From The Ground Up

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"Minimalism" is the hot concept in the shoe game right now, something expropriated from running, where athletes have been moving away from heel-raised, thickly padded, highly supportive shoes. The basic premise is that a lower, flatter, wider, more flexible, less artificially supportive and, in the case of golf, typically cleatless shoe is more conducive to a natural, athletic posture, and easier on the feet and bod, too.

"I look at it from the performance and injury perspective," says Dr. James C. Chesnutt, medical director of the Oregon Health and Sciences University's Sports Medicine program, of this less-is-more way of building shoes. "In general, it's good for people to use shoes that allow their feet to be strong and functional, to flex, and not be overly supported. They need shoes to protect their feet from the surfaces they're walking on, to put them in natural positions, and to give them traction. They need stability."

Chesnutt explains that footwear allowing a neutral foot position places people in a taller, natural, athletic posture, with flatter hips, butt slightly back and weight centered, the quarterback-at-snap/skier stance that eludes many higher-handicap or less-fit players. With a low profile and broad forefoot added in, stability is enhanced—support isn't necessarily stability—as are balance and foot-feel.

TRUE linkswear is the poster child for minimalist-only shoe manufacturers in the market, with every shoe it makes possessing what the company calls the five fundamental elements of a truly neutral, "barefoot" shoe: zero-drop (the heel sits at the same level as the forefoot), wide toe box, low weight, thin sole and flexibility.

"We set out to build a comfortable golf shoe," says Jason Moore, director of marketing and product development, of TRUE's launch in 2009. "Instead of designing a shoe and shoving a foot into it, we designed a shoe around a foot. It's a better platform for balance and stability, and the end result is comfort and performance."

TRUE contends minimalism is a destination, not a journey; the quip that there's no such thing as being kinda pregnant comes to mind. As a startup in a game dominated by huge corporations with years of tradition and broad-spectrum marketing, TRUE rolled in with a single blueprint. Other companies have taken a more phased approach, one with the design cues of minimalism parsed out in gradients; a shoe can be flatter or lower or more flexible, or some combination thereof, and it will benefit some players. As Dr. Chesnutt offers, not every person is physically able to return to the native position.

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