Giro Empire Road Shoes
Giro Empire Road Shoes
Giro take us back to the future by fusing good old-fashioned shoelaces with new technology and an Easton carbon outsole on the Giro Empire Road Shoe.
I’ve previously found it difficult to find cycle shoes which fit my small, wide feet. Other lacing systems had never provided a truly comfortable fit, which led me to wonder what the big issue with traditional laces ever was. Having tried some Giro footwear at a track session a while back and not encountering any fit issues I decided to order a pair of the higher spec’d Giro Empire Road Shoe.
Out of the box, the first thing that struck me about my predominately matte black, orange heeled shoes was their style. It’s easy to see why some of the more stylish riders in the world tour have selected these shoes. The laces seem to really clean up the look of the shoes and I found myself glancing over at a pair of my football boots, noting the surprising similarity. The perforated one-piece “Premium Evofibre” upper felt good and the orange metal eyelets reinforcing the top four lace-holes was a nice touch.
Along with the shoes you get a handy bag and a spare pair of bright orange laces, which instantly swapped with the current black ones. I favour the loud look and having orange as one my club colours gave me all the excuse I needed. The Easton sole felt as stiff as carbon should, with the mounting system making my SPD cleats easy to fix.
Giro do place this system further back when compared to other brands and, while I do like having my cleats forward, it’s unlikely to bother anyone but the most extreme of positions. The next item to select was which footbed to use. Giro provide three options, yellow for flatter feet, red for higher arches and orange for somewhere in between. I selected the red and inserted it firmly using the velcro provided.
Once ready, I set about lacing them to my feet. I tied a neat bow and tucked the remaining lace under the “lace garage” – an elasticated band on the tongue. It is worth noting that this does take longer than using other lacing systems, but being used to lacing up all my other shoes I can’t say it bothered me. I’ve also developed a trick of double knotting the laces, folding this knot back then inserting the excess under the garage, keeping the look neat.
On rides where I’ve used overshoes the laced look if anything makes the combination better, with no buckles bulging through the overshoes or pressing into my feet. A drawback with using laces was that there would be no “on the fly” adjustment if they were too tight – I hoped the fit would be good enough for this not to be an issue and was glad when I found this to be true.
Riding on these shoes feels fantastic, the low stack height kept me right on top of my pedals and the small vent in the sole gave surprising amounts of air to my feet. The stiff Easton carbon makes the shoes both light and stiff – I won two fourth cat bunch sprints in these shoes, so can definitely vouch for their snappy power transfer at max efforts. The lacing kept my feet snug on these efforts and I never felt the need to have tightened them beforehand.
I’ve ridden these shoes extensively since buying and have never come close to catching the laces in a derailleur or chainring – the lace garage doing a sterling job of controlling the excess lace. After wetter rides the Evofibre cleaned easily, but did take a while to dry. On longer rides, I didn’t find any issues with foot swelling or pressure points forming in certain areas, the combination of the flat sole and the flexible upper allowing enough room to prevent any areas building up.
After a several thousand kilometres, the plastic heel pads have worn somewhat, with one of the screws holding it in place now not tightening properly. The pad still holds strong though and Giro do offer replacements, which I’m considering investing in. There are now a few scratches on the carbon sole too, but these are just cosmetic and haven’t affected the performance at all. With the Evofibre, I’ve found some superficial scratches in the more glossy heel, but the perforated matte black area still holds its shape very well indeed. It has stood the test of time well and if anything is more comfortable now that my feet have moulded it.
With an RRP in 2015 of £229.99 these shoes sit next to other range-topping offers from all the big brands. I’d argue that these shoes deserve to be there, despite looking like football boots and harking back to the old days the Empire’s are standing toe to toe on the pro scene and offer a real option to those who want a stylish yet comfortable high spec shoe. Despite the sacrifices in functionality, these shoes are some of my favourite kit at the moment. They prove that sometimes, overcomplicating aspects of design doesn’t necessarily make something better. With any future cycling shoe purchase I make, it’ll take something special to look past good old-fashioned shoelaces.
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