A few years ago, Giro revived the lace-up cycling shoe with the Empire and Empire SLX shoes. Needless to say, the difference was strikingly visible in a sea of ratcheting buckles, hook-and-loop straps, and wire dials, and with the Empire SLX Reflective Shoes, Giro ensures that they're also more visible in low-light conditions. The shoes have the standard model's pro-tier stiffness and low claimed weight of 175g, but they come equipped with a reflective sheen that grabs attention while you're pedaling.
The Empire SLX is the second tier of Giro's Empire line-up. Easton's EC90 SLX2 carbon outsole is the main upgrade from regular Empire models, and it's also the culprit behind the shoe's peloton-proven efficiency. The previous iteration of Empire soles has been plenty stiff enough for the likes of Phinney and Wiggins, and this one's no different—it's just made from lighter carbon and it includes titanium hardware to make it weigh even less. It still maintains that super low stack height, which in turn keeps your feet closer to the pedals to minimize the power loss that occurs with thicker cleat plates.
The SLXs are wrapped with the same, single piece of Evofiber microfiber used in the heavier Empire models. This fabric is exceptionally lightweight and highly breathable, featuring perforations for added cooling. This contributes not only to the sleek, minimalist profile, but it also reduces weight.
The big difference when comparing the Empires to any other pro-level shoes are the laces. It may seem regressive to put laces on cycling shoes of any level, but the logic actually bears out. Consider the typical pair of hook-and-loop straps with a ratcheting buckle, which contacts the uppers in three places. Now consider the Empire's old-school laces, which contact the uppers in seven places. Which do you think provides a more adjustable, molded-to-your-foot fit?
The Empire's inimitable fit is finished off with an adjustable SuperNatural Fit Kit. It allows you to fine-tune support to where your feet need it the most. Additionally, it was constructed with X-Static fiber to keep odors at bay.