Spiked vs spikeless. It’s a decision many golfers wrestle with when it comes to picking a new pair of shoes. So we asked an expert to wade in.
Richard Fryer is the director of product management for footwear at FootJoy. This is what he had to say…
How has the balance of demand for spiked vs spikeless shoes varied over the years?
“There has been a steady move towards spikeless shoes over the past decade. At first I think there was an element of novelty, but with products like Pro SL and Flex XP we’ve been able to demonstrate that with golf-specific innovation we’re able to produce spikeless products that deliver fantastic on-course performance.”
Is it a different picture on tour compared to recreational golfers?
“It’s not hugely dissimilar, but the decision driver remains performance. For example, our policy with our Tour players is not to tell them wear a particular model of FJ shoe, but to discuss the catalogue with them and invite them to wear what best suits their game. Pro SL has long been the most-worn shoe on many of the world’s major tours, which is testament to the product and that it must deliver the performance demanded by the world’s best players.”
Can you see a day when spiked shoes don’t exist anymore?
“Perhaps. But we’re decades away from that moment. Many golfers still prefer the feel and traction that a spiked shoe delivers plus the ability to replace worn-out spikes with a new set, prolonging the life of a pair of shoes. And as much as we can confidently talk about the performance of the likes of Pro SL, for many golfers there is the placebo type effect of knowing there are conventional, replaceable spikes on the outsole.”
When do we get to the stage where you can offer the best of both worlds – the performance benefits of spiked versus the versatility of spikeless?
“We’ve got some exciting launches at the end of this year and heading into 2021 that are not far away from what you describe. On-course performance to cater for the world’s best players, but with a unique, multi-material, patented outsole configuration to allow increased off course wear. It’s already being tested on the PGA Tour, so watch this space.”
Right. Let’s get into the nitty gritty. Firstly what are the benefits of a spiked or a spikeless shoe?
“Spiked shoes have a 100% on-course performance bias, clearly. They are purely designed to be used on the course, and the whole design of the shoe is geared around that. It’s important here to underline that the traction from an outsole doesn’t just come from the spikes themselves but also the ‘secondary traction’ elements that are built into the outsole mould itself, see DryJoys Tour as an example. Spikeless shoes need to be considered on a use-case basis – if it’s for on course performance then a Pro SL can deliver everything a golfer needs. If a shoe is purchased for golf and away from the course wear, then a Pro SL cannot deliver that, whereas a Flex or Flex XP could.”
Do spiked shoes categorically perform better on the course?
“It’s not quite as straightforward as that, for the simple reason that not all shoes are created equal. For example, even within our own line it would be unfair to compare Pro SL Carbon and Contour Casual. Both technically ‘spikeless’, but with clear performance differences: Pro SL Carbon has a TPU ‘pegged’ outsole, and is designed solely for on-course play. Contour Casual has a moulded rubber outsole which will deliver strong on-course traction and stability which, while not to the same level as Pro SL Carbon, can be worn off the course in any situation – both performance-wise and aesthetically.”
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Is there a certain type of golfer that would benefit from spiked or spikeless shoes?
“Definitely not – it’s down to individual swing characteristics and personal preferences. Logic would suggest that bigger hitters would need spikes. But then you get some of the world long drive guys in spikeless as they need their feet and lower bodies to move and clear during the swing to prevent them injuring themselves. Underfoot feel plays a huge role, and of course this is subjective. Spikeless shoes tend to – but not always – have a flatter sole with more surface contact, and many golfers say this improves their feel of the ground. Others prefer a more traditional ‘defined’ heel.”
At FootJoy you have a wide array of spiked and spikeless offerings, how would you suggest someone narrows down which one is right for them?
“First step would be to go to our website and use our ShoeFinder tool. It will listen to your needs and wants from your golf footwear and narrow the options down to three models. Then we’d recommend getting fitted at your local FJ stockist to ensure you’re not only in the right size – 70% of golfers are in the wrong size golf shoe – but to ensure that the product looks and feels just as you want it to.”
When it comes to designing a new shoe how do you decide if it is going to be spiked or spikeless?
“As we build out the line architecture we want to make sure that we are first and foremost consumer-lead. And some of the most important consumers are our tour players, like Justin Thomas, Adam Scott, Ian Poulter. We then take that feedback and combine it with analysis of the market, the trends, and also make sure that have a spread of options across multiple price points and multiple looks.”
Do you prefer wearing a spiked or spikeless shoe?
“I’m very fortunate in that I get to test numerous different prototype shoes at various stages of development – both spiked and spikeless. The bad news is I’m never allowed to stay in one long enough before another one needs testing! But my go-tos this year are Pro SL Carbon and Fury – both deliver everything I want on the course.”
How has the technology in spikeless shoes changed over the years and what was the biggest advancement in this area?
“Spikeless has gone from being purely ‘casual’ and convenience orientated to performance driven to the same level as cleated. The biggest advancement is coming in Spring of 2021 so I can’t tell you too much about that just yet. But from a high level being able to combine multiple materials, with different properties and performance characteristics into one outsole to genuinely deliver tour-endorsed on course levels of traction, with much improved off course wearability. It’s a very complicated product to engineer and manufacture, but we’re excited about the results.”
Should we be choosing our shoes depending on the type of course we play and the conditions?
“It’s definitely a consideration – a consistently dry, flat links course will ask different things of your footwear compared to a hilly, inland, lush environment.”
Lots of golfers choose spikeless for the versatility. To what, if any, extent do FootJoy factor in how a spikeless shoe performs off the course as well as on it? For example, some spikeless soles are positively dangerous on a smooth floor
“Again, it’s important that we don’t assume that all ‘spikeless’ shoes are the same. While some technically do not have renewable traction, like spikes, they can still be designed 100% for on-course performance, and we would promote them as such. Other models in our line, like Flex and Flex XP, have a patented outsole which delivers multi-surface traction with a zonal traction arrangement on the outsole to try and maximise on-course performance whilst also delivering genuine wearability away from the course.”