Dustin Johnson, currently the world’s No. 1-ranked golfer, wasn’t in Adidas Golf’s R&D room sketching Tour360 silhouettes or mixing up thermoplastic urethanes with scientists in the lab, but he did have a major influence on the company’s new Tour360 golf shoes.
The new Tour360s are being somewhat touted as Johnson’s “signature shoe” by Adidas representatives, and according to Masun Denison, Director of Footwear at Adidas Golf, Johnson’s simple instructions played a significant role in their development. When asked what he wanted to be different about the new Tour360s versus the Tour360 Boost shoes that they replace, Johnson put the reigns on Denison.
“Don’t change them,” Johnson told Denison, according to both parties.
That’s certainly not the type of freedom the director of footwear, who’s tasked with bringing a new and better golf shoe to the market, wants to hear.
For Johnson, however, that sentiment is understandable. The man they call DJ rose to the top spot in the OWGR and captured the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont — his monkey-off-the-back major championship victory — while wearing Adidas’ Tour360 Boost shoes. So, of course, he feels comfortable with those shoes, and maybe there’s a bit of sentimental value to them, although he didn’t admit to it when I asked.
Actions speak louder than words, though. While I was sitting in a conference room with Denison discussing a pair of white Tour360 Boost shoes, Johnson walked by and his face lit up as he said, “I love those shoes.” Often a man of few words, his expression said more than he ever could. Surely Johnson has worn that shoe hundreds upon hundreds of times — countless hours on the course and practice range — and he still looks at the Tour360 Boost shoe with a glimmer in his eye.
“I don’t care if it’s the best shoe in the world, if it doesn’t look good, I ain’t wearing it.”
Johnson’s fondness for the Tour360 Boost left Denison, who’s in charge of bringing a new Tour360 shoe to the market, in a difficult position. When the world No. 1 golfer loves a golf shoe, it’s wise not to change too much for the new model, or else you risk him not wearing them in competition; that’s bad for business. Denison also can’t just leave the shoe alone and market it as a new shoe; that’s a bad look, and it does little to move the company and its athletes forward.
Push the envelope, but don’t change anything were essentially Denison’s instructions. Rock, meet hard place.
So, what’d Denison do? Well, he actually changed quite a lot (as we highlighted in our tech piece on the new Tour360 shoes). But in the end, he won Johnson’s favor with the new Tour360 golf shoes. The first time Johnson laced them up in competition was at the 2017 Northern Trust where he unleashed “the drive heard round the world” in a playoff against Jordan Spieth, ultimately making birdie to win the event. Not a bad way to kick things off with the new shoe, huh?
“I really like the [new] shoes, I think they’re great,” Johnson said. “Performance wise, looks. The sole is still the same, [Denison] made ‘em a little lighter and a little softer. They just improved on the shoe from last year. I didn’t want them to change anything. They just improved pretty much on the shoe from last year.”
What kind of input did Johnson have other than “don’t change them,” though? Since they’re being touted as his signature shoes, surely he had more to say. And after a bit of prying, it turns out he did.
“We always have a couple meetings a year, an adi shoot,” Johnson explained. “Carve out some time where we sit down and talk about the product. Generally during shoots, I’ll wear the shoes. If I have feedback, I’ll give it to him.”
That story checks out. As Johnson walked off camera during an Adidas commercial shoot in Florida that I attended over the summer — after which he was firing 220-yard 6-irons that zoomed past a cameraman and at no target in particular — he walks up to Denison and says the laces on the new Tour360 shoes are too long. He said he likes to double knot the shoes, but he’d have to triple knot these to get the lace-length correct. Denison took a mental note of what the World No. 1 said, and they began discussing other parts of the shoe, all of which Johnson approved.
I later asked Denison how much he values the feedback of a Tour player, such as Dustin Johnson, and how often he really makes the changes they want.
“You know, they’re not shoe designers,” Denison says. “But they often have really good feedback that I’d never even think of. And ultimately, you want the player to be happy with the shoe and to wear the shoe. So I’d say, ‘sometimes.'”
According to Denison, Justin Rose’s sensitivity to shoe height is uncanny. Denison says if the shoe is a millimeter too high or too low, Rose calls it out. If you’ve seen Rose play golf, this doesn’t surprise you. He’s a tactician and a student of the game; certainly leading the wave of Trackman-obsessed golfers who dial in spin rates and launch angles.
Johnson, on the other hand, who says he hits a 4-iron 220 yards left-handed, seems to just… well, play golf. With that being the case, what’s his approach to providing feedback on a shoe? What’s he looking for?
“For me, if I don’t feel like I look good and I don’t feel like my shoes look good, then I might as well not even go to the golf course,” Johnson says. “I’m not gonna be comfortable, so I’m not gonna enjoy myself for the day.
“Looks are the first thing I look at. I don’t care if it’s the best shoe in the world. If it doesn’t look good, I ain’t wearing it. It’s simple for me. It could be the best performing shoe, make you hit it five yards farther or something. I’m still not gonna wear it if I don’t like the way it looks. It’s simple.”
When you’re the World No. 1, who’s also No. 2 in overall driving distance (hitting the ball 314 yards on average), I guess five yards doesn’t matter much anyway.
Since Johnson himself focuses mostly on looks with a shoe, and these are “his” shoes, let’s discuss the looks.
The new Tour360 shoes don’t look much like Tour360s of yesteryear. They look cleaner, classier, more premium with additional leather, and simply less sporty in general. Dare I say, they look more like adidas’ line of AdiPure golf shoes. Well, that’s by design.
“The new shoes combine a classic look with modern technology that have a more wide-ranging appeal,” says Denison. “[The new Tour360 shoes] close the gap between Tour360 and AdiPure; they’re less techy and more classy than ever.”
You may also notice two of the signature designs of Tour360 shoes are gone from its new release: the “bowling shoe” dual seams on the toe, and the S-Curve in the heel. After working with Tour360 shoes for about 10 years, Dension himself struggled to think of a Tour360 shoe with a clean toe box (re: minus the “bowling shoe” look). This is the first Tour360 with no seams on the toe in Denison’s recent memory, and it’s a change that he feels will bring the shoes a more wide-ranging appeal.
“Let’s put it this way,” Denison says. “No one isn’t going to buy the shoe because it has a clean toe, but plenty of people wouldn’t buy the shoe if the toe wasn’t clean.”
The same goes for the exclusion of the S-curve, according to Denison. He feels that going to a more standard heel shape will not put off any golfers, and the new heel design will do more to appeal to every golfer.
Despite aesthetic changes to the heel and toe, the new Tour360 shoe is largely unchanged from a performance standpoint. The new Tour360 wrap, made of TPU (thermoplastic urethane), has been raised slightly for more stability, but the shoes still leverage adidas’ popular Boost technology. The bridge, or “Torsion Tunnel,” that bridged the heel and toe portions of the Tour360 Boost soles for more stability are also present in the new Tour360 designs.
For Dustin Johnson, whose shoe philosophy starts with looks, the changes in the new Tour360 shoes make perfect sense; they perform about the same as the Tour360 Boost shoes, which he loved, and they look cleaner with all new colorways.
“The shoe’s good, I cant really feel any difference,” Johnson said. “Only thing that’s different is the toe is cleaner.”
For Masun Denison, who was tasked with designing a whole new shoe without actually changing anything, the changes also make perfect sense. He widened the mass appeal, cleaned up the looks, and most importantly, he made a shoe DJ could start winning golf tournaments with immediately. And that’s exactly what happened.
Note: Adidas Golf’s new Tour360 shoes are available now in three introductory colorways (White/Black, Black/White and White/Blue) and they sell for $200. According to Adidas, additional colorways will be released in 2018.