(Written By: GolfSpy Matt) If you were at the Demo Day for the PGA Merchandise Show this January, there’s no chance that you missed the dozens of pairs of red shoes from Oakley. The red proved to be a clever marketing move since no one walked past without asking, “What’s up with those shoes?” Those shoes, the Oakley Cipher, have a lot going on, actually, but the thing that everyone notices are the Nano Spikes. While more and more companies are going “spike-less,” Oakley has engineered a totally new sole that reduces weight and promises as much traction as traditional cleats. Golfspy Dave and I both put the Ciphers to the test to let you know whether these shoes deliver or if Nano Spikes are headed for the dust bin of failed ideas. Read on, spies…
Golfspy Dave summed it up by saying, “Stylin kix.” I’ll be a bit more verbose.
The Oakley Cipher is a good looking golf shoe that plays more towards the style of an athletic shoe as opposed to the classic, traditional golf shoe. The shoe is almost entirely mono-color: the only thing that disrupts the blackness (or whiteness, redness, blueness) is the silver “O” logo on the outside of the toe. The other thing I like about the style of this shoe is that it can work for anyone, depending on the color choice. For more toned down types, you have basic black and white. If you want to grab people’s attention, go for the red or blue.
Dave and I both agree that the Cipher’s get an “A” for style.
The bar for comfort has been set very high this year with some excellent shoes, so I put the Oakley Cipher through a true torture test: standing on the tee box at a charity scramble for 7 hours. My feet felt as good coming off the course that day as they did walking on.
For me, a large part of the comfort is the weight. I’ve tested some light shoes this year, but these are far and away the lightest. They don’t necessarily weigh a lot less than other super light shoes (just an ounce or two), but something in the design and weight distribution gives them a “lighter than air” feel.
While the feel is not the same cushy feel that you get with TRUE Linkswear (the reigning comfort king), I would say that the Ciphers are every bit as good to your feet as TRUE's.
The biggest question I got about the Oakley Cipher was about the traction. Non-replaceable spikes are becoming more accepted, but the NanoSpike Technology pushes things to a whole new level. Even I was concerned my first time out.
So was the concern merited? Not really. After four or five swings, I completely forgot about the shoes. On grass, I had very little issue with slippage except for the occasional “swing like a gorilla” moments which no amount of spikes could save. The one place where traction wasn’t great was on mats. My theory is that since the NanoSpikes are surrounded by a firm TPU sole, they don’t really get much of a grip when the ground doesn’t have any give.
The Ciphers are not waterproof, but they do have a band around the lower part of the upper that should keep light mist and dew away from your feet. That said, these are not your best choice for monsoon season.
Finally, I know I mentioned it already with regard to comfort, but it bears repeating: these shoes are ridiculously light. As I’ve said before, a lightweight shoe is a definite performance advantage, especially for walkers.
The Oakley Cipher retails for $130, which I think is an average value. As I’ve said in recent shoe reviews, there are simply so many good shoes near the $100 mark that a shoe really has to stand out to be over $100 and get a high "Value Score". Dave’s comments were similar, noting the number of excellent shoes below $130.
Also on the point of value, the NanoSpike replacement pads cost $20 per set. Oakley believes that a set of NanoSpikes should last somewhere around 20 rounds, depending on the golfer.
The Peanut Gallery
Being that they’re black, like all my other shoes, the Oakley Cipher didn’t immediately grab anyone’s attention…until I turned them over. One of our new Peanut Gallery members cracked me up by asking, “Have they always been like that?” when she saw the NanoSpike sole.
Overall, there was some light skepticism about the effectiveness of the NanoSpikes, hearty approval for the light weight and style, and a collective “hmmm…ok” about the price. The group felt that the price was fine, certainly far from outrageous, but not such that they would be buying a new pair tomorrow.
Overall, both GolfSpy Dave and I think that the Oakley Cipher is a very stylish, comfortable shoe. Dave’s biggest complaint was the lack of waterproofing, but when you’re aiming for the lightest golf shoe on the market other performance elements must be sacrificed. What has not been sacrificed is traction: neither Dave nor I found any substantial difference between NanoSpikes and traditional spikes. If you’re looking for a featherweight footwear option that will set you apart on the course, the Oakley Ciphers should be in your sights.
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