Do golf shoes actually help you play better? Like me, you’ve probably asked yourself that question. Or, like me, you’ve left your golf shoes at home and been forced to play a round in something not so suitable for the course.
You wouldn’t dare hit the course with a hockey stick instead of a putter, would you? There’s a lesson in there somewhere. Just because it looks like it might work for golf doesn’t mean that it will. More on that in a minute.
As any self-respecting journalist does, I read the comments about my work so I can try to do better. This year we had multiple readers share their experience with trail running shoes on the golf course and it rekindled a flame of curiosity that I’d had months ago.
Trail Running Shoes Versus Spikeless Golf Shoes
Are trail running shoes a suitable replacement for spikeless golf shoes? Are there any trade-offs? The fact that some of you choose not to wear a designated golf shoe in favor of something else is an interesting take that needs further exploring.
At first glance, it’s clear that, like spikeless golf shoes, trail running shoes use a host of rubber lugs to increase traction. If you compare 10 different trail running shoes to 10 spikeless golf shoes, you’ll surely find one or two with a more aggressive traction pattern than a shoe designed for golf.
If our rigorous golf shoe testing has taught me anything, it’s that not all (golf) shoes are created equal. A few of the spikeless golf shoes we tested this year hardly deserved the name. Some had subpar traction and others lacked stability.
Speaking of testing—it’s only right that we test the hypothesis. So, will it golf?
Let’s find out.
The test itself is simple. I took the best spikeless golf shoe of 2023, the adidas CodeChaos 22, and put it up against one of the most popular trail shoes out right now, the HOKA Speedgoat 5. Each shoe was put through a rigorous test to determine a winner.
For those who aren’t familiar with how we test, this is what to look for when choosing a spikeless golf shoe.
- Comfort. Above all else, a spikeless golf shoe should be comfortable. If you can’t walk 18 or 36 holes right out of the box, then the shoe isn’t comfortable enough.
- Stability. Golf is a game of inches and you can’t afford to give up distance or accuracy because your shoe is unstable. A stable spikeless golf shoe should keep you from rolling over or sliding over the footbed.
- Traction. Both spikeless golf shoes and trail running shoes should provide enhanced traction, but is one better than the other? Good luck making a solid swing if your shoes won’t grip and allow you to use the ground.
- Elements. You can’t control the weather but you can control your choice of golf footwear. A good spikeless golf shoe should be waterproof.
It’s important to note that, while I could have also tested a pair of spiked golf shoes, the test would be unfair to the trail running shoes. Because spikeless golf shoes and trail running shoes often share similarities in the sole, it was only right to compare them.
- adidas CodeChaos 22. The best spikeless golf shoe of 2023. Enough said!
- HOKA Speedgoat 5. A trail running shoe that has a lot to prove.
Round 1: Comfort
Of the four testing criteria, comfort had the most predictable outcome. The HOKA Speedgoat 5 was the clear winner.
The CodeChaos 22 is a darned comfortable spikeless golf shoe but the HOKA Speedgoat 5’s pillowy midsole was a joy to walk in. It’s no knock on the CodeChaos 22, though, as the Speedgoat 5 was the heavy favorite going into Round 1.
Round 2: Stability
Despite a promising performance in the first round, Round 2 was not so favorable for the HOKA Speedgoat 5. If there’s one thing that really separates a trail running shoe from a shoe designed specifically for golf, it’s stability. The testing made it very clear that a trail running shoe such as the HOKA Speedgoat 5 isn’t meant to handle the twisting forces of the golf swing while the adidas CodeChaos 22 stayed strong and stable throughout.
If you don’t want to turn or roll your ankle, stick with a spikeless golf shoe. Most spikeless golf shoes have purposeful outriggers and rigid midsections in order to keep your foot contained and stop the shoe from twisting. These key design features promote stability that a trail shoe can’t match.
It’s noteworthy to mention that trail running shoes like the Hoka Speedgoat 5 aren’t necessarily unstable. There’s still a certain level of stability a shoe must have for rugged terrain. But running stability is very different from golf stability. A stable running shoe helps keep the foot in a neutral position while a stable golf shoe focuses more on caging and using the powerful downward and lateral movements of the lower body in the golf swing.
Round 3: Traction
A quick glance at the bottom of both shoes offers a glimmer of hope for the Speedgoat 5. If anything, the rubber lugs seem like they’ll at least provide some grip. The traction test was admittedly the most competitive of the bunch but the adidas CodeChaos 22 emerged superior. Not that the Speedgoat 5 didn’t land a few punches. Its traction performed pretty darned well, all things considered.
You’ll notice that the CodeChaos 22 has far more traction lugs than the Hoka Speedgoat 5, which does make a difference.
The number of lugs isn’t the only thing that matters, though. Their shape and size matter nearly as much. The CodeChaos 22 features multiple shapes and sizes of lugs oriented in all different directions. As well, different portions of the sole feature varying lug designs. This provides complete coverage whether you’re moving left, right, up or down. The Speedgoat 5, on the other hand, has only one lug size and type.
The easiest way to picture the difference is to look at tire treads. Some tires feature symmetrical patterns (similar to the Speedgoat 5) and others feature asymmetrical patterns (like the Codechaos 22). Any guess as to which type of tire is best in slippery conditions?
While the symmetrical pattern on the Speedgoat 5 provides some traction, the high-performance asymmetrical pattern of the CodeChaos 22 provides better all-around grip. The Speedgoat 5 performed well in dry conditions but the minute moisture was introduced, its traction was compromised. The adidas Codechaos 22 held firm in both wet and dry conditions.
Round 4: Elements
Surprised the Hoka Speedgoat 5 lasted until Round 4? At this point, the fight is over. If there was a proverbial knockout blow, it was this category. The Speedgoat 5 features a mostly mesh upper with some TPU overlays near the toe for durability. That said, the shoe is far from waterproof or even water resistant, for that matter. Water permeates its mesh membrane with ease which means you’re stuck with wet socks for the entirety of your round.
The CodeChaos 22’s mesh body is encased in a plastic layer that makes it extremely water-resistant. Not only will the CodeChaos 22 keep your feet dry but the water-resistant TPU layer makes it easier to clean, too.
By Unanimous Decision
If you haven’t pieced it together by now, here’s the verdict: the adidas CodeChaos 22 is a far superior option than the Hoka Speedgoat 5. This toe-to-toe bout made it very clear to me, as I hope it did you, that trail running shoes lack some of the key “ingredients” that make a golf shoe a golf shoe.
Are there trail running shoes out there that may perform better? I’m not sure. At this point, though, I’m willing to conclude that if you value stability, traction and a shoe that handles the elements … stick with a spikeless golf shoe.
If comfort is the only thing you need from a “golf shoe,” then you can probably get by with a trail running shoe like the Speedgoat 5. But as a product expert, I’d advise against it if your goal is to play your best.