Every once in a while, you see something that makes your head snap to one side and say, “What the hell…?” SQAIRZ golf shoes are one such something.
We first saw SQAIRZ golf shoes in January at the PGA Merchandise Show Demo Day. At first glance, my occipital lobe was whispering “cross-country ski boot.” Chris Nickel, however, blurted out what my frontal, parietal and temporal lobes were all thinking.
“What the f**k are those?”
Those happen to be what may be the most unique – and quite possibly most innovative – golf shoe of 2020. SQAIRZ (pronounced squares) is the brainchild of founder and CEO Bob Winskowicz, and they are most definitely different looking. They’re also attention-getting, as today SQAIRZ is announcing a long term partnership with Hall-of-Famer Sir Nick Faldo, who is investing in the company.
“Everything can be looked at and improved, and that’s what SQAIRZ has done,” Faldo told MyGolfSpy in an exclusive interview. “They’ve invented a shoe that’s going to take shoe design and performance up a notch. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Better balance has increased club head speed and improved dispersion.”
Yep, SQAIRZ are different looking. But one man’s “different looking” is another man’s “no freaking way!” Where you fall depends on whether you look at golf shoes as a fashion accessory or as an integral part of your equipment.
“Since 2009, the golf shoe has gone backward,” says Winskowicz. “That started with ECCO and it was all about comfort. Maybe back then you couldn’t get the same comfort in a spiked shoe but we’ve developed a more comfortable spiked shoe that’s also a performance-based golf shoe.”
Winskowicz – we’ll call him Bob for simplicity – clearly isn’t shy with his opinions. Depending on your point of view, his different-looking shoe is either a performance-based crusade against conventional wisdom or an exercise in tilting at windmills. Either way, SQAIRZ look the way they do for a very specific reason.
“I had a problem aligning myself,” says Bob. “I could hit the ball a ton but I couldn’t aim. But with a square toe, I can line up every shot.”
Before you cry foul, know that SQAIRZ golf shoes are fully USGA-approved.
“I started with the square toe to allow me to line up on every shot,” says Bob. “Whether it’s on the tee box, a downhill lie, a sidehill lie, on the putting green – I can line it up. From that point forward, every design feature was facilitated by the square toe.”
Specifically, the square toe makes SQAIRZ’s other distinguishing feature – a wide, roomy toe box – possible.
“I got a call one day from my designers,” recalls Bob. “They said the square toe led to a wider toe box and a wider base under the ball of your foot. Because of that, your toes can sit naturally in the shoe and that provides a full range of motion.”
“It opens up a tremendous amount of design flexibility. Rounded-toe shoes have limitations.”
SQAIRZ first shoe iteration finished in the middle of the pack in our 2020 Spiked Shoes Buyer’s Guide, but our testers reported both comfort and stability improve with proper fit.
Proprioception – The Science of Feeling Right
Everyone reading this knows the feeling of a well-struck golf shot. No, I’m not talking about the smoosh of forged iron on ball. I’m talking about how you know, without even watching the ball, everything from backswing to impact to follow through was textbook. The ball has no choice but to fly true.
That, my friends, is proprioception.
In simple terms, proprioception is how we perceive the location, movement, and action of our body parts. All our sensors in muscles, tendons, joints, and even the inner ear tell us if a swing feels right or if it was a little over the top. Think of it as your own internal gyroscope. You don’t need to watch the flight of the ball – your body just knows.
Bob insists the wide toe box – and the widest sole on any golf shoe made – gives you stability, balance, and a full range of motion. And once you’re stable and balanced, proprioception takes over.
“If you angle your toes to the center of the shoe, you start losing that range of motion in the feet,” he says. “Then your feet, your ankles, everything else compensates for when you move your toes inward. The wide toe box brings everything back to a neutral position. Your toes are sitting naturally and you have a wider base under the ball of your foot by nearly two millimeters over any other shoe in the marketplace.”
Two millimeters doesn’t sound like much but our own experience indicates a noticeable difference in balance just standing still.
“If you can increase the base, you can increase the surface area of the bottom of the shoe,” says Bob. “If you can increase the surface area of the shoe and still make it look good, now you can play around with traction. You can position the cleats relative to the pressure points at the bottom of your feet and the movement of your feet.”
“Balance equals power. It’s a very important word in golf,” says Faldo. “You have to have balance before you start the swing. You can’t find your balance in the swing, can you? If you haven’t got balance at the start, you won’t have it at the finish.”
Comfort, of course, is always a concern, especially if you have wide feet. The square toe box does provide plenty of room compared to a conventional shoe since it’s not pinching your toes inward. Bob says the lacing system (small dabs of silicone are added to the laces to hold them in place), along with the fully gusseted tongue and the heel stabilizer, provide balance and stability for any width of foot in the same model.
Traction, Spikes, and Distance
Did you catch that study published late last year on spiked versus spikeless shoes?
It was conducted by Top 100 teaching pro Eric Alpenfels and UNC-Greensboro kinesiology Professor Dr. Bob Christina and the results are startling. Simply stated, the study says spikeless shoes are costing you yards, consistency and accuracy. Specifically, lower handicappers gained three yards of carry off the tee wearing spiked shoes while higher handicappers gained six. Level and downhill-lie 6-iron shots provided similar results, with low handicappers gaining about three yards, high handicappers around five. That’s the difference between the middle of the green and the front bunker.
Florida Physio, a TPI-certified golf performance and physical therapy center, conducted a less formal experiment. That study found testers gaining as much as 15 yards wearing spiked shoes compared to spikeless.
“The injustice manufacturers have done to golf footwear is amazing,” says Bob. “Sixty-five percent of the market is controlled by global sneaker companies. They think lightweight is good for you. They think spikeless is good for you. People are afraid to go out there and say, ‘Hey if you’re wearing spikeless shoes, you’re losing up to 10 to 15 yards’. People don’t want to say that but I’m prepared to say that because I know that to be true.”
The SQAIRZ traction system is, like the rest of the shoe, unique. You’ll see four red spikes and two black spikes per shoe, along with a pattern of graduated nubs and molded extensions – all in the name of ground connection.
“We’ve put the cleats right under the pressure points of the feet during the swing,” says Bob. “It makes sense since that’s where you’ll need the greatest amount of ground connection. So we highlighted those points with the red cleats and then we supplemented them with traction lugs. Those lugs are graduated right up to the top of the spike.”
“I’ve seen it with amateur golfers – they’re getting two to five miles an hour more clubhead speed,” says Faldo. “How do you do that with a pair of shoes? It’s the whole transference of power from the feet up. If you can make a balanced swing you’ll get a little bit more power, and you’ll hit it sweeter.”
A study by the Soft Spikes Advanced Research Center (yes, it’s a thing) says spikeless shoes lose 28 percent of their traction after only 20 rounds. Conversely, spiked shoes maintain their original, out-of-the-box traction level after 20 rounds while providing more traction overall. Those results should probably be taken with at least a grain of salt, however, given the name of the organization.
Spikes do need replacing, though, hence the SQAIRZ Spikes for Life program. SQAIRZ will send you free replacement spikes for as long as you own the shoes. You just pay $5.99 for shipping and handling.
“You Don’t Need a Sneaker With Nubs”
“The golf shoe is equipment that’s been relegated to an accessory and to fashion,” insists Bob. “The modern golf swing is an aggressive swing. There’s only one Freddie Couples and only one Ernie Els. The rest of us are pretty aggressive. You need some serious footwear to facilitate that kind of swing. You don’t need a sneaker with nubs.”
It may be easier to get a Tour pro to change his driver than his shoes. “It’s important to get that ground-up feedback,” says Faldo. “Once you’ve found something that works for you and has the right amount of torque – it’s not too soft, not too hard – you can walk all week.”
Footwear is just as critical for hockey players. Another Hall of Famer, Former Boston Bruin Ray Bourque, was one of SQAIRZ earliest fans.
“When I was playing, the two most important things were my stick and my skates,” Bourque tells MyGolfSpy. “It wasn’t about making money with whoever’s paying me more; it was about what felt good to me. The SQAIRZ golf shoes really lock me in heel-wise. I don’t like sloppy shoes when I play golf like I didn’t like sloppy skates. For me, I need to be locked in and I felt that the minute I put them on.”
A skater’s speed and his slap shot, a pitcher’s power, a quarterback’s arm strength are all byproducts of leg strength and ground interaction. Golf is no different.
“Where does distance come from? It’s the leg drive, it’s the push-off,” says Bob. “Golfers have been sold a bunch of crap for years with spikeless and it’s not the right thing for their game. I just don’t get it.”
A recent ARCCOS three-year study says regardless of age, gender or handicap, we normal golfers are losing distance. Correlation, of course, isn’t necessarily causation but Bob believes there are dots to be connected.
“There was no suggestion of spikeless shoes or ground connection in that study. None,” he says. “I do believe there’s been technology advancement in golf clubs over the years. But think back to 2009 when spikeless become popular with ECCO and since then around 50 percent of the shoes sold today are spikeless. I’m telling you that’s where people need to look for lost distance.”
Footwear Street Cred
Winskowicz is no Bobby-come-lately to the golf business. He served as the eastern regional sales manager for MacGregor and later as senior VP of sales and marketing for Arnold Palmer. He worked on the SQAIRZ idea for six years before going live at the PGA Show in January.
“I’ll tell you something about Arnie. He’d cut right through the marketing crap and get down to basics,” says Bob. “Every time we presented a new product to him, he’d say, ‘What’s in it for the golfer? How is this going to help him play better?’ Then he’d go out and play with it.”
As mentioned earlier, SQAIRZ finished in the middle of the pack in our 2020 Spiked Shoes Buyer’s Guide. Sizing plays a critical role in any shoe’s overall stability and comfort maybe more so for SQAIRZ. Our testers liked the wide toe box and the alignment help, but that toe box led to some sizing challenges. Bob recommends having your feet measured with a Brannock device before ordering.
I’ve worn SQAIRZ for several post-lockdown walking rounds. While comfort is not on the same level as a pair of Inesis or Skechers spikeless, SQAIRZ is on par with most spiked shoes (a good pair of inserts helps). SQAIRZ isn’t the lightest shoe going, either. They weigh about the same as the adidas Tour Boost 360 so walkers might start feeling it on the back nine of a hilly course. Sizing, again, is critical, due to the larger toe box. I normally wear a 12 but those were too big, causing a blister on the Achilles. Going down a half-size took care of that.
You can’t call SQAIRZ first shoe a home run, but it is a stand-up double. The concept is compelling and the design is well thought out and researched. There’s plenty of street cred at SQAIRZ, too. The team includes former FootJoy design director Jim Bacon, past PGA president Jim Remy, and former Golf Channel executive Dave Curran. Faldo will also be involved in future development.
It’s fair to ask if this SQAIRZ idea is so great, why didn’t adidas, NIKE or FootJoy come up with it first? Well, if there’s one thing we’ve learned at MyGolfSpy, it’s that golf innovation is a paradox. Big companies have endless buckets of cash and in-house talent. They’re also heavily invested in the status quo and risks, well, are risky. Small companies take those risks. Many miss, but every once in a while, some hit.
Callaway wasn’t on anyone’s radar in the early ’90s. Then Big Bertha knocked golf on its ass, and the rest is history. Today mainstream OEMs don’t need to take that kind of risk. If there really is something to SQAIRZ technology – and there’s compelling evidence to suggest there may be – you can bet all of Greg Norman’s money and most of your own that one of the big companies will be knocking on SQAIRZ’s door one day asking, “What’s it gonna take?”
Or they’ll copy it and let the lawyers sort it out.
SQAIRZ golf shoes are available in four colorways: white with red trim, black with red trim, gray with blue trim, and black with gray trim. They’re 100-percent waterproof and are available only on the SQAIRZ website for $199.97, which includes the Spikes for Life program.