TRUE Linkswear Shoes Reviewed

(By: GolfSpy T) This has got to be a personal worst for me as far as the longest duration from when I received a product for testing to when I wrote the review.  From time to time GolfSpy X will make arraignments for a product to be reviewed, and then, depending on your perspective, he will either neglect to tell me, or surprise me.  That's basically what happened with the TRUE Linkswear shoes that arrived on my doorstep last fall.  Normally when that happens I bear down and get started on a review, but last fall was not a normal time for me.  My wife and I had a baby, and despite all dreams to the contrary, my golf season was for all intents and purposes over.  A full review would have to wait for the spring...or summer.  Hopefully the guys at TRUE Linkswear will forgive the delay and look at this as better late than never.

To be clear, it's not as if my TRUEs sat in a box untouched all winter.  In actuality, they spent a great deal of time on my feet over the winter.  I wore them for all of my shifts at Tark's Indoor Golf, which in addition to giving me some real insight into the comfort of the shoes (8 hours at a time on hard floors), I also had the unique opportunity to test what could best be described as stain resiliency.  For the average golfer stains result from things like grass, sand, and mud.  For the guy working at a full service indoor golf facility, however; one often finds himself cleaning up things like ketchup, blue cheese, and honey mustard.  While it's not a practical endorsement for anything, I can tell you the TRUE Linkswear passed the kitchen cleanup test with flying colors.

Some Background

Not much more than a couple of years ago Adidas started manufacturing shoes with what they called THiNTech.  The idea behind the engineering was that by bringing the golfer closer to the ground they could improve stability, footwork, and ultimately ball striking.  Golf manufacturers are, as most of you already know, notorious for developing faux technologies designed to lure gullible golfers into buying the latest, greatest, and largely unnecessary innovation with the hope that it might actually benefit their game.  The thing is, the THiNTech thing actually made sense, and by many accounts it actually worked.  It wasn't long before all of the major players in golf footwear industry began releasing their own low profile shoe.  Each one promised innovations beyond their competitor's, and while those battles were being waged, almost no one noticed when startups like TRUE Linkswear crept into the marketplace.  Unlike the big boys who constantly trying and one-up the other guy with Trademarks and games of techno buzzword bingo, my impression of things is that the guys at TRUE Linkswear boiled things down to a single word not usually associated with innovation; simplify.

About TRUE Linkswear

Borrowing a page out of what could be the Nike Free book.  Their approach is that the golf shoe has become over-engineered.  The TRUE guarantee is a shoe that has "no unnecessary features, added weight, false claims, or empty promises.  Just the closest thing to a barefoot golfing experience as possible".  The company claims that product testing is in everyone's job description, and that all employees are required to play 18 holes during the work week.  While that alone is probably enough to make the average HR manager cringe, it's a corporate attitude that I think we could use a lot more of in this country.  What better way could there be to repeatedly test a golf shoe.  All of this leaves me with one question.  Are you guys hiring?

Features

  • A golf shoe so comfortable it feels like a slipper with traction
  • The lightest golf shoe worn on the PGA Tour
  • Removal of the midsole and spikes allows you to feel the course like never before
  • The TRUE Barefoot Platform has a toe box that allows your toes to function individually
  • The flexible outsole and cushioned footbed allow your feet to work naturally during the swing
  • TPU "Ergo-Traction" tread maximizes surface contact and grip
  • 360* Waterproofing (with one year guarantee) keeps your feet dry all day long
  • Roll/Post Toe provides stability through the swing and in the follow through
  • Memory Foam in the heel and a fitted sock liner create optimal comfort out of the box

Specs

  • Full Grain Waterproof Leather Upper
  • Temperature Control Lining in the shoe
  • Memory Foam in the Heel Cup for custom fit
  • Gusset to enhance 360* Waterproofing
  • 2.5mm TPU "Ergo-Traction" Outsole with 4mm horizontal and lateral stability bars
  • Standard width in the Heel and Mid-Foot with wide toe box

COMFORT

For me, comfort is the single most important feature of a golf shoe.  If it's not comfortable, and worse still, if it leaves your feet blistered, not a single damn thing matters after that.  In fact, the answer I give beginning golfers, when they ask me what they should buy, is a good pair of shoes.  Too many have made the mistake of spending $400 on a driver only to spend a lousy $65 on a pair of miserably uncomfortable shoes.  It doesn't matter how far you hit your driver when your feet are bleeding.  Golf is hard enough without having to worry about breaking in a new pair of shoes.  A truly good pair of golf shoes has to be 100% comfortable and blister free out of the gate.  Those are my rules.

Not counting the TRUE Linkswear, I personally own 4 pair of golf shoes.  All 4 are from well-known manufacturers.  2 pair (both from the same manufacturer) I classify as walking shoes.  They're both reasonably comfortable, and I'm able to walk 18 holes over hilly terrain without rubbing off any skin. The other 2 pair are riding only shoes (which I almost never wear, because I almost never ride).  They're comfortable enough to ride 18, but if I've got to cover any ground on foot, by the 9th hole I'm usually reaching for band-aids.  Ultimately the TRUE measure (only pun, I promise) of the shoes would be which group I put them in.

The TRUE guys claim their shoe is as comfortable as a slipper.  That's a mighty bold statement considering we're talking about what should be an athletic shoe.  With that in mind, when I first got the TRUEs I put them on them on my feet, and proceeded to do absolutely nothing.  That's right, I tested the shoes by lounging around like a couch potato.  Apart from the fact that I couldn't stop looking at the shoes, it's fair to say that I didn't even notice I had them on.  For any shoe, let alone, a golf shoe, that's quite an accomplishment.  Consider the slipper claim verified.

The second "test" was to wear them during my shifts at Tark's.  8 hours on hard floors, level though they may be, from a comfort perspective, is probably a decent measure of how the shoes would perform over 18 holes.  In the past I'd worn a trail shoe to work.  They were as comfortable as any.  The TRUEs proved to be even more comfortable (at the end of a shift my socks didn't come out molded to my feet like they did with my other shoes), and the customers were asking lots of questions about my footwear.

I nearly wore my TRUE's to the PGA show, but between the desire to maintain the tread, and not having worn them enough to be completely confident they'd hold up to 3 very long days on my feet, I went with the trail shoes.  Those were fine, but in hindsight, I think the TRUEs would have been the better choice.

When golf season finally arrived, I was a bit apprehensive to actually try the shoes on the golf course.  When the first 3 day tournament of the season arrived, I thought what better way to test the comfort and performance of a golf shoe than to wear them for the duration of what, for many golfers, amounts to a golf mini-marathon.  Quite honestly, I wasn't convinced they'd make it through Friday, let alone the entire weekend.  I generally wear a wide shoe, so I'm always concerned about the comfort of standard width shoes.  TRUE Linkswear shoes, however, feature a more than generous toe box that give me feet as much room, if not more, than any golf shoe I've ever worn.

As it happens, my feet made it through Friday just fine.  And then Saturday.  And then again on Sunday.  I've worn the TRUE Linkswear for every round of golf I've played since, and quite honestly, I don't have any plans to stop.  They are nothing if not infinitely comfortable.

Score: 30/30

STYLE

If there's one thing that some may find off-putting about the designs of the new shoe companies its that the shoes just don't look like golf shoes.  Some brands look more like sneakers, others look more like skateboard shoes.  While I'd struggle to classify the design of the TRUEs, what honestly springs to mind is clown shoes for golfers.  I'm sure that sounds worse that it's meant to, but with the visibly wide toebox, the toe section takes on an almost flipper-like appearance.  I don't mind it in the least (even if they do look a bit funny paired with shorts).

Style is of course unique to every individual.  While I like the looks of the TRUE Linkswear shoes just fine, it's apparent to me that they're not going to appeal to everyone (older golfers have shown the most aversion).  The younger guys love them, however; and while I'm not as young as I used to be, I'm not so old that I can't appreciate a new approach to what, stylistically speaking, has become a relatively stagnant and boring part of the industry.

While TRUE Linkswear sent me their Black/White saddleback design, the shoes are also available in White/Black, White/Brown, All white, and all black designs.  Those of you who were at the PGA show may have seen some more vibrant designs from the company.  They looked great to us, but they apparently haven't found their way into mass production (although it appears their trickling out as Limited Editions to coincide with the 4 majors on the PGA Tour).

The company also recently released the Stealth series.  Available in all black and all brown, the stealth series features a flatter toe spring than the original.  It runs a bit larger, and costs $40 more.

Score: 16/20


PERFORMANCE

Performance is for me second only to comfort when it comes to a golf shoe.  Traditionally performance has been about two things; stability and traction.  Now as a reviewer, I also have to consider whether or not a low profile, bare-foot-simulating design can offer any real game enhancement.  This shoe stuff is getting hard.

My first insight into the actual performance of the TRUE Linkswear shoe came over the winter.  As you know we do all of our golf club performance testing indoors.  So in addition to my shifts, I've worn the TRUEs for every recent club test we've conducted.  On the mats the traction is incredible, and I do appreciate the feeling of having my feet more connected to the ground. I was reasonably confident in my assessment when I declared TRUE Linkswear the ulimate indoor golf shoe in a running forum thread about the shoes.

That in and of itself isn't enough to go to print with.  To get a TRUE sense of the performance (dammit, I did it again), I had to put sole to turf on an actual golf course.  After wearing traditional golf shoes basically forever, being outdoors with the TRUEs did require a brief adjustment period.  That's not to say I had to fundamentally change anything I was doing, but for the first few holes I was definitely more aware of the ground underneath my feet.  Awareness itself is neither a positive nor a negative, I'm simply saying thing the first time you hit the course with TRUE Linkswear on your feet, you're almost certainly going to notice that something feels different.

Once I stopped focusing on the feel of the ground beneath me and settled into playing some actual golf, any concerns I had about traction were largely erased.  In the 150 or so holes I've played since I started wearing the TRUEs I've slipped exactly one time (wet grass in the morning).  While zero slippage would obviously be ideal, my assessment is that the traction is about the same as I would expect from my normal golf shoes.

In the interest of full disclosure, my home course is built entirely on sand and the drainage is nothing less than exceptional.  It's very rare that I find myself playing in wet conditions.  So while I can say the TRUEs have performed flawlessly during brief periods of rain, I'm not in a position to rate their performance in muddy or otherwise soaked conditions.

Where I do notice a real difference is when I'm playing out of bunkers.  I definitely feel like I can dig in and get lower than with my regular shoes. It could be psychological, or coincidental, or maybe my sand game is finally turning the corner, but 3 of the best 4 bunker shots I've hit in my life have come with TRUE Linkswear on my feet.  It's proof of nothing, but it's something I have to consider as a potential benefit of the shoes.

Finally there is the issue of weatherproofing.  As I mentioned, I've played a couple of times in light rain and morning dew.  In those cases my feet have stayed completely dry.  On another occassion I found myself looking for a ball in a wooded area with a small creek running through it.  I misjudged the stability of the bank and my foot sank ankle deep into wet, stinky mud.  Some water did get in my shoe above the laces, but everything below the sock line stayed dry.  I can't speak to the longer term durability and waterproofing capabilities of the shoe, but so far so good.

Overall I'm confident in saying that the performance of TRUE Linkswear meets or exceeds that of any shoe I've worn to date.  I've found them to be incredibly stable in dry and slightly moist conditions, and I'm beyond pleased with the bunker performance.  From the performance perspective alone, there's every reason in the world to give TRUE Linkswear a try.

Score: 30/30

VALUE

With a street price of around $160, TRUE Linkswear Tour golf shoes are priced alongside what I'd consider the middle tier of golf shoes on the market today.  One can easily spend over $200 for a premium shoe (I have, and would do it again for the level of comfort I demand from a golf shoe).  Of course, there's a fair argument to be made that a reasonably comfortable, quality shoe can be had for less.  It also has to be pointed out that unlike most golf shoes on the market today, the Ergo-Traction Tread (spikes) on TRUE Linkswear shoes is not replaceable.  Though I haven't noticed any degradation yet, it's reasonable to assume that over time the tread will wear and eventually diminish the shoe's ability to grip the ground beneath you.

For me, that's not really an issue as I don't expect a pair of golf shoes to last more than two seasons, and I expect that by minimizing contact with anything other than grass and sand I should be able to get a couple of seasons out of the shoe.  In fairness I also have to mention that replaceable spikes aren't always what they're cracked up to be.  On both pair of my walking shoes I've lost spikes mid-round.  It's no big deal to pop a new one in, but what's happened in both pair is that I didn't immediately noticed the missing spike, and consequently the edges of the Q-Lok holes have become worn.  It's now extremely difficult to get a new spike in, and they're falling out with regularity.  For me there's a world of value in not having to worry about it anymore.

Of course, if durability (of either the tread or the rest of the shoe) becomes an issue, I'll update this review accordingly.

Score: 9/10

THE PEANUT GALLERY

I'm not generally one to care what other people think about what I wear (my style is becoming increasing loud on the golf course), but since we've established the peanut gallery as part of our apparel and gadget review process, I figured it's best I go with it.  As I've already stated, the older (old) guys at my club don't seem to care for the looks of the shoe (I bet they'd feel differently about them if they wore them), while the younger guys appear more open to the non-traditional look of the shoe.

My wife is really the only one I consult for fashion advice, and her take on the TRUE Linkswear is that they look like bowling shoes.  Now that she's said it, I can see it, but if you look around, you'll find that there are plenty of so-called trendy designs that appear based on bowling shoes, so I'm going to take that as a positive.

Score: 8/10

CONCLUSION

As I said at the onset of this review, when it comes to golf shoes, only two things really matter; comfort and performance.  It is quite simply impossible for me to imagine a shoe more comfortable than the TRUE Linkswear Tour. It's billed as the next best thing to being barefoot (we actually have a guy at my club who plays barefoot), but in my opinion they're actually better than barefoot.  Have you ever stepped on a sharp rock, a jagged stick, or a big pile of poo while barefoot?  I've done all 3, and none of them are particularly pleasant.  I'll take a lightweight, comfortable shoe that offers good traction over my own feet any day.

From a performance perspective, while I can't say they're vastly superior to anything else on the market today, what I can say is they're every bit as good as anything else I've ever worn as far as traction and overall performance are concerned - and I do like the feeling of being more in touch with, and generally lower to the ground. When coupled with what I do think is superior comfort, there's nothing that would dissuade me from wearing anything else.

Style, where the lowest score was given, is very much left to the whimsy of the individual.  So while on looks alone, they may not be for everyone, when it comes to what matters most (again - comfort and performance), you could do plenty more than a little worse.

We look at a lot of of equipment here at MyGolfSpy.  I'm sure the other guys will tell you that even when they really like something, it doesn't always find its way into their bags...there's just too much really good stuff out there to bag (or foot) all of it.  For me it's only the cream of the crop that becomes part of my golfing arsenal and TRUE Linkswear True Tour shoes are just that. I can all but assure you that as long as they hold up they'll be on my feet for every round of golf I play this season. And when the time comes to replace them, I can only hope the guys at TRUE have something new and improved to send in for review, because I could really use a pair in white.

Score: 93/100

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