How are waterproof golf shoes made?December 5, 2017 Golf Equipment
Ecco are pioneers when it comes to waterproof golf shoes. Tech Talk looks into how their products make it from cows and yaks to the golf course
Waterproof golf shoes are like the holy grail of golf equipment.
We are asked constantly for advice on reliable pairs of waterproof golf shoes that will actually err, keep your feet dry?
I’ve got some news for you. Brace yourself. There is NO SUCH THING as a pair of waterproof golf shoes.
Why? Because they’ve got a massive hole in the top where you put your foot.
Being serious now, what we mean by waterproof golf shoes are ones where the materials are waterproof and the shoes are constructed in a way to ensure water doesn’t penetrate anywhere below the massive hole where your foot goes.
Water repellent is actually a better description than waterproof. The same goes for golf bags, jackets and trousers.
Ecco are pioneers when it comes to waterproof technology. All their shoes for 2018 – including the new Biom Hybrid 3 – will have Gore-Tex lining as they believe that is the only way to ensure your feet stay dry.
The leather will usually be treated to repel the water but the Gore-Tex lining is like an impenetrable membrane where water can’t pass through but air can. That’s often what sets Gore-Tex products apart.
They are the only brand who currently work closely with Gore when it comes to golf shoes. Well, the only brand who have golf shoes currently on the market that are made in collaboration with Gore.
Ecco also make all of their own leather to ensure they are only using top quality materials.
We caught up recently with the brand’s global marketing director Timo Vollrath to get the lowdown on how a pair of Ecco waterproof golf shoes gets from a cow (or often a yak) to the golf course.
How to you make leather specifically for waterproof golf shoes?
“Golf leather needs to be both water repellent and breathable, while also looking good.
“We prioritise comfort and durability, and we choose materials that can provide these properties.
“Taking the natural benefits of our premium leathers to the next level, we’re the only major golf footwear manufacturer to collaborate with the world leader in long-lasting waterproof protection, Gore, to ensure our shoes keep feet dry and cool, no matter what the conditions.
“This is achieved by a thin membrane between the leather upper and the lining which prevents external moisture from penetrating, while also allowing natural moisture to escape.”
Why do Ecco make their own leather for waterproof golf shoes?
“Leather is a fundamental component of most Ecco shoes, and we produce all of it at our own tanneries which is something unique to the golf industry.
“Since 1985, Ecco Leather has grown to become one of the world’s largest producers of quality leather.
“Only top-quality leathers are produced at our tanneries, which supply our shoe factories and other demanding high-end brands. We do that to control the entire process from cow to shoe, ensuring the highest possible standards of quality.”
Where does the process start? How is the leather sourced and manufactured?
“The process starts at the sourcing of raw material from various locations around the world, such as Germany, Holland, USA, Argentina, Australia, Dubai and China, among others.
“Ecco owns the whole leather manufacturing process, right from the raw materials through to the finished products.
“The leather is first processed at our Dongen-based facility in the Netherlands then distributed to one of our four leather factories in China, Indonesia, Thailand and the Netherlands to be turned into finished products.
“Tanneries in Asia are located next door to the shoe factories, which reduces transportation and increases efficiency.”
What makes Ecco leather unique?
“Each leather type has its own unique features and benefits. We often use yak leather as, although it’s thin, it’s strong fibres makes it very durable. It’s also stretchable, lightweight, breathable and water repellent – a perfect combination for our golf shoes.”
After the leather has been created how does it make its way on to a golf shoe?
“When designing a shoe, designers receive a wider range of performance leathers that could work on that particular design.
“Each shoe is unique and requires the perfect raw material, including leather, to suit the goal of superior performance and the perfect look.
“A different design has different purposes, therefore the leather chosen plays a very important role in creating the perfect golf shoe.”
Where are the other component parts made and where are they all put together?
“Our shoes are produced in our own factories close to core markets around the globe.
“The leather hides are turned into shoe uppers which are bound to the sole component via our patented technology that enables us to create ergonomically advanced soles.
“As the pioneers of this technology within the golf industry, it allows us to inject a resilient, shock-absorbent material directly into the shoe mould, bonding the sole to the upper instantly and seamlessly, without compromising on flexibility or wear common with glued or stitched assemblies.”
How are waterproof golf shoes tested?
“We routinely run four tests.
“Component testing where each component of the shoe is tested individually for durability and material strength. Functional testing where shoe developments are tested in terms of grip, flexibility, torsion-ability and cushioning.
“There’s wear testing where we give prototypes to both professional players and ‘weekend warriors’ for feedback. And there’s a production test before we move into the production phase where pilot samples are tested against internal benchmarks.”
What are the Ecco design philosophies from a styling point of view?
“We believe simplicity is key. Our design language is deeply rooted in Scandinavian design which is inspired by nature and true to materials.
“When we design new products, we look for the functionality and comfort first which often drives the aesthetic side of our shoes.
“Of course, materials play a fundamental role in the design process. Leather is our key upper material; it adapts to your foot, provides breathability and has beautiful natural look.”
Why are Ecco waterproof golf shoes (and often golf shoes in general) so expensive?
“Golf shoes are engineered for a sport with high demands to stability, comfort and durability.
“They need to fulfil much more than a typical trainer or brown shoe. We invest an incredible amount of resource in the development of our shoes, and the material choice also needs to be of the highest quality.”
How long would you expect a pair of Ecco waterproof golf shoes to last?
“It really depends on how often they’re worn and under which conditions they are used.
“With our combination of premium materials and dynamic comfort, our aim is to provide every golfer with long lasting comfort.”
(Ed: For what it’s worth, I’ve had a pair of Ecco Biom Hybrid 2 for three years and they are still going strong…)