Golf shoes have spikes because the extra grip they provide helps keep your feet from slipping as you swing your club. The spikes on golf shoes are designed to help your feet retain traction on the tee box and while putting on the greens.
They also help on hills and wet fairways. Since grass on the greens and tee boxes is cut shorter than on the fairways and the rough, it’s more likely to get wet and become slick, which can affect your shot.
Think of it like driving your car on a wet road. If you have good tires that grip the road by shedding water, you’re less likely to lose contact with the road, by hydroplaning. The same principle is at work with your golf shoes: if you keep a solid grip on the ground when you address the ball, you’re less likely to slip and make a bad shot.
Shoes Last Longer With Spikes
Another benefit of having spikes on your shoes is they can help shoes last longer. If you golf in sneakers, you’re probably not concerned about making them last longer. Many golfers, though, spend hundreds of dollars on their shoes, especially when it comes to cool golf shoes.
A good pair of leather shoes that are well maintained become super comfortable as they age. That’s because the moisture on your feet will help stretch the leather as you golf. When you take them off, they will dry and the leather will contract. After awhile, those cycles of expansion and contractions will soften the leather and the shoes can feel like butter when they’re on your feet.
Shoes wear out as we walk in them; unfortunately, that’s just life. For most of us, the heels and the inside edge of the soles wear out faster. Some golfers, though, see their shoes wear more on the outside edges.
In a normal stride, your foot should roll inward a bit putting your weight on the ball of your foot until you push off the big toe. That’s called pronation. If you supinate, your weight falls more on the outside of the foot and you push off of the outer toes instead.
Wearing golf shoes with spikes can keep your shoes from wearing out, regardless of whether you pronate or supinate because you can replace the spikes as they wear. All you need is a cleat wrench and some replacement spikes to get that like-new grip back, after you’ve changed the spikes.
As long as you care for the shoe’s upper, a good pair of spiked shoes will last you a long time because it’s the spikes that wear down, not the heel and soles. It’s much more economical to buy replacement spikes than it is to replace a $200 pair of shoes every few years. That’s especially true if you only golf a few times a week for a few months each year (if you live in snow country).
Metal Spikes vs. Softer Material Spikes
The days of fixed metal spikes are pretty much history. Modern golf shoes use replaceable spikes made of rubber or ceramic. In fact, most golf courses in America don’t allow metal spikes anymore because of the damage they can do to the greens and fairways. This is especially true in northern states where the dormancy period of grass can range between six and nine months.
A dwindling number of PGA Tour pro golfers, though, do still use them. According to golf.com, Tiger Woods was one of the old school, metal spike shoe wearers for the longest time.
Soft Material Spikes
Most golfers don’t develop the kind of clubhead speed seen on the professional tour so there really isn’t any reason to wear metal spikes. That’s a good thing because metal spikes aren’t practical shoes for wear anywhere other than the course. They dig up floors and carpets and lead to foot and back pain with extended wear.
Like many other parts of our life, modern technology has brought big improvements to golf and that includes golf shoe design. The latest tech adds a plastic layer on the bottom of the shoes. That layer has sockets (or wells) where replaceable spikes are screwed in to the plastic platform using a cleat wrench.
Be careful not to screw replacement cleats in too tightly. That could cause the sockets you screw the spikes into to split, according to a patent application filed by Softspikes®, the company whose spikes are used by FootJoy golf shoes.
“Threaded barrels, particularly sockets formed of plastics materials, sometimes split when they are subjected to excessive forces, either when the footwear is in use, or as studs are screwed into the sockets,” said Softspikes® in its application. The company noted that after a socket has split. it’s usually not capable of retaining a stud screwed into it, so that the socket is useless.
If you split a socket, your shoes become useless. “The splitting of a socket can occur when a lateral force is applied to the ground-engaging portion of a stud or when a stud is excessively tightened into the socket so that the socket is subjected to axial compression.”
Replacement spikes are available in rubber or ceramic. The rubber spikes are usually made of polyurethane, which makes them more flexible and less expensive than ceramic. Ceramic cleats are more expensive but tend to last longer than plastic so they don’t need to replaced as often.
Spikeless Golf Shoes
If you value versatility more than precision, spikeless golf shoes may seem like the best of both worlds. Instead of cleats, the outsoles of these shoes are studded or dimpled for extra traction. One major advantage is versatility. You don’t need to change shoes before you head back to the clubhouse and spikeless shoes may feel more comfortable for walking or casual wear, since they’re lighter and there are no spikes to interfere with your balance.
Grant Knudson, head of footwear and accessories at Puma Golf, weighs in on the spiked vs. spikeless debate. He believes we’re moving toward an even split between the two. Keith Duffy, senior product manager at FootJoy, suggests players experiment with spiked and spikeless to figure out what works best for them.
Fred Couples put spikeless shoes on the map when he played the 2010 Masters Tournament, at Augusta, in a pair of Eco spikeless shoes. Couples finished in 6th place that year, right behind Tiger Woods and K.J. Choi who tied for fourth.(may be behind a paywall)
Pro Tour golfer Justin Rose wears Adidas spikeless shoes.
Footjoy is probably one of the most well-known companies that make golf shoes, in addition to the brands mentioned earlier. Nike also sells spiked and spikeless golf shoes.
Recap: Why Golf Shoes Have Spikes
Some pro golfers still use metal spikes to keep from slipping because of their tremendous clubhead speed. Even most tour players, though, have shifted away from metal spikes to softer replaceable spikes of rubber or ceramic.
If you don’t like how spiked shoes make you walk or if they cause you pain, spikeless shoes offer an alternative that gives improved grip without being radically different from the soles of many modern sneakers.
Casual golfers who only play in warm, dry climates like Arizona can get away with just wearing casual shoes or sneakers.