The new Giro Empire lace-up road bike shoes were introduced at Eurobike and were developed with input from Taylor Phinney. The two production colors include the Deep Silver shown here and a glossy black, were shown next to a series of design studies and prototypes that were simply awesome.
The laces are a carry over from Phinney’s UCI World Cup Gold Medal winning days on the track. The Empires get borrow the super stiff sole from Giro’s top end SLX model, making their intended use time trials and other short, hard and fast efforts. But, like Phinney, I’ve been using them for long, regular rides (no races, yet) and they’re proving to be quite the all ’rounder.
Read on for actual weights, close up pics and details…
The minimal ventilation and one-piece Tejin synthetic leather upper make them a great choice for cooler temperatures. I just got these in, so look for the long term review later in the year for thoughts on how well they vent heat and sweat in the summer months. The insides use X-Static silver fibers to keep funk at bay.
The outsole is made of Easton’s top level EC90 carbon fiber and is really stiff. A small vent in front of the cleat section helps bring a bit of air in. Heel and toe pads reduce slippage when walking. The heel cup is injection molded and does a good job of grabbing my heel without being too stiff. In fact, it folds forward just enough to make foot insertion easy. That’s important because the edges of the tongue tend to roll inward, creating a ridge on the top of the foot when trying to drop your foot into the shoe from the top (ie. the normal way you put your foot in a shoe). By sliding the foot in a bit more from the rear, kind of like a slipper, it keeps the tongue flat.
The Empire includes Giro’s SuperNatural Fit footbed, which comes with three insole inserts of varying heights. The mid-height Orange is pre-installed, and I haven’t tried the others yet. They’re held in place with hook-and-loop sections on the bottom of the insole.
A small stretchy loop keeps the laces securely removed from chainrings.
The size 47 comes in at 275g per shoe, which puts these in the realm of the lighter racing shoes available. Giro’s ProLite SLX is their top of the line shoe and only drops about 20g (claimed).
Retail for the Empire is $275 and they’re available in sizes from 39 to 47 in half size increments, plus a 48. Check ’em out at Giro.com.
I wear a 47 in most brands (Shimano, Mavic, Sidi, Bontrager, Specialized, etc.) and these run true to size. When Giro first introduced shoes in 2010, the lasts were quite narrow. So much so that they simply weren’t comfortable for me. They’d promised a wider option in the future, and these may be some iteration of that as they fit really, really well.
UPDATE: Here’s Giro’s response regarding the last sizing:
“Our last has not changed since those first shoes (you) tried. The Empire is built on the same “performance fit” last as the Prolight, Factor, Trans, Code, etc…so I am guessing that (you) may simply be noticing that a laced upper has the ability to adapt to more variance in foot shape and volume than more traditional “strapped” uppers. This means that Empire may be a good option for riders who wanted a Factor or Prolight, but needed more volume in the fit.
Its worth noting that some of the other Giro shoes feature an HV fit option – which is 1 ½ sizes larger in girth than the equivalent size in our Performance Fit last (so a 42.5 HV has girth equivalent to a 44 Performance Fit shoe).”
Shoes with heavily rounded toes are hit or miss. I generally like the wider, boxier toe of Shimano’s shoes, but these seem to be pretty comfortable. I’ve ridden them on the trainer a couple times, one 2.5 hour ride and one 5.5 hour ride. No hot spots, numbness or other discomforts so far. On the first real road ride, I did have to stop and tighten the laces a couple times to get the fit just right. Laces are decidedly old school, but it’s nice being able to fine tune how tight the shoes are over each part of my foot. Pressure is evenly distributed, and there are no predefined clicks or molds that limit the adjustability. The downside is you can’t easily adjust them while on the bike, but now that I’ve sorta figured out how I like them, I don’t think it’ll be an issue.
Look for a long-term review and durability test sometime in early summer.