With the Giro Imperial, the American manufacturer introduces its latest high-performance racing shoe with BOA closure system and carbon sole. A game changer for all shoelace worshippers? We went to Tuscany to find out.

Today Giro Sport Design presented its brand-new road cycling shoe. Weighing in at 215 g in size 42.5, the Imperial is considerably heavier than the Prolight Techlace (150 g) but also a lot more comfortable and suitable for everyday use. A few weeks back, we packed our bags and travelled to Tuscany to test the shoe for the first time.

Giro Imperial | 283 g | € 429

The Giro Imperial in detail

If you’re familiar with Giro’s road-shoe portfolio, you probably remember the distinctive clean look and the laces. With the new Imperial, however, Giro replaces the laces with a BOA IP1 buckle to allow for quick and comfortable on the fly adjustments. An Easton EC90 SLX2 carbon-fibre plate, which now incorporates a replaceable heel pad, provides the needed stiffness and thus allows for optimum power transfer. All of these features are attached to the heart of the Imperial, Giro’s newly-developed Synchwire upper. This ultralight and very sturdy monofilament mesh undergoes a thermal welding process and allows Giro to use as few seams as possible – the Imperial only has one on the back of the heel. In combination with the flexibility of the material, Giro wants to offer the best possible fit and maximum comfort from the get-go.

The material of the new upper is thermally welded…
… at its heart is a new ultralight monofilament mesh, Giro’s proprietary Synchwire fabric
There is just one seam in the heel area of the shoe. According to Giro, this construction improves the overall comfort.

The Imperial also features a minimal amount of vent-holes. Thanks to its special properties, the thin and partly transparent Synchwire material is designed to provide a pleasant foot climate. Giro delivers its new road-shoe with an inner sole and three footbed inserts for customisable arch support to prevent excessive supination or pronation. The Imperial incorporates a “men’s performance fit” and is available in three colours in sizes 39 to 48, including half sizes from 42.5 – 45.5.

When we asked Giro Footwear’s product manager Peter Curran, why the Imperial comes with a BOA-buckle instead of traditional shoelaces, his answer was: “We created the world’s lightest production shoe two years ago with the 150g Prolight Techlace, but we wanted more,” said Giro Footwear Product Manager Peter Curran. “More adjustability, more comfort, more features that give riders the performance to get the most out of their riding, whether it’s a one hour criterium or a seven hour Grand Tour stage. While we have a reputation as the leader in laced-upper cycling shoes, we believe in choice. And the Imperial is the ultimate option for riders seeking light weight, professional-grade performance and adjustability with best-in-class comfort.”

Testing the Giro Imperial

As soon as we slip into Giro’s new race-shoes, we immediately notice the transparent Synchwire mesh. Luckily for us, we’ve got some real gems in our sock collection, which means we can send the Imperial on its maiden voyage in great style. Our test-shoe in size 46 weighs 283 g per shoe without cleat. The stiff Easton plate is made of high-modulus carbon and immediately convinces us with direct power transfer and sporty stiffness. Whilst previous models without the replaceable heel-pad made us feel a bit uneasy off the bike, the Imperial brings you extra peace of mind when walking into the cafe – the replaceable rubber pad protects both the carbon sole and your wallet, at least in the mid-run.

Even after riding across the Tuscan countryside for several hours, we cannot see or feel any pressure points on our feet. Unlike other materials, the Synchwire material hardly stretches while riding and requires only minimal adjustments on the BOA-buckle when preparing for sprints. With its fine on the-fly-micro adjustments, the popular closure system is always a very useful feature — even though some riders might prefer the look of traditional laces.

It quickly becomes clear that the Imperial, like its predecessor, suits narrower feet. Riders who have already had a positive experience with the Empire, will get the same kind of fit. Those with wider feet, on the other hand, should check with their dealer before buying.
With temperatures between 15-25 °C our feet always feel adequately ventilated, which makes the Imperial a great choice for summer riding. And if you had to unexpectedly cross a water stream on one of your rides, the Synchwire mesh does a pretty good job of keeping the water out and also dries very quickly.

Conclusions

The Imperial combines innovative materials with the well-known Giro-Fit and proven BOA IP1 closure system. Riders with narrower feet who want to combine a stiff sole with a comfortable upper, will enjoy the Imperial on their rides. The Synchwire material convinces with its snug fit and excellent drying properties. But beware, with the see-through material you have to pick your socks well!

One more thing!

Before you head to the shops to buy a new pair of laced Giro Empire, listen carefully: Together with the Imperial, Giro is also introducing the updated version of the Empire SLX. The second iteration of the Empire SLX combines the new Synchwire upper with the classic lace-model, which is so popular with fans. With a price of € 329 or USD 375 and a weight of 185 g per shoe in size 42.5, the Empire SLX is available in three colours from all authorized Giro dealers and the manufacturer’s homepage. Sizes range from 39 to 48 and include half sizes from 42.5 – 45.5.


For more information head to giro.com

Words: Benjamin Topf Photos: Benjamin Topf, Elliot Layda