Chrome Lower Southside Pro SPD Sneakers
Casual SPD shoes have come a long way in recent years, going from the hiking boot style ones of a decade ago or neon kicks that could barely pass for anything but a cycling shoe, to models that only those in the know suspect hide a cleat. The tradeoff for each iteration has been a balance of riding stiffness to walking — too supple and you may experience pain around the cleat or foot arch when riding, too stiff and you end up walking like a duck. The “Pro” line from Chrome errs on the side of riding stiffness in a shoe that looks like a shoe, and after a few months on the Lower Southside Pro I’m pretty sure Chrome is on the right track.
The Lower Southside Pro has oiled leather uppers with more breathable polyester side panels and a full length, two-stage nylon plate for rigidity. If you look closely at the inset photo from Interbike showing the exploded version of what is inside the Pro level sole you’ll notice that the black nylon plate has a slight color change just in front of the cleat to allow at least some off the bike walking flexibility throughout the toe box. While not fully waterproof the shoe has proven to provide a reasonable level of protection from a splash or light rain with no mesh to allow water (or cool air) to come streaming in. The sole is thick enough to completely cover my Crank Brothers cleat, avoiding most undue wear or crunching to the cleat other than from stepping directly on debris.
I was skeptical at first when I first held the Southside Pro shoes as they’re stiff around the cleat, on a level of more typical racing shoes but not quite to the carbon sole stiff-as-steel level, typically not ideal for walking around for people who to avoid that whole walking like a duck phenomenon. It’s also immediately apparent that they’re hefty, something I’ve been critical of with most every more casual SPD shoe I’ve yet worn. After some time on the bike I’ve grown to really like the feel of the Southside Pros, with no hot spots or foot pain to speak of. I’ve used Crank Brothers Eggbeater pedals since shortly after their debut, and due to their non-existent platform and reliance on the shoe for all foot support can create some significant pain for me on rides of any distance if I use anything but “real” clipless shoes. No such problems with these shoes, they don’t feel like race shoes but they do feel rigid as you could ever want paired with the sneaker upper. Off the bike they more or less feel like walking around in cycling shoes, though the subtle flex in the toe does help to mitigate the feeling of rocking end to end across the sole. They feel great on the pedals and are comfortable enough to walk in, I do not regret wearing these to office and to lunch meetings. As for the heft, I do find it noticeable and perhaps just because I know it is true — these are heavy shoes at 1240 g for my size 12 pair. They’re a half pound heavier than my Shimano mountain bike SPD race shoes or even my insulated hiking boots, and over a pound heavier than my usual daily Adidas or Puma soccer shoes. In their defense they are exactly the same weight as my DZR Minna shoes, though I wish they could lose a bit around the middle. It can cost a lot of money to drop a half pound from your bike, just to add it back in your shoes.
Weight aside, I like these shoes and I find myself picking them up more often than not when wanting to clip in and ride around town. By proxy I end up riding nicer bikes around town more often. They’re serious feeling riding shoes in a package you can wear at the bar without feeling like a clown or getting called Lance. Chrome says to order a size smaller than usual, I find that I wear a size 12 Chrome and a size 12 in more or less everything else — it’s always best to try shoes on if you are able. Available in grey or black for $120 from your local shop or direct at www.chromebagsstore.com