Contemporary meets traditional- not always a match made in heaven but with their latest Empire shoe Giro claim to have bucked the trend.
The top-of-the-range, Giro Empire shoe has been used by the likes of leading professional riders, Bradley Wiggins and Taylor Phinney and has brought an innovative and unique alternative to the traditional ratchet or Velcro strap closure systems.
Out of the box (and included shoebag) the first thing that caught my eye was the colour. Well, you cannot really miss it with my test pair coming in black and highlight yellow colour combination. It is also worth noting the Empire’s come in a range of distinctive colours to suit all tastes.
To the touch the matt black, suede-like EvoFibre material felt very durable and easy to keep clean whilst the highlight yellow added a degree of visibility, especially from behind.
I could already tell these were a set of shoes for people who like to make a statement. If they are not already bright enough for your tastes, adding the included set of fluro laces really added makes them pop.
Aesthetically these shoes are definitely different. A bit of a 'marmite' sort of shoe, you either love the ‘sports wear shoe’ look or you hate it. I, personally, was a fan of the neo-traditional stylings and was keen to get them on and see if they performed as well as they looked.
The pair I was testing was size 43.5. My previous pair of Giro shoes I had tested, the Giro Apeckx, were size 43 and felt perfect. I was therefore a bit confused as I slipped the shoe on to find they actually felt tighter than the Apeckx’s. A completely different fit, with the Empire’s feeling a lot more race orientated and offering a much narrower fit and smaller toe box than the Apeckx’s.
Lacing the Giro Empires up was a breeze. Just like pulling on a pair of trainers. Double knotting or tucking the laces into the Lace Garage area on the tongue keeps them away from the drivetrain.
I was dubious whether the lace up system would work and after a few miles I felt I needed to tighten the shoes. Unfortunately this cannot be done on the move, so a quick stop to tighten them up was required. This may not be ideal for a race situation but the more I used the shoes the more I understood the initial tightness needed.
Once tightened it was clear to see why Giro used laces for the Empire, they provided a secure and all-encompassing fit, like nothing I had felt before. In turn this prevented pressure points from occurring. The addition of laces also kept the weight down and made for a simple closure system.
For those looking for adjustability on the move, a shoe such as the Giro Factor ACC Road Shoe may be a better alternative.
Breathability is key in a high-end cycling shoe and the Giro’s did not disappoint. Although with no obvious ventilation sections the EvoFibre material the Empires are made from allow amazing breathability, keeping my feet cool and comfortable throughout my ride.
The addition of the SuperNatural Fit Kit footbed system, is customisable for the perfect fit, provided support and is a neat design intended to reduce the chances of injury. Included are 3 velcro inserts, varying from small (green) to large (red), meaning that you are able to swap easily between the differing levels of arch support.
Setting the cleats up could not be simpler, with a clear guide on the sole. Cleats on and adjusted in seconds!
Performance wise these shoes really stood out. A state of the art Easton EC90 ACC carbon fibre sole is both light and thin, keeping the stack height a mere 6.5 millimetres between the pedal and shoe to a minimum, allowing for exceptional power delivery. The Empire’s felt like you were really at one with the bike and every watt was being transferred through the pedals.
The supportive heal and stiff sole made for a true performance orientated shoe yet also felt incredibly comfortable. A durable replaceable heel and toe section keep the sole from getting scuffed and allows you to walk in the shoes without looking like you are ice skating.
Lightweight and unique, the Giro Empire road shoes are for those who like to stand out from the crowd, wear something a little different and ride a true performance driven road shoe.
I was won over by the Empire, they felt comfortable, looked great and really delivered a fantastic ride. Only the lack of adjustability on the move and race orientated fit being the only two slight negative points, but with Giro’s vast range of models on offer there are plenty of options when it comes to buying a set of road shoes.
Let us know you thoughts on the Giro Empire or if there are any products that you'd like to see us test in the comments section below.
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