From The Ground Up

Labels: Shoes
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Perhaps most famous for its Street model Fred Couples donned at the 2010 Masters, ECCO has the industry-typical array of models to fill various performance, feel and stylistic niches: wingtip to sport to crossover, cleated and not.

"ECCO takes a foot-first approach and thus offers a wide array of styles that incorporate different technologies," writes Jesper Thuen, sponsorship, public relations and event manager. "Golfers come in all shapes and sizes with a great deal of personal preferences. We need to design shoes for all types of players, including those seeking a more natural motion. But even within that group there are preferences, so the BIOM line offers different models."

BIOM serves up diminished structure, cushioning and motion-restriction in various looks, outsoles and degrees of minimalism, culminating in the BIOM Zero model, a rather prototypical light, flexible, zero-drop shoe.

Troon North Golf Club head pro Jeff Brinegar says minimalism "changed my life." Several years ago, he came down with a case of plantar fasciitis, the painful inflammation of the connective tissue of the bottom of the foot. A TRUE rep put him into the company's Proto model and he's been wearing TRUE shoes ever since, plantar fasciitis-free.

"This is not a whim. These shoes have been tested and proven," he says with emphasis. "Your feet are allowed to function normally and you're in a better position to play golf. Guys on Tour are changing to minimalist platforms, and that's proof right there. ... And they just feel great."

Like any good teacher, he pauses and suggests a practical comparative highlighting one of the concepts.

"How do you do a push-up?" he asks. "You spread your fingers out wide for strength and stability. That's the way the foot was designed. But we've been jamming them into these narrow, over-engineered shoes since the beginning of time."

On the sales front, he says ECCO leads sales at Troon North, except for the days when TRUE comes out on top; they're neck and neck and way out ahead of the third-place finisher.

Like ECCO, the big guns in the shoe game have been busy inserting minimalist offerings into their shoe lines: Nike's Free-inspired TW '13 and now '14 models, and FootJoy's M:PROJECT endeavor featuring lighter, more flexible, lower-profile shoes with lessened heel height and a roomier forefoot.

FootJoy is touting M:PROJECT as the choice for the typical "minimalist" target audience seeking enhanced feel and flexibility, and in an interesting positioning move, is pitching it as an aspirational shoe for those wishing to work on balance and tempo. In other words, if you're a player with a lot of moving parts, you might want to look elsewhere in the product line, the company's promotional material suggests.

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