In early 2011, TRUE linkswear brought barefoot shoes to the attention of golfers everywhere with the first golf shoe designed to be "the closest thing to a barefoot golfing experience as possible." The shoes received rave reviews from golfers as they were the most comfortable shoe they'd ever worn both on and off the course (not much of a surprise coming from traditional shoes). I reviewed the Tour model primarily from a barefoot perspective, and while they weren't the most barefoot feeling shoe I've golfed in, they were definitely the best barefoot shoe built for golfing. You can read my original review of the TRUE linkswear Tour here.
Earlier this year TRUE linkswear released their entire 2012 line with a brand new sole and two new models (the Phx for men and Isis for women). I was able to compare the old and new Tour models, and have been testing out the new Phx for the past couple months. Overall, the new sole greatly improved the look of the shoes without altering the comfortable barefoot feel. The new Phx sports a more casual look at an extremely tempting price.
Read on for my comparison of the old and new Tour minimalist golf shoes and a review of the new TRUE Linkswear Phx.
The New Sole Design (and TRUE Tour vs. Tour comparison)
The old sole —
The most notable change to the TRUE Linkswear shoes in 2012 vs. 2011 comes with the updated sole, which has replaced the original sole. The original sole had visible cleats when viewed from the side and had 4mm square lugs as well as "stability bars" which spanned the width of the sole and the outer edge. As I pointed out in my original TRUE Tour review, the edge bars made flexing difficult except at the hinge points between them. The cleated look also made them difficult to wear casually off the course. The new sole has removed these bars and feels more flexible throughout the length of the sole. Overall, it feels pretty similar to the old design when walking, and has a stack height of about 10mm.
The new sole —
There is a ridge running around the rim of the sole, which they claim "creates a suction effect" to improve traction. I didn't notice any difference in traction, but the rim really improves the aesthetics by removing/hiding the cleat look. The lugs have also been spread out with the introduction of some randomly spaced round lugs. I can't see any added benefits here other than for aesthetics. The look and style of the previous sole made wearing the shoes casually off the course an issue, but with the new sole, I could see people potentially using these as an everyday shoe. The new sole looks awesome and viewing from the sides doesn't give any indication that it's a cleated shoe.
Another big difference in the sole is the shape of the forefoot. Just eyeballing it, the width of the forefoot is maybe 1 cm less in the new sole. My feet measure halfway between D and EE, so I was worried this would affect the fit, but I didn't notice any difference in the feel of this new sole (up to EE shouldn't have any trouble). A major benefit of the slightly narrower forefoot width is an updated "look" to the whole shoe. Previously, the Tours had been referred to as "clown-like" from other reviewers as they looked long and wide. The new sole gives the shoes a more tapered-toe look without compromising the width, comfort, and barefoot feel.
The 2012 TRUE Tour model also saw some other changes which helped improve the look of the shoe. The rubber outsole is two-toned color, which makes the sole look thinner or less noticeable. The lace loops were also updated to narrow nylon loops rather than the wide loops made from the leather upper. Lastly, the way the sock liner is stitched to the tongue of the shoe was updated and appears to hold in place better when putting on the shoe. All in all, the majority of the updates vastly improve the look of the shoe without compromising the barefoot feel.
Here are a few photos of the old 2011 TRUE Linkswear Tour vs. the 2012 Tour:
The TRUE Linkswear Phx
The Phx is a brand new model this year to go along with the new soles. The sole of the Phx is identical to the new soles on the Tour/Stealth and looks and feels great. In my opinion, the Phx has a much more casual "tennis shoe" style look. It has a red stripe up the side and laces through eyeholes. There is no sockliner inside so it doesn't have the slipper-like comfort of the Tour. That being said, it is still extremely comfortable. The thin sole and 5mm foam insert feel the same as the Tour model. Coming from wearing VIVOBAREFOOT and FiveFingers every day, the insert does provide noticeable cushion. While it slightly takes away from the barefoot feel, the cushion is nice after walking 3-5 miles on the course.
If you read my previous review of the Tours, I only had a few nitpicky things to say about them from a barefoot standpoint (mainly toespring/toebox depth and the hard toe cap). The construction of the Phx (and new sole) seems to solve these issues for me. They lessened the toe spring on all the 2012 models, which gives more vertical wiggle room for my toes. Also, the design of the Phx puts the hard toe cap in a "U" shape that doesn't cover my toes like the Tour did. My toes just feel a bit more free in them. However, the "U" shape toe cap does create a flexibility issue in exchange for the protection and durability of the roll/post toe. The sole doesn't roll up or flex as well as other barefoot shoes, and the "U" toe cap creates one hinge point at the ball of the foot (end of toe cap). Luckily, it flexes in just the right spot so this isn't a problem when walking. The sole also doesn't seem to be very flexible along its length. Again, this is comparing to other barefoot shoes, as the TRUE's are way more flexible than traditional golf styles.
After wearing them for awhile, I really had a hard time finding anything negative about them. The only potential problem I've found is with the leather folds that connect the tongue to the shoe upper. The flaps are thick leather and when folded under and laced up, I immediately noticed the thick folds pushing into the top of my foot. I thought it would loosen up over time, but I don't think the thickness will really change. I did not have this issue with either of the Tour models (perhaps due to the way the sockliner is stitched in). This may not even be an issue for everyone, and I definitely forgot about it as I played in them.
Unlike the Tour and Stealth models, which are guaranteed waterproof for 2 years, the Phx are only water resistant. I didn't notice any issues at all, but never got the chance to really test them in soaking wet situations.
Here are some product photos of the Phx:
For reference, I wear a 10.5 in most shoes, Vibram 43, and Vivo Barefoot 44. I have bunions and my feet are fairly flat and exactly between a D and EE.
TRUE linkswear recommends ordering a half size smaller than usual in the Phx (no sockliner makes them fit a bit larger/wider). I previously wore a 10.5 Tour perfectly and was worried going down to a 10 in the Phx would affect the fit lengthwise. However, the Phx 10 feels identical to the Tour 10.5 (and looks the same length on a side by side comparison). I would definitely recommend going down a half-size. If you're not sure what size, they offer free shipping both ways so you can get it right.
The first thing you should notice about the Phx is the price. At $100, this shoe brings the TRUE linkswear brand into what I would call a "no excuse" price range. For the many average weekend warriors out there, spending $130-$200 on a golf shoe just sounds insane. Now those golfers can truly afford to go "barefoot" on the course. That being said, I still think the cost of the Tour ($150) and Stealth ($200) models is justified for the features, looks, and comfort you get. While I prefer the look of the Phx over the Tour, I think the Tour is more comfortable than Phx and may hold up better over the long run. I haven't had a chance to test out the Stealth, and I'm curious how they feel compared to the Tour and Phx (I like the look of them best!). Either way, the Phx is still extremely comfortable and affordable.
There's alot of debate out there about what it really takes for a shoe to deserve the barefoot label. As I mentioned in my previous review, the Tours (and now the Phx), are not the most "barefoot" shoe I've ever golfed in, but my FiveFingers's and Vivobarefoot's lack the features that make the True's great golf shoes. The TRUE linkswear brand is certainly one of the most barefoot feeling golf shoes on the market. They have just the right amount of cushion to ease new people into the barefoot world of shoes, while still satisfying the extreme barefooters out there. And, although other companies are starting to enter the barefoot golf market, most golfers are probably unwilling to go to the barefoot extreme. TrueLinkswear has found a perfect balance for everyone, and with the new Phx, they now have a variety of comfortable styles and price ranges to get everyone golfing "barefoot."
Finally, here are some comparative photos between the original Tour and the new Phx. Questions or comments, let's hear it!