Road shoes have seen a bit of a renaissance over the past few years. Not only have carbon soles taken over as the standard for road shoes in the mid-range and up, but myriad retention systems outside of the typical buckle and strap system have taken over. Giro surprised us with their original Empire SLX, a lightweight all-rounder designed around laces. Comfort was top-notch for many, though some still lamented the lack of a Boa dial for quick and easy adjustability. Giro pushes the envelope once again with the new Giro Imperial
and updated Giro Empire SLX
shoes, featuring new materials, improved fit, and the brand's first dual Boal upper.
If you thought that the new Giro Imperial is essentially the brand’s Prolight Techlace with Boa dials (like I did), you would be mostly right. The core of the Imperial’s design is the Synchwire upper, reinforced with a thermal-welded Teijin TPU. Synchwire, in essence, is a layer of nonstretch mesh fabric that is geared toward malleability, conforming to the foot, and breathability, with Teijin in key areas to add support and durability. As a result, the upper is cut from one piece to create fewer seams, with the only seam found at the heel of the shoe.
Underneath, you’ll find an updated Easton EC90 SLX2 carbon sole, replaceable heel pads, and a footbed with adjustable arch support. This is complemented by two Boa IP1 dials (a first for Giro!) with soft lace guides instead of hard plastic, which they claim eliminates hot spots and comes close to laces in feel around the top of the foot.
Giro claims that the Imperial weighs in at 215 g per shoe in a size 42.5, though a low weight wasn't the brand's main concern. While the basic idea of the upper is similar to that of the Prolight Techlace, Giro claims that the updated material is structurally stiffer than the Prolights without losing any of the Prolight’s airiness or ability to conform to the foot. The upper doesn't stretch, though initial feel indicates that the upper is flexible enough to conform to different foot sizes. And compared to the previous-generation Empire SLX, the thinness of the Synchwire upper affords just a touch more room in the toebox than before, a nod to those with more generously-sized feet.
As for the Giro Empire SLX? That receives similar updates to its upper, with the only difference between the Imperial being laces instead of Boa dials. All said and done, simpler hardware brings the updated Empire SLX to a claimed weight of just 185 g per shoe in a size 42.5.
Despite the low weight of both of these shoes, Giro claims that they aren’t trying to fight for the ultralight shoe crown or the best summer shoe crown. That’s no bad thing, as we found the Prolight Techlace to be almost too light and fragile. The Imperial and Empire SLX both aim instead for a balanced, durable shoe made to last longer than other lightweight shoes from competing brands, and certainly beefed up compared to the Prolight.
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