Tiger Kicks Off Return in Style with New Nikes

Filed under: Nike, Pro Insider, Style
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The golf world was abuzz this week, anxious to see how Tiger Woods would play after a three-month layoff and trying out a brand new… pair of shoes.

OK, so maybe Tiger’s new caddie, Byron Bell, commanded a bit more attention in the wake of Woods’ ugly public parting with long-time looper Steve Williams.

But as equipment geeks, we’re more interested in Tiger’s new Nikes -- which look suspiciously like some of the innovative models intro’d by other brands in recent months. (More on them in a moment.)

Here’s the lowdown on Tiger’s kicks:

Having worked out in a pair of Nikes featuring the company’s new Free technology, Woods asked designer Tobie Hatfield to work up a similar pair for golf. Hatfield obliged, constructing the prototypes that Woods is sporting this week in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club.

Nike heralds Free as “technology that is designed to mimic and conform to the natural motion of the foot.” Based on appearances, it’s a lot less stiff than traditional golf shoes. A lot less formal-looking, too.

Hatfield says the shoes improve stability by freeing the front of the golfer’s foot. He believes the increased range of motion will enhance Tiger’s power, and perhaps protect his oft-wounded left knee from further damage.

No matter how Tiger fares in his return, it’s doubtful the shoes will receive any credit (or blame). That said, the Nike Frees are bound to turn the heads of not just fans, but of the apparel giant’s competitors.

Specifically, shoemaking heavyweight ECCO and upstarts TRUE Linkswear and Kikkor might be interested in what Nike’s up to. ECCO’s Street Premiere models have famously adorned the feet of Fred Couples, while TRUE’s low-profile, made-for-walking shoes are worn on Tour by ever-fashionable Ryan Moore. Kikkor, founded by former NCAA champion James Lepp, offers a street-inspired shoe as well.

Wearers swear by the comfort and performance of the ECCO, TRUE and Kikkor kicks, all of which are spikeless and suitable for off-course activities. They seem to have started a trend, at least, toward a more casual, form-fitting golf shoe style.

Of course, none of those brands can match the marketing power of the mighty swoosh. We’ll see what kind of, um, traction Nike gets with its own street-style golf shoe.


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