Golfers may be a traditional bunch, but their tastes in shoe design are clearly changing, and their expectations for footwear performance never have been higher. Such developments have unleashed shoe designers to re-think what footwear could look like and how they should function.
The upside for golfers? A spectrum of choices, ranging from footwear with unprecedented versatility to shoes engineered primarily to tackle specific issues such as traction, movement, weight, stability or weather conditions.
In the coming weeks, Golfweek.com will highlight some options and give readers the opportunity to explore even more choices – either by brand or performance category – in the adjacent “Shoe Vault” widget. So, before you grab another pair of saddles, consider footwear that best suits your game.
Also, check out the other two features from this week surrounding Shoe Month:
• The MyJoys philosophy: Allow consumers to pick colors and design their own shoes, and creations that FootJoy’s professional designers never could have imagined – or probably would want – come to life. Story.
• Transformation: Force plates, 3D-motion analysis and simulators. Footwear design has become a high-tech affair, and the result makes much more than a fashion statement. Golfweek.com’s Shoe Month begins today and shows how footwear can change your game. Story.
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Ecco Tour Hybrid
• The skinny: Ecco knows first-hand of the immense popularity of “hybrid” shoes with spikeless soles that can be worn on- or off-course; after all, it jump-started the trend in 2010 when Fred Couples wore the company’s Street Premiere hybrids at the Masters. But some traditionalists, even if they like the versatility of such shoes, have been reluctant to try them – mostly because of hybrids’ casual look. To make converts of the conservative-minded, Ecco offers the Tour Hybrid: It comes in three refined styles, including wing-tip, that’s equally suitable for the office, links or an evening out on the town. The classic upper is combined with the Street’s outsole, featuring approximately 100 molded traction bars for traction.
• Price: $190 (Available in November)
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• The skinny: In a crowded category with a plethora of options, Oakley, which is a relative newcomer to golf footwear, knew it had to stand out. That’s why it unveiled the Cipher, which has an outsole like none other. The shoe eliminated cleats and receptacles and provides traction with an outsole covered with thousands of Nanospikes, which the company says bites into blades of grass. Such construction also saves weight, making the Cipher – at 260 grams – the lightest shoe on the market, according to Oakley. Thinner materials used in the outer shell are designed to reduce heat retention for comfort and less fatigue.
• Price: $130
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• The skinny: The Puremotion brings to golf the “natural-motion” trend that is the topic du jour in the running world. For decades, running shoes were heavily cushioned, designed to minimize impact. But new research indicates excessive padding can weaken feet by immobilizing them, not unlike the way muscles atrophy when limbs are placed in a cast. Shoemakers have responded with “minimalist” construction that enable feet to move as they were intended. Puremotion – with its web-shaped forefoot, ultra-low profile and spikeless outsole – is designed to function similarly and brings golfers closer to the ground, allowing for better balance and power transfer.
• Price: $120
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Nike Lunar Bandon
• The skinny: When Nike set out to create this shoe its goal was to produce the “ultimate mudder” – footwear that can handle sideways-blowing sheets of rain not uncommon at Oregon’s rugged Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. Even the best water-proofed shoes can be compromised when water enters over the collar; no such chance with Bandon’s higher silhouette that practically meshes with rain pants. A speed-lace system is shielded with an upper that closes with an asymmetrical zipper (to alleviate pressure on the foot.) The shoe also features Lunarlon, Nike’s proprietary cushioning, which the company says doesn’t flatten like conventional EVA midsoles.
• Price: $180 (Available Oct. 1)
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FootJoy Contour Casual
• The skinny: Industry leader FootJoy unveils its entry into the fast-growing hybrid category, the Contour Casual. Using the same last as the shoes in its comfort-driven Contour Series, the Casual features a versatile outsole that is spikeless, but bears traction nubs. Without the presence of cleats and receptacles, the shoes double as off-course casual wear. What’s become almost a “must-have” in a golfer’s closet often is worn for recreational play and practice, complementing tour-caliber footwear that players typically prefer to wear for their club championship.
• Price: $115