The barrier to a perfect golf swing could lie in your big toe. Or your heel. Or on the ball of your foot. Experts with the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons (ACFAS) say these are the three areas of your feet most likely to cause pain that can ruin your golf swing.
Behind these pain-prone spots can lie stiff joints, stretched-out tissues and even nerve damage. But pain relief is possible and frequently does not require surgery.
The three most common painful foot conditions that can ruin your golf swing are heel pain, arthritis and pinched nerves.
Arthritis can cause pain in the joint of your big toe that makes it difficult to follow-through on your golf swing.
Heel pain typically results from an inflammation of the band of tissue that extends from your heel to the ball of your foot. People with this condition compare the pain to someone jabbing a knife in their heel. Heel pain can make it uncomfortable for golfers to maintain a solid stance during crucial portions of their golf swing.
Neuromas are nerves that become thickened, enlarged and painful because they've been compressed or irritated. A neuroma in the ball of your foot can cause significant pain as your body transfers its weight from one foot to the other in a golf swing.
Several other painful conditions can also make the perfect swing difficult. Ankle arthritis or ankle instability can affect the proper weight shift during the golf swing. Some athletes and former athletes develop chronic ankle instability from previous ankle sprains that failed to heal properly. Achilles tendonitis can also contribute to balance-threatening instability during your golf swing. Ill-fitting golf shoes may cause corns and calluses that make standing uncomfortable.
For the majority of golfers and other patients, treatments are simple and involve custom orthotic devices (shoe inserts), stretching exercises, changes to your shoes, medications, braces or steroid injections and physical therapy, depending on the condition and its severity. However, if these conservative measures fail to provide adequate relief, surgery may be required.
"Foot pain is not normal. With the treatment options available to your foot and ankle surgeon, a pain-free golf swing is clearly in view," says Daniel J. Hatch, DPM, FACFAS, president-elect of the ACFAS. "When your feet aren't in top condition, your golf swing won't be either."