Street-style golf shoes a hit with
everyday players, not tour pros
Most equipMent trends start with tour usage, but that’s less so in the case of sneaker-like shoes. their versatility clicks with average players and the nuMbers show it
Rare is the piece of golf equipment that becomes popular with the masses before taking hold on
tour. Callaway’s Big Bertha
driver comes to mind. So do
plastic cleats. Now it appears the
street-style golf shoe might join
that short list.
Although there is little doubt
that Fred Couples and Ryan
Moore made the street-style
golf shoe fashionable, it’s everyday golfers who are providing
the traction in the category. The
latest numbers from Kissimmee,
Fla.-based tracking firm Golf
Datatech reveal that this kind
of shoe now accounts for 12. 7
percent of all golf footwear sold
at on- and off-course golf shops.
On the PGA Tour usage is less
than 5 percent of players.
There are reasons for the
trend. For starters, golf shoes
are far more important to tour
professionals than to the average golfer. Pro golfers spend more time in their footwear
than any other athlete—as much as eight to 12 hours a
day. In all, they walk between 30 and 40 miles a week.
Although there have been cases of players going against
the norm when it comes to shoes (such as the Bite
sandals worn by Sammy Rachels, Mike McCullough
and Howard Twitty on the Champions Tour and Sophie
Gustafson on the LPGA), most take shoe selection as seriously as picking out wedges for a major—and they change
only when convinced they need to.
Still, there are several benefits to lighter-weight shoes,
and the number of ounces in them is more important than
ever to some players. Weight has been one of the biggest
differences in the last 10 years. Some of the old shoes
weighed as much as 32 ounces. Now it’s about half that in
best foot forward
Els has been one of the few to embrace street-style footwear,
but even he made a change at the British Open.
Why the move to lightweight?
Simple math: If a golfer’s stride
is one-yard long, that’s 1,760
steps in a mile. Multiply that
by the five or so miles a player
walks during a round and it’s approximately 9,000 steps taken.
If you save one ounce for each
step, that’s a savings of 9,000
ounces or 562½ pounds of leg
fatigue during a round. Come
Sunday, that makes a difference.
But with the advent of so
many cleated lightweight offerings, weight isn’t as big a sell on
street-style shoes to tour players, nor is the option to wear
them off the course (something
many retailers cite as a big reason for the street-style shoe’s
popularity among the masses).
According to John Hohman,
VP for Pride Sports (the mak-
ers of SoftSpikes), traction is
key for the pay-for-play set. “If
anyone could get away with
wearing cleatless shoes, it
would be a touring professional,” he said. “They have the
balance and the smooth type of swing [that would work
well with these shoes], but they choose not to wear them.
And everyday players need as stable a foundation as they
can get.” Hohman, of course, has a vested interest, but the
numbers support him. At the British Open there were just
three players wearing street-style shoes, including cham-
pion Ernie Els who switched out of them for the week. In
the five events leading up to the British Open, the numbers
were four, seven, four, five and three, respectively.
Everyday players, however, continue to crave the street
shoe, with sales more than doubling in the past year.
Whether that translates into something bigger on tour
remains to be seen. For now, however, they’re a product
that has stepped up in the minds of everyday players—and
that’s more than good enough. n
Stuart Franklin/getty imageS