Having been through more product launches than most, I have to confess my eyebrows were raised a little when FootJoy said that they were inspired to design the FreeStyle shoe by the Red-Eyed Tree Frog of Central America.
I can go along with the HyperFlex shoe being inspired by the Leonard P. Zahim Bunker Hill bridge in Boston as I have been over that suspension bridge and I know that FootJoy's headquarters are near there, so I can imagine them wandering past and having their eureka moment about using a grid to provide strength.
How many of them are taking a break from the stresses of designing golf shoes by nipping out to their local neotropical forest and then bumping into a multi-coloured amphibian that starts a chain reaction that leads to the next step forward in shoe design, I am not so sure.
On my own American expedition to the PGA Show in Orlando I managed to trek through the PR jungle and pin down a FootJoy Director with the Golfalot machete who confessed that this was not exactly how it happened, but that the frog inspiration story was true.
In the real world of shoe design, the product guys need to inspire the designers and it is better done visually than with a bullet point list. What they wanted was a high mobility shoe that was flexible with excellent grip in all weather. Much brainstorming later and Agalychnis Callidryas, or the Red-Eyed Tree Frog to you and me, was chosen as the image to represent this and get the designers' creative juices going.
The designers took this quite literally as one of the colour schemes reflects the blue, orange and lime colours of our froggy friend, or Moby as FootJoy has christened him. This colour way will stand out well on the shelf, but when you have them on your feet, trust me, it looks even better.
If what the best dressed frogs are wearing is not for you then there are a choice of various white-based designs plus a predominantly black version that also looks great, especially in the green tinged BOA version that is unfortunately only available in the USA.
The Achilles tab at the back of the shoe helps with the comfort as well as contributing to that athletic look, which is deliberate because mobility is at the core of the philosophy of the FreeStyle.
Much research has gone on at FJ HQ about the effect of shoe structure on the power developed by the golfer during the swing.
FootJoy developed software to measure foot and weight movement during the swing and for some golfers having less structure and more mobility in the shoe actually increases ball speed and hence distance.
The FreeStyle is the first FootJoy shoe that does not have a metal or carbon-fibre supportive shank in the midfoot and as a result it is so flexible that you can twist it as if you are wringing out a wet towel.
You won't need to wring water out of it though as the lightweight upper comes with a 1 year waterproof guarantee and is designed with TongueLok and HeelLok to hold the foot in place. These comprise lots of silicon coated pads to hold the heel in place.
The grip from the FreeStyle sole is excellent as the 'FROGS technology' (FootJoy Revolutionary Outsole Grip System) is inspired by our little multi-coloured pal.
The SoftMax outsole has lots of little sucker pads on the sole and around the edges and they work with the white FineTunedFoam (FTF) midsole to increase the contact points with the ground.
Even on firm surfaces you could feel the FROGS working to grip the ground in conjunction with the six flexible Softspike Pulsar spikes.
The previous high mobility shoe FootJoy created was the M-Project that traded comfort for a minimal style. The FreeStyle brings all that comfort back with an excellent insole that is thicker than most, particularly under the heel.
If you need to remove this to use orthotics then please check if the FreeStyles work for you as with the insole out, the rear heel section behind the midpoint seemed to be a little lower than usual, making the shoe quite a low profile design.
However with the insole back in place, then the FreeStyle has to be one of the most comfortable shoes around and I have had pairs of slippers that have taken longer to break in than these, such is its flexibility out of the box.
Despite all the flexibility, the FreeStyle still gives plenty of support as you walk and swing and if you need a shoe with more mobility then the FreeStyle should be top of the list.
Rumour has it that FootJoy are developing a system to measure your foot movement and see whether your swing suits high mobility or more structured shoes, as one size does definitely not fit all.
However if you are prepared to take a leap into the FreeStyle to see if they will work for you then you will be rewarded with a very stylish and comfortable golf shoe.