When I began wearing Giro’s laced-up Empire shoes, invariably the first question friends would ask me was, “How do you adjust them?”
My answer: You don’t. Tie them right the first time and you won’t need to adjust them.
That’s an answer that simply won’t suffice for some folks. I wonder sometimes if the fact that I don’t tighten, loosen, tighten, loosen, tighten shoes has something to do with my foot shape, that if I crank down an adjustment system, my foot will go to sleep in 3, 2, 1. So I don’t adjust. I get it right and leave it. For that reason, I’ve loved the Empires.
But I know many riders who have a
compulsion, er, need to adjust their footwear tension on the fly. And now Giro has come up with something as brilliant as peanut butter and jelly.
The new Factor shoe features a patented new adjustment system called Techlace. Before we dive too deep into what Techlace is, let’s cover the basics.
The Factor uses the same Easton EC90 SLX2 carbon fiber sole it has been using. No changes there. The upper is built on the same last as the previous Factor and is formed from Teijin microfiber. The Supernatural footbed with the adjustable arch support is still in use. And the Factor is still, fundamentally, a three-point closure.
What’s different now is that the buckle and two Velcro straps have been replaced by a Boa and two Techlace straps. The upper closure is a Boa dial, the IP1, Boa’s most advanced closure. Turn the dial forward and it tightens. Roll it back toward you and it loosens, and then pull the dial out for full release.
Below the Boa the Factor looks to be laced, just like the Empire. The laces feed into a plastic retainer that is married to a Velcro strap, though. The top Techlace strap manages the upper two eyelets, which the lower Techlace snugs the lace in the bottom three eyelets. Because the laces end at the strap, you’ve got considerable ability to manage tension across the top of your foot.
Rather significantly, if you’re someone with a reasonably high volume or low volume foot, Giro will be providing a guide with a matrix of shoe size and lace length so that you will be able to purchase other laces so that you can make sure you have optimal Velcro positioning. Gone are the days of curb feelers—straps that extend an inch or more beyond the shoe—for guys with narrow/low volume feet. And for guys like me with potatoes for feet, you’ll be able to lengthen the laces to get the strap to reach far enough for a secure closure.
To keep your shiny shoes shiny, Giro added a coating to the inside of the heel for riders who tend to scuff their shoes against the crank arm due to pronation. The coating should keep the shoes shiny and seems to cut down on the noise that shoe rub can generate.
I’ve been riding the new Factor for the last two days and I’m impressed with them. This is a D-width shoe, but what separates it and other Giro shoes from some of the other D-width carbon-soled shoes on the market is that the sole is utterly flat. Many of Giro’s competitors build up the sole, curving it around the foot in order to gain stiffness through a more 3D shape. The upshot is that for anyone with a wider foot, that eliminates space where your foot might otherwise take advantage of the flexibility of the upper.
My experience so far with the Factor is that the fit is just a bit more snug than other Giro shoes. Instead of wearing a 41.5 as usual, I’m wearing a 42. I found that my toes were bumping up against the end of the shoe. I’m not the only journalist here at the launch who has experienced that. I’d say it’s imperative that you try these on at your IBD before purchasing them.
A size 42.5 is relatively light at 210 grams. The run in half sizes from 39 to 47, plus whole sizes from 48 to 50. They come in three colors, Vermillion/Black, Black and White/Black. You’ll be able to customize the shoes with four different color Boas and six different lace colors. It will retail for $350.
There is also a women’s version of the Factor, which has a narrower heel and a slightly lower volume upper, though is built on the same last, size-to-size. It weighs 195g (size 39) and comes in 37 to 43 in half sizes, plus 36.
The Factor is easily one of the most fit adjustable shoes on the market. Consider that the laces offer five points of adjustment that allow for the tiniest adjustments. Add to that the fact that the Boa adjusts in 1 millimeter increments, whereas the typical buckle will adjust in 3 to 4mm increments.
One other little detail that Giro let slip at this launch is that for all of you with wide/high volume feet, they are currently reworking their HV (high volume) offerings and they will increase the upper size by roughly a third to better handle the needs of people with blunter feet. Those new offerings will hit the market next spring and will include both the road and off-road versions of the Empire.
Final thought: as easily adjusted as FM radio.