I’ve always been wary over the notion of product endorsements and reviews. Without a doubt this stems from a lifetime of healthy cynicism and dislike I’ve had for advertising in general. Too often, people of influence leverage that influence to the highest bidder, and the trust and integrity between that person and their audience suffers. In short, people sell out. I don’t want to be that kind of person.
What matters most to me when I endorse or use a product is truth (at least the truth to be found in my honest opinion) and objectivity. I’ve partnered with Guittard Chocolate, for instance, simply because I believe they are good people that make phenomenal chocolate, and that makes me feel good about sharing that info with all of you. Which, finally, brings me to today’s post.
A while ago, I was contacted by one of Emeril Lagasse’s people, who wanted to send me a pair of kitchen shoes from his line of shoes and have me try them out. I have a lot of respect for Emeril, both as a professional and a businessman so I was open to the idea. If I liked the shoes, I was asked to say so on my social media channels. No problem! Surely, they didn’t know whom they were speaking with. I assume they thought I’d put out one of those neat, bird’s eye shots of my Emeril kicks and be done with it. Oh no. Instead I’ve worn Emeril’s kitchen shoes every day of work for nearly a year. Worn them literally right down to the sole. And I’m going to give you a solid, honest, comprehensive review of how they performed.
Other than a little overview of the shoe and its features, my review is broken down into four categories: fit/comfort, durability, aesthetics and finally, my overall buy it/don’t opinion on them.
I had my pick of which pair I’d like to try and chose The Royal. Pulled straight from the website: “The Men’s Royal is a slip-on casual twin gore sneaker that features a tumbled leather upper, a padded collar and a pull tab for easy on. These slip resistant work shoes feature the ultimate combination of cutting edge design and technology to provide top notch performance for occupational footwear. These stylish and innovative sneakers can be purchased in both regular and wide width sizes and are also available for Women.”
I always prefer a slip-on shoe because who has time for laces at work? These slip-ons have a closed heel that is a must for me (as opposed to the open heel of Dansko Clogs, which makes me feel like I’m perpetually about to fall out of them). I appreciate that the shoe comes in a wide width option, since my foot is a little wider and can get cramped in thinner shoes. The sole itself is completely flat with no heel, which I liked a lot. I’ve worn some shoes with a slight heel and some with a substantial one. While I don’t mind a slight heel, I don’t care for a substantial heel at all (again, like the Dansko clogs. Anyone who has suffered from the random, standing-still-but-still-roll-your-ankle scenario knows what I mean).
All of the Emeril shoe series emphasizes they’re slip resistance. I can’t think of slipping and falling at any point during my time wearing these things, but then again that could be a factor of common sense instead of anything the shoe is doing. Still, I felt the tread on the shoe was solid and of a material that seemed to hold well on various kitchen surfaces. I’d say they were more slip resistant than a lot of other options out there, but not so much as to be revolutionary.
The shoes also boast B.A.M. (Balanced Active Movement) technology *insert world’s biggest eye roll* which is buzz word jargon for thick memory foam in the insole. I’m no expert in terms of the shoe biz, but nothing jumped out at me as being particularly “cutting edge” or “innovative.” However, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing as the memory foam insole worked great. If they want to call it Balanced Active Movement technology, cool.
The Royal has an MSRP of $65, with the most expensive shoe in the line being $75. Personally I think this is a great price point and certainly a selling point for the shoe. If the shoes were any cheaper in price I would be a little unsure of the quality. With many top shelf kitchen shoes selling easily for twice that price (I don’t count crocs. I don’t think of crocs existing in my universe at all. No. No crocs.) I think these are really competitively priced for the quality you get.
I would like a version that has even a partial steel toe in it, just because lots of heavy and sharp sh*t falls to the floor in a kitchen and you can never be too careful. Maybe they’ll consider it for next year’s lineup…
As a chef you spend hours and hours on your feet everyday, so a kitchen shoe that’s comfortable and supportive may be the single most important feature it can have. I have to say these shoes were extremely comfortable right out of the box with literally no break in needed at all. The insert of the shoe had support, but at the same time pillowy softness. I can’t think of a single day of use, no matter how long, where my feet hurt as a result of wearing these. Some shoes actually lose a level of comfort as they get older and more worn, but even when I wore the insert literally through they still felt great. The only small critique I could think of is that the insole could have just a little more arch support, but again, I suffered no soreness from wearing these at all.
Sizing for the wide fit version seemed a half size large compared to the standard fit. That larger fitting meant some looseness in the heel, but not to the point where I felt my foot was slipping out. Again, overall these were very comfortable shoes.
The second most important trait in a shoe to me is the durability. I wear my kitchen shoes until they fall apart, and if that happens to the point that I’m buying multiple pairs a year, I’m not happy. All in all, the Royal held up really well. As I mentioned, I wore through the insole completely in a few spots. Additionally, the elastic mesh on either side of the tongue loosened – one side of one shoe more rapidly than I would have liked but it didn’t effect the fit or function. There was no visible delamination along any seems, none along the connection of the shoe to the sole and no cracking or tearing at all along the top crease of the shoe that bends when you take a step, which was especially surprising to me since that is a common problem area.
The water resistance to these is solid, with little to no seam leakage, even with heavy wear. I even hosed my shoes down once or twice while wearing them and didn’t notice extreme leaking.
All-in-all I felt these shoes held up pretty damn well given what I put them through, and certainly better than I thought they would.
Though not important in terms of function, we all want to wear things that we think look good and look good on us. This is the one area that this line of shoes fall short. Most of the shoe styles are straight up ugly. At worst, the shoes look cheap, dated, low brow and uncreative or even cliché (like the canvas varieties that look like knock-off converse), which really betrays what I feel is a good product. Although it looks like they’ve been adding on to the collection to try and create some more diversity, the majority of the “styles” look like a pair of sketchers had sex with those dumpy, cushioned, geriatric shoes. Woof.
Obviously my opinion is subjective, but I’m the one giving the review. So…
To be honest, I didn’t want to like these shoes. Anytime I see a celebrity chef branded product I instinctively assume (for better or worse) it will be crap. Maybe Emeril had a hand in this product, maybe not. I want to believe he did. Either way, I ended up liking these shoes quite a lot. They’re comfortable, durable and affordable. They aren’t the cool kid on the block, but they get the job done, and that’s what really matters in a good kitchen shoe.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive pair of shoes that don’t skimp on quality and you aren’t overly concerned about their appearance I think they’re definitely worth a shot. I’m giving The Royal my official stamp of approval. BAM!
Cheers – Chef Scott