Golf Shoes: A Guide for Beginners and Buyers

Golf shoes run the gamut from traditional leather-with-tassels to more modern golf sandals and moccasins, with a very broad variety of styles in-between the formal and the casual.

On the fashion front, golf shoes range from plain-James and plain-Jane to brightly colored and custom-designed offerings.

What do golf beginners and golf buyers - those shopping for new golf shoes - need to know about golfers' footwear? We'll go over some of the key factors in footwear for golfers here.

New Golf Shoes on the Market

What are the latest product releases in the golf footwear department? We track those here:

What if you just want to browse a large selection of shoes for informational purposes? To compare prices, compare styles, compare features? You can walk into any golf pro shop - on course or off, big-box retailer or niche store - or visit any online golf retailer to do research.

Are Golf Shoes a Must-Buy Item for Golfers?

No, golf shoes are not a must-have item - but it is strongly recommended that golfers invest in a pair of shoes. They are specifically designed to keep our feet stable during the twisting, turning golf swing, and to provide the proper support and balance for golf.

Manufacturers and Brands of Golf Shoes

Want to go directly to the source? These are the top manufacturers and brands of golf shoes, with links to the company websites:

Allen Edmonds

New Balance
Oregon Mudders Puma
True Linkswear
Under Armour

Different Types of Traction on Golf Shoes

Everyone likes to shop for golf shoes based on looks: What appeals to your eye and your sense of style? And that's a personal choice that every golfer must make.

But perhaps the most important choice as far as the function of golf shoes — aside from making sure you buy a pair the fits right — is the traction on the bottom of the shoes.

Golf shoe traction systems basically fall into two categories these days. The first is called spiked or cleated; the second is known as spikeless.

  • Spiked or cleated shoes: "Spikes" used to refer to metal, well, spikes on the bottom of golf shoes. Now the term is a catch-all for any shoe that includes any type of cleats.

These are often referred to as "soft spikes," and "Softspikes" (upper case) is a brand name. Cleats, soft spikes, spikes — on golf shoes today, that typically means rounds of hard plastic placed at key points on the soles of golf shoes, with plastic nubs branching off and down from the rounds.

These types of cleats or soft spikes are almost always replaceable, so if they wear down over time you can buy new ones and screw them into place.

  • Spikeless shoes: Spikeless golf shoes do not have replaceable cleats, spikes or soft spikes. Rather, the bottom of the shoe includes ridges, nubs, bumps and mounds, and what manufacturers often call "traction lugs." Basically, the bottom of the shoe is covered in a way designed to provide maximum gripping power during the golf swing.

In both spiked and spikeless shoes, the point is to keep golfers' feet secure during the golf swing. Spiked — aka cleated, or softspiked — shoes will always do a better job of that than spikeless. But most golfers will typically find spikeless more comfortable to walk on (think of their soles as sneakers on steroids).

Big swingers with fast speeds may want to stick with cleats/soft spikes for extra traction. Golfers who want to be able to wear their shoes off-course, too, will want to stick with spikeless.

If you have a chance to try on shoes before buying, do so. Even if ordering online, visit a well-stocked pro shop and try on a few pairs of each type to see what suits you best.

Traditional Metal Spikes

Outside of the professional golf tours, traditional metal spikes have virtually disappeared from golf. That started when Softspikes (the brand) arrived on the scene in the 1990s. You might be able to find traditional spiked golf shoes in specialty shops or for custom order. But why? The vast majority of golf courses ban their use today anyway — they are bad for the turf.

What Those Golf Shoe Terms Mean

If you read articles about or reviews of golf shoes, or the company's press releases or websites, you'll regularly run across the same set of terms that describe different parts of the shoe. Here are short explanations of such shoe terminology:

  • Last: The shoe last is one of the first things used in making a shoe. It's the block or mold (usually wooden) around which the golf shoe is formed during manufacture.
  • Insole/Midsole/Outsole: We'll work from the bottom up. The outside is the bottom of shoe's sole, its bottom surface. The midsole is the next layer of the sole, in-between the outsole and insole. And the insole is the top layer of the sole. The insole is usually topped by cushioning, and then it's "topped" by your foot.
  • Footbed: Can be the same as insole, or mean the insole plus the cushioning on top of the insole.
  • Upper: The shoe's "upper" is all the parts of a shoe that cover the top of the foot.
  • Welt: The welt is a leather strip sewn to secure to secure a shoe's outsole to its insole and upper.

Waterproof vs. Water-Resistant

If you often play golf early in the morning when the grass is still wet with dew, or you play golf in areas where wet weather is common, look for golf shoes with a waterproof guarantee.

If you live and golf in a very dry area and rarely find yourself playing a course with wet turf, then "water-resistant" shoes are probably OK. Shoes labeled with that term will repel water from their surfaces, but they are not waterproof and if you walk through too much wet grass (or play on a rainy day) your feet will get wet.