Day in the life: FootJoy's Mike Foley

Decisions over design are much more fun today, says FootJoy's director of product

Andy Roberts's picture
Fri, 11 Mar 2016

Day in the life: FootJoy's Mike Foley

I'd like to think of myself as a 'sneaker head' as I've been involved with shoes my whole life.

Before life at FootJoy, I worked at Converse in basketball shoe marketing. I was mad about the sport and played it competitively. Golf, however, was a recreation of mine and when the opportunity eventually came to join the number one brand in golf footwear, I knew I'd be crazy not to join. 

As director of footwear product management at FootJoy, where I've been for 15 years now, I have a very fun job because I get to work with the design and development team on a day-to-day basis.

We come up with the product briefs for each of the projects that we are working on, and our job is to write the briefs and go through a brainstorming session with our design team to look at the type of shoe we need, whether it's a structured shoe or a mobile shoe.

In the case of our new FreeStyle shoe, it was all about mobility. The cool thing about this project was that we wanted to have a little bit of fun with it. We knew it was going to be a little more athletic.

Typically when we talk to our designers, we don't want to put out a load of bullet points, we want to give them visual cues and something that is going to get their creative juices going.

We were thinking of having flexibility, grip, and bright bold colours in the product, and so we came up with the Red Eyed Tree Frog idea.

Review: FJ FreeStyle shoe

After spending some time researching about this creature, we knew it could hold on to anything in the rainforest, regardless of the weather conditions.

Once happy with the visual inspiration the Tree Frog was set to provide us, we set our designers to work and went to town on the whole grip story, the flexibility and the bright colours. 

The creative process at FootJoy is the most fun part of my job, especially when I get to work with the most talented designers and developers in the game. These guys really make things easy for me. 

Another fun part of my job is interacting with our Tour players and obtaining instant feedback on any new shoe we're about to launch. 

As we like to say at FootJoy, we make golf shoes for every different type of player, and so there are different player needs. Some want function and performance shoes, some want a heavier, more sturdy shoe, while others want lighter and more flexible shoes.

Feedback on the new FreeStyle has been terrific, especially with the likes of Hunter Mahan and Zac Blair already wearing them on the PGA Tour. Our Tour staff just seeded 30 different shoes out to the Tour players so lots of other players will be following suit soon.

We don't tell our players what shoes to wear, it's completely their choice at the end of the day. On the flip side, for me wanting to promote the latest and greatest FJ shoes, I wish I could tell all our staff players to wear the same shoe on any given day. That would certainly make my job much easier! 

The biggest thrill for me in this job is that everything is so new and fresh in design these days - much more so than days gone by. 

I've been working at FootJoy for 15 years now and I know that 10 to 12 years ago when working with DryJoys, for example, the decisions were boring to be quite honest with you. We would be asking ourselves things such as, 'shall we go from Croc to Lizard Print?' 

Now, with golf expanding as more of an athletic endeavour and lots more players working out, it frees us up to design more stuff, have a lot more fun and become more creative. That really gets me moving. 

Designing the D.N.A. several years ago was certainly a big departure from us, and for that reason, it ranks as my favourite all-time shoe I've helped design.

The construction of it being low profile, with the cushioning and all the bells and whistles built into it, it's just such a fantastic shoe. It also came at a time when the competition was taking everything out of its shoe to make it as light as possible, while we were putting stuff in the shoe to make it more performance based.

In terms of the industry right now, I love going up against our competition. There are some great companies out there making great footwear in their own right, and that challenges us and motivates us to become even better. This is what gets us up in the mornings.

As FootJoy focuses solely on golf, however, unlike the majority of other brands, I think we're at a slight advantage in that sense. 

While I cannot let GolfMagic in to too many secrets as to what is on the horizon for FootJoy shoes, I can reveal we are working on a project that is two years ahead back home. It's going to be another very exciting launch for us when it comes around, especially on the structural side of things..