I have never let my arthritic feet and hammer toes prevent me from enjoying the game I love. Indeed, at the age of 56, I still play “Chutes and Ladders” two or three times a week. Golf, however, has become increasingly painful for my degenerating, down-below digits. The culprit? Those damn golf shoes and soft spikes are hard on my feet. So I decided to give the new spikeless golf shoes a try. I wore them for two days in January, 2012 at the PGA Merchandise Show. Then I met with adidas golf’s Masun Denison at the Show and gave him the results of my putting his spikeless golf shoes through their paces. The verdict? Two BIG toes up! [WARNING: Contained herein are photographs that some readers might find disturbing. Parental discretion is advised.]
Golf Conversations: I think these spikeless golf shoes are the wave of the future.
Masun Denison: Yep.
GC: In between my third and fourth toe, I always get a pressure blister after a round of golf. Obviously, there’s something about soft spikes that’s doing something funky to my toes. I had the same problem years ago when I wore metal spikes.
I’ve got hammer toes, flat feet… bad stuff going on there. So it’s really important for me to have comfortable golf shoes. I think I may have told you … I was out in Bandon Dunes in August.
MD: Beautiful place.
GC: Of course, you have to walk.
MD: Great test of shoe comfort at Bandon. Hilly and you have to walk.
GC: So the first day, I wore my Eccos with soft spikes. The ground there is very hard. They want it to play like a links course so they don’t water it often. After the first day, my feet were killing me. I was limping. I wore running shoes the next three days.
So these spikeless shoes of yours – they’re called adicross?
MD: adicross, yeah.
GC: I was holding out a lot of hope for them.
GC: Took ‘em out of the box Tuesday. Wore them to the airport. Walked around Orlando Tuesday night. Wednesday, walked around at Demo Day at Orange County National … walked on the grass, did some short game stuff in the bunkers.
MD: Isn’t the grip good?
MD: You’d think you’re giving up a lot of traction. You’re really not.
GC: No, you’re not. Of course, they were still new shoes and at the end of the day my feet hurt.
MD: Even in a tennis shoe, if you’re wearing something all day, you’re gonna be a little tired.
GC: But I didn’t have blisters! That was the most important thing.
MD: That’s nice.
GC: And today here at the show, I walked up and down the Convention Center a few times and no blisters as of 3pm. I was even able to run in the shoes when Security chased me out of the Media Center.
MD: Golf for so long has been a traditional sport. Shoes gotta look a certain way, you’ve got to have cleats in them. Used to be you had to have metal spikes. Everyone loved that click-click-click sound. Then soft spikes – that’s a spike that actually flexes so we went to that.
That enhanced comfort for a while because the spike gave a little bit. But you still had a piece of plastic on the bottom of your shoe making contact with the ground. And if you have six or seven cleats, your whole body weight is basically carried on those points. And it drives up through the sole.
Through modern technologies and some of the new inlay soles, we can cover some of that pressure but your shoes are still going to be heavier and less flexible because of the cleats … and the discs that have to house those cleats.
People are starting to see now the benefits of what you noticed … which is, if you can remove the cleats and receptacles from the shoe – but still provide enough grip for the golf course – your shoe’s going to be lighter, more flexible, more versatile, and more comfortable. And I think people are now saying that it doesn’t need to look traditional anymore either. So it can be sporty. Which really plays into what adidas is all about.
GC: I think it’s pronounced Ahdee-daz.
MD: Yes. You’ve been to Germany then?
GC: No, I interviewed you a year and a half ago. You told me it’s pronounced Ahdee-daz!
MD: In the U.S., I usually say Uh-deediz because everyone else knows it that way…
GC: But you’re with me now! I know the lingo.
MD: Ok, if I’m with you, Robert, then we’ll say Ahdee-daz.
GC: Please, otherwise I’ll have to report you to headquarters.
When I returned from my Bandon trip, I gave up on golf shoes and wore my running shoes exclusively. Comfortable but they still look like running shoes. And if you’re playing at a nice club, a nice resort, and you come off the 18th green, you look like a schlub wearing running shoes.
GC: With my upscale image in the golf industry, I can’t afford to look like a bum, Masun. But these adicross look lovely. They’re stylish.
MD: They’re sporty. That’s what Uh-deediz – Ahdee-daz, excuse me…
Ahdee-daz is a sports brand, but to your point, you can walk off the golf course, go to dinner, hang out with your friends at the bar. Even get in your car and drive to a restaurant. It still feels right; it’s got that crossover appeal.
GC: Tell me a bit about the design process. When did you guys start to think, “Hey, we should get into this spikeless shoe thing?”
MD: That’s an interesting question …
GC: OF COURSE IT’S INTERESTING! I’M ASKING IT!
MD: We’ve been doing spikeless shoes for a long time. We were doing spikeless shoes in 2005, 2006.
GC: For golf?
MD: For golf. We had shoes like the Moto Cardiff, the Moto Del Mar. You wouldn’t remember these names. They were spikeless, they didn’t have cleats. They were almost ahead of their time because people back then weren’t quite ready for this shift in attitudes.
Then, of course, we had the phenomenon with Freddie [Couples] wearing that Ecco shoe. That really gave it an arena. Just having him win and being the cool guy that he is…
GC: Freddie can make having a colonoscopy cool.
MD: People thought, “Wow, I can be cool and golf?” So we went back to the drawing board and said, “Ok, we’ve been making spikeless shoes for a while but let’s tweak it a little bit.” There were some spikeless shoes out there that were very traditional. We wanted to make ours right for us.
It feels nice to wear coming out of the box. There’s no real “break-in” factor. We call it the EOB System: “Eighteen Holes Out of the Box.” Every shoe in our line, you can take out of the box and wear it eighteen holes.
GC: Wait. Wouldn’t that be 18OB?
What if you’re only playing 9 holes? Then what?
MD: Then they’re even better.
GC: So then it would be NOB … or 9OB.
MD: But we’ve done spikeless shoes since 2004. They did ok, mostly in Japan. Japan was really the frontrunner for spikeless. 50% of their market was spikeless in 2005, 06, 07. Because golf for them is an all-day thing.
When we go there, you hit balls, you eat breakfast, you play 9 holes and take a break.You sit down for an hour and eat lunch. And often times when you’re on the course, you’re waiting as much as you’re playing. I know play can be long in the U.S.; it’s dreadfully long there. Six-hour rounds are not uncommon.
So people are on their feet a lot. So spikeless really caught on in Japan. Then it took off in the U.S. in 2010 with Ecco and Freddie.
What we wanted to do with ours was make it a little bit more of a price point that people could get after. $140 for a spikeless product? A lot of people thought that that was a little high.
MD: So we came in with ours at the $90 price point – with a leather upper. What we didn’t know was that Justin Rose would wear it on tour. That surprised us. He wasn’t supposed to wear that shoe.
GC: Why not?
MD: Up to that point – this was a couple of months ago – our tour strategy was: always make sure the pros are in the most expensive products that have all of the stability features. Justin happens to have some foot issues. His podiatrist told him, “You need a shoe that’s softer, you need your foot to start flexing more. Your foot’s a little too rigid and those shoes that are a little stiffer aren’t good for you.”
I don’t know if he went and bought them because we certainly didn’t send them to him. So the Friday of the BMW, I look up at the TV that’s on in the office. And I’m thinking, “What is he wearing???”
And I get closer to the TV screen and I’m going, “Oh my God, he’s wearing our $90 shoe!” It was raining on Sunday when he was leading and I’m thinking, “This isn’t a waterproof shoe so his foot’s probably really wet and he might slip.”
He goes on to win the tournament. Even though it’s not a fully waterproof shoe, he said his foot was barely wet after raining all day. And he didn’t slip once. And the phone started going off the hook. Orders went up 40%; my forecast doubled. It was the best accident that ever happened for us.
GC: Did you ever find out where he bought the shoes or where he got them from?
MD: The Friday pair he got from someone in sports marketing but it was kind of an under-the-table deal: “Hey can you just grab me a pair?” He didn’t even say if he was going to wear them in the tournament.
He wanted a second color and this was right about the time that they had just come out so we were limited on inventory. We actually took a pair off a guy’s feet in the office…
… we said, “We need those 10½s because Justin wears a 10½.” He literally gave us his shoes; he’d only worn them for a day.
GC: I’ve heard of giving someone the shirt off your back…
MD: He gave the shoes off his feet. He did a team move there. And we sent them to the tournament and he won on Sunday in someone else’s shoes from the office. How cool is that?
GC: That’s pretty cool. So did the guy in your office who gave his shoes to Justin Rose get a bonus?
MD: He did. We gave him three new pairs of shoes.
GC: If Justin Rose’s podiatrist ever saw my feet, he’d start licking his chops. Let me show you some bad feet.
[I remove my shoe and sock.]
MD: Uh, oh!
GC: I have – on my left big toe – a little bit of arthritis. Plus I’ve got these hammer toes that are jammed together and blister easily in golf shoes. So these spikeless shoes you’ve got, I love ‘em! I’d rather spend my money on golf shoes than help my podiatrist make his boat payment.
MD: You talk about your toes … the new shoe that we’re coming out with is called Puremotion. Have you seen those Vibram 5-finger shoes?
GC: I certainly have.
MD: There’s a phenomenon going on in the world of running. It’s also happening in basketball and soccer. There’s a lightweight, low-to-the-ground movement. Minimalist. And with the Vibram shoe, your toes can move individually.
We created a golf shoe that’s got flexibility right near the toe. You can actually grip with your toes when you’re swinging, following through, and walking. It’s a very flexible product. It activates more muscles. The shoe’s lighter because there’s less material there. Yes, your foot might be a little sore initially but you’re going to be stronger in the long run.
In the next couple of years, you’re going to see more flexible, lightweight shoes. Do you want to carry 2 pounds on each foot or 1 pound? And these PGA guys are on their feet 6,7,8 hours a day.
GC: It’s interesting how it took the shoe industry so long to figure that out. 20 years ago all these golfers were wearing leather Foot-Joys.
MD: Yeah, and when it’s wet out, they get heavier because they soak up water. I’ll tell you what the biggest hindrance has been, Robert. It’s been the acceptance of the style. Golf’s a very traditional sport so a lot of people think you need a dress shoe look with the high-end leathers and the wooden wedge outsole. They’re beautiful products, I love the look of those products. But the bottom line is: they’re not as comfortable, they’re heavier, they’re stiffer, and they’re hard on your feet.
GC: And Masun, take it from someone who is older than you…
MD: I thought you were younger than me.
GC: No. I have a dirtier mind than you…
MD: I wouldn’t doubt that.
GC: I’m 56 … things are breaking down, your feet start collapsing. The game is hard enough without coming home with aching feet. And I really don’t like paying for my podiatrist’s boat.
MD: There’s a perception that the older you get, you need more support. The stiffer a shoe is, the more your foot goes to sleep. It’s holding your foot in place and you can’t do anything with your foot. You’re not activating any of your muscles. So as you get older, you should be in a product that’s more flexible and lightweight.
GC: Have you read that book from a few years ago about the running Indians in Mexico?
MD: Born to Run.
MD: I just read it about a month ago. I read it in two days ago, I was so intrigued by it. Have you read it?
GC: Yeah. You’ve got those Mexican Indians running dozens of miles a day in sandals. That tosses 30 years of running shoe technology out the window. They kept making the shoes stiffer and bigger and more supportive. Now it’s come full circle and the shoes are thin with no support.
MD: You started seeing professionals showing up for marathons and half marathons wearing these Vibram 5-finger deals. What did we do for the last few thousand years before we had shoes? We were barefoot. That’s what people did. Your foot is an architectural masterpiece. It’s got 30 joints, 17 muscles … it’s built to handle the load of your body but you need to condition it. So don’t let it go to sleep; put it in a shoe that’s light and flexible.
GC: I had the great fortune the other night of having dinner with Jim Flick.
GC: He was talking about the importance of footwork; the swing starts from the ground up with your feet. And he and Mr. Nicklaus …
MD: And Sam Snead, too.
GC: …and your feet need to be alive and roll. And the modern, “big muscle” golf swing is all about keeping your feet flat…
MD: …and just twisting.
GC: Maybe if you’re Justin Rose or you’re 14 years old you can do that. But I think the majority of golfers need more footwork.
MD: That leads to the Puremotion. I’ll tell you, Jim Flick is not the only one that’s a proponent of that. Mike Malaska, the 2011 PGA Teacher of the Year … he’s on staff with us. He came to one of our sales meeting and said, “I’ve been waiting for this for years.”
GC: Is Mr. Flick aware of this?
MD: Mr. Flick is completely excited about it. We’ve talked to him about it. He’s always been a proponent of feel: the more you can feel the ground the better.
GC: How would you compare the flexibility of the Puremotion to the adicross shoe?
MD: I would say adicross is very good. It’s much further towards flexibility than any other shoe in our line right now. But the Puremotion shoe will be the extreme end of flexibility.
GC: And Puremotion has not come out yet?
MD: No. That doesn’t come out until August 1st.
GC: I’d be curious to see what those feel like because I think it’s a great idea. Send me a pair, will you? A new pair, please – not something you lifted off of Irving in Accounting.
How would you compare your adicross with the Ecco shoe? I know one is more expensive than the other.
MD: When you get to the spikeless market, a lot of it’s going to be what looks right to the consumer. You can’t get around style. Style’s always going to be there. I would say, in terms of price, Ecco’s price points are always a little bit higher. They use nice materials; Ecco makes a good shoe.
What I do like about ours: it’s a lot of shoe for 90 bucks. You step down from 140, which is what they charge, to 90 – you get a $50 savings, a leather shoe that’s worn on tour. And two-lace options.
GC: Yes, I noticed that two different colored laces came with the adicross. What is that?
MD: If you take your black shoe and put a black lace in it, it really tones the shoe down because it’s all black. You put the white lace in, it’s much more athletic.
But I would say the Ecco competes more with our Ashworth Cardiff shoe.
The Cardiff is $20 less than the Ecco. Ashworth signed 30 tour players for 2012 so we have a huge staff now. It’s a got a 2-year waterproof guarantee.
GC: The Cardiff?
MD: Yeah. And the Ecco does not. It’s water resistant but not waterproof. We have a membrane in there.
GC: My membrane comes down when I listen to Johnny Miller on TV. Masun: I thank you and my feet thank you for your spikeless golf shoes. And for all of my readers with hammer toes, bunions, ingrown toenails, and arthritic tootsies, get your feet into some of these adidas shoes. Your podiatrist will hate you for it.
For more information about the adidas “adicross” golf shoe, click this link.
For more information about the Ashworth “Cardiff” golf shoe, click this link.