Full disclosure: Somehow, the people at Chrome got the impression that I was actually a legitimate blogger, and I wound up on their PR person's mailing list. So when I started this crazy multi-shoe shootout, I dropped said PR person a line and said hey, could you comp me some shoes? (in a Bill Murray/Caddyshack "How about a little somethin', you know, for the effort?" voice). And I'll be danged if they didn't send me these Kursks, gratis:
Unfortunately, my mutant feet are going to prevent me from completing my full, rigorous "to-the-death" testing protocol on these, but as the slight sole-schmutz indicates, I did put some miles on them. I'm going to seek out a guest reviewer/guest blogger who'll fit them better (how very Cinderfella, no?) for a more complete abusing.
So, my wordy mini-review. First, the look: It's pretty obvious that these were meant to ape (and improve on) the iconic Converse Chuck Taylor. Same basic sneaker style, updated with different materials and a bit of Chrome hipster/skater/way-too-cool-for-old-fart-Iowa-bloggers aesthetic. I asked for something "subtle" (since I intended to wear them in a corporate cube) and got the Knight Rider colorway shown above -- not bad. There's also an all-black Darth Vader colorway, plus brown, grey, red, blue, green, and (gulp) pink. They're a little logo'ed out, but nowhere near the NASCAR-feet look of a full-blown cycling shoe.
As for the fit: The Chrome-folk suggested a 9.5 when I told them I wear a Converse 10, and that should have been a direct hit. Lay the soles of the 9.5 against my battered Chuck 10s, and it's a darn good match. The catch, though, is that a) I wear those wacky custom orthotics, and b) I have feet the width of shoeboxes. In cotton Converse, no biggie... they start out snug, but the canvas gives until they're molded to my flippers. The Cordura in the Chromes, while probably insanely tough, doesn't seem to want to mold. And the super-cushy insole (which way outclasses the Converse) is NOT orthotic or wide-foot friendly. It definitely eats up some of the shoe's already limited volume.
So I busted out my thinnest wool socks and set to work. With the stock insoles, the balls of my feet felt pretty crunched. Take 'em out, plenty of space -- but no support. Add the orthotics? Crazy squeaky plastic-on-plastic contact. So I ended up using some cheap over-the-counter foam orthotics to get some support without taking up too much space.
Out on the road (finally!) I was pretty darn impressed. The sole is crazy grippy right out of the box, to the point where moving my foot on the pinned pedal meant lifting it up and putting it back down where I wanted it. The Chromes also feel noticeably lighter than Chucks while providing comparable cushioning. I'm no weight weenie, but I do like the feel of a light shoe when I have to spin it around a few thousand times. And one more tiny happy detail -- the eyelets are made out of something (maybe stainless steel?) that doesn't leave black marks on your socks. The aglets (yeah, it's a real word -- now you actually learned something from this blog) are big and made of the same stuff, which led to one nit-pick: They make a RACKET against the shoe, your chainring, and anything else that happens to be nearby when you're spinning. Definitely double-knot those laces to keep the ends short.
Still, as much as I wanted to love these, after a week of short commutes and a couple longer rides, I had to admit to myself that they didn't fit. Even just tooling around town, I got the telltale hot spot under the ball of my foot that told me my way-wide forefoot was being squashed together. Drat.
So, to summarize: Nice materials, seemingly quality construction (though I obviously didn't pummel them enough to know for sure), but not for me until they come in Wide. Hopefully, my search for a guest reviewer will find a narrow-footed tester who can really give them a going-over and report back on the long-term value proposition. They are 2x the price of Chucks (at $70 MSRP) -- a lot for made-in-China sneakers, admittedly -- but if the nicer materials can double up the lifespan, it could be a good trade.