Production cycling shoes are like movies billed as “Hitchcockian thrillers.” They cause excitement, high expectations, and flashes of brilliance in preview that make you think every detail has been as expertly sculpted as the camera angles in “Psycho.” Most of them end up making as much sense as Norman Bates.
At least, that’s how it works for me.
I’ve got a foot with an arch like a war memorial, an instep higher than some treetops and the width of sheetrock. At 7 1/2 EEE, they are wider than they are long. Despite their Mini Cooper length, my feet have the volume of a Who concert. Finding a production shoe that is adjustable enough to keep them from screaming—let alone happy—requires a search befitting the “Da Vinci Code.”
While custom shoes such as those by D2 are a sure-fire solution to my particular foot problems, I remain fascinated by production shoes. After all, not everyone (cough, cough) can afford to spend $700+ on footwear. I’m intrigued by the work being done by companies to bring superior function at reasonable prices to the cycling masses.
The new Giro Factor is a prime example of why production cycling footwear deserves our interest. The cycling world has come to understand that a collapsing arch is a head-butt to pedaling efficiency. Custom-moded footbeds can solve this problem but for those who want a simpler solution, there haven’t been many options.
The most obvious parallel will be drawn between Specialized and Giro. The important difference is that no matter what arch support you need—small, medium or large—they are all included with the shoes; you needn’t purchase a set of insoles in addition to your shoes.
The arch supports attach to the insoles via a Velcro-like material, giving you the opportunity to shift the location of the support slightly, allowing you to fine-tune the fit. I used the large arch support and was surprised—nay, floored—when I actually felt support beneath my foot. That was a first for a production insole.
Construction features show a thoroughness I’ve come to expect from Giro. The insole features X-Static anti-microbial fiber to reduce the chance that your cycling shoes will smell like roadkill. The sole is manufactured from Easton’s EC90 unidirectional carbon, making it an especially thin (6.5mm), light and strong sole.
The upper is cut from Teijin microfiber, which, unlike some man-made materials does actually give a bit, allowing it to better conform to the shape of your foot for improved fit and all but eliminating pressure points. And like other ratcheting buckle systems, the closure is replaceable should the need arise. The lower two closures feature Velcro straps; I can report they are longer than most straps.
Giro claims a weight of 255g. I’d say they are on the money; my pair of 42s weighed 256g.
The only shoes in my wardrobe that are worth more than $200 are special-purpose. All three pair of ski boots (downhill, skating and back country) I own cost north of that mark and all of my cycling shoes worth remembering did too. When I think about other shoes that the Factor will compete against, the $279.99 price for these strikes me as a bargain. There are, after all, shoes out there that cost more, weigh more and feature a thicker sole, just for starters.
Did I mention the look of the Factor? In the red/white color way, it’s hands-down my favorite-looking road shoe. Ever.
I’m sorry to report you can’t purchase these shoes in time for Christmas; they’ll ship in February. I’ve been wearing mine for a month and they are absolutely the best production shoes I’ve ever worn.
Thinking back on some of the shoes I’ve worn in the past, I’m amazed at what I was willing to put up with. From eyelets that pulled through to soles so fragile I had to be careful how I walked to lasts so narrow I could have confused the footwear for climbing shoes were it not for that blessed cleat, even most good shoes really weren’t terribly great products. If I had a Wayback Machine I wouldn’t use it for cycling shoes. A Masi Gran Criterium, more likely. Or maybe a date with Brigitte Bardot. I wonder what she thinks of cyclists. I bet she’d dig these shoes.