|Ben Harcourt explains poor foot posture. The feet play an integral role in your ability to play golf skilfully and without injury. Their obvious job is to enable you to walk over 18 holes of uneven terrain week after week hopefully without pain and/or fatigue. Less obvious and arguably of more importance is their role in your ability to perform a complex movement, such as the golf swing, repetitively and with consistent precision.
Your feet provide the foundation to support the body in stance and during any weight-bearing activity. The bones, joints, muscles and connective tissues of the lower limb are designed to work in a certain alignment. Poor foot posture alters this ideal alignment through the knees, hips and lower back, and can contribute to pain and injury experienced when performing repetitive weight-bearing activities such as walking or the golf swing itself.
What is poor foot posture?
This can be explained more clearly by categorising feet into three different foot-types: neutral, pronated, and supinated.
• A neutral (or normal) foot is one that holds an ideal posture. The major joints of the foot are in an ideal position to allow normal function. This type of foot will not negatively influence the alignment of the lower limb.
• The pronated foot-type is the most common ‘abnormal’ foot posture. Commonly referred to as a ‘flat foot’, pronation describes an excessive inward roll of the foot and flattening of the long arch. A foot functioning in this position is unstable and places excessive mechanical load through the bones and soft-tissues of the foot and increases their risk of overuse injury. Excessive pronation internally rotates the lower limb, in many cases placing the knee and hip joints in a poor position. Therefore, the bones and soft tissues of the leg can also be exposed to abnormal mechanical load and a greater chance of injury.
• A supinated foot typically has a high arch and is relatively stiff. This type of foot has a reduced ability to absorb shock, with the ground forces being transferred directly through to the knees, hips and lower back. A supinated foot will commonly have poor lateral ankle stability.
An individual’s left and right foot do not necessarily function in exactly the same way. One foot may pronate more than the other for example. It is not that uncommon to have one foot that pronates and the other that supinates. Asymmetry at foot level can contribute to significant postural asymmetry of the whole body.
A significant leg length discrepancy is common source of postural asymmetry, especially through the pelvis and lower back. This can be addressed at foot level in the form of a heel raise to improve pelvic alignment.
So how does poor foot posture affect your golf game?
The perfect golf swing requires a stable platform from which to generate maximum velocity and control at the club-head on ball contact. Poor foot and lower limb posture can inhibit your body’s ability to perform this skill unrestricted and without causing injury.
A full golf swing requires adequate internal rotation of both hip joints to allow sufficient pelvic rotation to take place. The trailing hip requires a significant amount of internal rotation during the backswing. The leading hip then internally rotates during the follow-through after ball contact. Both pronated and supinated foot-types can indirectly restrict the amount of rotation available at the hip joints. Restricted hip and therefore pelvic rotation during the golf swing can contribute to lower back injury.
Another vital component of the golf swing is the transfer of weight from one foot to the other. At different stages of the swing, each foot will be required to carry the majority of your bodyweight. Poor stability at foot level will obviously make it harder to transfer your weight in a controlled manner and inhibit your capacity to generate club-head velocity throughout your swing.
What can be done about poor foot posture?
The first thing to make sure of is that you are wearing a strong, supportive shoe. A good shoe has a strong heel counter (part of a shoe that wraps around your heel) that cannot be collapsed. The shoe’s midsole should flex at the ball of the foot only, not through the middle. A shoe must have good torsional strength i.e. it must be very resistant to being wrung out like a towel.
Structural and postural deformities leading to poor foot and lower limb biomechanics can be corrected with the use of orthotics. Orthotics are supportive shoe inserts designed to address poor foot posture. Although they are available prefabricated as a simple arch support, custom-made devices are recommended to accurately address an individual’s unique foot structure and alignment.
An experienced Sports Podiatrist can carry out a thorough biomechanical assessment and prescribe an appropriate orthotic if required.