Incredibly comfortable and supportive, stiff enough for efficient pedalling without killing your feet, breathable in warm weather and durable in horrid conditions, all wrapped up with some pretty unique styling, there’s a lot to like here.
I’ve been a real fan of Giro’s lace-up road cycling shoes for many years, and more recently its knitted versions, and I’ve been similarly impressed with the Giro Empire V70 Knit shoes. The idea of lace-up shoes is nothing new but Giro made them popular in the road cycling world but in the mountain bike world laces are already a lot more common.
You’ll probably have your closure system preferences. The laces do provide really good comfort because the pressure is spread evenly right across the top of the foot, and you have plenty of points of adjustment. If there’s a downside is that you can’t easily adjust the laces on the move, you have to stop and get off the bike. In the mud and rain, this isn’t very practical.
The knitted upper is a new concept. First seen on running trainers and brought to cycling by Giro (and Fizik too) the idea is to provide a supple upper with better breathability than regular materials uppers are made from. To support the soft knitted material there’s an exoskeleton that ensures there’s enough rigidity when stamping and stomping on the pedals.
It works too. The upper manages to be flexible and moveable to conform to your foot, with much more movement than most more rigid uppers. But it doesn’t feel at all like the upper is flexing in a negative way and costing you precious energy when riding up a long hill or sprinting for the finish of a timed stage. It’s uncanny how well it works. They are really comfortable shoes, everything from lunchtime blasts around the woods to all-day gravel rides, they haven’t been anything but luxuriously comfortable.
The fit is really good too. I have fairly regular feet, not especially narrow or wide, and generally get on well with most shoe brands. The Giros (size 45 tested) work really well for me with just the right level of snugness/space around the side and front of the toes.
Giro talks about increased breathability with the knitted upper and in some of the warmer weather, the Empire V70 Knit shoes do indeed prevent your feet overheating. But the full wrap of exoskeleton around the front of the foot ensures they’re not too chilly in this colder weather we’re currently enjoying, but they’re far from the warmest shoes. Slip on a pair of thick winter socks and you’re good though. They’re standing up well in wintery conditions and the knitted upper dries out quickly so if you get a soaking they won’t be sodden for days on end.
A novel feature is the closed stretch-knit ankle cuff. I was sceptical at first, and I’m still not convinced by the look, but it does provide good comfort in this region and the absence of a traditional tongue completely eliminates discomfort that can occur across the top of the foot. It also has the side benefit of stopping crap getting inside your shoes when you’re shredding the loam.
Underneath the shoe is a familiar (to any Giro owners) Easton EC70 carbon fibre sole with a sticky Vibram rubber outsole. It’s a stiff sole, but not the stiffest Giro has in its range, with a hint fo flex that makes them more comfortable for regular riders and non-racers who don’t really need a super stiff sole.
That slightly dialled back stiffness means they're a bit more comfortable for hike-a-bike sections. They’re not walking shoe but they’re more manageable than out-and-out super-stiff carbon race shoes that are like walking on rigid carbon planks. There are additional stud mounts if the aggressive shaped tread doesn’t provide enough grip in muddiest slop. Durability also comes from the rubber toe guard and bonded TPU heel.
Impressive comfort from the knitted upper and lace-up closure, plenty of stiffness for hard pedalling but sticky and grippy sole for hike-a-bike, and durable too. Their distinctive looks won’t be to everyone’s taste, and nor will the laces as they’re slower and more fiddly to set up and adjust, and the price is mighty (they are cheaper if you shop around), but despite those misgivings, there is a lot to like.
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