I’ve been a big fan of TRUE Linkswear since the Tour debuted in 2010. The classic TRUE “way” is a minimalist, spikeless golf shoe that performs well in all sorts of weather and is comfortable and stylish.
The TRUE TL-01, introduced earlier this year, continues the old and recent tradition of delivering stylish, comfortable, minimalist shoes in all but one regard (we’ll get to that part), and is a welcome addition to the TRUE lineup, which also includes three shoes mentioned already: the Original, Major, and Knit.
How does the TL-01 stack up? How will it fit? How does it fit compared to the other TRUEs? Read on to find out…
Features, Specs, and Esthetics
The TL-01 is one of the simpler looking shoes from TRUE Linkswear. I’m far from a fashionista — I don’t even know if that’s a male form of the word or if that word even has gender-specific spellings — but the TL-01 looks like what I would call a “tennis shoe” or a “sneaker” or a “Keds” style shoe, but it’s not canvas. It’s actually full-grain Nappa leather, albeit with the same-width rubber sole, the flat (no seams) side panels, the simple stitching, and the monotone look.
The TL-01 is available in white, black, and grey. The grey and white colorways have a matching “side sole” – the side of the sole matches the color of the shoe. The black colorway has a high-contrast white “side sole.” All models have an orange-ish sole with a fairly aggressive tread if you believe the TL-01 is a street shoe, but which is moderately aggressive for a spikeless golf shoe.
The TL-01 has seams across the top, joining the tongue-toe piece to the side pieces, and a reinforced heel, but is otherwise quite austere. All colorways have a medium tan lining that feels luxurious a bit like close-cropped velvet, while the top/tongue part has the sock-fit elastic liner.
I wish I could write more about the style and esthetics of the shoe, but, well, that’s what the images are for, and it’s a pretty simple, timeless looking shoe. So, on to the tech specs!
The first thing you’ll notice is that the TL-01 is an incredibly lightweight shoe. In fact, I’d put the shoes down overnight one day, and picked up a bag the next day which had a pair of these shoes inside, and had to check to make sure both shoes were in the bag, as it felt so light. TRUE states the weight of a size 10 shoe as 8.7 ounces, touting that this is unheard of for full-grain Nappa leather, and I believe them.
The TL-01, as I just said, is full-grain Nappa leather, with zero-drop (the heel is the same height as the forefoot or toes) achieved via an EVA cushioned midsole “for natural balance and stability.” It’s “Weatheready,” meaning it’s not got a waterproof guarantee, but it’ll handle all but the worst rain and keep your tootsies dry, while also being breathable enough to keep them cool on a hot day. Though the shoe is billed as “transitioning seamlessly from the office to the links,” the sole is mildly aggressive and plenty for most golf conditions.
So, lightweight, zero drop, flexible/little support… the TL-01 checks all of the “minimalist” boxes that I enjoy, except this last one: “Neutral Width.” TRUE says that while the TL-01 is “designed around the shape of the natural foot,” the “classic silhouette” fits a standard 1E width. Huh? It’s narrower than TRUE’s other shoes. The company says it will “mold to your foot over time” (it is leather, after all), but it is a narrower shoe, and if you’re a TRUE fan, you’ll want to note this.
Finally, every TL-01 comes in a cotton reusable TRUE MFG Co. canvas bag.
Fit and Performance
First, I’m going to address the one negative, and let me emphasize two things in doing that. One, it’s one negative. Two, it’s not a negative for all. In fact, for some, it’s going to be a positive.
The TL-01 is a “neutral width” shoe. It’s narrower than most every other TRUE shoe that I’ve enjoyed throughout the years, and narrower than the current lineup of Major, Knit, and Original. In fact, here’s an image of the TL-01 next to the Original and Knit. I drew a line across the sole of the Original, and then copied (and rotated) the line across the soles of the other two shoes. You can see how the line hangs off the edge of the TL-01 a little bit.
It’s enough to be noticeable when I wear the TL-01. My feet aren’t extra-wide — I don’t have to special order shoes or anything (except a few pair of Bauer hockey skates) — but the TL-01 squeezes my forefoot just a bit. If your feet are actually wide, the TL-01 is not the shoe for you.
A few friends ended up buying the TL-01 in a half size larger to mitigate the “squeeze.” I tried this with my grey pair (the white and black are 10.5, the grey 11), but as 10.5 is the right length for me, it put the “flex point” near the toes just a hair farther out than I’d like, with too much room in front of my toes.
Finally, let me note that while I feel a bit of a slight squeeze from the TL-01, the shoe is perfectly comfortable once you begin walking around in it. Your body weight helps to slightly stretch the leather, molding the shoe to your foot as TRUE says it will. I’ve caddied 36 holes at a course nearly two-and-a-half hours from home, wearing the TL-01 the whole time and felt good when I finally took my TL-01 off at the end of a 16-hour day.
The best feature of the TL-01 is the weight (or lack thereof). As I said above, I didn’t think the bag had two shoes in it one day when I picked it up. Though you might not think a few ounces matter, consider that many people take ten thousand or more steps in a day (and if you walk eighteen holes, you’ll take almost 20,000): a few added ounces that you’ve got to lift up and swing forward with each step can really add up. There’s a reason ankle weights are still sold at fitness stores (and that many are only about a pound).
Fortunately, too, the low-weight shoes don’t seem to have any negative effects on the durability or the comfort of the shoes. Many other light-weight shoes use air pockets, thin soles, and other lightweight material that wears quickly. I can’t think of any light-weight shoes that use leather like the TL-01, which also has a reasonably thick (but zero-drop) sole and solid, durable, comfortable materials and build quality throughout. The shoe perplexingly feels incredibly solid while also being light-weight.
One of the great features of the TL-01 is the sock-fit liner. This elastic, stretchy liner forms a “cuff” around the opening to the shoe, trading a little ease in putting the shoe on for a guarantee that the tongue will never shift or slide off-center. I’ll be honest: I’ve fallen in love with using a shoehorn for the ease of use and to protect the heels of my shoes (a lot of minimalist type shoes have little structure, and you can “crush” the heels over time). The shoehorn proves itself handy in slipping your feet into the TL-01 because you can’t just pull the tongue out and give yourself a super-wide opening.
Another reason the shoehorn helps is that the soft, velvety feeling liner will “grab” your socks a bit. The shoehorn minimizes the grip on the back of my sock, so it doesn’t pull tightly against my toes. Like the TL-01’s leather, this velvety grip will soften over time, allowing for a bit less sock-tugging. The benefit, aside from the luxurious feel, is that you greatly reduce any chance of friction or rubbing, which is how you get blisters. Indeed, the TL-01 fit your foot like a glove, albeit a super light and comfortable glove that molds to you perfectly over time, and is 36-holes-in-a-day ready straight out of the box. Break-in periods? I’ve never worried about that with the old or new TRUEs.
On the course, the sole performs admirably. Unlike modern day plastic cleats, leaves and debris don’t really stick to your shoes, so you won’t have to pick off leaves that you track around the green until they annoy you enough that you pick them off. Wet grass will stick to your shoes, and reduce tread, but it also falls off by tapping a clubhead to your shoe, tapping your foot against a tee sign, your cart (if you must ride), etc. I have no complaints at all about the tread: they grip as well as any other spikeless pattern I’ve worn while not being so aggressive that they leave marks or tear up the putting green in soft conditions like some other shoes I’ve seen. You’ll still slip a little occasionally on dry, dusty hardpan, and occasionally on firmer wet fairways, but no more than you will in any other spikeless shoes. And, unlike many golf shoes, the tread is not out of place off the golf course: these shoes truly are “go anywhere, do anything” type shoes. I’ve worn them to run errands, to visit friends, to dinner, to play badminton… you name it.
When I first saw these shoes, my remark to TRUE was that they looked like great teaching shoes. You do a lot of walking, crouching/kneeling, standing, and demonstrating when you teach golf at a practice facility for 8-10 hours a day. Your shoes need to be flexible, comfortable, and lightweight. They have to be versatile, too — you might end up in a playing lesson or helping golfers hit out of greenside bunkers for four lessons in a row, and you need a shoe that can handle anything — standing, walking, playing, etc. — that you throw at it. The TL-01 is that shoe, and is my favorite teaching shoe.
Again, if your feet are super wide, look elsewhere. Look at any of TRUE’s other shoes; the TL-01 is not for you.
But, if you’re in the market for a shoe with the classic styling of the TL-01, a shoe that’s lightweight, ready for most weather you can throw at it, a shoe that is comfortable straight out of the box for a 16-hour day carrying a bag up and down the hills of Pittsburgh-area golf courses, the TL-01 may be just the ticket.
It’s timeless in appearance, peerless in weight and build, and
Still not sure? TRUE offers a “30-Day Risk-Free Trial” so you can try out the shoes and return them at no expense if they just aren’t for you. The TL-01 costs $149 and is available in grey, white, and black at the time of this review. Visit TRUE Linkswear for more.