TRUE Gent Wingtip "Dress Shoe" Review
Fans of barefoot shoes have probably all faced a common dilemma. A wedding, work, job interview, or any other potential situation requiring a more formal attire that isn't necessarily conducive to toe shoes or the casual and trainer styled minimal shoes. There have been a few casual styles that might pass in some situations, but an affordable truly formal dress shoe has remained elusive. That's why I was excited to test out TRUE linkswears new gent wingtip golf shoe. Read on to see lots of photos and find out how they look and perform as a dress shoe.
Hopefully even the non golfers out there are still reading, because this isn't a golf shoe review. Yes, these are technically a golf shoe, but I have yet to wear them on the course. I wanted to review these for their potential use as more formal dress shoes.
First, I was told right away that they consider this new model more of a minimal shoe and less "barefoot" than their previous styles. For only wearing shoes less than 8mm, these are a bit thicker than I usually wear. We'll get to why I think they did this, but first let's back up a bit. I've really grown to love the approach TRUE linkswear has taken. In fact, my true shoes are the only waterproof shoes I have in my barefoot closet. Whenever it's wet or raining outside, I immediately grab my golf shoes and wear them to work. I love that they can pull double duty and they pass easily in a business causal environment. TRUE linkswear adopted an early strategy of creating golf shoes so comfortable you'd want to wear them everywhere, and their second generation soles helped hide their golf nature off the course. Their current slogan is "live golf ready" and they build their shoes to function well on the course and to look good wherever else you might be wearing them.
So, for these golf shoes I've decided to look at them from the aspect of real world wear. I haven't even golfed in them. I have no doubt the traction and waterproofing are just fine, so I'll trust that they match up to the golf readiness I'm accustomed to from TRUE. What I really wanted to know was whether the wingtips could pass as dress shoes.
The gent wingtip comes in several colors, but I chose the black because it just looked most like a dress shoe. Out of the box they were laced with minty green laces. The green laces match the foam insert, but I quickly swapped them for the black laces which are also included. The laces are a round waxy canvas lace which is consistent with more formal shoes although not as tightly woven.
If you've looked at the pictures, you probably already noticed several of the features that give these shoes a "dress" look. The quality of leather definitely adds to the upscale feel of the shoe, but it's the wingtip design that really classes it up. It's definitely pretty ornate and my personal preference would probably be for a more simple toe cap, but it's a pretty classic wingtip design with circles and double stitching lining the edges.
The walls are fairly thin and low cut around the ankles. Obviously, they aren't at all pointy like a typical dress shoe, but the wide toebox doesn't give off a clunky vibe. They look pretty trim despite the width. The wingtip name refers to the "wing" shape across the front of the shoe, which is apparently coming back into style on formal oxford dress shoes (these are technically a derby (bluchers) styled shoe with the unstitched open lace flaps). The trim around the edge is the only place the shoe upper isn't black. I wasn't sure how I felt about the brown trim and white stitching, but I think I enjoy the contrast. It might look more formal in all black though.
There are three points of branding, only one of which might be a bit too blatant for formal use. The logo tag along the laces works for the golf shoe, but not so much for a dress shoe. (It seems like it could be easily removed with a razor blade if you had to). The other branding is a "T logo" stamped into the leather and blending in nicely on the tongue and heel.
Speaking of the heel, did you notice the "elevated" heel? How could you not? It's actually a faux heel carved out of the outsole (similar to what you may have seen in the Primal Professional). The shaved angle gives a pretty awesome heel effect from almost every angle I looked at them. This might be the one feature that really gives these shoes such a formal look, although all of the above features really do pull it together. But, is all of this enough to pass it off as a dress shoe? Let us know what you think.
One look at the sole design brings us back to the fact that these shoes let you live and work "golf ready." The outsole features a new sole pattern reminiscent of the ninja outsole. The new "Flex-Feel-Gent outsole" is not just different in shape, but also has parts of the sole made of an extremely soft "LYT EVA" material. We've seem this on a lot of minimal footwear to lighten the shoe while also providing good wear of the material, and these are apparently the lightest outsole they've made.
The majority of the sole you see on the side (from leather down) is the EVA like material, which also makes up some of the lugs on the bottom. You can see lines on the heel and toe regions where a harder rubber protects the high wear areas (the white lugs and most diamond treads are also the firm rubber). The traction seems fine from just twisting around the grass, and I imagine they will be just great on the course.
The sole is a bit stiffer than my other TRUEs mainly due to it's increased thickness, but it wasn't a problem for me. I was told they consider these a bit more of a minimal shoe than barefoot. And, while previous TRUEs were based on a "TRUE Barefoot Platform" the wingtips are supposedly more on the minimal side.
My only issue with the sole is cosmetic. The sole is two-toned with white lugs, and if there's one thing that could ruin your stealthy use of golf shoes at a formal wedding, it could certainly be white cleats. It would be cool to see the black version with an entirely black sole, making the cleated nature of the sole less noticeable when walking or crossing your legs.
Feel and Function
I'll just start off by saying I'm a fan of these shoes. I think they look really nice and like other TRUE models they have no arch, a wide forefoot, and feel great. My inital thought was that these were more snug than other TRUEs, and I definitely had to loosen up the laces to make them more comfortable with thicker socks. They are most comfortable with thinner style socks, which is what I'd wear on a dressier occasion. The edge of the sole is flat so my semi wide foot can spill out over the sole without any discomfort. A 2E foot might be ok although a bit more snug.
The inside wall of the leather is lined with a soft material, and the heel cup is padded with memory foam which is really thin on the sides and thicker right at the posterior heel. It initially felt like the heel was cut too low, but I think it's just the way the padding sits against my foot. The forefoot is wide and deep enough to offer some toe wiggle room. There is also a reinforced toe cap which provides support for finishing a golf swing, but also keeps the toe upper nicely shaped.
Like some other TRUEs, the tongue is connected to the sole with a stretch material which wraps around your instep. In the tour model it gave a slipper like feel, but it was less noticeable in the wingtips (perhaps because they were a bit snug there at the start).
Part of the initial snug feeling was caused by the thicker foam insole. This insert is about 5mm thick compared to a few millimeters on previous TRUE models (perhaps also why they refer to it as "minimal"). They are definitely meant to be worn with the insert, although there is a solid white material glued over the base and I did try them with out it. It was definitely roomier (almost too much) so I continued to use them with the original insert. I did try out my thinner TRUE tour inserts which might be an even better option, although I don't know that you can purchase replacement inserts.
All of the previous TRUE shoes have been zero drop. I don't wear any shoes that contain an elevated heel, so I'm pretty sensitive to noticing it. Despite the claim that these are "minimal shoes built with zero drop" I immediately had a feeling the wingtips might be slightly elevated. I didn't have any accurate calipers handy but a rough measure of the outside gave a 17mm heel and 14mm forefoot. Again, the insert is about 5mm, but it definitely compresses down under weight. So overall, I'd guess these end up around 18-20mm thick. Again I was told ahead of time that these are less "barefoot" than the other models (more of a minimal shoe), and it's understandable why. In order to get the faux heel effect, the sole needed to be a bit thicker. And you wouldn't necessarily want it that thickness throughout, so the forefoot would likely end up slightly thinner.
I'm not sure my measurements were extremely accurate, but for being a person who refuses to wear any elevated heel, I'm actually ok with this. TRUE's target audience isn't hardcore barefoot shoe enthusiasts, and they've got plenty of shoes with thinner barefoot platforms. Here I think they struck a perfect balance of creating a shoe that looks like it belongs in a traditional shoe category, yet has most of the markers of a minimal (or even barefoot) shoe. The thicker sole is certainly stiffer than I'm used to and the ground feel is obviously a bit muted, but they are still lightweight and more flexible than most golf or dress shoes. I generally don't go thicker than 8mm, but for dressier occasions than my Ra's can handle, these are awesome. Plus I can golf in them!
I was hoping to wear them recently to a formal wedding, but the didn't arrive in time. I've tested them at work instead and they are much nicer looking than my TRUE tours. A although they easily pass in my business casual setting, the wingtip design might be a bit too fancy for jeans (a good sign they can pass in a formal setting?). Check out more images below, including a comparison to the more casual looking TRUE tour.
Sizing and Cost
For reference, I wear a Vibram 43 and Vivobarefoot 44. TRUE recommends sizing up a half size in this model and I'm glad I did. I wear a 10.5 in the True tour and the 11 wingtip fits the exact same in length.
The gentlemen's wingtips currently run at $150. Considering the only two barefoot/minimal dress or professional looking shoes I know of are upwards of $300 (Vivobarefoot Lisbon and the Primal Professionals), these TRUE options are a great deal (assuming you can run the risk of someone noticing a cleated look to the bottom).
In my opinion the black wingtips look very much like a dress shoe. The false heel will blend in well in settings that your existing casual minimal/barefoot shoes can't go unnoticed. The thickness isn't as "barefoot" as I normally wear, but they are still a really comfortable no arch and wide forefoot shoe. They might be zero drop, but my rough measurements put my pair at a 2-3 mm drop. This actually doesn't bother me, because they fill a needed role in my closet. The waterproof feature is a nice bonus, and will get you through a wet day in town or on the golf course. I can safely say the TRUE wingtip is the most comfortable "dress" shoe I've worn. The cleated sole is a minor drawback for the truly formal occasions, but it could be a good conversation starter. Lastly, they might not be the most "barefoot" dress shoe option, but they are the only one I know of at a reasonable cost. So if you've been searching for a nice looking minimal shoe you can wear to work, a formal occasion, and/or the golf course, then these might just be the perfect shoe.
What do you think? Could these shoes fill a niche in your closet? What minimal shoes do you wear to work? Weddings?