In the perpetual circle that we call life, we're constantly confronted with the 'old' becoming 'new' as the 'new' becomes outdated. And in the instance of cycling shoes, the lace-up closure of the Giro Empire Shoes is the new now. However, this isn't to say that the Empire is a novelty -- far from it. The shoes were actually designed at the behest of the young American prodigy, Taylor Phinney, for the 2012 Giro and Summer Games.
The rationale behind the Empire is simple -- utilizing the versatile fit adjustment and low weight of laces provides the ultimate balance of comfort and power. When you think about it, no hook-and-loop or ratcheting buckle closure system can match the mathematical possibilities for a lace's volume customization. Through varying lacing patterns or tensions, you can customize the medial or lateral pull, or the tightness at the forefoot or instep, all at the same time. But, if you're anything like us, your first nagging thought concerns the laces getting caught in the drivetrain -- you're not alone. However, Giro's one step ahead of us, and accordingly, it incorporated a retaining lace garage on the tongue of the shoes. So, the retention system provides a positive conformity with the foot at a fraction of the typical weight.
And while the Empire's laces are an obvious differentiator, so are its other design features. Starting at the uppers themselves, Giro wrapped the Empire with one-piece of Tejin microfiber. This contributes to the shoes' sleek profile, but it also reduces weight while the fabric selection increases breathability. That's right, the Japanese Tejin fabric is extremely lightweight and highly breathable. Furthermore, Giro placed focused points of perforation along the Empire's sides and tongue in order to increase airflow throughout the shoe. And in case it gets a little sweaty inside, the Empire also features an X-Static footbed that's anti-microbial, anti-stink, and anti-static. The latter attribute also minimizes, if not eliminates, the ever-irritating hot spot.
Furthermore, the X-Static composition is only one part of Giro's SuperNatural Fit Footbed -- a critical component of the Empire's fit and function. This footbed takes into account the fundamental differences between a cycling footbed and a footbed for impact-sport shoes. Unlike walking, where the foot moves like a leaf spring, cycling requires the foot to act as a lever. As a result, the arch is under a high amount of stress. And to alleviate this, Giro included three different arch heights that're easily interchangeable along the undercarriage of the footbed. To additionally support the foot's lever action, the footbed features a low heel for optimal retention and a tapering density towards the toe for extra wiggle room.
Rounding out the Empire is an Easton-Giro-developed EC90 carbon fiber outsole. This outsole features an uni-directional carbon construction that boasts one of the highest stiffness-to-weight ratios on the market. Additionally, the outsole has a remarkably low stack height of only 6.5mm. This means that the distance from the foot to the pedal has been minimized. So, working together, these characteristics not only guarantee an efficient power transfer, but also a high level of comfort. Key to the outsole's design is the allowance of what Giro calls spillover. Basically, while most shoemakers wrap the carbon high over the ball of the foot, the EA90 outsole allows the ball to spill over the side. Accordingly, the Empire becomes more accommodating to your foot as it inevitably swells, or when the foot expands while you're dancing on the pedals.
The Giro Empire Shoes are available in the colors Deep Silver and Patent Black and in whole and half sizes from 39.0 to 48.0. Please note that these shoes are only compatible with standard, three-hole road cleats.
I'll be honest, I only bought the silver Empires because it matches my Bianchi L'Una. Other than that superficial aspect the features of it are pretty enticing. Yes, its light, extremely stiff and has a nice snug fit. The only downside would be its polarizing looks and the neon laces tend to show its wear (read; it gets dirty). I wish they would come up with more color choices; like a red and white. But if you had a choice between a close-out 2011-12 S-Works or these? I'd...haha, tough choice because the old S-Works plastic internal cogs tend to wear out after 4000miles. You know what; be bold and buy these retro shoes.
This is the best fitting shoe I have ever found. I am on my bike about 20 hours a week and my feet take quite a beating. I have high arches and bony feet which usually means that I have a hard time to find a shoe that doesn't rub somewhere. The laced top gives you a perfectly conforming fit through the whole foot. I have tried diadora jet racer, specialized s-works shoes, sidi genius, giro factor, and while they have been alright they all had a long break-in period. The empire on the other hand fit fantastically right out of the box. I rode a century on day 3 having the shoes.