I never knew it and perhaps it would be best if I didn’t know it, but it appears my magpie like tendencies cover shoes as well as shiny Chris King components. This week has therefore been very exciting as not only have the much anticipated Giro shoes arrived, but on Tuesday I was lucky enough to spend twenty minutes with Simon; Giro’s Senior Product Manager and the man responsible for soft goods and shoes. So, we thought it worthwhile to take a look at the overall design ethos behind the shoes, then a look at the models themselves.
Talking with Simon, it is clear that Giro knew the main competitors – he said you only had to look at the Giro HQ changing rooms to see that the likes of Sidi and Shimano are dominant forces in the shoe world. Far from being put off by the challenge, Giro instead started from a clean sheet, designing the shoes from the ground up with the aim of producing a shoe which would challenge the big names. They started by spending a phenomenal amount of time perfecting the ‘shoe last’. The ‘last’ is the foot shape the shoe is designed around. Over a year and sixteen revisions later (and a lot of switching between two which were just 1mm different apparently), Giro came up with a design they were happy with. The ‘last’ really demonstrates the ethos behind these Giro shoes – the devil is in the detail – this attention to detail is what makes them really stand out.
Having perfected a shape, Giro teamed up with carbon experts Easton to produce the soles of the shoes across the range. With their experience and expertise, Easton were the perfect people to make the carbon soles and they’ve done a phenomenal job – the Prolight SLX and Factor Easton soles are just 6.5mm thick but stiff and light, they also have a flat sole edge which allows the foot to spill over under pressure, this is good and not something found on all shoes, some of which can be narrow.
Giro then turned their attention to the insole and footbed. Talking to Simon it became apparent that this really was a key design area for Giro, they recognised that everyone’s feet are different and they were keen to accommodate as many variations in pronation and foot shape as possible but without prescribing for anyone, their solution is pretty clever but simple.
The Prolight SLX and Factor come with the SuperNatural Fit Kit insole, this insole has three interchangeable arch profiles providing different levels of support. These Velcro onto the underside of the insole and are also available as accessories for all Giro shoes. As Simon said, the beauty of this system is most riders will probably start on the middle option, but then it is a 20 second job to experiment with the other arch supports which requires no technical knowledge. Because of the support the Giro insoles provide, they were able to make the footbed of the shoes deliberately neutral to allow riders with custom orthotics (insoles) to use these shoes – I wear carbon fibre custom orthotics and these fitted beautifully in the shoes without impacting on the overall position (height especially) of my foot within the shoe either which has been an issue with other manufacturers.
Last but not least, the upper, taking cues from the football world, Giro wanted the uppers to be as seamless as possible to avoid pressure points, rubbing and any discomfort. To achieve this the only seam is at the front, in the toe box, eliminating the seams and joins along the sides. Giro fitted an offset middle D-ring Velcro strap to further reduce the risk of pressure points and all but the top level Prolight SLX have a ratchet buckle strap for secure adjustment.
We’ve only just received the shoes and hopefully we’ll be reporting back in a few months having put some miles in – but the overall impression is very good. They look smart without being overly flashy, yet still interesting to look at. Trying them on in the office they immediately feel comfortable and the range covers most bases – so let’s take a look!
The top of the range shoe, the Prolight SLX is the no-holds-barred performance model as used and developed by Levi Leipheimer (Team Radioshack). It loses the ratchet buckle to save weight, having a third Velcro strap instead. It also has the EC90 SLX carbon sole and full titanium hardware (including titanium D-rings!) all of which makes it incredibly light. The Prolight SLX comes with both the SuperNatural fit kit insole and the Ultra-light EPP insole to save weight should you prefer that over the SuperNatural insole. Everything about the Prolight SLX screams performance, an EU44.5 shoe weighs just 229g on our office scales with the lightweight footbed, so if you’re looking for performance shoe which is truly feather-light, it’s worth a look.
The Factor sits below the Prolight SLX in terms of cost, but it has many of the features found in the Prolight SLX like the EC90 carbon sole, SuperNatural Fit kit insole, offset middle D-ring and Teijin microfibre upper which is both breathable, seamless and moulds to your foot. Unlike the Prolight SLX, the Factor has a ratchet buckle to fasten the main strap (this is also replaceable) which is slightly heavier (305g on our office scales for an EU46), but it makes it a better proposition for many thanks to the added security and comfort this provides. It too has the seamless upper design, when you put the shoe on it fits like a glove so after a few rides we expect it to bed in nicely. If you’re looking for a shoe to use in anything from century sportives to your local category races, the Factor could well be it.
The Trans sits below the Factor and features an Easton EC70 carbon composite sole, the same ratchet and offset D-ring found on the Factor, a stylish microfibre upper and a moulded EVA footbed with Giro’s medium arch support. The nice thing about the Trans is that although it doesn’t come with the SuperNatural fit kit, you can purchase it separately if you want to experiment with arch support. Our office scales put an EU46 at a very respectable 321g, so it’s not too shabby weight wise and those looks are pretty smart. The Trans doesn’t have the seamless upper of the Factor, but Giro were keen to point out that it still has only one seam on each side half way down the shoe. Although further down the range, the Trans has the same attention to detail and design of the Prolight SLX, something which we think benefits the entire range.
The Espada is the women’s specific Giro road shoe. It shares many of the same features with the Trans including the Easton EC70 sole, ratchet buckle main strap and offset middle D-ring, but it also features an EVA insole with a medium arch support designed specifically for the female foot (which has a different arch profile). The Espada also has the seamless upper design as found on the Factor and Prolight SLX to help reduce any potential pressure points or rubbing points. An EU41 weighs a respectable 270g on our office scales.
So there we go, the Giro shoe range explained! We will hopefully be reporting back in a couple of months having been able to get some miles in, so keep an eye out for that, but in the meantime let us know what you think of them. Have you got a pair? Seen them in the flesh yet? We’re always keen to hear your opinions.