Orlando, Fla. — I felt a little awkward as Hermann Oberschneider, the founder of Heaven Golf, bent down on one knee to strap a pair of his Heaven Golf shoes on my feet and lace them up. The man owns the whole company.
I felt even more awkward when I followed his instructions to stand up and start walking around on his uniquely odd shoes.
The Heaven Golf shoe has a modern look, all white, but what sets it apart is what's underneath. The sole? No, I'm not even sure what you would call it but beneath the traditional sole is a kind of high-tech, rounded chassis. Because of its rounded shape, you can almost roll back and forth on the chassis like a rocking chair.
It is a strange sensation at first. As you step forward, the chassis seems to put a charge in your foot. It's like suddenly getting a spring in your step but it takes a little getting used to. That's why Oberschneider, a 47-year-old Austrian entrepreneur, tells me to keep walking as we circle around near his company's small booth on the Merchandise Show floor.
I start to get the hang of the strange suspension system I seem to be walking on. "Do you see what it's doing?" Oberschneider said. "You are straightening up. Your head is taller, you are standing straighter. You are finding your natural balance point."
He is right. I feel a release of tension in my back and at the same time a sense of tightening in my core. I'm already feeling some small muscles in my lower legs being used in a slightly different way.
After five full minutes, I'm starting to feel a little bit like the Bionic Man. More energetic, more powerful. And my bad knee suddenly isn't barking anymore.
Beyond that, I can't explain it. You've got to try on a Heaven Golf shoe to understand its effect. The feeling is like nothing else I've ever put on my feet.
What Oberschneider hoped to do is take some of the athleticism and balance required for downhill skiing and bring it to golf. "All of the focus in golf footwear has been on comfortable, stylish or waterproof shoes," he said. "Our shoe achieves that while helping give you a better understanding of your balance position before you swing or while walking the course."
The shoes, Oberschneider added, promote a more fluid and natural walking motion that's good for the rest of your body. The weirdest part was, that after walking around in the Heaven Golf shoes for a mere five minutes or so, when I took them off and put my regular tennis shoes back on, my balance was a little off and that comfort, along with that almost magical feeling of bounce, was gone. It was like going through immediate withdrawal.
"You're not selling shoes here, you're selling crack cocaine," I joked.
Seriously, I wanted to jump right back into those Heavens. My shoes suddenly felt disappointing and inept.
You won't know what I mean until you test them yourself. The suggested retail price is $299 and they're available at heaveningolf.com. I wouldn't normally consider dropping three bills on a pair of golf shoes but to get back into Heavens, I would make an exception.