Chrome Industries’ stylish street-style sneakers, the Southside 3.0 Low Pro, have been built for dyed-in-the-wool cyclists who still want to be clipped in and push the pace when on urban duties. The stiffness of the sole will keep you happy on the bike, but they’re also pretty easy to walk in, with only some slight heel slippage experienced.
The well-known and highly respected maker of rugged and hard wearing biking bags – such as the Barrage Cargo backpack – Chrome Industries also applies its durability-first approach to a range of stylish shoes for city outings.
The range understands that not all fashion tastes are the same, and consists of 10 urban-focused models. The choice on offer does not stop at the appearance, Chrome also lets you decide between SPD-compatible or flat shoes for pairing with flat pedals. I opted to put the SPD version of the low sneaker style to the test.
Chrome Southside 3.0 Low Pro (spd): construction
If your hunt for a pair of the best cycling commuter shoes is for something to wear on your cycle commute to work, then grim weather is unavoidable from time to time. Acknowledging the likelihood of this scenario, Chrome Industries has used a water-repellent material for much of the upper of the shoes. This surface is also easy to wipe clean with a damp cloth, keeping the shoes looking neat – although with the black finish used throughout, ensuring these remain looking good all year round isn’t much trouble anyway.
Down below, a rubber outsole courtesy of tyre specialist Panaracer, has been added for extra grip while off the bike.
Round the rear, a reflective horizontal stripe is included to provide a touch of visibility when riding at dawn or dusk, which are of course common conditions on a commute to and from work, especially in the winter.
At the top of the tongue there is a lace pouch for neatly tucking your laces away, but in practice it doesn’t work if you have the laces running through the top loops. The tongue simply isn’t high enough and you end up tying the knot directly above the entrance to this pouch.
Chrome Southside 3.0 Low Pro (spd): the ride (and walk)
Staying true to Chrome Industries’ rugged and durable style, the Southside Low Pros are bulletproof, very well built, and uses materials that feel a high quality. After a couple of months’ use I have no concern regarding premature wear. The only downer to this is that the Southside Low Pros are noticeably heavy to wear, though I can’t say this really made a difference to comfort on short urban outings.
What wasn’t so comfortable, though, was the fit just below the ankles, which did cut in a little. It’s the sort of thing that just needs time to soften up but isn’t so comfy to start with.
Tapping along at a tempo, I was happy with the stiffness of the shoes for keeping up a decent average pace. Accelerating away from the many, many traffic lights on my way into Cardiff, there was some noticeable flex – but nothing significant enough to cause any problems in the context. They were still plenty supportive enough for comfort, and to care about those handful of lost watts would be a little ridiculous whilst also toting a rucksack.
Breathability is reasonable too, I didn’t find I overheated on casually paced rides with bursts, as is the case with the forced re-accelerating nature of urban routes.
The low rear heel didn’t provide much support for my ankles, though. And when walking, I found my heel slipped a touch. Despite this, there’s some useful flex at the toe box and so overall I’d still say that as far as SPD shoes go, these are among the best for walking in – it’s a hard balance to get spot on!
The toe box isn’t as roomy as Shimano’s AMR (AM503) SPD MTB shoes and Fizik’s Gravita Versor Clip shoes, but not to the extent that my toes felt cramped on 20km rides.
Off the bike, I was very happy with the exceptional grip the sole provided. Even on wet slippy cobbles, the rubber proved tackier than that of dedicated mountain bike shoes – really very impressive, I had no worries about losing my grip. Overall, the shoes felt very robust and set to last, too.
Chrome Southside 3.0 Low Pro (spd): value and conclusion
Priced at £126 / $135.00, Chrome’s offering is 25 percent more expensive than its closest rival, Adidas’ SPD-compatible Velosamba Cycling Shoes.
Both look the part. Chrome’s are easier to walk in though, but Adidas’ provide greater pedalling efficiency on the bike, so the choice between them, it depends more on what you’re looking for than the price.
One of the other differentiators is that the Velosamba’s are available in a wider range of colours. The standard £100.00 / $120.00 option is offered in Navy and Cream White, while the slightly more expensive £110.00 / $130.00 vegan alternative (which contains a minimum of 25 per cent recycled content), offers five shades.
There are alternatives which, although designed specifically for off-road shredding, have proved themselves very adept at urban riding, too. Shimano’s AMR (AM503) SPD MTB shoes are really great to walk in and cost just £79.99 / $115.00 – significantly cheaper than Chrome’s or Adidas’ offerings.
Overall, the Chrome Southside 3.0 Low Pros strike a good balance between riding stiffness and walkability. It’s a very tricky one to get right, and the shortness of the heel which resulted in some heel lift when walking was the only downer.
You’re paying a bit extra for the Chrome label but you’re also benefitting from a very rugged and robustly made shoe that seems set to last.