Giro Empire SLX Shoes

Light on your feet just took on a whole new meaning.

At just 175 grams, the Giro Empire SLX shoes are breathing some pretty rarefied air. Not many shoes on the market come within 100 grams of the Empire, but it’s not giving up anything in terms of performance, either. The uppers are a single piece of Evofiber microfiber, which is highly breathable, but is also perforated for additional airflow. The shoe closes using just the laces you no doubt noticed, but those laces are specially designed to remain tied, and there’s also a lace garage on the tongue to ensure they don’t get anywhere near your drivetrain.

Those uppers are attached to an ultra-stiff Easton EC90 SLX2 Carbon Sole. This sole is among the stiffest available, and due to high grade of carbon fiber used in its construction, is also one of the slimmest, producing a stack height of just 6.5mm. A low stack height means less power lost to thick cleat plates. And, to make the Empire SLX even lighter, Giro’s opted for another old-school classic —Ti hardware. Between the uppers and the sole sits Giro’s lauded SuperNatural FitKit, the long name for its user-tunable footbed. These insoles have swappable arch support so you can tune the fit of your shoes precisely to your feet.

  • Evofiber microfiber uppers
  • Easton EC90 SLX carbon fiber sole
  • Lace-up closure
  • Titanium cleat-mounting hardware
  • SuperNatural Fit Kit with X-Static treatment
  • Reviews
  • Q & A

Great Shoe! Give it time to break in!

  • Familiarity: I've used it several times
  • Fit: Runs small

As many have mentioned the shoe does run small depending on your foot. I had to go up an entire size. Also the shoe is narrow but it does stretch a little bit. The glowing red is more of an orange color in the sun but it still looks great!! I haven't had any issues with the laces, overall a great shoe!

Awesome & SO LIGHT

  • Fit: Runs small
  • Size Bought: 39.5

SO surprised when I opened the box. I've been wearing the same tri shoes since forever......these are amazingly light.....HOWEVER THEY DO RUN SMALL !!!! My current tri shoes are Carnacs size 39 (I am a female who normally wears a 7/1/2 to 8 ladies). On hearing that these might run small I DID order up a half a size and got the 39.5, and even these are very tight. I'm sure I could have gotten the 40s and would have been ok (actually sitting here debating about whether or not I SHOULD send these back for the 40s)

Only gave 4 stars because of the ridiculous small sizing, otherwise I can't wait to wear them !

EDITED TO ADD:

I DID send them back for the size 40s. SO MUCH BETTER !!!!! IN LOVE with them. Backcountry was great about the exchange <3
Also I wasn't a fan of the bright yellow/orange so I took a permanent sharpie & made them ALL black ! Took out the laces & put lock laces in them too since I do triathlons. PERFECT !!

Awesome  & SO LIGHT

Great road shoe

  • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
  • Fit: Runs small

This shoes is great and I purchased it after getting the mountain version about a year ago. It is ultra light and the finish is great. I found that the size runs a little small and needed to size up by one full size from 43 to 44. Other than that they were great and I would buy them again without question.

How is the room in the toe box narrow or wide? I have Sidi Ergo 2 and my toes get numb after 4 hours on the bike. Are these narrow like the Sidis?

They are a bit narrow, But I wouldn't say that they are ass narrow in the toe box. These are a bit shallower from the top of the inside of the shoe to the insole though. If you have questions or need suggestions, you can reach out to me at gcelentano@backcountry.com

Get them. You won't be sorry.

  • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I used to have the Northwave Extreme Tech shoe, but in a crash I damaged the ratchet and strap. I looked around to see where I could get a replacement for those small parts...and could only find a online shop in Europe. Similar situation with my shoes before that, except the boa mechanism wore out and the part was obsolete and hard to find a replacement for. To heck with that!

I saw these SLXs on deep discount, read up on them, and swooped in before Competitive Cyclist could come to its senses. These really are fine shoes. If there was one gripe I had with the Northwaves was that on very long rides my feet would tire. These Empires come with arch supporting insoles. That, combined with the comfortable upper, made a huge difference.

Because of the laces, you can't tighten them while riding. But warm up for a few minutes, retighten, and it should be good. The laces themselves can be tucked under an elastic band to keep them from going where they shouldn't. Unlike expensive closure systems, with these shoes you need only replace laces. So something lost, something gained. But the benefits to me outweigh the drawbacks.

Something else interesting. The shoes are really smooth and narrow. A triathlete did wind tunnel testing with them and found the Empires to be 4 watts faster (12 watts at yaw) than another shoe with straps and ratchets. This also means that you can put on Velotoes shoe covers and not worry about straps poking through the rubber.

Unanswered Question

I have the original Giro Prolight SLX 43.5. Will these fit the same?

Got them today!

  • Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions
  • Fit: Runs small
  • Size Bought: 43.5

I was apprehensive about buying them due to sizing comments and not being able to try them on. Contacted the online chat and was told to size up at least 1/2 a size larger than my foot size. My size is 9 1/2 and I own Lakes 331s in 43.5 which corresponds to 9 1/2. Upon the recommendation I ordered 43.5 in Giro which corresponds to a size 10. They fit perfectly and you probably should size up by 1/2. The toes are not rubbing against the front and are simply perfect. I ordered the glowing red color which actually is a bright orange. The fit and finish is absolutely superb and the weight is like holding nothing compared to my Lakes. They are simply beautiful. After taking a short 20 mile ride I still need to make some adjustments to the position of the cleats as they seem to be more far back than Lakes. The laces do take a bit longer to lace compared to boas but it is not an issue for me. The shoe really hugs your foot and does not feel like a road shoe at all more like a slipper of some sorts. Obviously it is too early to tell about their durability but I am very very impressed by the quality so far. The shoe itself is quite narrow so if you have wide feet you may reconsider. Also you must size up by at least 1/2. I would like to thank the online assistant for letting me know about the sizing and offering a free return in case they don't fit. I usually purchase my bicycling stuff from competitive cyclist but the price as well as free 2 day delivery was not being offered at you sister site. Very happy with the purchase and experience from backcountry. You guys rock!

Great shoe for narrow feet.

  • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
  • Fit: True to size
  • Size Bought: EU 45

This is more unstructured rambling than a conherent review...

I purchased a white pair of EU45 Empire SLX shoes in August of 2015 and have used them as my primary cycling shoe until last week. In the spirit of full disclosure, it's because the upper on my left shoe is coming unglued from the carbon outsole. It's a very small bit of separation, and I've temporarily mended it with Krazy Glue... I don't baby my shoes at all, so I'm inclined to believe this is an isolated case.

In terms of sizing, I typically wear US 10.5 dress shoes or US 11/11.5 athletic shoes. My feet are 273mm (10.7") long and 99mm (3.9") wide. This translates well to the Empire SLX in EU 45 sizing with a little less than a centimeter between my big toe and the end of the toebox. In many other brands like Shimano, fi'zi:k and Gaerne I usually go with EU 44.5. I have to wear 44 in Bontrager.

The overall fit is very good. With laces I can leave the forefoot/toebox a little looser while still getting the midfoot and heel nice and tight. This is somewhat necessary because the upper is very flexible. When I bought my shoes, they came with one pair of plain footbeds and also one pair of their SuperNatural footbeds with adjustable arch support. Both are a bit too thin for my tastes. I use fully custom orthotics with my shoes, but would settle for Specialized Body Geometry SL footbeds as an off-the-shelf option. The last on the Empire SLX is very flat otherwise.

Another thing I like about the Empires is how far back cleats can be mounted. I generally like my pedal spindles to be almost a centimeter behind the balls of my feet and this isn't possible with some shoes without adapters.

In terms of accessories, the shoes came with a fancy zippered, rectangular shoe bag, one extra pair of black laces, the SuperNatural footbeds and low profile titanium cleat bolts. The black laces were appreciated because eventually my white laces started to look a bit disgusting. After 1.5 years, my white shoes have yellowed a tiny bit. It's only noticeable when the shoes are placed next to something else truly white.

Performancewise, the outsole seemed plenty stiff. I don't think I'd be able to tell a difference between the stiffness of most high-end cycling shoes. All I know is that my power comes easiest in a shoe that fits. Ventilation is good, but my feet usually aren't bothered by feeling a little hot anyway. The shoes are very easily to wipe clean of grime and grease. And yeah these shoes are very light and that's something I did notice right away.

Would I go back to these shoes? Yes, definitely. I know they work well with my feet. It's just a matter of convenience and wanting to switch things up a bit. One weird thing I learned recently while shoe shopping is that the Giro Factor Techlace feels larger despite being built on the same last.

WOW!

  • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
  • Fit: Runs small

The other reviewers pretty much nailed it: this is a REALLY comfortable shoe. Get them, you won't regret it! I used them for several training sessions on the trainer to get the cleats positioned and then wore them on a 2.5 hour ride yesterday. I thought my other shoes (Pearl Izumi Race Road IV) were comfy but these fit like a glove. The Pearl have BOA with a toe velcro strap yet feel loose by comparison. A few thoughts:
(1) Sizing is maybe 0.5 small if you go by the chart. My feet measure just under 11 1/2 on the metal gauge at a shoe store, which would be 45.5 according to the chart here. I got them in both 45.5 and 46.0. My toes just brushed the ends of the 45.5's, so I kept the 46's. I have needed 46.0's for various Pearls, so maybe it's a cycling shoe thing.
(2) Couldn't see the point of the included set of arch support insoles until I tried them, and boy do they make my feet feel at home! The medium ones work for me.
(3) The laces cleverly "stick" just enough that they don't loosen as you are doing them up. I leave the lower ones slightly loose for extra room in the toe box, and make the upper ones slightly tighter. Double knot the loops and they won't loosen as you ride.
(4) The material is thin and has lots of holes, which is great on hot days, not so much in chilly conditions. Yesterday was only mid-50's yet my toes got a bit cold. So with these shoes you may want shoe covers at temperatures where you would not need them with other cycling shoes.
The only problem with these shoes is that you have to figure out what you will do with the shoes you had before (assuming they are not worn out yet).

FYI, if your shoelaces on any shoe often untie themselves, it's because you've been tying the wrong knot all this time. Are your laces sitting vertically instead horizontally. If so, you've tied a "granny knot." The fix is reversing your starting knot so instead of left-over-right, you start right-over-left or vice-versa.

I was getting toe cramps on some longer rides, sometimes one foot, sometimes the other. So I tried replacing the medium arch support wedges with the high ones. Problem gone, and my feet feel even more comfortable. Saw a video about fitting that suggested that toe cramps might also be related to cleat placement. Moving them back shortens the lever arm of the foot and can reduce the impulse to clench the toes for better "grip". So if the problem resurfaces I may try moving the cleats.

Empire Heaven

  • Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions
  • Fit: Runs small
  • Size Bought: 43.5

So far I have taken the Empire SLX's on one 30 mile ride with plenty of climbing and wow, these shoes are amazing! I wear a 42 in Fizik and had to size up to a 43.5 in these due to the toebox being significantly narrower than my previous shoes. This meant that I had to return the first pair but thanks to Competitive Cyclist's excellent customer service, they hooked me up with a new pair right away. The shoes are extremely light, stiff, and as comfortable as everyone says. It does indeed take a little longer to get the initial fit right with the laces (obviously) but I liked the process of getting them just right before setting off anyways it's a bit like shooting film as opposed to point and shoot digital photos. The material of the uppers were flexible enough to form to my feet right away but structured enough to keep my heels locked in during standing efforts.
I also utilized the Supernatural Fit Kit as my feet have a prolonged arch, and the small insert was perfect.

If you want to ride in high performance, high class cycling shoes, look no further, your glass slipper awaits.

Back To The Future

  • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
  • Fit: Runs small
  • Size Bought: 45

Having used lace up road shoes as my first experience with cycling specific shoes in 1985, I never fathomed that fastening systems would come full circle. The biggest advantage to a lace up system, other than lighter weight, virtually no wear, easily serviceable, is the adaptation to a variety of foot shapes. That, along with the incredibly light Evofiber microfiber upper material, which features a single, non-stitched and perforated upper. All this is attached to the new EC90 SLX2 carbon outsole that use titanium cleat mounting hardware, which is stiff and light enough for even World Tour level riders.
Given that I have ridden in an Italian brand for the past 7 seasons and have always taken a size 44, I moved up a full size and gained toe box volume without compromising the rest of the fit in terms of snugness.
One side note on the overall minimalist design is that shoe covers are much easier to step into and out of without any fastening devices on the side of the shoe to snag, especially oversock styles.
I haven't had issues in lacing the shoes on and off. It may take a few moments more, but it's not any more time consuming or annoying.
Overall I'm very pleased with the fit, style and lightweight minimalist design of the new Giro Empire SLX.

Best pair of shoes yet

  • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
  • Fit: True to size
  • Size Bought: 47

I've owned a lot of road shoes over the years - Shimano, Diadora, Lake, Sidi, Northwave, Giro Prolight SLX and Empire - these are the best hands down. Super light but amazingly stiff, the upper material has been improved dramatically over the first version of the Empire, the soles are much stiffer than the Prolight, all in all a great shoe. Sure it takes a couple seconds more to tie laces than velcro or buckles but the fit is great and there are no parts to break in a crash.

Great Shoe - Very Pleased

  • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer
  • Fit: Runs small
  • Size Bought: 48

Long time Sidi Ergo user. Wanted to try something a bit more comfortable but still with a stiff sole. Giro SLX delivers. Very light weight, very comfortable. Super stiff sole, super comfortable uppers. Little to no break in required. Zero hot spots, zero discomfort after 5 hours in the saddle. 400+ miles of riding since purchase, happier every time I ride them. Easy to get a good fit and a maintain/adjust on the road. Typically a quick re-tie on a regroup is all that is necessary if a loosening occurs during the ride. They do tend to run a bit small. I needed to size up a full size (47 to 48) to achieve the fit I found comfortable.

Very nice

  • Familiarity: I've used it several times
  • Fit: Runs small
  • Size Bought: 46

I purchased these because I wanted something more comfortable. I have some Bontrager XXX's and the two ratchet straps were just to much localized pressure for my feet. Also, they never really fit my foot; I have a low volume foot and had to wear thick socks. I wore a 45 in Bontrager and the SLX are 46's. The SLX's fit my foot like a glove. The lacing system is extremely comfortable (to me). Another feature is that the bolt holes are a tad further back then some manufacturers, and I like that. Shoes are so subjective. They are very stiff, as most are in this price range. Have tried several shoes and these are by far the most comfortable. I don't care if they come a little bit loose after an hour or so. Does that really matter? I'm not a pro. Very satisfied.

Pleased overall

  • Familiarity: I've used it several times

I've got around 300 miles on these now and they truly are VERY light and comfortable. The lacing system does a very nice job of distributing pressure evenly and providing a sound fit. My only complaint is that they do loosen up a bit as you ride and of course can't be adjusted on the fly (at least not by me). The loosening is minimal and I have stopped and re-tied them but if you're racing or just like to adjust the tightness of your shoes on the bike these may not be for you. Would have rated them 5 stars otherwise. I doubt I ever use them to race but for training and day to day riding I think they're fantastic. Regarding the comments about taking them on and off I actually enjoy lacing them up, and if you can unlace a regular pair of shoes I don't think you'll have too much trouble taking them off even after the hardest of rides. I have the white and for what its worth they look extremely sharp...

Too much fuss

  • Familiarity: I returned this product before using it

This seemed like a good idea at the time, but in reality tying up a cycling shoe is just too much fuss. I tried one shoe on after receiving and knew in an instant this was not for me. I would imagine with practice one would be able to get the routine down, but I believe it would take a lot of time and practice. I returned these after slipping on a single shoe. BTW, the color is much more orange than red - it's not very striking.

Not a fan of laces

  • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I heard good reviews from the knowledgeable staff at my store as well as a friend I ride with. After riding on them 3x per week for about a month, I just can't get the laces to tighten in the same way that buckles do, they are mostly a little too loose. I like room to breathe in the lower section of the shoe and a snug fit up top, and it's hard to get that just right with laces compared to buckles. The end result is that I have to tie them a few times to get it right before riding, and with everything else I'm preparing (air in the tires, bottles, etc), it's not worth messing with.

The other side is that after a grueling ride or any ride, you just to get home and get undressed, and the extra few seconds of getting out is annoying.

The shoes are extremely light, it's a noticeable difference from anything else, and they are very high quality.

Great for what they are

  • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I wanted a light, comfortable shoe and that is what these are. The weight is unreal! So light! They basically give you free watts over any other shoe. I have narrow feet and the fit is great. I almost wish there was a little more room in the toe box though just for more room for your foot to spread under pressure. That being said, I haven't had any soreness issues even on 4+ hour rides with lots of climbing. The fit is very secure and holds your foot very well. The laces do make it take a little longer to get these on vs a buckle or wire, but that is a minor annoyance. For me, I have to tie them very tight to get them where I want them during the ride. The laces really do make them fit like a glove, all the way up and down your foot. If you like a little room in the toe box, these probably won't be your favorite. Also, if you're a big powerful sprinter, these probably aren't your best choice. I sometimes wish I could get the very top of the shoe a little more snug like I could with a ratcheting buckle, but still it's not like my foot is sloshing around. I think these would be awesome with a boa system personally, so we'll see where they go with them. I've seen many pros in the Tour riding them, so that tells you something too. Overall, they met my expectations. If you're a climber with narrow feet, I think these are perfect.

Super light, retro style

  • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I got the Empire SLX's to replace my very well-loved Sidi Genius 6.6's. I've been riding in Sidi's women's shoes for over 12 years, so I'll admit to being a little biased that they are pretty much the best-fitting and comfiest shoes on the planet. At least for my super narrow feet. However, Sidi dropped the Genius 6.6 out of its line this year, leaving the option to hop up an extra hundred dollars to the Wire Push and lose the ratchet/strap combo if I wanted the heel lock and vent carbon sole. So I decided to save 150 bucks and try out the Giros.

My thoughts so far...

Sizing: I sized down from a 42 in Sidi to a 41.5 in Giro.

Cleat Placement: The Giro cleat mounting is set farther back towards the heel than on Sidis. My cleats are set about in the middle of the Sidi grid, and had to be set all the way forward on the Giros to get the same cleat position. Not really a positive or negative, just something to keep in mind if you're switching brands.

Style: Rockin'. As a former track nerd (running, not cycling), the laces are retro cool and remind me of strapping down my spikes before a meet. Good stuff.

Sole stiffness: Super solid. Awesome power transfer to the pedals.

Weight: Feather. So ridiculously light.

Construction: TBD. So far, they're holding up well and are easy to clean, so we'll see how that pans out.

Fit: The Giros feel wider and boxier than the women's Sidis, and I have to really crank on the laces to get the shoes to feel secure. It seems like they aren't cut to angle with your foot, so there's just a lot of unnecessary fabric on the sides. (see picture for comparison). This could be extra noticeable since my previous shoes were so narrow. Also, the original laces were too stretchy and hard to cinch down, but a quick stop at the Nike outlet and $2.99 solved that problem.

Ride impressions: To be honest, I hated these shoes for the first hour I rode in them. The toe box felt weird, and they were just downright uncomfortable. They stretched/broke in pretty quickly though, didn't kill my feet on a few 3-4 hour rides, and I didn't notice them at all in the one race I've worn them for. It's still a bit of a challenge to get them tight enough, but they're getting closer to being as comfy as my Sidis and are super light on the pedals.

At this point, I think the weight and option for fun lace colors more than balances out the difference in comfort. The perforations on the upper are also surprisingly good at venting - you can feel the airflow, and my feet have stayed cool even on a couple of 100+ degree days. For now, I'm going to go with a with a "yay" on these shoes. Lots of riding ahead this summer, so I'll check back with another review if my thoughts on these change.

Super light, retro style

Hey Lindsay. Wondering if you still like your shoes since it's been 2 years since this review ? I found it interesting that you found them so big & had to make the laces very tight. I sized up and STILL had to send them back for a bigger size !! WAY too tight !! Also find it funny that the only pictures in the reviews are by us....no guys ;-)

Bad Hardware

  • Familiarity: I returned this product before using it
  • Fit: Runs small

This was to be my fourth pair of Giro shoes (two road, one dirt). It will be my last. Top of the Giro's road line shoe shipped with defective cleat hardware. Unusable. Looking for a new go-to bike shoe brand. Faen!
Update 08/03/15: done pouting. Still bummed about this shoe, but back to my dear Giro thanks to a Rapha+Giro shoe. Herregud?!