Giro’s new range-topping Imperial shoes offer quality materials, lots of adjustability and a comfortable fit out of the box. They should prove durable, but they come at a new benchmark price point for the Californian brand.
Excellent fit and adjustability
Quality materials should prove durable
By Paul Norman
Very light, very stiff and very comfortable. The Giro Imperial could well be one of the best race shoes ever produced and that’s why it’s here on our Editor’s Choice list. Boa dials add extra practicality and better adjustment and the Easton EC90 carbon sole is as stiff as any other on the market.
Premium cycling shoe prices just seem to go up and up. Case in point, the new £375 Giro Imperial. Although not yet at the level of the Mavic Comete Ultimate shoe, it’s Giro’s most expensive option to date. What justifies its elevated price tag?
Well, for a start at 440g a pair in size 42.5, the Giro Imperial shoe is very light. Giro has opted for two Boa IP1 dials for fit adjustment. They’re Boa’s premium product and give you 1mm increments in tightening and loosening as well as quick release by lifting the dial. So you can really fine-tune the fit of the uppers easily on the fly. Giro was one of the first brands to promote a return to laces on its shoes, lowering weight but at the expense of on-the-fly adjustability.
Its Techlace system looked to overcome this, with a mix of laces and Velcro straps. That’s a system that the brand is now moving away from, preferring the simpler solution of Boas on the Giro Imperial shoe. The wire laces for each Boa cross the foot twice. This 'double-double' closure means that the laces cross the foot six times, as many as a lace-up shoe, and gives the Giro Imperial excellent pressure distribution, allowing you to ratchet it up tight if you want a really secure fit, without pressure points.
That’s coupled to fabric lace guides, rather than the more normal plastic. Again, this leads to a comfortable fit and the avoidance of pressure hot spots. So the Giro Imperial’s uppers are very comfortable and there’s no breaking in required.
The sophisticated lacing is coupled to a lightweight, super-ventilated upper material. Rather than stitching, the Giro Imperial’s uppers are bonded, so there are no seams to catch and fray. They’re made of three layers, including a non-stretch mesh. That’s very open down both sides of the shoe leading to excellent ventilation and cooling on hot rides. Another benefit: get caught in the wet and the Giro Imperial shoes will dry out quickly too.
The sole unit is an Easton EC90 SLX2 carbon number. It’s a bit heavier – about 5g – than the TeXtreme carbon unit on the Prolite Techlace. But Giro says that it’s more durable and less prone to scuffing and chipping. Although the sole on my test Giro Imperial shoes looks a bit scuffed, that’s only superficial.
And that’s despite a lot of miles since the launch event in Tuscany before Easter. There was plenty of climbing on the launch – well over 3000m over three days – and I’ve taken in some big hills since, including the 1750m Monte Grappa at the launch of the Wilier Zero SLR. Even on such a long climb, the Giro Imperial shoes have been very comfortable and the excellent power delivery hasn’t been coupled with the hot foot or cramps that some premium shoes can engender.
Giro’s Supernatural Prolight insole is both lightweight and comfortable. It’s covered in pong-preventing X-Static fabric and comes with three different swappable arch supports to match your foot shape. I’ve also been on some fast rides in very hot conditions, including the launch of the Cube C:68X aero bike, when the temperature exceeded 30C, but the Giro Imperial shoes were always comfortably cool.
Asking a premium price for its shoes, Giro wanted to ensure durability. So as well as the seam-free upper and tough sole unit, it’s included a replaceable heel bumper, letting you extend the shoe’s life if it gets worn.
All in all, the Giro Imperial is a quality, comfortable offering, helping to justify its premium price. If you prefer a lace-up, Giro has also upgraded its Empire SLX shoe, incorporating the same welded mesh uppers and sole unit, while the absence of Boa dials brings the weight down to a claimed 370g a pair in size 42.5. You can find out more about Giro's shoe range here.
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