In the past couple of weeks we have received emails from TRUE friends (our customers) and others asking how we feel about what is becoming a rather obvious shift in golf footwear towards minimalist or “natural motion” shoes. Some big players in the industry seem to be getting closer to our space.
Honestly, we are ecstatic because we believe all golfers would benefit from lighter, more flexible shoes. TRUE is very confident that our product will outperform what others bring to the market and we will continue to innovate and improve so competitors remain a step or two behind us in the minimalist golf shoe space.
How did it Start?
On a summer morning two years ago, Sean Eidson, the CEO and co-founder of TRUE linkswear, teed it with a guy golfing in the Vibram Five Fingers. The VFFs were part of the barefoot running movement which Chris McDougall captured wonderfully in “Born to Run”, a book that essentially discusses the benefits of eliminating motion control in footwear because they cause injuries and reduce proprioception (the communication between the nerves in your feet and your brain). We thought there might be a way to bring those benefits to golf.
As we worked to develop the TRUE tour our goal was fairly simple – build a golf shoe around the foot, not a dress shoe, in order to allow the body to function naturally while swinging and walking.
The key benefits we sought in developing a minimalist golf shoe were 1) Comfort 2) Increased Feel or Proprioception 3) Excellent Traction 4) Lightweight 5) Waterproof
What makes our Shoes Special?
In order to create a “slipper with traction”, as customers have been calling the TRUEs, we looked to barefoot running shoes for inspiration and built from the ground up. To maximize comfort we added memory foam to the heel and a sock fit liner under the laces to lock the foot into place and reduce heel slippage, which can cause blisters. With the back half of the foot comfortably secured in the shoe it would allow the toes in the forefoot to function naturally.
Natural toe function in the shoe helps increase proprioception and traction when combined with the barefoot Ergo-Traction outsole.
Most golf shoes are built with a heel wedge in the back, a shank in the bottom and mid-sole between the outsole and the foot. All of these elements reduce proprioception by skewing signals from the feet to the brain due to excess material between the foot and the ground. We eliminated these properties and created a shoe with an 2.5mm outsole that would contact the ground and a 3mm insole that would provide some cushioning while walking. Feedback from our customers has been overwhelmingly positive – “finally a company designed a golf shoe that was incredibly comfortable while also providing great feel and traction.”
The lightweight nature of the TRUEs, weighing in around 13 ounces which is 5 to 10 ounces less than other shoes on TOUR, was basically a bi-product of our construction method and simplification of materials. We added a full waterproof membrane to the TRUE tour and it is still lighter than many non-waterproof golf shoes on the market. Customers have taken the shoes out of the box and walked 36 holes a day at places like Bandon Dunes without ever getting a blister or foot fatigue.
What is the TRUE Effect?
The TRUE effect started with what we call The Street Effect, referring to the obvious success of the Ecco Street Premier golf shoe that Fred Couples made famous at the 2010 Masters. I had just returned from China with our TRUE tour prototype and was surprised, in a very good way, to see another spikeless golf shoe making some serious noise. When Ryan Moore started wearing the TRUE tour in May 2010 there were only two spikeless golf shoes on TOUR and only one with a barefoot platform. How times have changed!
The Street effect led some competitors to produce almost identical models to the Ecco Street Premier. Now we are seeing the start of the TRUE effect which, to be honest, is incredibly exciting for us and not surprising based on what golfers have been telling us for months.
We have received a ton of feedback on the TRUE tour and stealth – here’s one from the past week that echoes hundreds of others – “today I broke 80 for the first time in my TRUEs, these are the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn.” We have been receiving comments like these from our TRUE friends since our shoes got to market in November 2010.
Is the TRUE effect really happening?
Nike Golf just announced the Nike FREE TW Prototype Golf Shoes and Tiger Woods is wearing them at The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational this week. Nike FREE running shoes hit the market back in 2004 which was the same year that the Vibram Five Finger was released. 7 years later Nike are finally releasing a FREE version of their golf shoe because Tiger asked for it? We believe the more likely reason for the launch of this shoe is the impressive response to the Ecco Street Premier and the TRUE linkswear Tour. As one blogger said “It is interesting however to see Nike bringing their Free concept to golf. Dare I say that they’re following the lead of True Linkswear?”
Adidas, has an ad campaign based on getting as close to the ground as possible. Their new product has kept the spikes but they are focusing on flexibility in the forefoot region. From our perspective, Adidas, Nike and Ecco, with their new BIOM, are starting to chart a “Natural Motion” course which we attempted to capture with the barefoot technology of the TRUE tour.
While the Nike FREE TW Prototype, ECCO Biom and Adidas TOUR360 ATV are all much higher off the ground, we applaud the efforts to allow the foot to function more naturally. Golfers want comfort and performance in a golf shoe and that has been tough to find for many years.
We are seeing the beginnings of the TRUE Effect in golf footwear as we move towards 2012, but TRUE linkswear remains the only company making a truly minimalist golf shoe based on a barefoot platform.
In a few years, we expect the lightweight/flexible/spikeless market to be more than half of the total golf shoe market – The shoes we see today are just the tip of the iceberg. With the help of our TRUE friends, TRUE linkswear will continue to lead.