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Podiatry in Sports: A Golfer’s Guide to Foot and Ankle Injuries

Although the majority of golf injuries are associated with the back, hips, and knees, it’s important to remember that your feet and ankles are also vulnerable on the links. The average golfer walks four-to-five miles over the course of three-to-five hours during an 18-hole round, putting an excessive amount of strain on their lower extremities throughout the afternoon.

In most cases, injuries that occur in the foot and ankle during golf activities are either due to overuse type injuries or traumatic injuries. An overuse injury is any type of muscle or joint injury, such as tendinitis or a stress fracture, that’s caused by repetitive trauma. In this case, repetitive trauma manifests itself in the form of a golf swing, which can be repeated anywhere from 100-200 times during a single round.

A normal golf swing – sorry Charles Barkley, this article isn’t for you — can be broken down into five main phases: the set-up, takeaway, downswing, impact, and follow-through.

At set up, a golfer stands with equal weight on both feet, with some weight perhaps slightly more to the insides of the feet, in preparation of the swing. During the takeaway, more commonly known as the back swing, the front foot rotates outward (pronates) while the back foot remains stable as it receives more weight. At the end of this step, the front heel may even rise off the ground to promote a full shoulder turn.

For the downswing, weight is rapidly shifted to the front foot until impact, at which point the weight should then be evenly distributed between both feet. A lateral shift of the hips and knees will occur during downswing that continues through the impact of the ball as the front foot rotates inward (supinate) and the back heel comes off the ground with increased weight on the big toe.

The latter phases of the swing are when the body is most susceptible to developing injuries as the motions become more violent and weight is shifted.

Here are several common foot and ankle injuries that affect golfers:

Heel Pain: This condition is also known as plantar fasciitis and commonly occurs due to excessive pronation in the feet. The pain will be located in the center of the heel and can be exacerbated by excessive walking on the golf course.

Metatarsalgia: This term refers to any pain in the fore foot region. This can be caused due or corns, hard skin or bony pain.

Neuromas: This condition is a common injury among golfers defined by swelling and scarring around one of the nerves that run in the in-between spaces in the ball of the foot just before the toes separate. It can produce sharp, stabbing pain and typically occurs in the non-dominant foot.

Subungal Hematomas: This occurs when a golfer applies excessive pressure to the big toe during their swing. It occurs only in the dominant foot and, after excessive repetition, the subungal tissue will be injured and blood will form under the nail plate. It can be prevented by slightly rotating the back foot away from the ball before the swing, which will take pressure off of the big toe.

Tendonitis: Think using a golf cart will protect you from injury? Think again. The constant strain of applying the breaks and getting out of the vehicle actually puts a strain on the muscles on top of the foot that can result in tendinitis.

To help keep you on the course, studies have found that custom orthotics, which a podiatrist can craft specifically for your feet, not only reduce the risk of off injury,  but also increase balance and allow golfers to drive the ball farther.

“All timing, distance, and direction comes out of the lower body with the feet leading the way,” legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus once said.

Who are we to question The Golden Bear?

Follow Delray Beach Podiatry on Twitter @Delray_Podiatry

The content on this website is for informational purposes only. Do not rely or act upon information from without seeking professional medical advice. If you live in South Florida and would like a consultation with Dr. Ian Goldbaum, a podiatric physician and surgeon with over 30 years of experience, please see our contact information below:


16244 S. Military Trail #290, Delray Beach, FL 33445



8198 Jog Road #100, Boynton Beach, FL 33472



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