Monday, February 1, 2010

Black Suede Shoes: Review of Chrome Arnhems

Several months ago I was contacted by Chrome and asked to review a pair of shoes (my choice) from their new footwear line. This is the first review on Lovely Bicycle that was done upon manufacturer's request. In principle I am not against this practice, if the following criteria are met: (1) the product is something I could have bought for myself; (2) I like the company; and (3) it is understood that I will post an honest review even if my impression of the product is negative. I discussed this with the Chrome representative, and we agreed.

The model I chose to try were the black suede Arnhem shoes: a classic, "Chuckie-style" ankle bootie in black suede. I love suede and I love ankle boots, so the choice was a no-brainer.

Like all the other shoes in Chrome's new footwear line (4 styles in total), the Arnhems are embellished with the red Chrome logo on the side, red piping, and screaming-red soles. The look is a bit too "bike messenger chic" for what I normally wear, but I thought that if I liked the shoes I could just sharpie over all the visible red parts (sorry, Chrome!) and they would look like classic back booties - attractive, minimalist, and (hopefully) good for long, sporty rides.

However, my hopes were not realised and I never got to try the Chrome Arnhem shoes, because, tragically, they are not made in my size. I asked for a "size 7", naively expecting to get a women's 7. But the sizes are men's only, and so the 7 I received was the equivalent of a women's 9. There was nothing smaller. Turning tragedy into an opportunity to play "dress-up" with the Co-Habitant, I went to my local bike shop, Open Bicycle, and exchanged the size 7 for an 11, so that he could try the shoes instead.

I must tell you that the Co-Habitant resisted this idea. The shoes were not his style. Plus they initially felt "weird" when I coaxed him into trying on a pair (I think they have a bit of a "reverse heel"). But he did like the soft, luxurious feel of the suede, and the craftsmanship struck him as high quality. His other shoes are all falling apart. And so, hesitantly, he decided to give the Chrome Arnhems a try - the main motivator being that they would spare him, at least temporarily, from another dreaded shopping trip.

A month and a half later, he happily wears the shoes almost daily, and is making me terribly jealous with his comments about all their wonderful attributes. This is the truth, and it is quite funny that he likes them so much given that he initially refused to even put them on. Here is the break-down of his impressions:

On the bike: The Co-Habitant likes to ride his bicycles fast and he does not wear toe clips. Therefore he appreciates a shoe with a stiff, grippy sole. According to him, the Chrome Arnhem shoes take the concept of "stiff grippy sole" and enhance it exponentially. In these shoes, he feels that he is able to apply significantly more power to the pedals than in any of his other shoes, which include dress shoes, casual shoes, and workboots - all of which have soles that he thought were sufficiently stiff and grippy until he tried the Chromes. In terms of grippiness, he finds the shoes to be virtually slip-less in all but the wettest weather.

Off the bike: As far as walking goes, he says that the shoes get more comfortable over time and that, more than anything, it takes a little while to get used them. The position (angle?) in which they put his feet felt unusual to him at first, but once he got used to it, he found it comfortable. At work he sometimes has to spend 12 hour shifts mostly on his feet, and the shoes accommodate this just fine.

In Rain and Snow: One surprising thing about the Chrome Arnhem shoes, is that the suede is fairly water resistant, as well as roadsalt resistant. I thought for sure the shoes would get ruined if the Co-Habitant wore them in the snow and slush, but they seem to be doing fine. We did not treat the suede with anything, so this is how they came from the factory. A nice surprise, and it is good to have shoes that you can wear both during warm and cold seasons.

Aesthetics: The Co-Habitant likes the feel of the shoes so much, that he is willing to deal with the red soles and the logos (when his pants are rolled all the way down, only the red piping remains visible). Still, the look is not ideal. I think that Chrome should seriously consider releasing a more subdued version. This would make the shoes stylistically suitable for a greater number of cyclists. They could even be worn as dress shoes to the office - the nice suede is certainly luxurious enough. Not all of us are bike messengers or want to look like bike messengers. Just a thought!

In conclusion, Chrome Arnhem shoes are well made, great for cycling, and can be worn in the winter. The two major complaints are the limited appeal of the current "colourway", and the lack of women's sizes. The latter is pretty upsetting, given how much the Co-Habitant likes his shoes. If Chrome ever releases the Arnhems in a size to fit my women's size 7 feet, I will gladly buy a pair... And yes, I will take a sharpie to it!

21 comments:

  1. Dear Chrome: I've actually been ogling these shoes for a while now. They look really nice. This review makes them sound even nicer. There's just one thing:

    Chucks can be had in mono black. No mono black; no sale - it's that simple.

    Yes, that includes your logo. No, I don't find the Sharpie kludge acceptable. Mono . . . black. Just so we're clear here "mono" means ONLY. A universal lack of reflectivity. For the whole shoe. Well, OK, chrome grommets are fine, but that's it. And only if you really have to.

    And by the way, did you know these aren't very vegan friendly and that hipsters chics won't go out with me if I'm wearing leather shoes? They start getting all like they're holding me personally responsible for the genocide of some ethnic minority or something.

    Just sayin'.

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  2. "His other shoes are all falling apart." I'd phrase that a little differently. "He has a quiet self confidence."

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  3. kfg - How does the vegan hipster crowd react to Brooks saddles? (Chrome: please keep the suede!)

    Steve - He had a quiet self-confidence AND his shoes are falling apart!

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  4. Oh, how unexpected! Well, it is like she says, I really like these. I probably won't be wearing them for non-cycling reasons now that I've had time to get use to them, but they are indeed comfortable walking. They never hurt my feet and my most major complaints are quite minor (for example a bit of a squeal in the heal with certain materials of socks).

    But pedaling with these is like having an electric assist. Just kidding. But, yeah, pedaling with these is an altogether pleasant experience. And the rubber all-around is so useful to kick things like kickstand and hold doors open with your foot and a number of other tricks off the pedals and on. Definitely worth it unless you already have comfortable cycling shoes and are very happy with them.

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  5. Velouria; Their little heads explode in that science fiction movie robot sort of way. It's kinda cute actually, in that kitten falling off the table sort of way, but they WILL get mad at you when you point it out. What's wit dat? As I palp a leather, but non Brooks, saddle they feel free to get mad at me on base principle though.

    I am a vegetarian, and vegan sympathetic, but recognize it as the sort of extremist and dogmatic stance that inevitably leads to philosophic, not to mention pragmatic, error. Synthetic shoes/saddles = The Exxon Valdez, for instance.

    I agree, keep the suede, but offer an alternative - Vans does.

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  6. They do offer alternatives - the other 3 shoe models are canvas.

    I (mostly) don't eat meat, but it's not for moral reasons. I do eat fish, milk and egg products. And I like leather and suede goods very much, as long as they aren't treated with some horrendous contaminant.

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  7. I'm a relatively NEWBIE to bicycling, comfortably, and have been recently gifted, by my sweetheart (long time daily utilitarian bicyclist) a Dutch Swan, after he and I drooled over your Pashley Princess. He purchased for himself, a Dutch Transport. I'm now, interested in shoe ware. AND we both keep up with your site, he moreso. Thank you! Isn't this so fun? Bicycling?

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  8. "the other 3 shoe models are canvas."

    Oh, that's different. Mea Culpa.

    ". . .it's not for moral reasons."

    I am for what are essentially moral reasons, but not for any deep philosophical ones; and with no political stance attached so the idea of proselytizing is one that simply never occurs to me.

    I first deliberately wore plastic shoes so as to avoid leather back in the 60s somewhere (when leather working was cool), but I wore leather ropers today (timing is everything I guess). But then today I was hanging with computer geeks, not hipster chicks.

    It's going to take me some more getting used to being upbraided for being a vegetarian - by vegetarians.

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  9. Someone should tell those vegan chicks that propaganda works best when it is descriptive, not prescriptive. Prescriptive is too obvious and people react against it. This is why the USSR had so many dissidents and the US does not. But I better stop here : )

    Marlene - Thank you for your comment and enjoy your Swan! Pictures?

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  10. That insidious descriptive propaganda!

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  11. Messrs. Proctor and Gamble have a lot to answer for, but I better stop here. :)

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  12. The product name seemed a bit curious to me. I'm a glider pilot so the first thing that I think of when I read "Arnhem" is Operation Market Garden. I looked at the Chrome website and noticed the names of their other shoes: Midway, Saipan and Kursk. Can't wait to see the rest of the line: Dieppe, Coral Sea, Dunkirk, River Plate, El Alamein, Stalingrad, Iwo Jima...

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  13. I like but I am really in to bike messanger chic, these days and anything with an "urban but outdoors" vibe.

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  14. nowhere - I wonder how many Chrome customers get the references! But perhaps you can be a consultant for sexy product names?

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  15. I'm very thankful to the author for posting such an amazing post.

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  17. I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this article.

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  18. I suggest this site to my friends so it could be useful & informative for them also. Great effort.

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  19. great shoes! love the style and design of them.
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  20. This looks like a good choice. This also looks like a good shoe.

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  21. I love the shoes. I love the bright red accents.

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