Golf shoes are golf shoes, and athletic shoes are athletic shoes, and never the twain shall meet. That line of thinking is as outdated as wooden woods and balata. The modern golf shoe must support and enable an athletic swing. In keeping with that theme, this golf shoe review will focus on a shoe that takes the athletic approach to golf seriously: the Nike FI Impact Men’s spikeless golf shoe.
The Nike Free 5.0 has been the top-selling running shoe in the U.S. for years, as well as one of the best-selling athletic shoes in general. It was a no-brainer Nike to make a cross-platform golf shoe using the same basic design as the Nike Free runner. After all, why would a shoe that proved so popular in one sport not be equally as popular in another?
Well, the possible issues with that line of thinking are obvious. The Nike Free’s brisk sales owe more to its popularity among school kids than with runners. It is a fashion statement and an icon. Also, light-weight running shoes lack the functionality and support that seasoned golfers demand from their golf shoes. Knowing all this, Nike took a chance anyway, and introduced the (also Free-Inspired) Nike TW’13, followed in 2014 by the FI Impact. Ever since, the FI Impact has achieved a reputation as one of the most comfortable golf shoes, and it remained one of the best golf shoes of 2016. It has even inspired a sequel. But, does it deserve the accolades?
Like the Nike Free, the FI Impact is meant to mimic the foot’s natural movement when in motion. Nike relied on the research its engineers conducted for the Free running shoe, and collaborated with LPGA professional golfer Suzanne Pettersen, in developing the FI Impact.
The concept is that the sole of the shoe will bend more naturally with the foot, thereby keeping it in contact with the ground longer. In principle, this allows the shoe more time to return the energy placed on it to the golfer, amplifying the explosiveness of the golf swing.
The outsole has non-conventional lugs, or traction pods, which protrude in various directions to provide lateral stability in the takeaway and through-swing. Rubber in the outsole provides extra friction, making the FI Impact even more resistant to slipping.
The ripstop mesh uppers are synthetic, breathable and waterproof. Ripstop weaving, wherein larger fibers are woven into the mesh every so often, supplies strength to the mesh fabric, while allowing it to remain flexible.
Polyurethane overlays the flexible mesh in strategic positions to shore it up in exactly the right places to support dynamic, athletic golf swings. It is this TPU overlay which, more than any other feature, gives these Nike golf shoes surprising rigidity where it’s needed while maintaining flexibility where the swing allows it.
The upper portion of the FI Impact utilizes Nike’s Dynamic Fit system. The main idea is to reduce the space between the inner portion of the upper and the foot. Nike achieved this by using its Flywire innovation. Flywire simply uses long nylon or Vectran fibers in areas where the shoe tends to flex with the motion of the foot. These fibers replace the usual layers of material to keep the shoe connected to the foot, much like the cables in a suspension bridge. Fit is improved and weight is reduced by using the minimal material.
Nike set out to make some of the lightest golf shoes available, and to further reduce weight and provide more comfort Nike chose to make the entire tongue of the FI Impact out of the same ripstop mesh that make up the upper. The midsole is made of Phylon, which is produced by heating compressed EVA pellets, which are then allowed to cool in a mold. The result is a lightweight, flexible midsole that adds cushioning and flexibility.
The Nike FI Impact was one of the first golf shoes to adapt the technology of weight saving that took the running world by storm into the game of golf. The result was one of the most comfortable golf shoes on the market, and perhaps the best golf shoe for walking the course. Making a shoe this light and breathable that is also a waterproof golf shoe was a stroke of genius. Still stylish after a few years on the market, prices of these cool golf shoes have come down from their introductory levels.
One thing to keep in mind is that these are definitely not wide golf shoes. They are meant to cinch snugly, and some golfers may find them claustrophobic by the end of a round. They also lack the heft that golfers of a certain age have grown accustomed to, and so may seem skimpy compared to traditional golf shoes. Also, being spikeless golf shoes, they inevitably lack the traction of traditional golf cleats.
The Nike FI Impact are emblematic of Nike golf shoes in general. They are heavy with technology, but they are light in weight. In fact, they are some of the lightest golf shoes on the market still today. Maneuvering technology from one sport to another is an idea that is fraught with peril. However, Nike hit on a winning idea in transferring running tech to golf. The motion of the foot in running is very similar to the way it moves in a round of golf. Let’s face it, you’re not swinging the entire time.
The fact that you walk, on average, three to six miles when you leave the cart at the clubhouse, means that comfort is paramount in all your gear. Consider the distraction of aching feet when, on the 18th green, you have a putt to beat your own best score. It is then, at the end of the round, that the investments we make in well-fitting equipment that is suited to our own game make a real difference.
That is where the Nike FI Impact shines — It continued to be recognized as one of the best golf shoes of 2016 for a reason. It is not a wide golf shoe, but it is meant to fit like a glove. Sometimes, golf shoe reviews that focus on the comfort of all do a disservice to the many. For most golfers, these Nike golf shoes fit perfectly. They are snug without being tight, and they are comfortable without being loose. They are waterproof, but they don’t make feet pour sweat, the definition of cool golf shoes. And they are flexible in the extreme while still providing the utmost in support. If you can find a pair in your size, and you have a need for the lightest of golf shoes, the Nike FI Impact may be the best spikeless golf shoe at any price.