. 'Walking long distances and the pushing off motion during the swing can strain the Achilles tendon.

“Regularly stretching the Achilles tendon and calf muscles is crucial to prevent Achilles tendonitis. Warming up properly before playing and wearing shoes with proper heel support can reduce the risk,” added Dr. Lacey.

Metatarsalgia

'Pain and inflammation in the ball of the foot can result from prolonged walking, especially if your golf shoes lack adequate cushioning,” said Dr. Lacey.

Dr. Lacey added, “Padded insoles in shoes at home can help prevent this condition. On the course, choosing well-cushioned golf shoes and, once again, stretching is important to reduce the amount of force that is applied to the “ball” of the foot.”

Stress Fractures

'Stress fractures occur from repetitive stress on the bones of the feet and ankles,' explains Dr. Lovato. 'Improper swing mechanics and long distances walked can contribute to these small cracks in the bones.'

“Key preventive steps include ensuring adequate calcium and vitamin D intake for bone health and avoiding overtraining,” noted Dr. Lovato. On the course, supportive shoes and gradually increasing the duration and intensity of walking can help.

Tendinitis

'Inflammation of the tendons can result from overuse or improper foot positioning during the golf swing,' says Dr. Lovato.

Dr. Lovato noted that tendinitis can be prevented by stretching and strengthening the muscles and tendons in your feet and ankles at home and using proper swing mechanics.

Bunions

Dr. Lovato advises: 'Repeated pressure and friction from ill-fitting golf shoes can exacerbate bunion development, leading to pain and swelling at the base of the big toe.'

Wearing shoes with a wide toe box and using bunion pads to reduce pressure at home can help prevent this painful condition. Choosing the correct fit with golf shoes is essential on the course.

Neuromas

'Neuromas, such as Morton's neuroma, result from repetitive stress and pressure on the nerves leading to the toes,' explains Dr. Lovato. 'This can cause a thickening of the tissue around the nerve.

“Wearing shoes with a wide toe box and good arch support and using metatarsal pads at home can help. Avoiding tight shoes on the course and taking breaks to relieve pressure on the feet can be helpful,” added Dr. Lovato.

Heel Spurs

Dr. Statkus mentions, 'Heel spurs develop from repetitive impact on the heel. These bony protrusions can cause significant heel pain.”

Dr. Statkus suggests preventive measures include stretching the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon and using heel pads in shoes at home. On the course, well-cushioned shoes with good heel support are recommended.

Arthritis

'Repetitive motion and stress on the foot and ankle joints from walking and swinging can contribute to arthritis,' says Dr. Statkus.

Dr. Statkus advises golfers to maintain a healthy weight to reduce joint stress, do range-of-motion and strengthening exercises at home, and use a golf cart to reduce walking on the course.

When to See a Doctor

Dr. Lacey, Dr. Lovato, and Dr. Statkus emphasize the importance of seeking medical advice if you experience:

  • Persistent pain that does not improve with rest and home treatment.
  • Significant swelling, bruising, or deformity.
  • Inability to bear weight on the affected foot or ankle.
  • Numbness, tingling, or sharp, burning pain.
  • Any signs of infection, such as redness, warmth, or fever.

Any signs of infection, such as redness, warmth, or fever.'Taking these preventive measures and knowing when to seek medical advice can help reduce the risk of foot and ankle injuries, allowing golfers to enjoy the game without pain,' concludes Dr. Lovato.

Don’t let foot pain or discomfort keep you from missing any time on the golf course. Book an appointment today and let us help you return to playing the game you love.