Style: Arrival of the Fittest

<< Back to Robb Report, July 2003
  • James Y. Bartlett

Every golfer worth a darn uses clubs personally fitted for size, shape, and swing angle. Now the customization trend has finally arrived in footwear. We are not talking about shoes made from the hides of alligators, ostriches, or South American pythons—shoes rarely seen on a golf course. Golf is a game that frequently leads its adherents into murky fens, the bosky depths of the woods, and the razor-edged rocks of the desert floor, places where a pair of $2,000 ostrich-hide shoes would be pure fashion folly. Golf shoes need to be waterproof and comfortable, especially for the growing legions of walk-don’t-ride golfers.

When the PGA Tour’s David Duval, an avid snowboarder, asked if the same comfortable base from his snowboard boots could be installed in his golf shoes, Bob Shay, founder of Surefoot, saw an emerging market. The Park City, Utah, company was making custom orthotics for skiers, and it applied the same technology to golf shoes.

Surefoot employs a digital sensor to take more than 500 measurements of a golfer’s foot to create a customized orthotic footbed that is installed in a hand-stitched, waterproof leather shoe. Podiatrists say the construction positions the foot in the subtalar neutral position, which is balanced and natural. If you walk more than ride, these are the most comfortable and durable shoes on the market.

Also putting a unique spin on made-to-measure footwear is FootJoy, a division of Acushnet Co. that for years has been catering to professionals with its customized spikes. Now the company is offering the service to ordinary hackers at new laser-fitting centers in Orlando, Fla.; Sacramento, Calif.; Austin, Texas; Denver; and Easton, Mass. A digital sensor takes measurements of the foot, which are used to create a customized footbed that is installed in one of the existing styles in the brand’s vast lineup.

But, for truly custom-made golf shoes that are more high touch than high tech, and which also stay firmly in the fairway of comfort and durability, the Hermès-owned benchmade shoemaker John Lobb delivers the real thing.

Two or three times a year, Lobb’s Paris-based measurer visits the Manhattan store on Madison Avenue (as well as Hermès stores in Beverly Hills, San Francisco, and Costa Mesa, Calif.) to fit clients. The shoemaker measures the client’s foot, inquiring about the desired style, materials, and potential comfort problems. Five or six months later, the shoemaker returns with a mock-up shoe constructed on the custom-made last. The customer gives the model a test-drive, then the shoemaker returns to the Paris atelier to make any necessary adjustments and craft the final shoes. While they may not offer the fashion flair of, say, shoes made of python, they fit like a Cabretta glove, last for years, and will never get you laughed out of the clubhouse.

FootJoy, 800.224.8501, www.footjoy.com;
John Lobb (in New York), 212.888.9797;
Surefoot, 888.655.8110, www.surefoot.com

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