1999 Alternative Spike Studies
T. A. Nikolai, Dr. J. N. Rogers III, D. E. Karcher, J. A. Hardy, and
Dr. P. E. Rieke
Department of Crop and Soil Sciences
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48824
(Revised 27 October 1999)


Alternative spikes have become anything but alternative as the majority of golf courses in the United States have banned 8mm metal spikes. Benefits of banning the metal spike include considerably less damage to the putting surface and infrastructure. It has also been commonly accepted that alternative spikes are more forgiving on the legs and lower-back after a round of golf. However, it is also regarded as fact that the 8mm metal spike still produced the best traction during the golf swing and when traversing wet slopes. To test this belief Michigan State University (MSU) conducted a survey on 13 July 1999 to determine if there are any alternative spikes on the market that produce traction that is superior or equivalent to the now banned 8mm metal spike.

1999 Traction Study

The study was conducted at the Forest Akers East Driving Range in East Lansing on July 13, 1999. Seventy volunteers from across Michigan, Indiana and Ohio took part in the survey. All participants were capable of wearing size 11 golf shoes. While signing in to participate in the survey participants were asked to NOT look at the soles of their shoes while lacing them on their feet (watch video). Afterwards, the participants began an obstacle course by lacing on a pair of golf shoes and proceeded to the tee and hit golf balls (watch video). After hitting the golf balls they were asked to rate the golf shoe for traction on a scale of 1 to 5. 1 = excellent traction, 2 = very good, 3 = good, 4 = fair, and 5 was considered poor traction. Next, the participants proceeded to traverse a dry slope, a wet slope, and then concrete. On both dry and wet slopes the participants walked up and down the slope in a method that made a large "W" (watch video). After traversing each of the stations they were asked to give the golf shoe a traction rating using the identical scale. The volunteers repeated the course wearing nineteen different pair of golf shoes (Table 1) with different soles or spikes inserted into each shoe.

A pair of Foot-Joy Classic golf shoes with no spike inserted into them was included to provide a control treatment. If these leather-soled smooth bottomed golf shoes were not regarded as providing the worst traction than the study would have little merit. Fortunately, these check pair of shoes were considered to supply the worst traction compared to any other treatment in the survey (except on dry flat pavement).
Table 1. Golf Spike/Cleat Treatment List and Key for 1999 Traction Study.
Treatment No.
8 mm metal
Foot Joy Dry Joys
DJ 8mm
Big Foot
Foot Joy Classics
FJC bf
Etonic Difference 2000
ETNC dtl
Foot Joy Classics
Black Widow
Foot Joy Classics Dry
FJC* bw
Softspike XP
Foot Joy Dry Joys
Etonic Difference
Etonic diff
Waffle Spikes
Nike Zoom Air
Softspike XP
Foot Joy Soft Joys 
Softspike XP
Foot Joy Turf Masters
Green Keepers
Foot Joy Dry Joys
DJ gk
Foot Joy Dry Joys
DJ gs
Comfort Cleat
AW dnt
Tred-Lite MT
DUN tl
Etonic Difference 2000
Etonic dwt
Black Widow
Foot Joy Classics
FJC bw
Softspike XP
Foot Joy Classics
FJC ssxp
Softspike XT
Foot Joy Classics
FJC ssxt
Etonic Difference 2000
ETNC dbw


The survey data from this study fall into a class of data called "ordinal data" because the possible outcomes have a natural ranking to them. These ordinal data were analyzed using a proportional odds model. This model predicts the probability of a given shoe/spike treatment to be ranked into a certain category. The probability distribution for each shoe/spike treatment (5 probabilities, one for each rating category) have a least-squared mean and standard error associated with it, making treatment separation possible with a chi-square test.

Data regarding traction during the golf swing is presented in Figure 1. Shoes/spike treatments sharing a letter are not significantly different (alpha = 0.05). A pair of Dry Joys with the 8mm metal spike inserted into them received the highest percentage of excellent ratings. There were four other treatments that provided statistically equal traction as Dry Joys with 8mm metal spikes. Those four treatments were The Etonic Difference with factory standard DSS-1 cleats, a pair of Foot Joy Classic Drys with the Black Widow spikes, a pair of Foot Joy Classics with the Big Foot cleat, and a pair of Dry Joys with GreenKeepers inserted into their sole. At the other end of the scale were the check pair of shoes with nearly 50% of the participants giving the check shoes a rating of poor and another 33% rating the shoe as fair. No other product performed statistically as poor as the check pair of shoes. A pair of Dunlops with theTred-Lite MT spike received the lowest traction ratings during the swing among shoes with spike inserts. However, nearly 60% of the participants rated the traction as either "Excellent or "Very Good" with another 26% rating the traction as "Good". There were 10 other shoe/spike treatments that had statistically equal traction as the Dunlops with the Tred-Lite MT spike.

Data regarding traction while traversing a dry slope is summarized in Figure 2. Once again the 8mm metal spike received the highest percentage of "Excellent" ratings with the GreenKeepers inserted into a pair of Dry Joys and the Black Widow inserted in Foot Joy Classic Drys providing traction statistically equivalent to the 8mm spike. The check shoe received unacceptable ratings in excess of 71% of the time, significantly more than all other shoe/spike treatments.

Data regarding traction while traversing a wet slope is given in Figure 3. Under these conditions the 8mm metal spike provided traction that none of the alternatives could equal and the check shoes received their worst traction rating with over 80% of the participants rating them as unacceptable.

Traction results while traversing dry flat concrete are presented in Figure 4. The Nike Zoom Air with the Waffle spike, Etonic Difference with DSS-1 spike, GreenKeepers inserted in the Dry Joys, and Big Foot cleats inserted in the Foot Joy Classics received the highest ratings. At the other end of the scale was the 8mm metal spike receiving an unacceptable rating over 50% of the time. No other treatment performed statistically as poorly as the 8mm metal spike under these conditions.

Overall the alternative spikes performed satisfactorily. In no particular order the GreenKeepers inserted into a pair of Dry Joys, the Black Widow inserted in Foot Joy Classic Drys, Big Foot inserted into Foot Joy Classics, and the Etonic Difference with the DSS-1 spike yielded stability results on turf mimicking that of the 8mm metal spike. It is noteworthy that some of the participants in the survey mentioned that it was difficult to rate the shoes for traction while ignoring the differences in comfort among the different pairs of shoes. However, the results indicate they did a good job of ignoring the comfort dilemma. This is most evident when considering that the check, a pair of Foot Joy Classics with no spikes, consistently performed the worst on turf while the Big Foot cleats that performed equal to the 8mm metal spike was also inserted into Foot Joy Classics. In closing, it was reported by the PGA that in April of 1999 the majority of golfers wore alternative spikes during a tournament for the first time in PGA history.


While there was distinct separation between spikes with regards to traction, this does not necessarily translate to the best spike for the putting greens. A long term wear experiment on a putting green is necessary to fully assess the suitability of each spike.  MSU attempted this study in 1999, but methodology mistakes made results unrealistic, and therefore not reported.   Future MSU studies will continue to evaluate new spike/soles regarding traction and wear, as well as determine effects of specific turfgrass cultural practices on alternative spikes.