When making a golf swing, you want to be sure that you have a solid connection with the ground throughout the action.

Spikes - Soft Spikes Vs Spike-Less Golf Shoes

If your feet are slipping on the grass as you swing, it will be nearly impossible to strike your shot cleanly. And, even if you do hit the ball cleanly, you will probably need to hold back a little bit of your power in order to make that clean strike happen. Do successfully unleash all of your power while still staying on balance and under control, you need to make sure that your golf shoes are up to the task.

In this article, we are going to talk about one key decision you’ll need to make when picking out golf shoes – will you opt for shoes that use soft spikes, or will you pick a spikeless model? Golf shoes without spikes have become more popular in recent years for a variety of reasons, but soft spike models are still more common. We’ll get into this discussion in great detail as the article moves along, and hopefully our tips will help you make the right decision for your needs.

Along those lines, we do need to say that there isn’t really one type which is better than the other. It’s all about the needs of the individual golfer. Some players have great success using spikeless models, while others prefer the security that they feel is added when using soft spikes. You aren’t going to be ‘wrong’ if you go in one direction or the other, as long as your choice is a logical fit for your situation.

All of the content below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

What’s the Difference?

What’s the Difference?

Before we try to figure out which kinds of golf shoes you should be picking in this debate, we should first make it clear what the difference is between these two options. If you were looking at two pairs of golf shoes from above – one with soft spikes and one spikeless, you almost certainly wouldn’t be able to tell them apart. The difference here is what takes place on the sole of the shoe, where it will be meeting the turf all day long.

Soft spikes are the type of golf spike that essentially replaced metal spikes, which had been customary throughout most of the history of the game. Before soft spikes came around, golfers generally played with a set of metal spikes under each foot, which offered tremendous traction but also did serious damage to the golf course when the player took a misstep. In general, putting surfaces are in far better condition today than they were 30 years ago, and part of that improvement can be attributed to the death of the metal spike.

Much like metal spikes, most shoes which feature soft spikes are designed to have several spikes inserted into the bottom of the shoe in a variety of locations. When all of the spikes are in place, the shoe should offer excellent traction for the player as he or she moves around the course. While soft spikes are a great option for many golfers, they will wear out over time, especially if you frequently walk on hard surfaces like parking lots and cart paths. To make sure you get the most out of your soft spiked shoes, you’ll want to have the spikes replaced periodically. This is a relatively inexpensive task, but it is one that you need to remember to keep up with if you hope to maintain traction moving forward.

Today, the main alternative to soft spikes is going with a spikeless shoe. As the name clearly indicates, these are golf shoes which don’t employ and spikes at all in their design. Instead, most spikeless golf shoes include a variety of traction elements on the sole of the shoe to help the player maintain his or her footing. These little bumps and nubs may not look like much, but those which are designed properly can allow the player to swing just as aggressively as he or she would when playing in a soft spike shoe.

There are a couple potential arguments in favor of the spikeless shoe style. First, there is the fact that you don’t have to worry about the spikes wearing out. There are no spikes to replace, so that is one item that you can check off of your to-do list permanently. Also, some golfers seem to find these kinds of shoes more comfortable, which is important considering you spend four hours or more on your feet during most rounds of golf.

On the other side of the coin, there are naturally some potential drawbacks to consider. One of those possible drawbacks was also listed as a benefit – the fact that you won’t be replacing spikes. Since there are no spikes to replace, there isn’t anything you can do about regaining lost traction if the soles of your shoes start to smooth out over time. With a soft spike pair of shoes, you can pick up a set of new spikes to regain some of what you have lost. That isn’t going to work with spikeless shoes, so it’s possible that you’ll wind up needing to replace your shoes sooner (although that is not guaranteed to be the case).

The other possible drawback is simply not getting as much traction as you would with soft spikes. Some golfers need more traction than others (more on this later), and you may find that a spikeless shoe doesn’t quite offer what you need in terms of allowing your feet to grip the turf comfortably all the way through the swing. You don’t want to feel like your feet are always about to slip out from under you while swinging, so it’s probably best to err on the side of more grip rather than less. With that said, if you try out spikeless golf shoes and have no issues at all with grip, they may be the way to go so you can take advantage of the benefits discussed earlier.

Thinking About Conditions

Thinking About Conditions

One of the main points to consider when trying to decide what style of shoes to select is the playing conditions you typically face on the course. Do you play in a climate which offers dry and warm conditions most of the year, or do you frequently deal with rain? Obviously, those who play on wet golf courses are going to need more traction than those playing on dry grass most of the time. Think about your local climate as you work on making a decision on your next shoe purchase.

In addition to thinking about the local climate, you can also think specifically about the course or courses that you generally play. Courses with significant elevation change are going to demand more of your golf shoes than will courses which are perfectly flat. Think about it – the last time you slipped on the golf course, were you standing on flat ground or were you standing on a slope? Most likely, there was at least some degree of slope in play when you lost your footing. For example, it is common for the right foot to slip out from under the player while hitting a shot on an upslope. If the courses in your area tend to feature plenty of slope throughout the design, lean toward shoes which offer maximum traction, so you can keep your footing as effectively as possible.

With any luck, you’ll be playing most of your golf shots from the short grass during your rounds. However, it is inevitable that you will stray from the fairway, at least from time to time. When you do get off-track, you want to make sure that your shoes are up to the challenge you are going to face. Some golf courses are relatively friendly when you miss the fairway, only requiring that you play from some short rough. On such a course, pretty much any kind of golf shoe will do the job just fine. It is the courses which offer more significant challenges when you miss the fairway that you’ll need to think twice about when it comes to footwear. Some courses have extra-long grass which can be slippery, and make it difficult to make a confident swing. Whatever the case, you’ll want to be prepared with the right shoes when you play a course that offers iffy footing once you leave the short grass.

There are a few other points we’d like to make with regard to the connection between course conditions and footwear, and those are listed below.

  • Waste areas. Some courses make heavy use of what are known as ‘waste areas’. Basically, these are usually parts of the course which are left in their natural state but are not marked as hazards (in some cases, but not all). When your ball enters a waste area, you’ll need to hope that you draw a good enough lie to play the ball up toward the green with your next shot – or, at least, a good enough lie to play back toward the fairway. Since waste areas are often sandy, you may find it tough to get your footing while playing from this position. If your local golf course has a significant amount of waste area space included in the layout, take those shots into consideration when picking out your shoes.
  • Do you play in the cold? If you play a fair amount of golf in particularly cold weather, you might encounter a situation where the ground is actually partially frozen as you play. While the courses aren’t always open in this situation – mostly due to concerns about frost damage on the greens – it is possible that you’ll find yourself on the links when temperatures are not far north of freezing. If you play this kind of golf, traction is obviously going to be an important point to keep in mind. It’s possible that spikeless golf shoes will do the job in this setting, but you’ll probably want soft spikes to improve your odds of maintaining good footing.
  • Lots of hard surfaces. If you tend to walk the golf course when you play, and if your local course is designed in such a way that requires a lot of walking on hard surfaces (cart paths), you may want to opt for soft spikes. Yes, the spikes will wear out relatively quickly with all of that walking on hard surfaces, but you’ll be able to replace them when they do wear out. With spikeless shoes, you don’t have the option of replacing your tread as the shoes age, meaning it’s likely you’ll wind up buying new shoes earlier than you would have otherwise. Think about the surfaces you usually walk on when golfing as yet another piece of this puzzle.

All golfers do not have the same experience when they head to the local course for a round. Depending on the climate where you live, the design of your local course, and much more, you may wind up favoring either shoe with soft spikes or spikeless shoes. Only you know your own personal situation with regard to the type of golf courses you play, so think this through for yourself to get a step closer to picking out the right pair of shoes.

Playing Style Matters, As Well

Playing Style Matters, As Well

At this point, we’ve talked some about the differences between soft spikes and spikeless shoes, and we’ve also covered the issue of playing conditions with regard to picking out the right footwear for your game. It also needs to be mentioned that your own personal playing style is going to have an impact on this choice, as well. Depending on the type of swing you make, and the kinds of shots you like to attempt, one of these two types of shoes may be a better option for you than the other.

The first part of your playing style to consider is the way you change directions at the top of the swing. Do you gently transition from backswing to downswing, using a smooth rhythm throughout your action? Or do you make a sudden, sharp change from backswing to downswing, ripping the club down with aggression to produce as much speed as possible? Players who land on the gentle side of the scale will not need to worry as much about footing as those who swing aggressively. Both need to think about this issue to some degree, of course, but players with aggressive swings are usually more prone to footing problems during the transition.

You shouldn’t need to do much thinking on this point to know whether or not it relates to you. If you’ve had problems maintaining your footing in the past when starting your downswing, you already know that this is an issue and you will need to take steps to manage it. Most likely, that will mean opting for the traction provided by soft spiked shoes. On the other hand, if you’ve never had an issue with slipping and you know that your swing is smooth and rhythmic, spikeless shoes may work out just fine.

Another element of playing style to think about is the way you approach shots played from difficult parts of the course. For example, when you hit the ball into a waste area far from the fairway, what is your usual plan of action? Are you a player who thinks about getting back in play immediately, or do you like to take on the risky shot and try to reach the green? If you like to go for it at every possible opportunity, you’ll want shoes which are up to the challenge. Your shoes will need to hold you in place while standing on loose surfaces, and while on slopes (maybe both at the same time). We aren’t saying that it’s impossible for spikeless shoes to do this job, but a golfer with an aggressive game plan may be best served by soft spikes.

Take some time to think about the kind of golf you like to play before buying your next pair of shoes. Are you an aggressive player, or do you like to take it easy on the links and make conservative swings and decisions? There is nothing wrong with either style, of course, but knowing who you are on the links is helpful when trying to pick shoes that will meet your needs appropriately.

Opt for Both?

Opt for Both?

Throughout this article, we’ve been talking about trying to pick either soft spiked or spikeless golf shoes, depending on a variety of factors. In the end, however, it might not be a decision that you need to make at all. If you are a serious golfer who likes to play a lot of rounds throughout the year, there is a good chance you’ll need more than one pair of shoes anyway. So why not pick up one of each and give yourself the option to pick the right one for each round?

This is an appealing plan for a couple of reasons. First, you will be able to adjust your footwear choice based on the weather at hand. If you are headed out for a round on a rainy day, you may decide to reach for the pair of shoes with the soft spikes for a little extra grip. On the other hand, if the weather is beautiful and there’s no rain in sight, you may decide that the spikeless model will be more comfortable. Even if you live in a climate which favors one type of weather over the other, there is always going to be some variability in the conditions you face. By having both types of shoes on hand, that won’t be a problem. Also, if you travel to play golf at any point, you will have options with regard to which shoes to use on your trip.

Another benefit of owning two pairs of golf shoes is not having to break in a new pair immediately when an old pair breaks down. Let’s say for a moment that you decide to only own one pair of golf shoes, and you use those shoes every time you head to the range or play a round on the course. Suddenly, right before you are scheduled to play in a tournament at your local club, those shoes develop a hole or other issue which makes them unusable. While you can probably pick up a new pair without much trouble, those shoes won’t be broken in. You may be uncomfortable when playing your upcoming rounds, and you might even run into blister trouble.

This story would be different if you were rotating two pairs of shoes. It’s unlikely that both of those pairs would fail at the same time, so you could rely on the one good pair while working on finding a replacement for the other pair. And, when you do find new shoes, you can break them in slowly by wearing them for a few range sessions before you head out to the course. For the serious golfer, it simply makes a lot of sense to have two pairs of golf shoes on hand and available. And, if you are going to own two pairs, you might as well have one with soft spikes and one with a spikeless design.

In the end, the decision on which type of golf shoes to use is totally up to you. One is not better than the other, as each can work nicely in the right situation. Take a bit of time to think it through and make the decision that makes the most sense for your game. We hope this discussion has spurred your thinking on the topic, so you can pick up the right pair – or pairs – for you on your next trip to the pro shop. Good luck!