By now, the resurgence of laces is mainstream cycling news, and if you've spent time at any cyclocross or XC race this season, you've no doubt seen more than a few pairs of the Giro Men's Empire VR90 Cycling Shoes carving corners and cleaning barriers in the pro showdowns and beginner fields alike. We've spent some time in these shoes too, and we're not shy about being adamant fans. You'll be drawn in by the bright, eye-catching colorways, and stoked to know that hidden under all the style is a top-tier, highly functional piece of footwear that's trail-ready and cyclocross approved.
Underfoot—and most importantly—Giro incorporates the same Easton EC90 carbon fiber sole featured on the Empire's road race version. It's got a low, 6.5mm stack height that reduces the amount of intervening material between engine and pedal for fast, efficient power transfer regardless of terrain.
Hardcore 'cross traditionalists may balk at that stiffness as it historically made running a difficult endeavor, but rest assured that Giro is on it. The Vibram Mont rubber lugged outsole is rockered to facilitate easy walkability and a natural running feel. This lets you harness the watts of that super stiff sole while punching off the line and out of corners without sacrificing speed or comfort when you're shouldering the bike. In our book, that makes the VR90 a little bit of a unicorn.
In addition to its rockering, the lugged sole provides grippy purchase for hard-packed dismounts, quad-searing run-ups, and rocky trail scrambles. If you do happen to miss a clip-in, Giro's added a Mid-Foot Scuff Guard with a grippy, rubber surface to rest against your pedal so you can keep moving forward and stay with your group. Each shoe also includes fittings for two toe spikes for extra traction when you really need to dig in.
In addition to the soles, these shoes pack all the features we've grown to love about Giro's laced offerings, including that standout lace-up closure system for seven points of adjustability and a comfy, near-custom fit. The VR90s also include Giro's SuperNatural Fit Kit, a series of three arch support options that lets you further fine tune the feel. In a small, yet important showing of Giro's attention to detail, an integrated lace keeper holds lace ends securely in place to assuage worries of an inopportune bottle cage grab or crankset encounter.
Giro finishes the shoes with a one-piece upper made from soft, breathable Evofiber with perforations for extra cooling ventilation when the mercury rises. This material is malleable enough to shape to your foot for an exceptionally comfortable fit while resisting excess stretch and loss of shape over time. In this regard, we might liken them to a favorite pair of well-worn slippers—if, that is, those slippers were high-tech, durable, and ridiculously low-weight.
Each pair of Giro Empire VR90 Cycling Shoes comes packaged with two sets of laces, four steel toe spikes, cleat mounting hardware, and a zippered Giro shoe bag for easy storage and transport.
- An off-road cycling shoe for the fashionably fast
- Same light, stiff carbon sole as found in the road race version
- Equipped for trail duty with a grippy, lugged Vibram outsole
- Lace-up enclosure customizes fit with 7 points of contact
- Replaceable inserts let you tailor arch support
- Anti-odor lining keeps funk to a minimum