Are (Trail) Running Shoes OK For Golf?

You’ve been invited for a day out on a golf course, or you may just want to try out a different sport, but are not set on investing in new footwear until you are sold on the game. Can you use those running shoes (trail or otherwise) instead of buying a brand new pair of specialized golf shoes you can’t use for anything else?

In most cases, wearing running shoes (trail or otherwise) or any similar type of shoes is permitted; however, it is best to check the course dress code ahead of time, as some golf courses only allow playing in shoes that have spiked cleats. 

So even if you can wear your trail running shoes or your running shoes for golfing, is there any downside to doing that? Are you missing out on some extra performance? Things such as traction and grip need to be taken into consideration, as well as the difference in terrain that you will be traversing. We will help you tackle these questions and get you in the proper swing of things.  

By the way, as an Amazon Associate, I earn when buying qualified products through links on my site.

Can You Wear (Trail) Running Shoes For Golf?

You can definitely wear trail or regular running shoes to play a round of golf. In fact, people wear skate shoes or other types of street shoes.

From personal experience, I’ve often just worn my regular running shoes while golfing and I’ve never had an issue, except that my regular running shoes do slide around a bit.

Trail shoes may not offer the same amount of traction as golf shoes, especially when playing on wet or damp grass, and this could well impede your overall performance. If it’s rained, recently, that’s even more true.

If you intend to play golf regularly and you’re getting serious about lowering your score, especially if you live in an area where the grass is going to be wet then investing in golf shoes may stabilize your swing enough to make a significant difference in your golf game.  

However, with this in mind, some golfers prefer not to wear specialized golf footwear and opt for tennis or running shoes, or cross-trainers.

As long as the shoes you wear are comfortable for you, do not make you slip when taking your swing, and importantly, do not damage the turf, you should be able to get away with wearing what you prefer or have available to you. Just bear in mind that a shoe with more grip and sole texturing is going to be more ideal.

Although you can wear many types of shoes, should you?

Let’s dive into some reasons why you might need to get yet another pair of shoes:

Golf Course Dress Codes Might Not Allow Your Running Shoes

You might have really nice-looking trail shoes or any other type of running shoes, but many golf courses have dress codes–and if the dress code is particularly strict and includes footwear, you may find yourself needing to buy golf shoes just to abide by the dress code.

If you’re going to a higher-end golf course, make sure to call ahead and find out the details of their dress code.

On the other hand, even golf courses with dress codes often allow tennis, running, trail running, or even other shoes — as long as you don’t wear heavy boots or anything that will damage the greens, you are usually going to be allowed to play.

Is It Socially Acceptable To Wear Running Shoes While Golfing?

So even if you can get away with most types of shoes while golfing, does that mean people won’t judge you if you wear your trail running shoes (or whatever else you have)?

Even if your golf course doesn’t have a dress code or a strict dress code, there are unwritten dress codes. You might attract attention that you don’t want depending on what you wear, unfortunately.

Most running shoes will be absolutely fine and not cause any problems and people won’t give a second glance. However, some golf courses feel fancy and I know for sure I’ve felt out of place with my own secondhand golf gear, before.

If feeling legit is important for you, then it may be worth buying the golf shoes so you can have a complete ensemble and you can look and feel the part.

Feeling out of place while playing is distracting and can even mess with your mind (and golf swing)–so there’s that.

Trail Shoes And Traction On the Golf Course

The reason why trail shoes are not a bad option if you don’t have golf shoes (or even if you do have them), trail shoes are designed to grip grass, rocks, and dirt. This means that your feet won’t be sliding around during your golf swing.

I’ve definitely golfed with bad shoes, before–and although whether your feet slide a bit while you make your golf swing is not as big a deal for a brand new golfer as it is for a veteran, a sliding golf stance can impact your golf swing.

As you improve and as you get your score to a better place, then making any optimizations you can makes a difference. Choosing shoes with enough traction to prevent your stance sliding can help you get your ball where it needs to go.

In fact, there are spikeless golf shoes that have deep treads or grippy lugs, which actually closely resemble trail shoes.

Trail running shoes and golf shoes have the same design purpose, to increase traction on grass, dirt or soil, so from a practical standpoint, trail shoes are a good option.

Trail shoes won’t have the same traction as golf shoes (since the purpose of trail shoes is for you to run in them while golf shoes the purpose is to not move while using them), so when you’re ready to get maximum performance, then golf shoes may be a good idea.

Until then, your trail shoes will work fine.

Trail Running Shoes Are Good For Golf (and your wallet)

When compared to other non-golf shoes, trail shoes are better suited for golf because of their additional traction, making them an ideal dual-purpose shoe.

When it comes to the pricing of trail running shoes compared to golf, you’ll find that the price is actually fairly similar.

So if you are wanting to get into trail running and golf, then you can simply invest in trail shoes instead of having to buy two different pairs of shoes.

Additionally, running shoes tend to have greater cushioning (as they’re designed for long-distance running or walking), if you prefer to walk the course instead of taking a cart, trail runners would make for a more pleasant experience.

Shoes To Avoid On The Golf Course

You definitely want to avoid getting turned away at the course, and perhaps you are interested in avoiding committing some sort of faux pas, let’s go over what type of shoe you should avoid bringing to the golf course.

  • Any shoes with a smooth sole: Make sure that you check that there are enough ridges and all-round good gripping capabilities. So that rules out your bowling shoes.
  • Cowboy boots, work boots, hiking boots, galoshes, any boots really: Not only are these unpractical for a good golf swing, they also will damage the sensitive golf greens and you might get asked to leave.
  • Hiking shoes, dress shoes, basketball shoes: Although you could definitely get by with these shoes, you might get unwanted attention and be judged.
  • Other-sport cleats: There are plenty of sports that have some form of cleats (baseball, football, soccer), but you probably will be judged or even turned away if you wear them.
  • Metal-spike cleats: This may seem unfair since some pro golfers wear metal spikes (–however, metal spikes damage the greens and are not allowed in most courses.
  • Sandals or Flip Flops: Although you can technically golf with sandals or flip flops, it’s considered a serious faux pas, even at casual golf courses. There are also safety concerns if you misswing–you can seriously injure yourself by playing golf with sandals or flip flops.

Reasons To Invest In Golf Shoes… Or Perhaps Not

Apart from the practical viewpoint, where golf shoes are going to offer you better grip and support as well as access to more top-tier courses, there is another benefit, and this has to do with the force and exertion your front leg, in particular, endures when you swing your club and send that golf ball soaring.

Let’s think about the golf swing for a second. When you bring your club above you, you are loading all of your weight on your back foot (the foot farthest from the tee), then when you bring the club down you are transferring all of that force down and into your opposite foot (the foot closest to the tee).

Shoes with good traction give your right foot a strong anchor to push off so you can transfer all of that force.

Then, in the follow-through, you are pivoting your back foot so your shoulders can follow the ball. It’s a precise movement that you practice hundreds of times to get right. Making sure you don’t slip or slide here is crucial.

Golf shoes provide that traction. But some argue that trail shoes offer the same amount. You’ll have to experiment with what you have.

Differences Between Golf Shoes and Trail (and other running) Shoes

Perhaps you’re not as familiar with golf shoes, let’s take a quick look at the most important differences between running (or trail shoes) and golf shoes.

  • Golf shoes are tailored for grass on a golf course, while trail shoes are more versatile are made for rocks, dirt, tree branches, and whatever else comes your way.
  • The soles on running or trail shoes are generally thicker and offer superior cushioning than golfing shoes.
  • Many golf shoes have rubber or plastic spikes (cleats) that aid in providing better grip and stability to the wearer when on smooth and wet surfaces; at the same time. Although trail shoes are designed for nature terrain they don’t usually feature the intense friction of cleats.


All in all, you can rest assured that your trail or similar running shoes will work to play golf in most situations. The prime consideration is the grip quality of the shoe you wish to wear; perhaps test them out at home with a few practice swings before heading onto the course.

Although golfing shoes are specifically designed for the terrain, and you are more likely to experience better balance and stability, it does not mean that trail shoes won’t offer you the same functionality. Also, there is the added benefit that most trail running shoes are typically more comfortable.

So, do not worry about investing in a pair of golf shoes just yet, first get out on the course and see if your running shoes can’t do the job just as well, or perhaps even better.


Peter is a software developer who loves to take every opportunity to go outside that he can get. Peter grew up going on long backpacking excursions with his family every Summer and now enjoys staying at the beautiful Texas State Parks and swimming in the amazing Texas Rivers.

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