Mike Foley is the director for product management at FootJoy and a self-confessed shoe geek.
He’s been working at FootJoy for nearly 20 years and played a key role in designing some of the most popular and best-performing golf shoes over the past two decades.
Foley also works closely with players on the PGA Tour when it comes to testing and seeding prototypes.
Can you imagine how many pairs of shoes he must have knocking about at his house?
His wife isn’t happy, let’s put it that way.
We caught up with the man himself at the PGA Show in Orlando…
Where did you grow up?
Just outside of Boston, Massachusetts.
When did you first get into golf?
It was actually after high school, just playing with some friends for something to do in the summertime. Me and my friends started off together so we were at the same level.
It was good fun and we all caught the golf bug right away.
What was your first job in golf?
My first job in golf was with FootJoy, 17 years ago, and I’ve been here ever since.
I did some work in footwear before then – I worked for Converse.
When I first stared with FootJoy I worked in the golf glove division with Maria Bonzagni.
I learned the ropes from her as far as product management was concerned. Then I moved right back into shoes which was my comfort zone.
I’ve been a shoe person my whole life – I was a bit of a sneaker freak so to speak growing up so I had always wanted to work with footwear.
The last 14 years with FootJoy have been in footwear.
What was the best decision you ever made?
It’s tough because a lot of the decisions we make are group decisions. But one of the best things that I helped to pioneer was on the women’s side of the business.
We found ourselves selecting women’s styles with a group of 15 to 20 men and I realised quickly that guys making these decisions weren’t wearing or buying the shoes so I switched gears and we started doing a ton of research with women.
We travelled around the country getting feedback from women players and buyers. That was about five years ago and we’ve really dialled in the process now and it’s really reflective of the products.
When I first started a lot of the women’s products looked like men’s shoes that were coloured differently.
Now we take pride in the fact all our women’s shoes are designed specifically women. Our competitors tend to do women’s versions of the men’s product.
If you had one piece of advice what would it be?
Speak to consumers as much as you can. Really try and understand the consumers and do as much wear-testing as you can.
We go through an extensive processor getting shoes on feet before they get to market.
We utilise tour players who we call our best wear-testers in the world.
But my best advice when it comes to buying a shoe is you need to try it on and experience it first – you need to have the proper fit and that’s something really important to us as a brand.
If you weren’t working in golf what might you be doing?
I’d be in shoes somewhere. I’m not sure which brand. Ever since I’ve been young I have been sketching and designing shoes.
Unfortunately my skill set design-wise popped around age eight or 10.
But I’ve always had an eye for it. Watching sports on TV I’ve always known who was wearing what brand and what styles.
It gets me up every day. I just love the fact that golf shoes are so much more trendy these days. When I first started it was a white and brown saddle, a white black saddle.
Now we’re doing all sorts of things with different materials and constructions so it keeps it fun and exciting.
A few quick ones. What is your current golf handicap?
It’s 8.7 but I probably play to more of a 20!
I usually have one great round in the mid-70s which keeps my handicap low. Unfortunately with three kids at home I don’t get to play as much.
Tell me about it. Have you ever had a hole-in-one?
Never. I had one close but I’m glad it didn’t go in because I was playing on my own on a par-3 course. It just went to the lip but I was praying that it wasn’t my first one.
Tiger or Jack?
What can’t you live without?
Shoes. I’m worse than some women – you should see my closet, it’s bad. My wife is not happy with me.
What has been the most significant innovation in golf equipment in your lifetime?
I would have to say one is the transition to soft spikes from steel cleats.
Greenkeepers appreciated the change as it doesn’t do as much damage. The comfort levels changed massively. It has a lot to do with where golf footwear is now.
For more information visit the FootJoy website.