The Giro Empire story starts in 2012 with Taylor Phinney wearing a prototype pair of empires to victory in the stage one individual time trial of the 2012 Giro d’Italia and three days in the Maglia rosa. With a debut like that it was only a matter of time before Giro moved the empires into production later that year.
In August 2013 the Giro Empire ACC was released featuring improvements to the upper, the lace retention and carbon sole. Shortly after that Giro also released another model the Empire SLX which was even lighter again than the ACC. These two models remain as Giro’s premier lace-up road shoes.
This is a long term review of the Giro Empire ACC and a review of a new pair of Giro Empire SLX.
Giro Empire ACC Review
I have done about 15,000 on these Giro Empire ACC road shoes so this is a long term review of worn shoes, not a review of a brand new pair of shoes. I don’t have the original box the shoes came in but I still have all the items that came in the box.
Pictured below are the items that come with the shoes including storage bag, spare laces in white, spare cleat screws, three different size arch supports and a manual
The Empire ACC’s come with Giro SuperNatural Fit insoles and have interchangeable arch supports, there are three in total and they have an S, M or L which signifies the height of each one. Each arch support is a different colour as well, green is small, orange is medium and red is large. To change between each arch support just line it up with the indentations in the insole and press into the velcro strips to hold securely in place.
Click any of the thumbnail size photos to enlarge …
These Giro Empire ACC’s have done over 15,000km riding so keep that in mind with the photos. The first photo shows they have held up really well, these have been used on the road and gravel and regularly in the rain, about the only time I use shoe covers is when there is rain when riding on gravel.
And some more photos of the upper and and the carbon fiber Easton EC90 ACC outsole, as you can see there are a few scuff marks on the toes and some marks to the carbon outsoles but they have stood up well after the amount of kilometres. For these photos all I did was wipe them over with a wet cloth.
And the weight of each Giro Empire ACC shoe is pictured below, 234 grams for the size 43 left shoe, 232 grams for the size 43 right shoe. Claimed weight for size 42.5 (half size smaller than reviewed pair) is 215 grams.
One of the most common questions I get asked about the Giro Empires is “how do you find the laces?” and “do they come undone, or get tangled”. To answer both at once it took about three rides to get used to tying the laces to the right tension for me, after that I have never had an issue again, part of that was probably the new shoe stretch as well.
Once tied the laces never get a chance to get tangled, once you tie the bow the laces slip into a stretchy band that is in the middle of the laces as pictured here.
Giro Empire ACC Specifications
Includes spare laces and shoe bag.
Upper: One-piece upper design; Premium Evofiber™ breathable microfiber; Laced closure.
Outsole: Easton® EC90 ACC carbon fiber; Replaceable heel pads.
Footbed: SuperNatural Fit Kit with adjustable arch support; X-Static® anti-microbial fiber.
Weight: 215 grams (size 42.5).
My Take on the Giro Empire ACC
When I first saw these used by Taylor Phinney and then the ACC model by Brad Wiggins I just had to have some, initially I held off thinking the laces would be a pain to use but knee problems pretty much forced me to change shoes and so I got these.
My first thoughts were they were incredibly comfortable and after those first few rides getting used to the tension of the laces and the initial stretch of the upper I have never given the laces a second thought, they take a little longer than boas to do up but we’re splitting hairs. I mean people have been tying shoes most of their life, how hard is it? What is easier than boa or ratchet type shoes is putting shoe covers on, because the surface area of both sides of the shoe is smooth getting shoe covers on in the winter is much easier.
When I bought the Giro Empire ACC’s they were a lightweight shoe in comparison to other shoe brands and they still are, really they are only outdone by other Giro shoes, the S-Works Sub6, and Rocket 7s. They are still lighter than high end models from Sidi, Bont and others.
The durability has been impressive, they have had some pretty impressive scrapes and most of them just polished off with a natural colour shoe polish, about the only wear is on the toe ends which is normal for cycling shoes. There are no rips or seams pulled away.
Ventilation is adequate with one underneath the shoe near the toes and the upper and tongue have small holes for ventilation. I have had the same laces for the 15,000km and they are due to be replaced now as there was fraying that started from the top eyelet.
The adjustable arch support has been superb, I use the medium because of my arch shape and the combination of the shoe and arch support pretty much ended my knee troubles.
As well as the white/black colour reviewed the Giro Empire ACC is also available in mattblack/gloss black, gloss red/black and a silver reflective glow in the dark colours.
Giro Empire SLX Review
The Giro Empire SLX was released by Giro in 2014 and it’s an ultralight road racing shoe weighing in at only 175 grams, that’s a full 40 grams or 19 percent lighter than the already lightweight Empire ACC reviewed above.
It’s certainly no surprise then that when you pull the shoes out of the box and remove the paper wrapping the first impression is of how incredibly light the Empire SLX shoes are, once you get past the wow factor on the weight they are pretty similar to the Empire ACC. The carbon outsole looks and measures the same as the Empire ACC, the lace system is the same and the outer shoe shape is the same. What is different is the upper is made out of a different Evofiber, it’s much shinier than the matt finish of the Empire ACC and it’s thiner and lighter. With the shoes side by side and the insoles out of the shoes you would say all the weight reduction is taken out of the upper and insole. You will see that in the pictures below.
First up, pretty standard shoe box confirming you have the right size on the label.
Inside the box you have the Giro Empire SLX road shoes, a shoe bag, a spare pair of laces in black, spare cleat screws and the Ultralight SuperNatural Fit Kit plus spare arches. In some of these photos you will notice how bright the shoes are, almost like they are glowing. The shoes aren’t reflective but they are pretty bright, side by side with any other white shoes they really stand out.
And some more from different angles and showing the Easton EC90 SLX2 carbon sole.
Click any of the thumbnail size photos to enlarge …
The Ultralight SuperNatural Fit Kit footbeds is one of the items you really notice the extremes the weight savings has gone to, no excess colour coding or anything that’s not required, just some plain insoles with plain black arch supports. There are still three sizes small, medium and large and each one has the size in a small circle. The arch is retained on the insole with the same velcro strips as the Empire ACC’s.
Once you have tied the laces they are retained in the same elastic loop in the middle of the laces.
Giro Empire SLX Specifications
Includes spare laces and shoe bag.
Upper: One-Piece Upper Design Premium Evofiber™ SL Breathable Microfiber Sport Laces: Holds a Knot, Durable, and Light
Outsole: Easton ® EC90™ SLX2 High-Modulus Carbon Titanium Hardware Replaceable Heel Pads
Footbed: Ultralight SuperNatural Fit Kit with Adjustable Arch Support Ultralight Footbed with Adjustable Arch Support X-Static ® Antimicrobial Fiber Travel Bag Included
Weight: 175 grams (size 42.5)
My Take on the Giro Empire SLX
If you’re looking to save every possible gram then these are the shoes for you, they are incredibly light. They are also comfortable, the lace design was already well proven on the Empire ACC and it leads to a more comfortable fit on your foot. The arch support system should suit most riders, I used the medium height insert and so riders with a lower or higher instep would suit the small or large height inserts.
The Easton EC90 SLX carbon sole is incredibly stiff and it would appear that the weight savings haven’t come from this area, cleat retention is the normal three-bolt pattern and there are markings front and rear of the cleat for accurate setup.
The Evofiber upper is probably not quite as robust as the Empire ACC, my foot moved around a little more within the shoes like there was a little more give or flexibility.
As well as the white colour reviewed the Giro Empire SLX is also available in an anodized glowing red/black and black/lime colours.
Both the Giro Empire ACC and Empire SLX are very well made cycling shoes that will appeal to anyone wanting a combination of lightweight, stylish looks, durability and price.
In the Plus column for both shoes is the lightweight, comfortable fit, lace system, stiff carbon sole, ventilation, durability and price.
In the Minus column they may not suit riders with wide feet and I don’t think there is a ‘wide’ model like other shoes. Not an issue for me but it may be for some riders.
I touched on price in the plus points above and that’s worth expanding on, for the quality, performance and weight the Giro Empire’s are very much a top tier road shoe but the price is very competitive. The Empire ACC is going for around AUD290 or USD270, the Empire SLX is AUD370 or USD350.
Which one would I choose? That’s not an easy choice as I have one brand new pair and a worn pair, new shoes always look and feel good. I think the ACC is a better value shoe at around $80 cheaper and it’s still lighter and more comfortable than other top of the line shoes. I can give up the 40 grams on that basis.
I would choose the SLX though if I was racing or just simply wanted an all-white shoe. Either way, you can’t go wrong and I would highly recommend both the Giro Empire ACC or Giro Empire SLX.