Take a look at the footwear in my regular foursome and you’ll see everything from street to athletic to classic styles. Even though each of us has a favorite look, the one consistent thing is that all of us wear ECCO shoes.
I’m not saying that lacing up a pair of ECCOs is a pre-requisite to teeing it up with us, but those who have stepped to the tee in other brands have had to endure sideways looks and four hours of commentary about the Danish brand’s comfort, performance and style. Most newcomers find themselves in a pair of ECCOs within a few weeks. Resistance is futile!
ECCO is famous for its comfortable shoes, especially its spikeless models. In fact, the brand started the whole street shoe trend when Fred Couples showed up at the Masters a few years ago in ‘skateboarding’ shoes. Over the last couple of years, the Street EVO One and Casual Hybrid II Brogues have been my go-to ECCOs.
This year, however, I’m going in a different direction with my ECCO obsession by lacing up the brand’s cleated CAGE model. The switch really has nothing to do with needing extra traction during the wet El Nino spring, though. The molded outsoles on ECCO’s street-style shoes can more than hold their own in sloppy conditions.
Instead, I’ve been feeling a bit nostalgic for cleats. Granted, the new green-friendly plastic cleats don’t bring back the same tingly feelings as the crunchy clickity-clack of those old school metal spikes on a cart path, but nothing says “I’m ready to play” like lacing up a pair of shoes with cleats.
One look at the ECCO CAGE and it is easy to see where it got its name. The webbed design of the external heel counter not only has a distinct look, but it also helps to create a high level of stability during the swing. A unique Direct-injection Process is used to create this one-piece (yes, you heard that correctly – one-piece) cage that wraps around the heel and continues through the midsole and around the toe box for a complete loop of stability.
As pros and amateurs have been searching for more stability, ‘locked-in’ has become one of the hottest buzz phrases in golf footwear. Typically, stability comes with trade-offs. Words like heavy, rigid and uncomfortable come to mind when you think about stable golf shoes. I have a few pairs of stable golf shoes collecting dust in my garage right now, and you probably do, too.
Where the CAGE really separates itself from other stable shoes is with comfort, flexibility and lightweight materials. ECCO has essentially taken many of the features from its Hybrid range and carried them over to the CAGE. For example, the ‘Freedom Fit,’ which is also found on the brand’s Speed Hybrid, possesses a narrower, snug-fitting heel with a more spacious forefoot area. This enhances the locked-in feeling where you need it most, but at the same time, it allows the toes to comfortably spread out to create balance throughout the swing.
Adding to the stability is a lightly padded tongue that is contoured to match the shape of the foot. This, again, helps to lock the foot in place.
With the CAGE, ECCO has succeeded in creating a high performance cleated shoe that is a great walking shoe, and much of this has to do with the built-in flexibility. When creating the outsole, ECCO designers pulled inspiration from the foot’s natural structure. The result is a highly flexible anatomical outsole that aligns and moves in concert with the ligaments and muscles in the forefoot. The 8-cleat outsole is constructed from a lightweight material and it features Champ’s Slim-Lok cleat system. Slim-Lok allows the shoe to sit lower to the ground, thus creating – you guessed it – more stability.
The Caldera leather upper also feeds into the flexibility of the CAGE. It breaks in easily and gets more flexible with each round. Even though Caldera possesses a subtle feel, don’t question its toughness. Caldera is a durable, hardwearing leather that is up for the harshest conditions. As someone who almost exclusively wears white shoes on the course, I appreciate the durability and the fact that ECCO has treated it with its HYRDROMAX™ coating for water resistance. A little soap and water is all that is needed to keep the CAGE looking new, round after round.
With all of the technology that is built into the CAGE, it is easy to overlook some of the other comfort features. A special inlay sole can be slipped into the shoe to create a narrower fit, or it can be removed for added width. This is a feature that the CAGE borrowed from the Casual Hybrid II, and I’m not sure why more footwear brands haven’t caught onto this. It is a brilliant idea that benefits consumers and golf shops. Golfers who wear orthotics or who switch between thick and thin socks can do so without losing the glove-like fit. For retailers, it cures the age-old purchasing question of how many regular and wide widths should be stocked for various sizes.
From a style standpoint, the CAGE is sleek and athletic. The toe-up design is distinctly modern and the tonal colors used on the stability cage help to create a very clean look. Be aware of the rest of your look when lacing up the CAGE. This is a shoe that works best with a sporty pair of technical pants or shorts.
If you are looking for more stability out of your golf footwear this season without giving up comfort, then the ECCO CAGE should be on your must-try list. It may well be the first cleated shoe that you won’t want to take off after the 18th hole.