Shoe Month: Natural motion set for big gains

"Natural-motion" footwear transformed the running-shoe market. It could have a major impact in golf, too. Some examples (clockwise, from top left): Adidas Puremotion, Nike TW '13, Ecco Biom Hybrid and True Phx.

"Natural-motion" footwear transformed the running-shoe market. It could have a major impact in golf, too. Some examples (clockwise, from top left): Adidas Puremotion, Nike TW '13, Ecco Biom Hybrid and True Phx.

Shoe
Vault

FootJoy Contour Casual

Features same shoe last as in comfort-driven Contour Series with the benefit of spikeless outsole. Price: $115
Alternative Traction

Callaway Master Staff

Designed for all-day wear with all-rubber comfort traction outsole. Price: $159.99 (Available 10/15)
Alternative Traction

Callaway Comfort Trac

Features aggressive non-spiked traction control. Price: $99.99 (Available 10/15)
Alternative Traction

FootJoy Sport Spikeless

An extension of the FJ Sport family – lightweight, flexible with spikeless outsole. Price: $135
Alternative Traction

Adidas Crossflex

Built on a running shoe last with spikeless, geometric outsole; for flexibility and extreme comfort. Price: $100
Alternative Traction

Puma FAAS Grip

Decoupled heel construction for smooth first impact and roll off from heel to toe. Price: $100
Alternative Traction

Ecco Tour Hybrid Wingtip

Hybrid golf shoe featuring a classic leather upper. Price: $190 (Available November)
Alternative Traction

Callaway RAZR

Features lightweight TPU Pro Tour outsole and dense cleat coverage with 11 Callaway PINS performance spikes. Price: $189.99 (Available 10/15)
Performance

Callaway Tour Staff

Classically inspired shoe with premium leather upper, low-profile outsole and 9 Callaway PINS performance spikes. Price: $229.99 (Available 10/15)
Tour

Ecco World Class GTX

Leather-soled shoe with Gore-Tex water-proofing and second-skin lining to wick moisture and enhance interior feel. Price: $450
Tour

Ecco BIOM Golf Matte

Using technology originally intended for running shoes, BIOM is a "natural-motion" golf shoe – exceptionally lightweight, low-to-ground and providing a stable platform. Price: $235 (Available November)
Performance

Puma Neo Classic Pro

Tour-caliber shoe with sophisticated flair; designed for Ian Poulter. Price: $200
Tour

Nike Lunar Control

Features proprietary Flywire, high-tensile strength fibers, that wrap midfoot to heel for lightweight support and stability. Price: $200
Tour

Oakley Full-Auto Tour

Features Red Code foam, proprietary blend of EVA that functions like memory foam to contour foot with comfort. Price: $170
Tour

Adidas Tour360 ATV

The shoe's forefoot flexibility and zonal traction elements provide all-terrain versatility. Price: $190
Tour

Adidas ClimaCool Sport

Lightweight, durable shoes designed specifically to maintain comfort during warm-weather days. Price: $80
Weather

Adidas Powerband

The Powerband chassis is all about lateral stability, and it's emphasized even more with a stretch-resistant, synthetic overlay. Price: $100
Performance

FootJoy XPS-1

FootJoy's most-advanced technological shoe features unique outsole designed for extreme platform stability. Price: $250
Performance

Ecco Tour Hybrid GTX

Waterproof via Gore-Tex and features Ecco's Street outsole – including 100 molded traction bars – designed to maintain grip even in inclement weather. Price: $210 (Available January 2013)
Weather

Adidas adicross

Offers iconic Adidas styling and spikeless outsole for off-course versatility. Price: $90
Lifestyle

Oakley SuperDrive Tour

Features premium waterproof full-grain leather and moisture-transport insole. Price: $160
Weather

Puma HC Lux

Comfort is emphasized with EverFoam heel construction that adjusts to the heel's contour. Price: $140
Lifestyle

Oakley Ripcord

Synthetic leather, moisture-transport insole and an outsole with high-grip surface pods make for all-purpose model. Price: $80
Lifestyle

Puma Jigg

The performance last used in this design makes for easier use of orthotics. Features Puma's replaceable SmartQuill spikes. Price: $90
Sport

Nike Dunk

The iconic basketball shoe transformed for golf. It's waterproof and features contoured sockliner for all-day course comfort. Price: $160
Sport

Ecco Golf Street Life Luxe

Elegant leathers with patent and glitter highlights; features Street outsole with approximately 100 molded traction bars. Price: $160 (Available January 2013)
Womens

Puma FAAS Trac

Features Puma's signature outsole that combines directionally molded S2Quill spikes and replaceable S2Quill spikes for traction. Price: $110
Womens

Nike Lunar Links

Nike's top-of-the-line model with Flywire – high-tensile strength fibers – that provides lightweight support from midfoot to heel. Price: $155
Womens

Nike Lunar Duet Sport

Features protected canvas upper, Lunarlon sockliner and rubber-traction lugs. Price: $100
Womens

Adidas Signature Natalie

Tour-tested model worn and designed by LPGA player Natalie Gulbis. Price: $100
Womens

Adidas Signature Paula

LPGA player Paula Creamer's shoe, with her signature pink ribbon laces, features Powerband Chassis for stability and support through impact. Price: $120
Womens

True stealth

Enhanced aesthetics with premium waterproof leather and versatility of anti-slip rubber sole. True's Top-of-the-line model that transitions easily from on- to off-course. Price: $199
Tour

True phx

Sneaker-profile shoe features barefoot platform – including thin sole measuring 2.5 mm – to improve feel and movement. Price: $99
Sport

True tour

Shoe comes with 2-year waterproof guarantee and an improved outsole, featuring an outer rim that True says creates a "suction" effect to improve traction. Price: $149
Weather

True phx

True's sneaker-profile shoe will be available in 12 "team-themed" color combinations geared for college and professional sports fans. Price: $99
Lifestyle

FootJoy LoPro

This collection of shoes offers an array of fashion-forward options, including tailored fashion styles, contemporary color splashes and every-day casual looks. Price: $110
Womens

Oakley Cipher

Weighing 260 grams, Cipher is the lightest performance shoe in the market, according to Oakley. The unique outsole is covered with thousands of Nanospikes that replace cleats for traction. Price: $130
Performance

Adidas Samba Golf

Preserves the original Samba's classic silhouette and "3-stripes" design. The shoe has a suede toe-guard, and its distinctive tan gumsole features six cleats. Price: $100
Lifestyle

Oakley Flagstick

Vulcanized rubber with Coreflex technology and high-grip surface pods. Price: $90
Alternative Traction

Nike Lunar Ascend

Features an upper with hyperfuse technology, combining synthetic mesh and TPU, for breathability and support. Price: $130
Alternative Traction

Ecco Biom Hybrid

Combines Ecco's "natural-motion" technology and outsole of popular Ecco Street shoe. Price: $190 (Available October)
Alternative Traction

FootJoy FJ ICON

Luxury styling with latest technological advancements, the FJ ICON category has more wins on the PGA Tour than all top competitors combined. Price: $260
Tour

Puma FAAS Trac evoSPEED

Features outsole with directionally molded S2Quill spikes and replaceable S2Quill spikes for traction. Price: $130
Performance

Puma Spark Sport

Spark Sport emphasizes stability and power with its Swing Speed Chassis Pro. Price: $140
Performance

Nike TW '13

Designed for Tiger Woods, the shoe is based on Nike's popular running shoe, the Free, and features an outsole that mirrors the natural motion of the foot. Price: $220
Performance

Callaway C-Tech Summer

Ultra-lightweight shoe with a breathable, "breeze" mesh upper. Equipped with 7 Callaway Chevron spikes. Price: $79.99 (Available 10/15)
Weather

Ecco Golf Street Textile

Performance textile uppers combine with an aero lining to enhance breathability in hot weather. Price: $150 (Available October)
Weather

Nike Lunar Bandon

The shoe's higher silhouette practically meshes with rain pants to prevent water penetration. Speed-lace system is shielded with upper that closes with asymmetrical zipper. Price: $180
Weather

Ashworth Cardiff

Designed to provide golf functionality, but created for comfort and styling suitable to be worn anywhere. Price: $120
Lifestyle

Oakley SuperDrive

Waterproof model built on an anatomical last for an athletic stance, underscoring fit and comfort. Price: $130
Weather

Puma Ace 2

Like the Puma Jigg, built on a performance last that makes use of orthotics easier. Features replaceable SmartQuill spikes. Price: $100
Sport

Ecco Golf Street Sport

Bright uppers are color-matched to the Street Hybrid outsole that functions on- or off-course. Price: $160 (Available October)
Lifestyle

Nike Lunar Swingtip

Modern-design elements update the classic wingtip style; features rubber traction lugs. Price: $150
Lifestyle

Callaway Xtreme

The Xtreme's priority is delivering lightweight stability; equipped with 8 Callaway PINS performance spikes. Price: $129.99
Sport

Ecco Cool III Hydromax

Low-profile design provides torsional support; Ecco's Hydromax treatment makes the shoe water resistant. Price: $200 (Available March 2013)
Sport

FJ Sport BOA

Athletic-inspired shoe places premium on lightweight stability; available with BOA system that secures shoes quickly with consistent tightness. Price: $165
Sport

Nike Air Range WP

Built with a mesh and Flywire upper, yet has a 2-year limited waterproof warranty. Price: $140
Sport

Oakley Holdover

Lightweight-performance model with an asymmetrical TPU bottom and non-removable cleat design. Price: $100
Sport

Callaway XT Tour

Tour-caliber shoe styled specifically for women; equipped with 8 Callaway PINS performance spikes. Price: $139.99 (Available 10/15)
Womens

Callaway Koko

Low-profile silhouette features contemporary fashion elements, including three interchangeable color kilties. Rubber outsole has 6 Callaway PINS comfort spikes. Price: $119.99 (Available 10/15)
Womens

True tour

Saddle-style shoe with True's barefoot platform, including thin sole, wide toe box and "zero drop" – heel and forefoot are same distance off ground to promote better posture and alignment. Price: $149
Performance

FootJoy Contour Casual

Features same shoe last as in comfort-driven Contour Series with the benefit of spikeless outsole. Price: $115
Lifestyle

FootJoy FJ Sport

A popular choice among many LPGA players, the FJ Sport is engineered for better female golfers and features a full TPU outsole designed for stability. Price: $145
Womens

Puma Super Cell Fusion Ice

A fully loaded shoe, it features a performance last with an outsole that combines directionally molded spikes and replaceable S2Quill cleats. Price: $220
Tour

Adidas puremotion

With a web-shaped forefoot, ultra-low profile and spikeless outsole, it's designed to let the foot move freely for better balance and power transfer. Price: $120
Performance

DryJoys Tour BOA

Highly versatile mainstay in the FootJoy lineup features next-generation Stability PODS for flexibility and stability; 2-year limited waterproof warranty. Price: $200
Weather

Callaway Del Mar

Casual design with soft, full-grain leather upper and all-rubber Callaway Traction outsole. Price: $129.99 (Available 10/15)
Lifestyle

True isis

True's first model designed specifically for women; features company's signature barefoot platform. Price: $99
Womens

True stealth

Enhanced aesthetics with premium waterproof leather and versatility of anti-slip rubber sole. True's Top-of-the-line model that transitions easily from on- to off-course. Price: $199
Alternative Traction

No results found

Rob Rigg is an avid golfer and long-distance runner, and he's combining his two passions in a most unusual way.

This fall, he not only will tackle the Portland Marathon in Oregon and the New York City Marathon in a span of four weeks, but he'll run the combined 52.4 miles wearing – drum roll, please – his golf shoes.

Call him crazy, but Rigg is out to prove a point and promote so-called "natural-motion" or "minimalist" golf footwear created by his start-up shoe company, True Linkswear. Inspired by a revolution in running that is advocating super-flexible shoes that enable feet to function as if they were barefoot, Rigg launched True to bring the same concept to golfers.

His premise: Feet that move freely provide better balance, more comfort, minimize injuries and create better tempo for a powerful swing.

Though it would be easy to dismiss Rigg as a radical with a vested interest, he's hardly alone in adding runners' speak – minimalist jargon such as "zero drop," "low profile" and "natural motion" – to the golf lexicon. Major golf footwear companies, including Ecco have invested and committed to natural-motion golf shoes. And athletic giants such as Nike and Adidas are putting their marketing muscle behind their minimalist entries, too. Tiger Woods already has garnered much attention for his TW '13 shoes, and Adidas accelerated production of its Puremotion in anticipation of growing consumer interest.

With their unconventional aesthetics and wide toe boxes, it’s safe to say minimalist shoes don’t have the sleek styling of classic saddles. And considering golfers’ conservative sensibilities, some question whether natural-motion footwear will make a major impact in the marketplace. In running, however, minimalist shoes have surged to account for nearly 35 percent of all footwear sales. Thus far, their golf counterparts account at most for about 3 percent, according to Ecco, but company executives are betting they’ll become a similar force in golf.

“It’ll be three to five years before it has the same impact, but it’ll get there,” says David Helter, specialty sales director at Ecco USA. The basis for his confidence: Natural motion just makes sense, and its benefits are self-evident.

The footwear industry's pursuit of natural-motion running shoes began in earnest primarily because of the success of runners from East African nations such as Kenya. Their dominance in long-distance running perplexed the rest of the world, considering Kenyans often trained barefoot while more industrialized nations outfitted their elite athletes in highly-cushioned, structured, heel-padded shoes.

As biomechanists studied the world's best, their conclusions mirrored those of renowned researcher Peter Brueggemann at the University of Cologne, whom Ecco had paired with to develop a running shoe. The bottom line: Barefoot running led to foot strikes near the mid-foot as opposed to cushioned shoes that promoted landing on the heel. Though modern running shoes were created to protect the heel, mounting scientific evidence indicates they're inflicting jarring impact upon it.

"Even with extreme cushioning, injury rates hadn't improved at all," Helter says. Barefoot running enables the muscles in the feet to strengthen. In contrast, highly cushioned and structured shoes weaken feet, much the way muscles atrophy when an injured limb is placed in a cast, according to natural-motion proponents.

They say developing stronger feet, the foundation of every golf swing, is one of minimalist shoe's many benefits for golfers. By definition, these shoes are lower to the ground than conventional golf footwear and have web-like forefoot design to allow toes to splay naturally during motion – for better stability and traction. The low profile typically is achieved with thinner outsoles and through the removal of cleats and receptacles; they're replaced with durable rubber nubs or treads.

Adidas soon will release a golf shoe featuring a 1.2 millimeter-thick outsole, which the company says is more than 50 percent thinner than some competitors' models, according to Bill Price, the company's vice president for golf footwear. That improvement will aid in reading greens, he says, adding, "You'll be able to feel each little rise and bump."

Low profile also means less heel construction, meaning the heel is closer to the ground. Price says that should benefit golfers, because some – especially beginners – struggle with posture and balance. When they try to take a stance on the balls of their feet, some tend to feel "like they're falling forward," he says. "That's easier to do, especially during the swing, when you're wearing golf shoes with a heel lift."

Rigg, the founder of True, says his company's shoes are the only ones available in the market with "zero drop" – describing a heel and forefoot that are exactly the same distance off the ground, mimicking a barefoot stance.

"When you raise the heel, it's like going up on your toes," he says. "You can feel the angle, and your posture completely changes."

Though even some of True's competitors concede that zero drop may be best for golfers, they say switching to it suddenly can be an awkward, if not difficult, adjustment. That's because golf shoes typically drop 12 millimeters from heel to forefoot. Such a difference can affect the elongation of the Achilles tendon, which has prompted advice – at least in the running community – recommending a gradual transition to zero-drop shoes.

One other potential concern for golfers: traction, or the lack thereof. Some players insist that they're more likely to slip wearing minimalist shoes because their outsoles typically only have rubber nubs and no cleats. Minimalist-shoe manufacturers maintain that in most situations their shoes provide plenty of traction.

"If you're in mud, I can see that you may want shoes with spikes," Rigg says. Other natural-motion advocates add that the bigger factor in slippage is a player's swing motion rather than his environment.

But they all say that the advantages of wearing minimalist shoes, with their promise of greater comfort, movement and performance, outweigh any drawback. Indeed, Ecco's Helter urges golfers not to miscalculate the importance of footwear.

"By the end of a round, a golfer will take 7,000-plus steps," he says. "How many times are you going to use your putter?"

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