Review: Giro Empire VR70 Knit Shoe

Jun 19, 2018
by Mike Levy  
Giro Empire VR70 Knit Shoe


No matter if you're a flat soled, skate-style kind rider or if you wear ultra-light, brightly colored clown shoes, mountain bike kicks often look a little odd to those who don't ride. Giro's cross-country and trail-oriented Empire VR70 Knit shoe takes it to the next level of oddness, though, with mostly one-piece knitted upper construction using a synthetic material they call 'Xnetic.' The result is a sock-like upper portion of the shoe that hugs your ankles like, well, a sock would. And while most high-end shoes run straps or some sort of adjustable buckle(s), Giro has gone with retro-ish laces instead.

All of above adds up to 410-grams per shoe for the size 45s that I require. That's more than the 380-grams that Giro says a size 42 comes in at, but it's still right in the ballpark for cross-country kicks. The Empire VR70 Knit can be had in black/charcoal (pictured), lime/black, or midnight/blue, and they retail for $250 USD.
Empire VR70 Knit Details
• Intended use: cross-country / trail
• Knit 'Xnetic' upper
• Carbon fiber sole
• Lace closure
• Stretch ankle cuff
• Rubber toe guard
• Vibram outsole
• Colors: black/charcoal (pictured); lime/black; midnight/blue
• Weight: 410-grams/shoe (size 45, actual)
• MSRP: $250 USD
www.giro.com


Giro 2018
The one-piece fabric upper is knitted and then bonded to the TPU exoskeleton.


Now, don't get me wrong, I love a night in spent knitting and watching Matlock as much as anyone, but why the knit construction for a mountain bike shoe? The idea, according to Giro, is that the knit Xnetic material is more pliable and conforming to a rider's feet than the usual way of manufacturing a shoe, and it's also said to result in less waste material during construction.

The open weave uppers should both breathe well and dry quickly, too, and the admittedly odd-looking, gaiter-esque stretchy cuff will keep trail debris out of the shoe. It's also worth noting that knit shoe construction isn't a fresh idea - it's been used for other sports in the past, but this is the first time for a cycling shoe.


Giro Empire VR70 Knit Shoe
Giro Empire VR70 Knit Shoe
There's no traditional tongue to be found, just a stretchy ankle cuff that you pull over your foot using the tab on the shoe's heel.


The knitted upper is bonded to an exoskeleton of sorts made from a thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) that, at least to my eyes, gives them a look that's one-half futuristic and one-half retro. The laces, which run through the TPU exoskeleton, obviously contribute to the latter, and I suspect that while their appearance is certainly odd, it's Giro's decision to run laces over a strap and buckle system that's most polarizing.

In theory, laces look like they offer more opportunity to tweak how a shoe fits, but I suspect that the more traditional closure on these shoes was chosen because it works with the rest of the Empire VR70 Knit's construction.


Giro Empire VR70 Knit Shoe
Once tied up, you tuck the laces under a stretchy pull cord to keep them from getting sucked into your drivetrain.


The sole is carbon fiber, and Vibram rubber has been laid down over top to keep you upright when you need to scramble up or down something sketchy. There are rubber guards at the toe and heel, too, and a pull-strap at the heel means you shouldn't need a shoehorn to get them on when you go for a ride after Matlock is done.


Giro Empire VR70 Knit Shoe
The sole is carbon, but it's not crazy rigid.



Performance

First thing first: Are they comfortable? I've been rocking a set of high-volume Giro shoes for awhile now that are definitely better suited to my relatively wide-ish feet, and they're also wider than these knit kicks, but I found the Empire VR70 Knits to be comfy regardless. That means that anyone with non-freaky wide feet should also find the Empire VR70 Knits good to go, and that's especially true if the temps where you live get high enough to have you looking for shade during a ride - these things breath very, very well. In fact, there were times when I could actually feel the air passing through them when on a speedy section of singletrack.

So, great summer shoes, but maybe not the best come wintertime unless you're down with Wim Hof. I am not, so I'll be using something warmer when it's called for.


Giro Empire VR70 Knit Shoe
Do the stretchy cuffs keep junk out? Probably in the right setting. Do I have that issue with my other shoes? Nope.


They're quite light and sporty feeling, too, and while I'd happily race cross-country in them every weekend, their EC70 carbon outsole doesn't feel quite as flex-free as Giro's EC90 soles or some other sporty shoes. They're still quite rigid, though, but just a hair more forgiving than an all-out race shoe. That slight amount of flex should also make them a bit more comfortable when you're off the bike, but I didn't really find that to be the case; they're not made for walking, and I did get some heel lift when (and only when) I was forced onto my feet.

That said, if I'm wearing $250 USD racy knit shoes, you better believe that I'm going to do my damnedest to not walk anything other than into the post-ride burrito establishment.

And the laces... I'm not convinced. Having spent a good portion of my life in cycling shoes that use multiple buckles, straps, or Boa dials, I can say that the very large majority of them have been very, very comfortable. The Knit's laces are comfortable, too, but they're also more of a hassle than a few straps or an easily-adjustable dial system, both of which can be quickly tinkered with during a ride, and even on the move.

But laces require a full-stop and a sit down unless you get them right on the first go, which I often did. But when I didn't, I had to get off and futz around with them. Also, when I'm done riding, my shoes need to come off quicker than me falling off a skinny bridge, and laces can be annoying in those moments.
Giro Empire VR70 Knit Shoe
There's a rubber toe guard up front, but the Empire VR70 Knits are more of an airy cross-country shoe than something that offers real protection. I prefer this approach, but I'm probably in the minority.

But man, are these things comfy. No shoe should cause hot spots, and these didn't either, but the fit feels soft and all-encompassing, like someone with really kind hands is holding your feet and whispering to them in soft tones while you pedal. Maybe not that creepy, but they are cozy as hell. The strange looking elastic cuff kept out debris as well but, more importantly, it also feels invisible.


Pinkbike's Take
bigquotesLaces aren't for me - I like the convenience of buckles, straps, and dials - but I can't argue with how the Empire VR70 Knits fit my feet; these things are very comfortable and breezy. If you're looking for a light-ish shoe and like the classic retro look of laces, then these might be for you. But if the practicality of buckles trumps everything, then get a pair of shoes with buckles. Mike Levy








83 Comments

  • 29 1
 When did Laces get "Retro"........ how old am I to feel Retro about laces...... Oh my daze
  • 24 1
 I know, I feel the same. I nearly had to watch a YouTube video to re-learn how to tie my shoes, but they work well.
  • 25 8
 @mikelevy: Also if your cleat mechanism fails in the midst of BC race, you can tie the shoe to the pedal using laces.
  • 7 0
 oddly enough my experience with buckles and boa failures have me only considering laces for shoes now. If i break a lace (which has never happened on a ride) i can just tie the ends together and super cheap and easy to replace.
  • 6 0
 @mikelevy: seriously? You never get trail debris in your shoes? Maybe it happens mostly on the epic days of riding, pushing, hiking etc but definitely happens.
  • 3 4
 They almost cost as much as half a pair of of my new Jordans.
  • 1 0
 @Grmasterd: Good point. I've broken one Boa on a rock and smashed one buckle to bits on a signpost (I'm an idiot) over a few decades, but it would have been a real pain in the ass if either of those had happened way out in the boonies.
  • 1 0
 @powderturns: I guess we all get stuff in our shoes, but I can't remember the last time it happened. Not an issue for me.
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy: I once crashed and got small rocks stuck in my ratchet mechanism. I couldn't get my shoe off without a screwdriver. That made me re-think ratchet straps.
  • 2 0
 @Jnicholz: Yes! You reminded me that I've had that happen once or twice over the years as well. One time I had to use a multi-tool to remove the buckle from the shoe!
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy: I've had to use my old AM45 instead of ME7, which have the neoprene cuff around the ankle. The difference in the amount of debris that get's in the shoe is incredible! I'd say it's maybe five times more without the cuff. And that's only because the cuff didn't sit perfectly around my ankle. Received a new pair as a warranty (outsole issue) and it sit's perfectly now, so I guess even less debris will get in.
  • 23 6
 Mike! you don’t need to wear socks to these! They look as if you were wearing some of those outdoor sandals with wool socks. Socks and sandals - how cool is that!
  • 10 1
 If I wore them without socks, by the end of the second ride, the stink would knock you over at 10 yards. (9.14 meters for our metric friends) The stench, however, would be a well understood international language of its own.
  • 16 0
 That look is called "The Geologist".
  • 4 1
 @employee7: And we own it proudly.
  • 5 0
 @PAmtbiker: Dude I'm wearing my Birk's and Wigwams right now.
  • 11 0
 Giro Yeezys
  • 3 0
 I'm a flat pedal guy on the mountain, but I use the Empire's (the older, non-knit version) with my road bike and they are fantastic. I love the old school, simple design and comfort is first rate. I'm sure the knit versions add another level of comfort to the mix!
  • 2 0
 Since when is 380 g normal for XC shoe? My Shimano ME7 weigh just a bit more and they are enduro shoes. Giro's own XC shoes with laces (VR90) are 315 g in 42.5 size. Shimano XC5 are even less-301 g.
All that said it's not like they are super heavy, just that I wouldn't say that the weight is normal for XC/light mtb shoes with laces. More like they are a little heavier than (most) other shoes from the same category.
  • 1 0
 Why the hell would I want my bike shoes to look just like my soccer shoes? and BTW those one-piece knit sock shoes can be damn uncomfortable, especially depending on the lace design. These type of shoes are definitely a 'make sure you try before you buy'.
  • 1 0
 I have Giro Rumble VR shoes; they are very comfortable and airy with a mesh filled upper.

I love the shoes, but I notice the same thing on these. Why does Giro not put the metal eyelets on all the lace holes? The laces on my Rumbles are already stretching the holes that don't have the eyelets. I am guessing the laces will cut through the lace hole before the shoe is at its end of life.
  • 1 0
 ANKLE SOCKS ARE FOR TRIATHLETES.

Seriously tho, I would love a pair of these if the silly knit sock thingthang was gone (like the road version) or crew-length.

This just looks silly. Imagine them with crew length socks (like 90% of my socks) peeking over the top-even sillier

Got some different lacey shoes instead. Nice for trail riding, but for XC/gravel performance i miss the buckles.
  • 1 0
 So, those shoes along with the Fox pajama pants and you'll knock em dead on the trails. I'm sorry, but those things look ridiculous. The double sock look is absurd. They may be the most comfortable and performant shoe you can get, but I think you have to leave your dignity in the glove box if you wear these things.
  • 1 0
 Not gonna lie, they look pretty sweet and comfy, but not sure they fit most riders needs for an every day shoe. My Shimano AM9s for $70 bucks are comfy and durable, good in wet weather (as long as not soaked) and offer enough support and coverage. Not sure what kinda rider they are after with these... for $250 I probably won't give them a shot anytime soon.
  • 3 0
 But the amount I hit the sides of my shoes on rocks, etc I am afraid these shoes would get me hurt.
  • 2 1
 Mike, are you trying to set the comments section on fire ? $250 sweaters for my feet? One snag and they're history. Giro go away, tho I suspect the bike packing crowd will love them.
  • 2 0
 Good point on the snag - I never mentioned the durability for some reason! Honestly, the weird knit stuff has been dragged over rocks and all sorts of shit, but it looks fine so far. I wonder if they did get cut, if they'd be prone to opening up, though? I sliced a 3" hole into my other shoes a few years ago on a rock in Sedona, so anything can happen. I thought I lost my big toe on that one.
  • 1 1
 @mikelevy: unless it's Kevlar or skark suit chainmail, I imagine a downed branch would snag it?
  • 1 0
 To La Knit.....to La Knit to quit....stop ....it's knitting time! Engine...engine number nine on the New York Knitting line....if my knitting falls apart... pick it up...pick it up....pick it up!
  • 2 0
 notice the lack of shots of the rider wearing these - the only one there is crops the top of the sock.

"excuse me, are you wearing two pairs of socks on a summer day?"
  • 2 0
 What these really need is individual toes like the Vibram Five Fingers toe shoes. Literally shoes that fit like a glove!!!
  • 3 0
 Do the soles delaminate like their POS Terraduros?
  • 1 0
 Lol, at least they have unlimited warranty.
  • 1 0
 Nope, no issues on that front. I've seen that over the years, for sure, but the Privateers that I've been rocking on and off for over two years now are still fine on that front.
  • 1 0
 fwiw, giro sent me a second pair on the house even after it took me over a year to get that issue with my first.
  • 1 0
 Good review, Levy. Bonus points for mentioning the ice man. I have a pair of VR90 in orange. Love them, but hate riding with them lest I scratch the sides!
  • 1 0
 My experience has been that the material is super resistant to scratches. I've got 3 years and plenty of rock strikes on mine and they still look great aside from the soles getting a bit worn down.
  • 1 0
 Nike has been making knit shoes for 6 years and somehow this is next level "oddness"?

Chill out bruhs. Y'all are beginning to sound as conservative as roadies Razz
  • 1 0
 Those dont have a built in ankle sock and dont look like a mountain climbing shoe.
  • 2 0
 These look like they would literally stink on ice after a few rides.. Socks you cant really wash every ride.
  • 1 0
 @mikelevy Are the Privateers the wide-ish shoes you referred to in the review? So far the Sidi Mega is the only shoe that fits me.
  • 1 0
 The HV (high volume) version of the Privateers. I don't think I have crazy wide feet or anything, but they're a bit flat and the HV shoes just feel nice. My feet are okay on normal width shoes, too.
  • 2 1
 Reminds me of growing up in Seattle. In the 90's I only wore REI wool socks and Arizona Birkenstoks...rain or (rain).
  • 8 0
 Wow, how did that work for your game?
  • 2 0
 DON’T PANIC!! Ugg boots have inspired the forth coming winter version
  • 1 0
 Mike touched on it in his review. I suspect these wont work well with people with very narrow feet. so a non starter for me
  • 2 0
 Hmmm. I interpreted it in exactly the opposite way, that they weren't for freakishly wide feet-a non starter for me. Perhaps we're both right, though.
  • 1 0
 @kjjohnson: I cant comment for the wide feet crew. but for narrow feet, as the laces are tightened the "sock" part will bunch into a ridge, which isnt an issue with conventional "tongue" shoes
  • 2 0
 @mikelevy "post ride burrito establishment" sounds like Mags on 99.
  • 2 0
 Wink
  • 2 0
 Can we get an Afton clipless review-the best looking shoe out there.
  • 2 0
 We agree! (And we're working on it with PB)
  • 1 0
 I have no problem taking a break and taking my shoes off to get out debris,those giro shoes are fugly.
  • 2 0
 Waiting for Giro to come out with Leather helmets...
  • 2 0
 Sadly they already have - Search "giro section brown leather"
  • 1 0
 not good for wet uk....look fancy though.
  • 2 0
 Drill a couple of drain holes in the bottom and you will be good to go Wink

In winter I have to run neoprene shoe covers otherwise I end up with sole puddles by the end of the ride.
  • 1 0
 @Patrick9-32: must try the overshoes.....they all let water in!! winner
  • 4 1
 @Patrick9-32: the sooner the water gets in the sooner it can start warming up
  • 3 0
 Just dunk em in some Stans Milk, job done
  • 2 0
 Wet uk?! When did it last rain? Its a dust bowl in the south at the moment. Its awesome Smile
Of course it is normally wet....
  • 3 0
 It doesn't really matter to me how quick they soak, it matters how quickly they dry up again. When my fivetens are soaked, it takes a good couple of days for them to dry. And then you step in them and the water from the inner sole comes back up again... See if it rains, I'm getting as wet as my shoes so that doesn't bother me. I just don't like being dry and then stepping into wet shoes.
  • 1 0
 @vinay: my canvas freeriders dry pretty well.
  • 2 0
 Wim motherfucking Hoff
  • 3 4
 Relax or you’ll make your body acidic. I wonder how many will get that reference...
  • 3 2
 its the FIFA WC we get it ...
  • 1 0
 What’s a shoe horn? ;p
  • 1 0
 Ancient footwear fitting device that our ancestors used to use.
  • 6 0
 It's what foot fetishists get.
  • 2 0
 Ugly as all hell!
  • 1 0
 Flyknit soccer cleats... i mean, mountain bike shoes
  • 1 0
 Looks like soccer shoes ! Can't wait for the fluo pink Big Grin
  • 1 0
 Neat knit shoes!
  • 1 0
 $250 huh........
  • 2 2
 Revolting....
  • 5 0
 ...is the right of the people when the government no longer serves them.
  • 3 0
 Seems like an aggressive response for a shoe, but to each their own.
  • 1 3
 What's the little piece of metal on the bottom for?
Below threshold threads are hidden

Post a Comment



Copyright © 2000 - 2019. Pinkbike.com. All rights reserved.
dv65 0.025850
Mobile Version of Website