I last talked about Giro shoes when I covered the Empire SLX as part of an article discussing shoes that did things a little bit differently. If I’m being honest, I was a little bit cautious about them. At the time, I was a fan, but they aren’t the stiffest out there, and traditional laces definitely take a bit longer than any number of more modern closure solutions. Even though I take my time to review things, and do the best I can to use things thoroughly before finishing a review, a review is still a snapshot in time. Sometimes things will shift a bit after a review is finished.
In this case, I continued to use the Giro Empire SLX, and the more I used them, the more other cycling shoes felt inferior. Everything else began to feel like a ski boot, and pretty soon, I stopped ever switching from the Giro. They were so good, I stopped even paying much attention to what other companies were releasing on the market. Then Giro decided to one up the Empire SLX with the Prolight Techlace.
Artists often start with an idea then go about executing it as best they can. During the execution, things almost always change a bit, and at the end of the first try, what you end up with is a mix of happy accidents, plan readjustments, and initial planning. It’s at this point that creators tend to start wondering what things would be like if they took some aspect of the design and really went all in on that from the beginning.
This thinking is what often takes the second version off the rails. In fact, it’s something you see pretty often with movies. A particular point is really emphasised and the imbalance will ruin the end result. The Prolight Techlace is very much a second generation where Giro took everything that was great about the Empire SLX and emphasised it to the highest level possible.
The question in my mind all along was what that would mean for the end result. Thankfully, in this case, Giro hit it out of the park. There is no second generation slump. The Prolight Techlace takes everything that’s great about the Empire SLX to the absolute extreme possible while at the same time fixing the only thing that was a slight hassle about the Empire.
Really, the whole review could be summed up with something along the lines of, “they only weigh 164.5 grams each shoe (size 44).” Just imagine the delivery to be that of an overly excited child, and you can pretty much get the picture. That would sell the Giro Prolight Techlace somewhat short, though. The story of these shoes is definitely how light they are, but along with that lightness comes other unexpected benefits.
In order to get things as light as possible, the upper is made of a technical monofilament mesh. Think of a material similar in feel to a tent. It’s exceptionally thin, doesn’t stretch, and will not deform over time. It’s also exceptionally resistant to damage from the front tire when experiencing toe overlap.
Another benefit of the lightweight design are the many vents. These are not good cold weather shoes, but they are exceptional hot weather shoes. The way I keep the closures adjusted allows me to lift my toes away from the bottom vent, and when doing so, there is so much air movement you can feel the air flowing through the shoe in a way I’ve never experienced on any other shoes. It’s extremely comfortable in the hot weather and on long rides.
The closure system is perhaps the biggest change from the Empire series of shoes, and it’s the one real fix if you compare the two shoes. Personally, I never found the laces to be a hassle, but many people did. It was the one thing that I think kept a lot of people who like to fiddle with their shoes while riding from purchasing the Empire.
The Prolight Techlace uses three hook and loop fasteners connected to laces. The system manages to combine lightweight with ease of use and comfort in a novel way that has been well thought out. Typically hook and loop makes me a bit nervous around expensive cycling clothing, so it’s a joy to see such a well thought out system where the hook and loop is designed in such a way as to be unlikely to be able to snag cycling clothes. I’m still pretty careful, but it’s clearly been thought about, and in most cases, you’ll probably emerge unscathed from an accidental contact between a jersey and the Prolight Techlace.
Beyond this concern, the hook and loop does allow adjustment of the shoes while riding. It’s still not as easy as a boa adjuster, but it’s at least possible. I mostly find that like the Empire, because the shoes feel so much like a slipper, I leave them a bit looser than I might other shoes. In thousands of miles of riding, I’ve adjusted them while riding less than 5 times.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind about the hook and loop closure system, though. When I put on the Prolight Techlace for the first time, I was worried I’d ordered the wrong size. I checked everything I could and determined that the fit was supposed to be the same as the Empire, but they seemed much bigger. Ultimately, I decided that the laces and the more rigid nature of the leather upper meant that I could tighten up the laces more.
The techlace design comes with a more finite range and overtightening would mean missing the hook and loop. I ended up having to tie a knot in the end of the laces on the top closure of the Prolight Techlace shoes. This took up some of the slack and allowed me to tighten the shoes a bit more. I leave the lower two enclosures pretty loose, so it wasn’t an issue there.
Cycling shoes are one of the places where companies have really been innovative in ways that differ from each other quite a bit. Giro has gone all in on the idea of creating an exceptionally light shoe, and for me, this is my favorite direction. The Giro Prolight Techlace is about 75 grams lighter than the Empire SLX before them, and you can see that Giro has had to fight to shave every gram they could.
Thankfully, this ultimate expression of lightweight has come with benefits rather than drawbacks, and you are left with a surprisingly durable and well ventilated shoe that is also stylish. The Giro Prolight Techlace comes in Bright Red, White, and Black and will run you $400. They also come with a few different arch support and footbed options you can play with to get the fit just right.