Tiger — not barefoot

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In “Restoring Tiger Woods”, I pointed to a story about how Tiger’s new coach had him practicing his swing barefoot. There was some speculation, here, that he would actually play barefoot in the Ryder Cup in Wales, with the speculation saying:

In a press conference on Friday, regarding his preparation of the Ryder Cup that is taking place at the twenty-ten course at the Celtic Manor, Wales in October, Tiger Woods revealed that, that he was going to go barefoot on the field to remain in his form. Yes, this is kind of strange but this is the whole truth.

It was not to be (and to tell you the truth, I never saw any other article saying that). And it is actually not too surprising. First of all, the weather there has been rather cold (and, at times, wet). Those who don’t regularly go barefoot (and there is no indication that Tiger does) often think they will get very cold feet, and they are often right because of the lack of circulation resulting from wearing shoes all the time. Secondly, Tiger is under a lot of scrutiny as it is. It takes quite a bit of inner confidence to go barefoot in situations in which other folks expect shoes. What with all his troubles, it would seem doubtful that he would want to add that stress.

On the other hand, I do wonder about this technique of practicing the swing barefoot but then not playing barefoot. I would think that one would want to perform in exactly the same fashion that one practiced, because of muscle memory and the subtle mental aspects of training the body to repeat the same thing exactly the same over and over. For instance, I just can’t see a basketball player practicing free throws with 5 pound weights on his wrists (to strengthen his shot), and then shooting without the weights during the game. The lack of weight would throw off the entire shot.

So maybe the barefoot practice might help a bit. But I would also think it would get his brain used to feeling certain feedback sensations as part of the swing, and when he was shod he wouldn’t get those sensations. Wouldn’t the diminish the effect of the training?

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3 Responses to “Tiger — not barefoot”

  1. Rob Says:

    Haven’t you missed all of the running coaches that have their runners run SOME workouts barefoot to work on technique, without ever having their runners race barefoot? barefooting can be an all embracing lifestyle, but that is not the only approach. barefooting can also be one of many training methods in an arsenal of tools to improve an athletes performance.

    Couldn’t Tiger’s barefoot practice help him improve his balance and identify weaknesses in his stance/swing. Couldn’t he then take those lessons with him when he put his spiked golf shoes on? Did anyone say that Tiger was exclusively training barefoot? And for your analogy about the basketball player, practicing exclusively with the wrist weights would throw his game off, but using them for one workout a week, or for 10 minutes a practice would strengthen his arms in the exact moves he must do to play the game. that would, in turn, give him stronger arms, core, etc once he took the weights off, and improve (potentially) his ‘unweighted’ game….

  2. Bob Neinast Says:

    Yes, as I said, Tiger’s barefoot practice could help him improve his balance, etc. It may help a bit. And yes, it can be a training method. But are you sure that reverting to shod might not mask some of the effects of that training?

    My point is that the proprioceptive aspects of going barefoot are strong and profound. While he gets benefits from barefoot training, there is at least a decent chance that those could be carried over better by continuing them in competition.

  3. Frances Says:

    In this article I was reading about it, Shoeless Tiger Woods Finds Good Footing … the article explained the reason for practicing barefoot but not playing barefoot like this:

    “Through a mechanism known as “muscle memory,” the golfer retains an integrated recollection of what works best when swinging the club barefoot, which can translate into what works best when swinging the club while shod.”

    That makes a little sense to me. When I started barefoot running, I was only doing it to get that muscle memory so I could make sure I used the “barefoot running form” while shod later. As it turns out, I haven’t put my shoes back on yet, but at some point I’m going to find out whether I retain the same form while my shoes are on or not.

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