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December 13, 2010

My year in golf shoes

Posted at 12:51 PM by Gary Van Sickle | Categories: Adidas, Ecco, FootJoy, Fred Couples, Ryan Moore

Join me, please, for a look back at My Year in Shoes as I reflect on what I test-drove in 2010…

P1-dawgs_200x160 This year, I decided, "let there be light," and that’s what prompted me to try Dawgs golf shoes. The Dawgs Spirit model is the world’s lightest golf shoe, according to its website www.DawgsGolf.com, weighing in at less than seven ounces for the men's model. I used the Dawgs Ultralite, which seemed as light as a pair of slippers.

There was a lot I liked about Dawgs. I felt like I was wearing sprinters’ shoes, they were so lightweight. At $50 suggested retail, they’re also ultra-inexpensive. (The even-lighter Spirits are $40.)

At first, I thought the lack of weight might lead to balance problems, as I’m prone to occasional bouts of happy feet during my perfectly smooth -- not -- swing. (In fact, in the '90s I favored Foot-Joy Classics, the handmade leather models, because they were heavy and kept my feet stable, or so I thought.) The Dawgs were no problem, and they were a pleasure to wear. The rubber outsoles are also easy to clean. They have Velcro straps -- no laces -- which is perfect for the lazy man like me who tends to slide his golf shoes on and off without tying or untying the laces. The insides are antimicrobial so you can supposedly play sock-less but I confess, I didn’t try that. The Dawgs are comfortable but seem to offer a little less support than the regular heavyweight shoes. I had no problem going 18 holes with them while riding in a cart, but if I had to walk 18 holes on a hilly track like, say, the Yale Golf Club, I might go with more support.

My favorite category of golf shoes is spikeless, which in my opinion has been overlooked in recent years. I need something to wear on the golf course when I'm reporting at tournaments for Sports Illustrated, but I don't want to trip on clubhouse carpeting or in press centers while wearing plastic spikes. Since I want to travel light and usually take my golf clubs, I don't want to carry two pairs of golf shoes. One spikeless pair of shoes does it all.

Since my current inventory was near the end of its life expectancy — a pair of Etonic GSOK shoes, black and brown saddle, and a pair of Foot-Joy closeouts with an odd dimple-like pattern that I scored really cheap -- I was in need of replacements.

P1-spalding_200x121 First came True Linkswear from a company I hadn’t heard of but has Tour player Ryan Moore as a spokesman. My True Tour shoes ($159 suggested retail) have the look and feel of bowling shoes -- very simple and lightweight, like Dawgs, but with laces. Mine are black with a white saddle design and white laces. The soles have nine rows of raised, square nubs -- kind of a mini-Maginot Line -- and traction bars around the perimeter.

Hey, don’t turn up your nose at spikeless. I've played a lot of spikeless golf in the last decade and it's great. I may have one or two slips a year and when it happens, it's never the shoe; it's because my balance sucked. In that sense, they may help you the same way as Sam Snead. When Snead wasn’t playing well, he used to hit balls barefoot on the range to regain his balance and stop over-swinging. In fact, True's advertising includes a line about being "the closest thing to a barefoot golfing experience."

The True Tour shoes worked great for me. I played cart golf in them and it felt like they have enough support to walk 18, too.

 
P1-ecco_200x162 The new king of the hill in spikeless, though, is the Ecco Street Premiere. Remember when Fred Couples started wearing those blue spikeless shoes that sort of resembled the old boat shoes? Well, the Street Premiere shoes ($140 suggested retail) have thick, spongy soles that are super-comfortable. I wasn’t able to get my hands on any until the fall because they've been in short supply and I can see why. Since Fred wore them, they’ve become trendy and stylish. Again, the nubs on the bottom supply more than enough traction. If you’re spinning out during your swing, it's not the shoes, it's you.

The best part: you can just wipe your feet and head on into the clubhouse, convenience store or anywhere. These aren't just golf shoes. You can wear them all day, even if you’re just going to the mall. Ecco did a great job in making traditional golf shoes more comfortable and brought that same concept to spikeless shoes. It's a shoe that makes you say, "Wow."

My shoe year ended with my December appearance at the Scottsdale Media Classic, an outing that enables assorted golf writers to compete on a smorgasbord of Phoenix- and Scottsdale-area courses while based at one of the great places to be during any winter month -- the Xona Resort Suites in Scottsdale.

P1-adidas_200x160 I mention this so you’ll understand that the apparent vitriol directed at my snazzy golf shoes was really one part needling, one part fear of the unknown and one part envy. The object of my fellow media types' ridicule were my Adidas Powerband shoes, which I designed all by myself on the website, www.miadidas.com.

The comments included, "Hey, do those come in men's models, too? ... I bet you've got a skirt to match that ... When did the circus come to town, buddy?" There were a few others not fit for print. All meant in good fun ... I think.

My shoes are the colors of the San Diego Chargers -- a white base, a large swirl of electric powder blue, bright yellow trademark adidas stripes, blue shoelaces, yellow lining and a yellow sole-plate. No, there's no Chargers logo but that's only because adidas so far has only NBA teams, a handful of college logos and national flags as choices for customization.

I plead guilty to the charge of wearing brightly-colored shoes (not to mention comfortable and durable ones) but isn't anyone else bored to death by plain old black or white or saddle-shoe golf shoes? If so, you really need to check out miadidas.com, where you can concoct a color scheme of your choice. The golf shoes go for $180 a pair. If nothing else, the site is a great time-wasting addiction. Trust me, you go there and start designing shoes (you don't have to buy anything to play with the design program) and the next thing you know, you've lost half an hour. You can design running shoes and sneakers, too, and those categories have twice as many color options and far-out patterns as the golf shoes.

Then you, too, can trade barbs with your golfing friends. Colorful shoes, I discovered, make for lively conversation. This year, anyway.

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