Golf style has been changing significantly in the past few years. This trend is going in two directions; increasingly casual and technologically-improved. When it comes to golf shoes those two paths both lead to the same place: Sneakers!
Where did this trend of sneakers on the golf course actually start?
After years of being a sneakerhead, collecting mainly basketball and running shoes, I loved it when the Par Jordan came out – the first collaboration between Nike Golf and Jordan Brand. This came about after Michael Jordan’s successful endorsement deal with Nike had blossomed into its own rapidly growing brand. Looking to put a Jumpman on as many products as possible, Nike looked to MJ’s off court passion – golf.
The first line simply replaced the swoosh for a Jumpman on clothing and accessories. The Par 23 golf shoe, however, had one distinct element – patent leather. Much like Jordan’s signature sneaker the year previous, the Par 23 took inspiration from the Air Jordan XI Concords that also had shiny black patent leather on an otherwise white shoe. The Par 23 took the “Tuxedo” theme and applied it to a saddle-back style golf cleat.
Since then the Jordan’s have become an on-course exclusive with many of the Air Jordan’s having a spikeless version that is released in very limited numbers. The latest Jordan spotting on the course was Chi McBride (a celebrity sneakerhead) who was wearing the Air Jordan III in a recent epiosde of Hawaii Five-O.
Many other brands have taken a similar approach and swapped out running, tennis or basketball soles for a spikeless version that’s perfect for the course. This style trend makes golf attire much more attractive to a new golfer… and they usually come with a premium price point.
Let’s get into some of our top picks of Golf Shoes that used to be Sneakers.
It’s nice to see that the golf course is becoming more familiar. The shoes are more familiar styles that make it easier to buy, but also easier to fit. Many gripes over the years came from players complaining that their golf shoes didn’t feel like their athletic counterparts for running, tennis, basketball, soccer or football.
Even with some of those sports being played on grass, the collaborative effort didn’t start until soft spikes became almost universally mandated by golf courses. Manufacturers would have to modify the existing designs too heavily to accommodate spikes, sometimes making existing styles unrecognizable as a golf version.
The soft spikes help to lower maintenance, especially flooring and carpet in the clubhouse. Yes, the driving factor in the evolution of soft spikes was off the course. Old style spikes actually help aerate the fairways and greens.
To make this list measurable, there are a couple of categories considered:
- Performance – how well does the shoe perform based on a golfers needs and against the baseline of the traditional saddle golf shoes.
- Style – the overall look and appeal of the golf sneaker
- Comfort – how does the sneaker wear through 18 holes and are you anxious to take them off after your round or could you walk another couple miles?
- Availability – can these be purchased today?
Being a sneaker afficianado and golfer, I hope you enjoy the list of best golf sneakers. Comment below what is your favourite sneaker (on or off the course). Maybe one of the major manufacturers will put some soft spikes on it.
Here’s our list of sneakers for the golf course that are currently available:
- Nike Zoom 90 IT
- Nike Roshe G
- New Balance 574
- Puma Suede
- Lunar Force One
Not every sneaker is on this list, we’ve selected our favorites based also on overall popularity (off course) and likelihood that you’re familiar with the sneaker version.
Air Zoom 90 IT
The Air Max 90 was the signature running shoe for Nike in 1990. This classic silhouette has continued to be released in different colourways and materials since its first release. The midsole has been swapped out for zoom air, to create a more balanced cushioning system and suitable for walking 18 holes. The Nike Air Zoom 90 IT has a sock-liner bootie construction to eliminate interior stitching in hopes of reducing blisters, and a one-piece spikeless sole for extra grip and smooth walking on the cart path and in the clubhouse.
Nike Roshe G
One of Nike’s most successful sneakers to date, the Roshe came on to the scene as a perfect blend of style, comfort and affordable. As technology pushes price points higher, the Roshe showed up heading in the opposite direction. This shoe has gone through three refreshes, multiple colours and materials, all while remaining a simple, stylish daily runner.
Using this same approach on the golf course makes perfect sense – a stylish, comfortable option that has a price point that’ll make you smile. Not only has the format been copied for the golf version of the Roshe, but the variety of colors and patterns are also available. In fact, for the Masters, Nike released a special floral pattern called the “Magnolia.” Check it out:
Being able to mix up your wardrobe is fun, but more importantly, the shelf life of the Roshe is impressive. So much so, that I would bet these will be around for a while. To date, the longest Nike golf Sneaker to stay on shelves was the Dunk Low ND (which I still have in my closet).
When any equipment serves you well, it’s nice to be able to replace them with the same setup. The most wear and tear that everyone’s golf equipment takes is, arguably, your footwear.
New Balance 574 SL
The latest big sneaker brand to add golf to their lineup is New Balance. Probably seen as the most welcome new entrant, New Balance has arrived with a mix of new golf-focused shoes and adaptations of a few of their favourites.
First released in 1988 as an off-road, run-anywhere shoe, the 574 was a hit and continues to be a casual go-to for many due to its low profile design, comfort and variety of colors. This shoe has had so many different releases that Runners World even wrote about their 10 favourite 574 models.
Staying true to form, the New Balance 574 is available in a variety of widths. Like their running series, you’re able to choose from Medium (M), Wide (W) or Extra Wide (XW). If you’ve had a 574 before and you need a specific width, you might be best buying online where it’s more likely that all widths will be in stock.
Adidas Adicross V
Adidas has a tough time releasing new shoes that will outsell their iconic silhouettes that have dominated many sports. Basketball has the ProModel and Superstar. Tennis has the Stan Smith. Runners have the Gazelle, and Soccer has the Samba.
Without an iconic golf shoe from the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s, Adidas has started to release golf versions of their classic sneakers. However, unlike the others on this list that retain their sneaker name, Adidas has chosen to brand them all under the “adicross” family. Each of the adicross originals are very low profiles and share the same golfing midsole and sole which doesn’t change the look of the shoe.
When wearing these, you’ll instantly recognize that the Adidas adicross was the Adidas Samba in a previous life… Offering comfort, more lateral stability, although it is considerably heavier than its indoor soccer rival.
The least attractive part of this sneaker-turned-golf-shoe is in its name. I don’t trust a suede shoe in questionable weather. Here in Vancouver, even on the most beautiful days in summer, we have plenty of morning dew and possibly some standing water following a previous rainy day. Getting your feet wet on hole #2 doesn’t lead to an enjoyable round.
That being said, waterproofing sneakers is never a problem and this sneaker has quite the history! The Puma Suede is being introduced as a golf version as part of its 50 year anniversary. Yes, this shoe was initially designed and sold in 1968. Part of the release includes accessories and clothing that Rickie Fowler proudly shows off and work with the Men’s and Women’s colour ways.
Lunar Force 1
The Lunar Force One is based on the Nike Air Force 1 that first launched as a basketball shoe in the 1980s. The Air Force 1 is familiar with variations;
- it comes in low-, mid- and high-top versions
- variety of upper materials from nubuck, patent leather, flyknit and canvas
- there’s cushioning systems including Air, Zoom Air and Lunarlon
As one of Nike’s most celebrated sneakers the AF1 gets an easy transition to the course with massive appeal by basketball players who play during the off season. On top of that, the fashion crowd has been wearing Air Force 1s for years, even before Nelly’s song about them.
Check out these golf sneakers as I’ve found the Air Force One to be one of the most comfortable daily sneakers around and I’m confident that will translate well to the golf course.
Each of these are fantastic choices for the course, especially if you’ve worn the original version. Not surprisingly, each of these have been selling very well. Check them out!
Chasing Par is a golfer’s resource to enjoy the game of golf and improve with each swing. We’re teaming up with Sneaker Skip to dive into footwear on course. We lean on experts to find the best clubs, gear, accessories and courses for golfers who are chasing par.