I love shoes, and cycling is an excuse to buy MORE (and believe me I have plenty). But the Giro Women's Empire ACC Road Shoes are by far the most expensive and the most visually stunning cycling shoes I've ever worn, and they're even nipping at the heels of the non-cycling pairs too. Thankfully, they live up to their high price by delivering performance and comfort in spades.
It's a real sign of how things have moved on in cycling that there are almost as many top end women's road shoe models as men's these days; not so long ago female riders could only hope for a selection of mid-grade shoes at best. What's more, these shoes tend to actually be really good.
The Giros on test are the female equivalent of the Men's Empire ACC Road Shoes and sit towards the top of the shoe tree, in terms of price and intended performance.
They are – to my mind – incredibly attractive, designed to combine good looks with comfort, low weight and high levels of stiffness, for the ultimate shoe package. With laces. This is one of the areas in which the Empire ACCs really stand out: at this level, most road shoes feature a combination of one or more of Boa fastening, ratchet and/or Velcro, rather than what could be considered to be the rather quaint anachronistic option of laces. But these laces are what bestow the majority of the shoes' retro good looks, though they are also intended to provide adjustability and comfort to the whole upper foot, rather than the limited two or three places you get with straps.
I found the laces made tweaking the fit a doddle, and they remained comfortable and supportive. An elastic keeper on the front meant no laces flapping about to catch on anything either.
The soles are full-carbon Easton EDC90 ACC, and they transfer power very well but without any of the discomfort that can sometimes go along with a stiff sole. As you'd expect, the soles are compatible with three-hole-style road cleats. The heel section is replaceable.
In terms of fit they lean towards lower volume, meaning that those who prefer a roomier toe box area might find these on the neat side. The shoes are accompanied by a set of optional arch supports to tailor comfort and support, but I found them exceptionally comfortable even without the arch supports, and they didn't transmit road buzz too badly at all, even over longer rides.
The whole lot comes in a zipped shoe bag with an additional set of nattily contrasting laces.
The only snag was them just being so distractingly gorgeous, and an accompanying reluctance to wear them out in foul weather. At this price, you want to get as much wear from them as possible.
High performance shoes with good looks and comfort together with retro style. The Jimmy Choos of cycling footwear…
road.cc test report
Make and model: Giro Empire Women's ACC Road Shoes
Size tested: 39
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Aimed at demanding female cyclists.
"A NEW STANDARD FOR COMFORT AND STYLE
The Empire W ACC continues to redefine high-performance cycling shoes, and it is now available in a women's-specific fit. This shoe showcases the superb fit and feel of a laced cycling shoe, with 7 points of fit adjustment to complement the breathable Evofiber™synthetic upper. And with a premium Easton ® EC90 ACC carbon outsole for efficient power transfer and the adjustable support of our Super Natural Fit System, it's one of the most comfortable, direct connection to the pedals you can get."
These are some of the most attractive and highest performance women's cycling shoes available
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
One-piece upper design, Premium Evofiber™ breathable Teijin ® microfiber Empire laces: holds a knot, durable and light
Easton® EC90 ACC carbon fiber, Replaceable heel pads
SuperNatural Fit Kit with adjustable arch support, X-Static™ anti-microbial fiber
210 grams (size 39)
Spare Laces, Shoe Bag
Available in sizes EU36-42 including half sizes
Superbly well made and excellent quality.
Performed very well indeed. Light, comfortable and stiff.
Can't see any problem developing with the longevity of these, but they won't stay looking this gorgeous and shiny for as long as you'd like.
Average to slim fit but not over-narrow. Those with broader or higher volume feet might find the toe box a touch snug.
As with most cycling shoes I've tried, a 39 was roughly the same as a 38.5 in "normal" shoes. Sizing is consistent with other Giro shoes from past and present.
Extremely comfortable, even during longer rides. Minimal road buzz despite the very stiff soles.
It's hard to justify spending this amount on a pair of cycling shoes, but if you've got the money, these are definitely a worthwhile investment in gorgeous looks and performance. The cycling shoe equivalent of buying a pair of Jimmy Choos.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Very easy to wipe clean.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well. A stiff-soled, comfortable and effective shoe with really striking looks.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Looks, lacing, stiffness, comfort.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? Immensely. I kept catching myself glancing at my feet.
Would you consider buying the product? Possibly in the sale or if I had a windfall.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? No, I want them all for myself.
Use this box to explain your score
Exceptionally good and very comfortable, with a bit more style than the average cycling shoe.
About the tester
I usually ride: Boardman Hybrid Fi My best bike is: Specialized Ruby Elite
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking
Lara has been riding bikes for longer than she'd care to admit, and writing about them nearly as long. Since 2009 she has been working as part of the road.cc review team whilst championing women's cycling on the side, most notably via two years as editor of the, sadly now defunct, UK's first and only women's cycling mag, erm, Women's Cycling.
Believing fervently that cycling will save the world, she wishes that more people would just ride a bike and be pleasant to each other.
She will ride anything with two wheels, occasionally likes to go fast, definitely likes to go far and is always up for a bit of exploring somewhere new and exciting.