In my early years as a cyclist in Memphis, Tenn., summer time was a sequence of rides that ended with my feet feeling like they were on fire. Something about black shoes, leather, humidity like a cigar humidor, and egg-cooking heat conspired to broil my feet. I’d get off the bike eager to remove my shoes.
It would be years before I understood the term “hot spot” for the simple reason that there wasn’t any one spot on my feet that burned; it was as if the bottom of my feet were removed and shoved into a pizza oven. Simple holes in a shoe didn’t seem to make a difference.
Ever since, I’ve thought that someone should do something to create a shoe with superior ventilation, which is to say I mostly chuckle as the various vents engineered into cycling shoe soles. A couple dozen perforations in the upper and a few openings in the sole of the shoe might help keep me comfortable here in Northern California, but in a place where the heat comes on like a police state, not so much.
Enter the Giro Empire E70 Knit. Knit uppers are all the rage in shoe fashion. In some cases, I don’t get it, but for any cyclist in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, the Carolinas, Tennessee or Arkansas probably ought to just order these now.
I honestly had some trouble reviewing these shoes if only for the fact that last summer never got super hot until the end of August. There came a day when I went out when it was 103. Thin socks and a quick pace and my feet were as comfortable as I can recall on a day that hot.
But even before I got to noticing how well the E70 Knit breathes, there was the reality of its fit. My experience of the knit is that it is more supple than the synthetic leathers found in most shoes. The practical importance of this is to help the shoe fit a greater variety of feet. My toes feel less crowded in this shoe than in other models from Giro.
I’ve got some runner friends who have tried some of the knit running shoes and told me they are hell for trail running because the upper is too flexible as a result of the knit; without sufficient support, their feet end up prematurely fatigued. To prevent similar problems for riders, Giro bonds the knit upper to a TPU support structure—think a skeleton.
The knit, called Xnetic, is also treated with DWR to provide some water repellency as well as reduce the chance that riding through something nasty will irrevocably stain the shoe.
I’m running across more and more shoes that are going for $300 and up. Considering this shoe has a full carbon fiber sole and only goes for $200—half of the Prolight Techlace—I won’t say it’s a bargain, but it’s a value that can’t be ignored.
Giro’s hash marks on the sole are remarkably consistent from shoe to shoe, meaning when you move cleats from an old pair to a new one, it’s easy to perfectly replicate your cleat position on the new shoes. That’s no small deal in my book.
While this shoe doesn’t come in widths, it is absolutely better at accommodating wide feet than many similarly cut shoes. One of the best reasons to consider this shoe is the wide range of sizes offered. It comes in half sizes from 39 to 47, plus 48, 49 and even a 50. Fewer than half of Giro’s shoes are available in a 50.
Final thought: If a jersey should be breathable, why not a shoe?