Even though I have had exceptionally good luck with Giro shoes I researched extensively before taking the plunge on these. I also held out for a deal. I had a pair sitting in the cart of three different online retailers off and on for four months before the pricing at Bike Tires Direct finally dropped below my “pull-the-trigger” threshold.
I’ve had other Giro shoes and have been impressed with them so my expectations were high.
Out of the box the Empire’s look serious. They come with a shoe bag and the Giro foot bed fit kit which is among the best out there. A spare set of laces lets you determine the level of flash you want. One set to match the shoes (black) and another to match the accent color (screaming yellow in my case). I am old skool. I stuck with black.
When I laced them up I was initially unimpressed. They fit okay in the X, Y and Z coordinates but they did not provide the glove-like fit I was hoping for. The uppers were on the cusp of stiff and they almost felt “clunky.” I also had to lace them up a bit tighter than I wanted to keep my heel from moving. As expected, they were remarkably light and stiff. I began logging miles right away. “Well, we’ll see” I thought to myself.
Even lacing them tight I didn’t have any red marks on the tops of my feet when I took them off. All too often with shoes that have a buckle I would take them off and there would be a red line where the top strap had been. Other times the red stripe was where the middle strap was. With laces the pressure was spread so evenly that it never bothered me.
With each wearing the shoes gradually formed to the contours of my rather normal shaped feet. I realized I didn’t have to lace them as tight as I had at first and soon I stopped thinking about them altogether. A month in and I was impressed. They just got better and better with each ride. The classic lines and simple looking upper (as opposed to a mesh and leather-like combo) make them appear deceptively low tech. Don’t be fooled.
The power transfer is impressive and flex is nonexistent. The carbon sole (Easton EC90) provides both the stiffness and vibration absorption. There are small vents in the sole under the toes covered with a metallic mesh that provide airflow. Despite only small perforations in the uppers I never have been too hot in these. Perhaps it gets back to the adage that heat comes from friction and if nothing is moving inside the shoe (because of an exceptional fit) then there isn’t any excess heat being introduced into the shoe. While I am speculating on how they keep my feet comfy in hot weather what I do know is they have never felt hot.
Like so much in cycling, what it all gets down to is fit. If a shoe fits it is comfortable and you can ride in them longer and harder. These mold to your feet over time and feel fantastic. This is where I would usually tell you that what fits me might not fit you. El Chefe has a pair of these and although his feet and mine are on the opposite ends of every spectrum there is, he is in also love with his because of the great fit. His story also involves the shoes adapting to his feet over the course of several rides.
Unless your feet are shaped so odd that gawking is a frequent occurrence - I am pretty sure that after an initial break in period you will also find them awesome.
I am lucky enough to have the lace up mountain version of these Giro shoes. Those shoes are stiff like these so while they are great for mountain biking and gravel rides the lack of flex means they are not well suited to Cyclocross racing or any hike-a-bike situations. Both of these shoes have convinced me that laces may look like a step backwards but in fact are awesome. I can’t say laces are the next big thing because they are already here so that makes them the now big thing.
Five of Five Evos!!!