Fred Couples started the revolution at the Masters in 2010, when the coolest guy in golf played his way into contention wearing what appeared to be sneakers. Three years later, hybrid footwear such as Couples's curiously comfortable Eccos has transformed the category. "Spikeless shoes are the fastest-growing segment in golf equipment," says Tom Stine of Golf Datatech, the industry's leading market-research company. Industry experts expect 40% to 50% of the golf shoes sold this year to be spikeless hybrids.
The word spikeless is actually a misnomer. Spikeless shoes have specially designed ridges, nubs or molded cleats, but not replaceable spikes. If and when the tread wears down, you simply replace the shoes. Why are spikeless shoes so popular? Because in addition to providing sufficient traction, they are also extremely convenient. They're lightweight and easy to pack. They can be worn anywhere, and you can even drive in them. Plus, many of the most recent spikeless models are fashion-forward and loaded with technological innovations. Never in golf have there been more shoe options. Here's what's new for 2013.
How hot is the spikeless trend? Even premium men's shoemaker Allen Edmonds (and the 212-step process it has used to manufacture shoes since 1922) has jumped in with the Honors Collection, which has five styles ($295).
Spikeless does not mean gripless, as proved by Callaway's Comfort Trac ($99), which uses eight large molded cleats and eight smaller teeth to provide stability. Warning: You may experience ground-hugging flashbacks with the Comfort Trac.
FootJoy, golf's authentic old-school shoemaker, goes totally new school with the ultralight and ultraflexible M:Project ($135), colorfully styled and submarine-sleek low-profile shoes that mix leather and mesh and have built-in toe guards for durability.
Call it vertical integration as Ashworth, long famed for golf apparel, goes head to toe. The Cardiff ($120), worn by Justin Rose, is a stylish mix of suede and leather that meets the ultimate spikeless goal—you can wear it anywhere, anytime.
Crocs for golf? Hey, that's no crock. Check out the Preston ($99), from the Hank Haney Collection, which is as light, superdurable and comfy as the original trendsetting Crocs, a footwear phenomenon that shows no signs of going away.
Kikkor shoes, says founder James Lepp with a wink, are a "sort of a slap to the face of golf by golf itself." The Pure Black Eagle ($109) is a traditional-yet-untraditional take on a classic saddle, with nonreplaceable cleats.
Nike's five spikeless models include the Lunar Swingtip ($130 to $160 in canvas, leather or suede, named after the classic wingtip style) and feature varying sole nubs, researched by Nike to better respond to changing pressure points during a swing.
Ecco, the outfit that sparked the spikeless stampede, introduces the Tour Hybrid Wingtip ($190), a waterproof leather upper atop Ecco's popular street-shoe chassis. Recommended for use with long pants. (People still wear those, right?)