Before golf shoes were a fashion statement, they were simply designed to perform. Solidly constructed with spikes protruding from the sole, the benefits for a golfer are clear: stability and traction throughout the swing.

Perhaps more than ever in the age of winning shots where distance is quantifiably king, a golfer’s connection to the ground and trust in that connection is more important than ever. But since we are talking about quantifiable indicators, how can we measure the effectiveness of golf shoes?

Leave that to Joaquin Niemann and Danielle Kang.

  • In a video made in conjunction with the pros’ shoe supplier, adidas, Niemann and Kang tried on a variety of different shoes while James Colgan of Golf.com supervised things.
  • A few things jump out in this social experiment: 1. No matter what the pros are wearing, they’re always very, very good; and 2. golf shoes make a difference, just in a different way for different swing speeds.

How do golf shoes compare to bare feet, tap shoes, sneakers and… snowboard boots?

Depending on a golfer’s worldview or blood alcohol level, various alternatives to golf shoes are not uncommon to be seen around the course. Golf.com chose to test four options: barefoot, slides, sneakers and, for some reason, snowboard boots.

While there were certainly Godfather sliding benefits – and perhaps a connection to snowboarding boots for the Winter Olympics – we’re going to look at the two most common alternatives to golf shoes: barefoot and sneakers.

Ultimately, “being one with the course” and ditching your shoes and socks isn’t as bad as you might think, especially if distance isn’t your calling card. Kang scratched one that carried 245 yards with a ball speed of 145 mph, just five yards shorter than its golf shoe equivalent (250 yards, 147 ball speeds).

On the other hand, Niemann chases him a little harder and slipped in the process, producing a 280 yard carry with a ball speed of 162. Wearing golf shoes, Niemann threw a 320 yards with a ball speed of 183 mph bullet.

With sneakers, Kang’s numbers actually regressed – 230-yard carry, 137 ball speed – while with a little more traction, Niemann improved his barefoot-to-carry-height metrics by 293 yards and ball speed of 172.

What are the takeaways from this fun impromptu study? Playing barefoot for smooth-swinging golfers with average swing speeds isn’t so bad for your game, while power players who depend on powerful ball shots for their best trick should never play for money without some kind of shoes.