Walk the Walk, Talk the Talk - Spikeless Golf Shoes
ECCO GOLF STREET AND BIOM HYBRID
Ecco ‘Street’ was the first of the spikeless models to breakthrough – creating the crossover category almost overnight at the feet of Fred Couples. Two years on, Ecco report orders up 280% and now offer a luxury model, a ladies range and very snazzy Juniors styles.
The original Golf Street Premier continues in several new colour options, while the Golf Street Luxe Lizzard with premium materials throughout has just been launched. The uppers are made from full-grain cowhide with a highly desirable reptile print finish, while a ‘second skin’ lining of soft leather makes for a cooler, more breathable option than the synthetic inners typically on offer.
With their 800 different angles designed to maximise stability and traction, Ecco claims the 100 molded TPU traction bars provide all the grip you need, while lasting five times longer than rubber rivals. I’d first sourced a pair for the Orlando Demo day given the constant switch between grass, mats and various off-course surfaces from cars to bars. I’ve been a spikeless fan ever since – except in the wettest of UK conditions or the smartest of events and functions.
But Ecco also stresses the biomechanical message of low-profile, ‘natural motion’ shoes. Hence the new Biom Hybrid that Fred Couples wore at this year’s Masters and which sports the same spikeless Advanced Outsole Technology. Less obviously sporty than Street, the Biom has soft yet durable Yak leather uppers treated with the company’s Hydromax weather protection system, an arch-supporting midsole and a thin shank for extra comfort above the sole.
ecco Golf Street Premier £110 (Ladies from £90, Juniors £55); Golf Street Luxe “Lizzard” £125; Biom Hybrid £160 www.ecco.com/golf
PUMA HC LUX
Invigorated by the Cobra connection, Puma’s golf shoes now cover all the bases from the contemporary spiked soles to the cutting edge Roma, which combines a nub sole with replaceable Pride Pulaspikes, and on to the Lux which boasts full hybrid status.
Defining the latter are the S²QuillTecs which, despite the fancy name, are eight clusters of rubber nubs that stick out very slightly from the rest of the ‘deep flex grooves’ on the EverTrack moulded outsole.
Both the sole and the shoe as a whole are surprisingly sturdy and should appeal to those not ready for the extreme flexibility of the ‘slipper’ brigade.
Indeed, with its waterproof leather upper, thicker platform and supportive ldCell heel technology, the Lux comes over as less obviously ‘trainer inspired’ and more a cross between a ‘real’ golf shoe and a high-quality, lightweight walking shoe – especially in the black option. And yet this is also a definite crossover candidate with the ultra comfortable EverFoam cushioning making them a treat both to play and relax in. As with the Kikkor Tenny, those with narrow feet will particularly appreciate the wide central ‘throat’ that better allows you to finetune the fit with the laces.
Puma modestly regard the Lux as “an affordable option for the casual golfer only playing a few times a year”. This doesn’t do it justice. It’s a great performer – on and off the course – with versatility far beyond nine holes on a summer’s evening.
Puma HC Lux £100 www.shop.puma.co.uk
KIKKOR GOLF TENNY
Kikkor was founded by a young entrepreneur, James Lepp, who wanted golf shoes that reflected his style off the course. When he couldn’t find any, he set about filling a gap in the market.
From a standing start there’s now an extensive range covering a retro cool ‘hush puppy’ through to sneakers and smart, while their various sole constructions also mark them out as a contender. The Vektrboard, as found on the Tour Athlete and Tour Class range, is defined by distinctive ridges like asymmetrical four-sided pyramids set in a curve to produce traction in the direction it’s most needed.
My test was with the Diacon Embedded Spike System (DESS) as featured on Kikkor’s Tenny, Pure and fair-weather Slyder models. It’s a great example of a rubber sole with what I call ‘virtual’ cleats: in this case 11, four-pronged protrusions with no receptacle. They turned out to be firm enough for good grip on grass and yet soft enough to wear indoors without tearing up the carpets.
The almost deck-shoe styling of the Tenny Khaki Crusader makes this particular model very versatile in an off-course context while the seemingly delicate upper is actually deceptively durable, water-resistant suede leather. Similarly, the spongy inner seemed to mould itself satisfyingly to my foot adding to the shoes’ stability and their initially surprising suitability for golf.
Kikkor Tenny £80; Tour Athlete £70; Tour Class £90 www.kikkor.co.uk
FOOTJOY CONTOUR CASUAL
FJ may not have been first to push the lifestyle shoe category but have now emerged with a model that does justice to their status as the giants of the golf market. And, being an extension to FJ’s most popular shoe franchise, the Contour Casual is the biggest name yet in the spikeless category and, as such, adds further credibility to the whole movement.
The shoe itself sports a luxury full-grain leather upper that’s both lightweight and waterproof. The soft linings, PU Fit-Bed and platform make it particularly comfortable while the Slip-Last construction keeps it flexible.
Cosmetically, the Contour Casual is an obvious rival to the Ecco Street - though the horizontal ankle trim (in contrast to the latter’s vertical mid-foot sections) arguably make it look slightly more of a golf shoe than a trainer.
As noted in the main debate, FootJoy clearly see this as a convenience shoe for casual play, though the moulded sole nubs that are central to the versatility did offer excellent grip in my nine-hole test amid intermittent April showers.
Either way, given FootJoy’s reputation, the premium materials and extensive range of sizes and widths and colour options, expect the Casual to be one of the best sellers in the category.
FootJoy Contour Casual £100 www.footjoy.co.uk
ASHWORTH GOLF CARDIFF
“I was looking for a shoe that resembled the comfort of the tennis shoes I wear without sacrificing performance on the golf course,” said Sean O’Hair, fielding questions about his footwear at the opening PGA Tour event of the year. “The Cardiff is very comfortable to walk in and gives me the cushioning and traction I look for – even in wet conditions – which is phenomenal.”
Introduced last summer, the Cardiff has proved so successful that new iron, brown and white colours are being added this season. The shoe features a ‘tumbled’ full-grain leather upper with suede trim backed by a two-year waterproof warranty.
The soft and pliable moldedrubber outsole provides a comfortable, low-profile fit without the firmer feel associated with traditional spikes.
O’Hair’s claims regarding traction are down to the strategically placed traction lugs of varying sizes, with Ashworth clearly targeting even for the most competitive golfers in this respect.
Fashion-wise, these are indeed at the ‘tennis shoe’ end of the spectrum, making them a popular off-course option even if they have the club secretary raising his eyebrows as you tee off on the first.
Ashworth Golf Cardiff £59.99 www.ashwortheurope.com
NIKE LUNAR ASCEND
With its super lightweight upper made from thin Hyperfuse fabric, the Lunar Ascend is most clearly for summer when the breathable mesh will come into its own. Inspired by Nike’s basketball range, the shoe adopts a similar internal synthetic underlay for structure and support. The comfort factor is down to both the mesh layers and the foam cushioning in the midsole, while the thicker toe and side sections provide surprising support for such a seemingly soft ‘slipper’ upper.
Having said that, the Integrated Traction sole is a seriously robust construction. It may lack formal spikes but the moulded nubs in three sturdy styles, supplemented by three integral ‘virtual’ cleats (as firm as many ‘real’ ones) will surely be a match for any conventional golf shoe in terms of traction. By the same token, you probably won’t be wearing these to a dinner party.
The £90 Lunar Ascend is not to be confused with Nike’s Lunar Control which, as a rather tasty limited edition, is currently worn by Charl Schwartzel, Paul Casey, Ross Fisher and Francesco Molinari.
Look out, too, for the commercial launch of the Nike TW '13 Free which Tiger Woods has been wearing since last August. Not a true spikeless but nevertheless among the trend in highly flexible soles with comfort-oriented uppers.
Nike Lunar Ascend £90 www.nikegolf.eu
As worn by Justin Rose to multiple victories on the US tour, the adicross is the result of several years monitoring and refining adidas spikeless shoes in Japan where this category currently accounts for some 35% of the market.
They may look tennis shoes – especially in the many varieties of white – but the full grain uppers, scuff-resistant synthetic toe cap and intricate sole of 124 nodules confirms their modern golf pedigree. “The adicross offers traction throughout the entire foot – not just the forefoot and heel sections like so many inflexible golf shoes with cleats,” Grant Knudson, adidas Footwear Marketing Manager, tells Gi. “During the golf swing, the foot spreads out and compresses – so you need traction throughout the whole shoe.”
Like Ecco and Nike, adidas touts the benefits of thinner, more flexible constructions that bring the feet closer to the ground. “The idea is to allow more natural flexion and torsion while cushioning every step,” adds Knudson, who contrasts the adicross’ “natural stability” with the more “controlled stability” of the company’s cleated Powerband franchise.
Very comfortable, with popular offcourse, crossover appeal – especially for the younger market.
Adidas Adicross £79.99 www.adidasgolf.eu
OAKLEY FLAGSTICK, RIPCORD & CIPER
A relative newcomer to the golf shoe market, Oakley has attempted to cover all the bases - literally - with models sporting conventional cleats (Superdrive Tour and Blast), a non-removable spike design (Holdover), as well as two very different concepts in spikeless soles.
Most versatile are the molded outsoles of vulcanized rubber featuring Oakley’s Coreflex technology, centring on rubberized round nubs, as found on the Flagstick (£105) and Ripcord (£95) which are both sporty, synthetic leather models that qualify for effective hybrid status.
However, the main talk has been over the Oakley Cipher, for its ultra lightweight and controversial Nanospike system with which Oakley has certainly differentiated itself from the pack.
The shoes are undeniably soft and extremely comfortable and have a fashionable upper - right down to the large elliptical ‘O’ logo on the outer flank of each foot. At just 260g they can justifiably claim to be “the lightest performance golf shoe in the world….to reduce fatigue, improve flexibility, free movement, reduce heat retention,” as Jared Wall, Oakley’s Global Footwear Manager explains.
Though while the extremely low-density, mesh-like upper fabric with its moisture- wicking liner is ideal for golf on a fine summer’s day, it is clearly not designed for downpours.
Meanwhile, the radically novel NanoSpike system should also be carefully considered. Comprising sheets of red ceramic aluminum resin (three on each shoe) that look like industrial grade ‘designer’ sandpaper, Oakley claim as much traction as a regular cleated shoe.
While, I certainly didn’t slip in my tests, the feel and sound on surfaces other than grass won’t be to everyone’s liking. In particular, they may well scratch the wooden floors of your clubhouse, making the £125 Cipher rather less ‘lifestyle’ than Oakley’s Coreflex soled models. (Note: the Nanopikes are technically replaceable with a tool and kit - not included.) Still, as a purely golf shoe, they are enjoying credibility from Keegan Bradley's bright blue pair, one of five colours.