It was a few months back that I was making the rounds at Interbike. Checking out the hot new products as well as seeing a few ideas that I simply did not understand… One company that has stood out for the last couple years though is Chrome. Until recently I knew very little about them and my mental picture was messenger bags and seat belt buckles.
Well, it turns out Chrome is making shoes as well in addition to their extremely popular bags. The new Chrome shoes take the original philosophy of premium quality materials, flawless construction and functionality from the tried and true bags and moves it down to your feet. I have been sporting a pair of the Kursk model for the past month or so and I have a few remarks to share.
My first impression, of the shoes was that they are quite vibrant. The black and red contrast along are flashy, while somehow retaining a level of discretion. I will be the first to admit that I have not really embraced the ‘hipster’ philosophy of apparel choice and these shoes fall more on the skinny jean side of the fashion world than my earth-tone heavy, preppy idea of a wardrobe. Even so… I think I can pull them off.
My past experience with the flat soled, retro-style of shoes led me to believe that they were all about fashion without any function. Well the Kursk curbs this stereotype as Chrome’s vision is slightly different. There is to say the least – a meticulous attention to detail in the making of these shoes. The material used is weatherproof Cordura which is tough, durable and reasonably waterproof fits the bill. The shoe also features a rubberized toe which helps to keep the shoe dry in the seemingly always wet West Coast. Little things make the difference in these shoes, steel enforced lace eyelets and aglets highlight the quality of the product beyond simply being a fashion statement. The shoes are built hold up to the elements and the abuse of a cyclist.
The Chrome Kursk does not visually strike me as a riding shoe. Really, other than first coming into first contact at Interbike, I would have no reason to associate them as being a riding shoe. There are a few features though that functionally beg to differ. The sole of the shoe is reinforced under the ball of your foot to eliminate the pedal hot-spot and the sole has quite a soft rubber compound creating a solid connection between rider and bike. A few other features are the ‘Lace garage’, reinforced mid-sole and a cushy heel pad. All in all, this is a shoe that shouts style while tending to the needs of a cyclist.
Riding shoes are notorious for being the most uncomfortable shoes on the planet when separated from the bike. Being well aware of this fact, Chrome’s philosophy was to make ‘tough shoes we could wear every day – not just on our bikes’ . This sounds simple enough, a shoe that I can wear on and off the bike just makes sense. The Kursk is a good attempt at this; the sole is stiff enough to provide arch support and the heel cushion adds a level of comfort over extended distances. There are a few points that I would like to point out though. First off, in striving for quality, the Cordura material is very stiff; because of this, the shoe was a bit uncomfortable off the bat and was the source of a blister or two. After a week or so of use, the initially stiff material softened up and became much more comfortable. The second issue was that the inside of the shoe beneath the insole is quite smooth while insole is rubbery and together they made a squeaking sound with each step. This was pretty annoying at first, but the sound dissipated about the same time as the Cordura broke in. Out of the box, the shoes were a little bit on the uncomfortable side. After giving them a chance though, they are quite comfortable.
The Kursk is a shoe that incorporates fashion and function like no shoe I have worn before. They are trendy with a hidden level of function and almost a nerdy amount of practicality. The shoes took a bit of time to break in and win my affection but once they did I became a convert. Chrome shoes do exactly what they are supposed to do. They are a shoe that can be worn day-to-day, on or off the bike.