Natural-motion shoes gaining foothold

Adidas Puremotion

Who would have thought that a bunch of running geeks would dream of revolutionizing golf footwear?

They’re trying to strip it bare. Literally.

Advocates of the “minimalist” or “natural motion” movement in running decry what they call excessive cushioning in shoes, saying it entombs and weakens feet rather than protects them. The shift in thinking has given rise to lightweight shoes with an almost glove-like fit; they’re designed to liberate feet, letting them move not only naturally but more effectively.

The topic still stirs debate among runners, who fret about jarring impact. But in golf, where no such worries exist, natural motion is gaining momentum. Converts say minimalist golf shoes even lend to an improved swing by promoting better stability, posture and athleticism.

The trend gained more exposure late last year when cameras caught Tiger Woods wearing a prototype Nike minimalist shoe. At the PGA Show, the company gave a sneak peek of the finished product – the TW 13 – which should hit stores in time for the U.S. Open.

But Nike’s hardly alone in chasing the market. Ecco was among the first to tout natural-motion shoes when it launched the Biom a year ago. Sensing growing demand, Adidas accelerated production of its minimalist entry, the Puremotion, so it would be available this summer. Spikeless shoes – including some minimalist models and casual “hybrid” shoes that can be worn on and off the course – could account for 40 percent of all golf footwear within 24 months, predicts John Kawaja, TaylorMade-Adidas Golf executive vice president.

The minimalist phenomenon has even paved the way for entrepreneurial startups. Founded 12 months ago, True Linkswear produces nothing but natural-motion shoes. Plenty of word-of-mouth support has given True traction at retail. And with business on the upswing, the company is adding more models this year, including the True phx (which stands for Phoenix).

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