It is with great sadness that after 27 years of faithful service, I have to announce I have finally laid my favourite golf shoes to rest. It’s time to move on. But how do you choose a new shoe?
Spikes go soft
It was in 1995 that I met my old friends in the pro shop of the Presidio Golf Course in San Francisco. It was comfort at first wearing. My first pair of revolutionary soft-spiked shoes. Greenkeepers rejoiced.
Since that memorable first encounter, we played many a happy round of golf together. We were inseparable on the course and we remained close right until the end when my ironically named ‘DryJoys’ sprang a leak with a serious mid-sole fracture. Sadly, nothing could be done. I have finally said a fond farewell and I’m in the market for new spikes. Except they don’t have spikes anymore.
Fred’s shoes are trending
To be honest, I have flirted with other footwear over the years, mostly favouring grippy spikes. And then an unlikely fashion leader, Fred Couples, wore a pair of Ecco ‘hybrid’ spikeless shoes at the 2010 Masters, kicking off a new shoe trend that set Google on fire as the search term “Fred Couples golf shoes” flooded their servers. Old dog – new kicks. They looked more like tennis or deck shoes, but Fred was more than comfortable. He finished 6th. The sports shoe brands took notice and quickly learned to play golf.
Compare the market
Buying shoes in my size is something I’ve done online in the past and regretted it, mainly due to fitting issues. Trying them on pre-purchase is a must and with my big wide feet, choices narrow down real quick. However, online research is valuable and can reduce the risk of dithering in the pro shop while surrounded by a wall of boxes.
It appears I have 2 category choices, a huge variety of spikeless shoes, basically training shoes with better tread, or a shrinking choice of more traditionally shod soft spikes. Here’s what I found online (other fine outlets, including golf pro shops, are available).
Data from online shops surveyed 10/11/2021
Based on this rigorous research, spikeless shoes have 75% of the online golf shoe market. Fred was definitely onto something.
The seven principles
With wet and cold winter golf approaching, I now need new shoes. But how to decide? I’m going to need a rigorous decision-making framework so here are my seven principles of highly effective golf shoes:
- Comfort – Top priority. Shoes have to fit like a glove and be really comfortable for hours at a time. No sticky-out rough bits or gaps that may cause blisters.
- Grip – I need two sorts of grip: one to stop my left foot rotating too much in the follow through and another to grip the slippery slopes when looking for my ball in the 11th fairway burn. Hiking boots with crampons sound good
- Waterproof – My DryJoys could have sailed the oceans – until they sank. Staying dry while still letting my feet breathe is essential. I’m thinking wellingtons and thick socks.
- Cleanability – All my past shoes were leather or what passed for it. A quick wash, wipe and an occasional polish, and they were good as new. Fabric-based shoe uppers don’t score well here. Mud is not their friend.
- Lock-in – Soft spikes wear out and there’s a surprising variety of spike insert systems. I’ve seen 7 so far. Spike renewal adds ownership cost of about £15 a set. Like tyres, spikeless soles wear out too, so check tread depth.
- Fashion – As a fashion icon on the course, I always want to look better than I really am, although I’d settle for being better than I look. I’m more Saddle Oxford than Air Jordan Spieth.
- Cost – Price is always a factor, but as my new shoes are bound to last 27 years, I’m going to get my money’s worth.
I’ve just read that golf shoes have a life expectancy of between 2-5 years and prices range from £40 – £275. All of a sudden price is a much higher priority. My old DryJoys clearly far outlived expectations. Suddenly I’m going to need a lot more than £20 in the budget.
Keep those feet comfy and dry
Which type of shoe do you wear? Let us know your footwear stories in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Paul Hart is a founding director of PuttBANDIT Ltd, co-inventor of the PuttBANDIT Ball Marker and enthusiastic improver.
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