The Domestique Critique: Empire of the Laces

Gorgeous cycling shoes made for women are finally here.


Long have men had the stylish options from Giro in the Empire model. Purple, orange, matte black, glossy gold. ENOUGH. While there are many women with bigger-sized feet who could borrow from the men’s line, how much do they want to be known for wearing men’s shoes? Why are women’s cycling shoes tinted with pinks and pastel purples as though we are all hopping our way to the Easter bunny? Why is it so hard to answer the demand for more style and options? Giro’s release of the Empire W ACC proves that pairing a solid-fitting cycling shoe with a striking, bold design is just smart business. They retail online for $275.00 USD.

IMG_0078 copyMy previous experience with Giro shoes was the Factress and they were on the narrow side, giving me hot spots after longer rides, or even because of weight fluctuations. Asking around, this was quite common with Giro shoes, so if you know, for sure, that you have a flat foot then I might suggest giving another shoe company a try (like Lake or Northwave). Like many people, however, your foot may go flatter when you apply pressure, losing your arch and widening in the toe box. If this is the case, then it might be time to explore the world of laces. Reason being, laced shoes offer more points along your foot for adjustment, whereas Boa systems (twist-to-tighten, cable-and-dial) typically have only two criss-crossing points and buckle systems have only one secure point with up to two Velcro additional points.

IMG_0089Giro’s Supernatural Fit Kit, which provides three different arch supports to allow some customization. Rather than build arch support into the outsole of the shoe, Giro allows you to pick the arch support that works best for you. It may take a few rides to determine your favorite. I went with the maximum arch insert, which attaches securely to the underside of the insole with Velcro, but soon changed out entirely for my custom insoles from Foot Balance. (I highly recommend going to a bike fitter to study how your feet work in action to get custom-molded insoles. You’ll thank me later.)

IMG_0086 copyThe Good

-There is no flex. You keep all the power transfer from your leg to your pedal. What you put in is what you get out, it makes climbing feel easier. EASIER I SAY.

-Giro now offers several replacement laces in various colors. You can add one more accessory to you already polished #kitstyle.

-The weight. It’s a very light shoe, and weight weenies will appreciate this.

The Bad

-They are a warmer shoe. Fewer ventilation areas along the shoe make for a sweaty foot when all is said and done.

-Not easy to make on-the-bike adjustments. If you have been pedaling along and feel you need them tighter or looser, then you’ll have to ask the group to stop while your inner 5 year old re-ties the shoes. Hope they’ll stop!

Doing a hard, short hammer ride, intervals, or crit? Go ahead and lace them up tight to avoid any heel slip and ensure your foot is locked in. For longer rides though, we suggest scrunching your toes while lacing up and tying. This will create a few millimeters of wiggle room, which will give your feet some room to swell during the ride, avoid undue pressure, and keep you more comfortable.

-Size is off. I still had trouble with Giro’s sizing. The LBS didn’t offer my exact size (they didn’t want to carry all women’s sizes?) so I had to guess when it came to the smaller end of the range. I guessed correctly for my width, but the heel cup is still too big and the lacing won’t fix that. So I slide a little in the heel. It’s annoying but doesn’t directly affect my pedaling. Giro reps recommend you also checking out the men’s line (not unfamiliar with women unfortunately) for more size options.

IMG_0081*My reviews follow wear of 5 months (as you can see from the cleats!)



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