Over the last decade, one of the biggest shifts in golfing apparel has been with the introduction of spikeless golf shoes, with manufacturers claiming that they are more lightweight, comfortable and versatile.
As our Golf Shoe Buying Guide alludes to, the spikeless shoe is often created with a lower, trainer-style profile and flatter soles. They usually use rubber studs or 'lugs' where the spikes would be, similar to an astro-turf football trainer. This therefore makes the shoe more adaptable as they can be used on the course, at the range or even after your round in the bar when you're drowning your sorrows.
Of course, the spiked golf shoe has been in existence for over a century, and although the look and technology may have changed over the years the basic premise hasn't. The spikes interact with the ground to provide you with plenty of grip and stability during the golf swing.
We wanted to find out which shoes would overall be most beneficial to the golfer, and in which situation each type of shoe was most valuable.
Luckily, I had signed up to play in a Longest Day Challenge for charity, which consisted of 72 holes of golf over the course of one day beginning at 4.30 am and finishing just past 9 pm. As you can imagine, having solid and comfortable shoes is of utmost importance when you're planning to walk over 25 miles in a day, so this would be a great opportunity to see what they were made of.
For this test, I chose to use adidas' new Tour360 XT Shoes. which we reviewed earlier this year and are available in both a spiked and spikeless model.
I played 36 holes with each pair of shoes so that I could really discover which of the two styles could provide the best combination of comfort, protection, traction and versatility.
Adidas' Tour360 XT shoes were released earlier this year and, on the face of it, they are your prototypical modern spiked golf shoe. Contemporary looks, lightweight, and plenty of technology added in to benefit the golfer.
They come with the renowned adidas boost technology, which essentially works as a layer of cushioning between your foot and the ground to provide a comfortable walking experience regardless of the terrain. There's also a sockliner inside the shoe which helps to hold the foot in place and provide extra stability . As I was planning on being on my feet for over 16 hours, I was glad to hear of this.
The Puremotion outsole is separate from the rest of the shoe so that it can provide greater flexibility, and it comes with mini X-traxion lugs alongside the eight spikes to ensure excellent grip across various lies in any conditions.
Out on the course, it was clear that the grip provided by a premium spiked shoe like this really cannot be beaten. During the first couple of rounds there was a fair amount of dew on the course as it was so early in the morning. However, the spikes' interaction with the turf meant that I could swing as fast as I liked whilst remaining firmly rooted to the ground.
In total I walked nearly 12 miles over the course of two rounds in these spiked shoes, and was pleased to find that the shoes remained comfortable and I encountered no pain or issues throughout. The fact that the spikes helped to spread the weight evenly across the foot probably helped with this too, and it combined really well with the Boost technology.
As I was alternating between spiked and spikeless shoes between rounds, there were a couple of slight drawbacks that I noticed during my day. Firstly, the spiked shoe definitely felt a little heavier on my feet than the spikeless option. This was definitely noticeable towards the end of my second round with them on, as I was beginning to tire.
I know it is rare for golfers to do more than 36 holes as a daily maximum, but if you are somebody who tires easily or plays a lot then it is definitely something to take into consideration. At first, I didn't mind the extra weight as I felt it made the shoe a little more substantial, but by the end of the second round I was wishing I had the spikeless pair on instead.
Secondly, the difference in versatility between the two shoes was a little frustrating. At the end of each round we would head into the clubhouse to use the changing rooms and get refreshments. My playing partners wearing spikeless shoes were able to head straight in, whereas I had to head to the car to change. I know it's not the end of the world but if you're looking for overall ease of use, a spiked shoe really limits it to the course and practice ground only.
Spiked shoes are also generally a little more expensive, because of the extra materials and technology that goes into the spikes and sole. But you do get a little more longevity for your money, because nearly all plastic spikes can be replaced once they have worn out, something which you cannot really do with a spikeless shoe.
Spikeless shoes first burst onto the scene at the 2010 Masters, when Freddie Couples was seen strolling along the fairways at Augusta National with a pair of Ecco Street Premier spikeless shoes.
Ever since then, more and more professional golfers have made the switch to these lightweight, comfortable alternatives as technology has improved, so much so that the majority of tour pros are now spikeless users.
These days, the quality of the shoes and the stability that they provide, without having spikes, is basically good enough to consider them somewhat of a hybrid shoe.
In fact, Ecco even refer to their Biom 3 shoe as a hybrid, as they basically say the grip you receive would be just as good as a spiked shoe, without the penalty of the extra size and weight.
The adidas Tour360 XT SL were the shoes that I was using for the test, and having reviewed them earlier in the year I was convinced that this was the best pair of spikeless golf shoes I had ever worn.
They have the same boost technology as the spiked version, but the outsole features an X-Traction system where X-shaped lugs cover the sole of the shoe, and are sized differently to provide greater support to the more vulnerable areas of the foot.
When the ground gets firm you'd probably want the spikeless version, as the spiked could leave you feeling that you're a long way from the ground and you'll start feeling the individual spikes pressing into the sole of your foot as you walk along.
The level of breathability from the two shoes was very similar really but the weight of the shoe and size of the spike means that on warm days, especially when the ground is firm, i'd be more inclined to opt for the spikeless version.
I was glad that I played the first round with the spiked shoe however, as I may have been a little concerned about my footing with a pretty substantial dew across the course at 5am.
The other obvious drawback with a spikeless shoe is that it has a relatively limited lifespan, because once the rubber studs on the sole have worn out they lose most of their traction. If you play a lot of golf, this is certainly worth bearing in mind.
The Verdict: Spiked Or Spikeless?
Finding an overall verdict is difficult, but I'm going to try and sum this test up with three main points:
I truly believe that if you are a keen golfer who is playing or practicing more than once a week, you should probably have both pairs of shoes.
If you regularly play in wet conditions, spiked shoes are unquestionably the best option. You should get a better return on your investment too, as they generally have a longer shelf life as you can replace softspikes or metal spikes whenever you please at low cost.
For the summer months, or if you want to go from the range to the course or the course to the bar, spikeless shoes are the best option.
So essentially, spikeless shoes are more comfortable, more versatile, lighter and often cheaper, whereas spiked shoes last longer, offer the best stability, and are better in adverse conditions. For this test, the spikeless shoe was best. But how often do we get sunshine and 20 degree heat with dry fairways in Britain?!
One of the biggest things that should come in to your decision is your own game, and what would suit you best. For example if you have a high swing speed and like playing all-year round, a spiked shoe may be best as it will last longer and give you more traction during the swing.
Again, I would urge you to take the plunge and buy a pair of each, but if you're just looking for one then factor in your own situation before making a decision.