Cleats or spikeless? Leather or synthetic? Traditional or sports style? The once simple golf shoe has become a complex and sometimes controversial subject. GOLF RETAILING airs the opinions of the manufacturers and the golf shop professionals.
Only golf shoes to be worn on the course’ was a common sign at golf courses up and down the country. Leather brogue styles, often in correspondent colours and with metal spikes were de-rigueur until the twenty-first century. Now it is difficult to say precisely what constitutes a golf shoe, except that the manufacturers say they are designed for golf.
The first big change in golf footwear came when head greenkeepers here followed the lead of their counterparts in the States and started banning metal spikes. Plastic cleats followed and now cleatless dimple or traction soles are becoming increasingly popular. Along with changing soles have come changing styles, with the latest designs indistinguishable from the trainers, which were (and in some places still are) often banned in clubhouses.
One thing that is not in doubt is that golf shoes are a big source of revenue for golf retailers. As our charts show the average spend on a pair of golf shoes is above £80 and margins on shoes are generally good. Women spent proportionately more than men on shoes last year by 7.5 percent. People pay for quality because wet and blistered feet are a fate to be avoided at any cost.
The statistics also show that the on-course pro shop is the preferred point of purchase for over 40 percent of golfers, with internet specialist golf retailers coming a poor second at nearly 13 percent. Even this is surprising as one would have thought trying shoes on before buying would be a must for most people. Lower handicap players, the over 65’s, and female golfers are the most likely to purchase footwear from their on-course pro shop.
As you will see from the responses of both manufacturers and golf shop professionals which follow, there is a wide divergence of opinion on issues surrounding the footwear market.
All statistics provided courtesy of Sports Marketing Surveys Inc.
1. How many different styles are there in your footwear range and what’s the price range?
We have a variety of footwear options incorporating different fabrics, outsoles and technologies in order to cater for different consumer preferences. We have 13 models of men’s footwear that range in price from £44.99 to £199.99 and our ladies range has nine models that range in price from £44.99 to £129.99.
We have seven different men’s styles, three cleated offerings and four spikeless. In women’s we have one cleated and two spikeless. Within each style we offer several colours usually to tie-in to the apparel ranges. In juniors we currently only offer one spikeless option. Prices range from £80 for our Monolite spikeless leather shoe to £130 for our top Titan Tour Leather shoe. Women’s range goes from £60 to £90.
Across our 2015 men’s and ladies ranges there are 14 different styles to choose from, with each design offered in a vast array of colour options, upper designs and a variety of leathers. The RRPs of our men’s golf shoes range from £100 for our new Casual Hybrid to £320 for our World Class shoe, while our ladies line ranges from £100 to £210.
There are currently 23 different shoe categories, with a total of 88 styles on offer spread between FJ men, lady and junior lines. These include Icon Black, DNA, Hyperflex and the DryJoys family. Through our MyJoys programme there are 7,957,684 possible combinations, allowing golfers to find shoes that perfectly fit their needs and personal preferences. Prices range between £40 and £300.
The men’s Gallivanter range comprises eight styles which include: the nubuck leather Charcoal; the microfibre Delta Force Olive; nubuck and patent leather Onyx Cap Toe; and the pebble full-grain leather Snow, with prices ranging from £139 to £209. The women’s Gallivanter range features five distinct styles, including the oil-slick patent leather Patriot Cap Toe, with prices ranging from £139 to £195.
For men, we have ten different styles priced from £55 to £200, including the Lunar Control 3, TW’15 and Lunar Waverly. For women, we have seven styles to choose from £50 to £130. Regardless of what sort of shoe golfers are looking for, we believe we can cater for all tastes.
Stuburt has six styles of golf shoes and a golf boot for 2015/16. Prices range from £39.99 to £99.99.
2. Are man-made material budget shoes just as good as expensive leather and suede?
They are clearly different materials but both have different beneficial properties, for example leather is sometimes perceived as more comfortable but it will also stretch over time. Synthetic leathers have improved greatly in recent years, they can be lighter, hold less water and also easier to clean. Both are great options, which is why we incorporate both in our range.
We’ve actually made a move back towards leather even on many of our budget shoes as we feel it’s more premium and is authentic to golf. It provides the quality and durability that a discerning golfer expects. Of course there are many benefits to textiles and synthetics that are ‘man-made’ and we’ll continue to use them to push innovation. However, mixing new technical materials with premium leather is definitely something you’re going to see more from us in the future.
Absolutely not. At Ecco we use some of the world’s finest leathers, from our own tanneries, to produce all of our golf shoes. For example, our Biom Hybrid 2 and Biom G2 shoes are made from Yak leather, which is extremely strong and abrasion resistant due to the thin, compact woven collagen fibre and closed fine grain. These make it possible for us to cut the hides into thin leathers, thereby reducing the weight without sacrificing performance.
The variety in price reflects the materials used, the performance benefits on offer and the conditions that the shoes are designed to cope with. For example, designing and producing a lightweight, breathable shoe for use in the summer requires very different materials and construction techniques compared to a waterproof design that will cope with varying conditions throughout the year.
Absolutely not. G/Fore shoes are ‘born’ with premium materials. They are lightweight, which helps prevent fatigue, but the quality in the materials also ensures they are water-resistant, strong and long-lasting.
Based on consumer profiles and insights from the market, we choose the best possible materials for the shoes we create to give each consumer a premium experience. New, innovative uppers like our microfibre uppers are just or even better when it comes to comparing man made versus leathers. Durability plays a role here as well.
Full grain leathers are the best materials that can be used on golf shoes but of course this comes at a price. Man-made materials have advanced over the past five years and now with the introduction of microfibres the gap is closing. Microfibres are a very flexible and lightweight material in various thicknesses and finishes giving the shoe or boot a more expensive look and excellent durability.
3. What’s the split between traditional styles and sports styles?
We have two very different footwear brands in Adidas and Ashworth. Ashworth’s styling is more traditional whilst the Adidas brand is more performance/innovation driven and hence the styling is different. The Adidas range is currently larger but we will look to add more styles for Ashworth as we see opportunities to grow sales.
In general we see trends heading back towards less athletic and little more traditional, however maintaining the technology. It’s utilising traditional silhouettes with modern technology. We have two styles of spiked that are more of a traditional look but in the spikeless is where you will see a higher percentage of ‘sportier’ styles where we use synthetic materials to help push our technological features like a waterproof mesh in our BioFly Mesh Shoe for example.
It’s not necessarily that easy to categorise our shoes into those two sectors. Our SS15 line includes models such as Tour Hybrid, which has a classic brogue style upper, combined with our E-dts Hybrid (or, spikeless) sole. All in all, we believe our range has something to offer, whatever your style preference.
The FJ line of shoes has never been more varied than it is now, and as a brand it is elastic enough to be able to confidently cater for all tastes. With the introduction of DNA and Hyperflex we now offer shoes that will match the requirements of athletically-minded golfers and the young at heart. For those that prefer more traditional styling there is still plenty of choice on offer.
Frequently, the golf shoe is either very athletic or it’s a spike shoe; if you’re leaving the golf course, you still look like you’re on the golf course. We wanted to create something more fashion-oriented that seamlessly connected the two worlds. For us, it looks a little odd to wear a pair of tailored trousers with a sports shoe. Our goal was to combine the two technologies but give it a sharper, more fashionable look.
The Lunar Clayton is what most people would consider a traditional-looking golf shoe, but the integrated traction on the outsole makes this highly-versatile too. As you might expect from a brand such as Nike, most of our shoes are geared towards the sporty styles, and by utilising key technologies, such as Dynamic Flywire and Lunarlon cushioning in the LC3, we believe golfers will have a great experience with our products.
80 percent of the Stuburt golf shoes are categorised as sports styles, this assumption is taking into account that the increase in spikeless golf shoes are more sports style’s than traditional. Stuburt also have a very traditional Classic golf shoe range.
4. What are the thought processes that go into producing a new shoe design?
First and foremost we are all about helping the consumer improve their game, therefore for us when we design a new product we want to ensure that this new product makes the old product obsolete. An example of this is our recent launch of the first fully asymmetrical golf shoe incorporating the Boost cushioning technology.
We look at trends in fashion, sport, golf, manufacturing, and even space etc (basically anything we can push the limits of innovation) then determine what that means for Puma Golf. When designing every shoe we want to have the perfect blend of performance, fashion and comfort. After all we want you to look better, feel better, play better.
At Ecco, our goal is always to produce the best shoes possible. There are no boundaries and we’re constantly trying to innovate. We led the ‘spikeless’ movement with Golf Street in 2010, and our aim is to continue being a trend setter, both from a performance and aesthetic perspective. All our designs go through rigorous testing in an assortment of golf environments, to ensure they’re enabling the golfer to play better.
Identifying the consumer and their wants and needs is the absolute first step. Once that design brief is nailed, the minimum commercialisation schedule for any FJ shoe design is 18 months. This process begins with the original brief and runs right through to the production of the shoes to the point that there is enough stock to cope with the launch period. Among the many steps involved are initial illustrations, the creation of test samples, fitting trials, the creation of moulds and the actual production of the shoes.
The goal when creating the Gallivanter golf shoe was to combine athletic fit with premium water-resistant materials in signature G/Fore colourways, while always keeping the athlete in mind. This shoe is a stylish approach both on the course and off and plays equally well at your favourite pub, country club or fairway. The whole philosophy behind G/Fore is to create a shoe that is not only fashionable but also functional.
At Nike, everything begins with the athlete. Take the Lunar Control 3, for instance. The LC3 was designed with key insights from the world’s best player in Rory McIlroy. For McIlroy, who has one of the most powerful golf swings on the planet, stability and control from the ground up are critical. These developments can help golfers of all abilities. The Lunar Control 3 also features a wider base for increased stability and to allow the golf athlete to maintain contact with the ground for as long as possible through impact. A carbon fibre midfoot shank also delivers lower, lighter and more stable control.
Stuburt has five key elements when producing a new style of golf shoe. Comfort and fit; target price; waterproof and breathability; studded/spikeless (dimples); colour options. All Stuburt shoes are built and our traditional EE wide width fitting giving a very comfortable fit that has served us well for many years.
5. Should golfers buy cleated shoes for winter and dimple soles for summer golf?
The grip on our spikeless shoes is excellent and would not restrict you just to wearing them in the summer months. There has been a trend over recent years for golfers to own multiple pairs of shoes either based on climate conditions or matching their footwear to their apparel. We have incorporated our Gripmore technology in to many of footwear models which provides more points of contact to the ground than any other spikeless shoe we’ve ever produced, the grip is fantastic. It’s worn on tour all year round and could be the same for the casual golfer.
That’s a trend that we don’t see going away. Many tour players are using spikeless shoes and the performance is great for most conditions. In winter or rainy conditions we’d definitely recommend a cleated, waterproof shoe as cleats are the staple shoe for the golfer. They provide the best traction and will give you the most confidence in sub-par conditions.
No, our research shows that our E-dts sole will produce just as much traction as a cleated shoe, no matter the conditions. We also recognise, however, that there are golfers out there who prefer to wear cleated shoes, and our cleated Biom G2 model is very popular. We find that golfers who wear our (dimple soled) E-dts patented hybrid soled shoes not only benefit from improved traction and performance, but also enjoy the convenience factor associated with non-cleated products.
Through years of extensive research, we have found that spiked golf shoes will offer the optimum performance levels for any golfer, in any conditions. At the same time, we appreciate that personal preference plays a huge part in the selection of golf shoes and that many players enjoy the lightweight nature and ease of use that spikeless shoes provide. We would certainly recommend that during the winter months that spiked shoes are a must as they provide the grip and stability required when both walking and swinging on uneven ground in less than perfect conditions.
With G/Fore it’s not necessary to own different shoes for the summer and winter. Our 2015 Gallivanter range is designed to be year-round. Each shoe comes complete with a biomechanically engineered, injection-moulded TPU outsole, featuring multi-level exclusive ‘G/Round Control’ technology. This means all our shoes are designed to offer optimal traction, even in the most treacherous and rain-soaked conditions.
It’s an individual consumer choice rather than a directive driven by seasonality. Our Integrated Traction outsole delivers tour level traction – as we do have players (Chappel and Wattel) wearing them year round. McIlroy, and our other tour-level athletes, will wear Lunar Control 3 throughout the season, often played in sunny, ideal conditions. We also have athletes that prefer to wear integrated traction. What versatility shoes such as the Lunar Waverly offer is they do exactly what you’d imagine. They are versatile enough to wear on the range, the short game area, and also to wear on and off the course.
In the very wet, frosty, snow conditions it is strongly advised that cleated (studded) golf shoes are used to avoid slipping on these surfaces. Dimple (spikeless) outsoles are advancing in technology and the grip achieved by such a shoe is improving and are ideal for the summer golfing.
The professional opinion
We asked some pro shop retailers about how they see the footwear market developing. Here are their responses.
Andrew Coleman: Yes, many are looking like trainers these days.
Gary Kitley: I would say that personally I still sell more traditional shoes than sporty styles. Admittedly that is as much about my purchasing as anything as some of the sporty shoes are just too far out there for me as a traditionalist.
Lee Morris: Definitely, even FJ customers seem to prefer their newer, up-to-date styles. Only the older golfer still asks for the older style FJ shoes.
Ian Mowbray: Not yet but they are becoming more and more popular.
Andrew Reynolds: Traditional styles are more popular.
Simon Stevenson: Yes, FJ Hyperflex has captured the attention of customers.
2. Do customers prefer new synthetic materials to traditional leather shoes?
Andrew Coleman: Leather is still the option of choice, but more synthetic styles are coming through.
Gary Kitley: I think that most customers are interested in the look and comfort of the shoe. It is up to me as the retailer to explain any benefits of the leather against synthetic.
Lee Morris:I think customers prefer leather but are surprised how much more comfortable synthetic is when the try them on.
Ian Mowbray: No, leather is still far more popular.
Andrew Reynolds: Customers still prefer leather.
Simon Stevenson: There’s less desire for all leather.
3. Are traction or dimple soles replacing cleated shoes in popularity?
Andrew Coleman: Dimple shoes are being asked for. However I’m not sure they will be chosen over cleats especially in the UK.
Gary Kitley: Dimple shoes don’t replace the cleated shoe in my opinion. They have a seven month season at our club, so we will sell plenty in the next four months, but over the course of a year they make up about 30 percent of my sales.
Lee Morris: I was surprised how many golfers were wearing their summer dimple shoes through the winter. Spikes are still more popular than dimple at the moment.
Ian Mowbray: Yes, during the summer months.
Andrew Reynolds: No, cleated shoes are preferred.
Simon Stevenson: Summer – comfort and weight. Winter – spikes.
4. Do your customers wear different shoes for summer and winter?
Andrew Coleman: Yes, more golfers now have two pairs.
Gary Kitley: Definitely happening more and customers have at least two pairs of shoes depending on course/weather conditions
Lee Morris: Half of customers will have a summer and winter pair, but many still try to get a few years out of one pair.
Ian Mowbray: Yes. We require traditional metal spikes during the winter and most people do buy black for winter.
Andrew Reynolds: Yes, that’s quite common.
Simon Stevenson: Yes, as all ready stated.
5. Who buys the most shoes proportionately, men or women?
Andrew Coleman: Men are very much into their shoes!
Gary Kitley: Men for sure, but again as much down to me I would think 90 percent of my sales are to men.
Lee Morris: Men definitely buy proportionally more shoes.
Ian Mowbray: I would say women purchase more shoes than men.
Andrew Reynolds: In my experience men buy shoes more often than women.
Simon Stevenson: Men by a factor of ten to one.
6. Any other observations?
Andrew Coleman: The shoe market has changed. Traditional styles are becoming less common, with athletic styles more apparent.
Gary Kitley: My shoe wall recommended by Foremost allows me to display my shoes attractively in style and size order. It makes customers feel we have a good selection and allows me to see where we have sizes and styles missing, so re-ordering is easy and efficient. If needed I can display older style shoes and they can be sold at full retail. Shoes sales are definitely age related. Footjoy is great for older golfers and Adidas or Nike are more attractive to the younger market.
Lee Morris: FJ is still the most popular even though they seem to trail the other companies in innovation.
Ian Mowbray: More and more customers comment how expensive shoes have become. In most cases they tend not to care about the technological story as long as it’s comfortable and cheap.
Andrew Reynolds: Traditional non trainer type are far more in demand – let’s keep it like that, we are not playing football!
Simon Stevenson: FJ still number-one for quality, price, margin and retailer support.