By Woody Hochswender
Friday, August 05, 2011

The two biggest trends in golf footwear now are hybrid shoes, which use studs instead of spikes to allow for street use, and "natural motion" shoes, which employ running-shoe technology to provide better freedom of movement within the shoe itself. Both have been pioneered by ECCO, the Denmark-based shoe manufacturer.

The first hybrid golf shoe, the ECCO Street, famously worn by Fred Couples at the 2010 Masters, has spawned a raft of imitators. More casual than traditional golf footwear, the hybrid resembles a tennis or board-sport sneaker but is solidly waterproof with a studded sole for grip.

This year ECCO introduced the Biom golf shoe, based on its Biom running shoes, which are biomechanically designed to simulate a "natural" motion — that is to say, it is based on the running-barefoot concept sweeping the athletic shoe business. As reported on this website earlier this week, Tiger Woods is wearing a prototype golf shoe at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational based on Nike's FREE running shoes, which also utilize the barefoot approach. The Nike golf shoes are not yet available for sale.

One version of the barefoot platform that is available for sale comes from TRUE linkswear ($159). Their shoes have ample toe room and spikeless soles, and are worn and promoted by Ryan Moore. They are "the closest you can get to playing in bare feet," according to the company's website.

ECCO's version, the Biom for golf, has been on sale since early this year ($225). Next week ECCO is unveiling a hybrid version of the Biom shoe for golf — in essence combining both concepts in one, a more casual, studded golf shoe that has the "barefoot" concept integrated into the forefoot.

Such shoes are like the yin to the yang of the highly structured golf footwear developed in the last several years. It will be interesting to see which approach wins out.\n

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