I have bad feet, and they’re getting worse. They’ve always been flat but now they’re absurdly so. I went to a new podiatrist not long ago and as he peeled off my sock he couldn’t contain his glee, saying, “Wow, you have a real deformity!” In my early middle-age my toes have decided to spread out a bit, too. (Does “Dadbod” apply to one’s feet?) Golf shoes that fit comfortably for years are suddenly squishing my tootsies; the ring toe on my right foot has periodically been blackened, an unintentional goth look my young daughters love. All of this has made it difficult, and sometimes painful, to walk five or six miles on uneven terrain while carrying a heavy bag. Secretly, I’ve longed to be lounging in a cart, feet on holiday, but my golf buddies are dedicated walkers and always shame me into joining them, citing longstanding tradition, the purity of the experience and other such poppycock.
So when I heard that FootJoy now offers custom-fitting for shoes I jumped -- well, sauntered -- at the chance. After a couple of emails with its NorCal rep, Rick Overstreet, we agreed to meet at my local house of worship, Golf Mart, in Seaside, Calif. You know how some clever kids rent the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile for prom? The golf nerd equivalent is Rick’s swagmobile, an oversized van stuffed with all the latest shoes, gloves, socks, shirts, hats and other goodies. Give me a camping stove and I could lead a happy life in Rick’s van.
Anyway, he set about measuring my foot with the same care Scotty Cameron builds a putter. At one point he mumbled, “Very interesting,” which sent me into a tizzy of anticipation. By standard measure I am a size 13. But Rick used a fancy Brannock Device to determine that from heel to ball I am a 14.5; my stubby toes allow me to squeeze into 13s but that means the ball of my foot and toes are often too far forward and hit the shoe in the wrong place, accounting for the blisters and bruises. Hearing Rick's analysis was seriously one of the happiest moments of my life. At long last I understood my godforsaken feet! Rick had more counterintuitive insight. Because of my chunky orthotics I always assumed I needed wider shoes, and lately I had been trying to find less-pointy models that would accommodate my apparently widening toes. But after conducting more measurements Rick determined that my foot is actually on the narrow side. My blackened toenail was because my broken-in shoes were too big, not too small -- my foot was sliding around and ultimately getting smashed against the front of the shoe.
After cogitating on the design of the many shoes in his line, Rick recommended 13-narrow in the Icon, DNA and Hyperflex lines. It didn’t take me long to get one of each. The snugness of the fit took some getting used to but all are supremely comfortable and I have not been plagued by the back-nine limp that used to characterize many of my rounds. (I tried to pretend it was a gangsta strut but nobody was fooled.) I have no doubt I’m finishing rounds better because I’m not fighting my feet, with all the attendant fatigue and frustration. “We know from our own research that most golfers are wearing the wrong shoes,” Rick told me. “A lot of buying decisions are made out of habit, or based on styling, but comfort and performance really should be the keys.” Over the years I’ve done numerous custom-fittings on my driver, irons, putter, wedges and ball. But I can honestly say nothing has made me happier on the course than finally finding the right shoes, even if my daughters are disappointed that I no longer sport a black toenail.
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