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!