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With the Surge Pro, Giant has gone for the ultimate in performance and stiffness in its top flight road shoe and it delivers, without immensely sacrificing comfort – well, once you bed them in anyway.
Instead of covering the entire bottom of your foot, the full carbon fibre ExoBeam sole has the usual forefront section but with a narrow beam running under the centre of your arch before widening out for the heel piece.
Giant says this allows it to exceed industry standards in terms of heel-to-toe stiffness while letting the lower leg and heel move independently of the forefoot and pedal, which reduces strain on the knee and ankle joints from the pedal stroke.
On my first 50-mile ride in them, all I really wanted to know was why my bloody feet hurt so much.
I thought at first it was maybe because of the lack of sole material around the sides of the feet at the arch, but it turns out it was the stiffness of the upper material as it wrapped itself around my foot. Normally, with a full sole you wouldn't have such a figure-hugging radius, but here the material needs to be taut enough.
Now, though, after about 250 miles, things have softened enough that they are pretty comfortable. If you buy a pair of these then don't make your mind up on the first ride – things will get better.
These shoes are being worn by the members of Team Sunweb in the pro peloton, so you can imagine that stiffness is very high on the list of priorities. Sprinting, climbing or just smashing a big gear round won't find any flex at all through the sole, and it's absolutely great. Whether the ExoBeam allows parts of your foot and leg to move independently of others is hard to gauge, but it certainly doesn't make wearing them any worse.
The sole itself is compatible with all three-bolt cleat systems and there are markings in both directions for cleat alignment.
Front and rear it's protected from scuffs and scrapes by rubber guards, and you can replace the one at the back should it wear out.
There is a single vent at the front to allow some cool air to enter and in the warm weather I never felt the shoes get too hot.
The upper is made from reinforced high-density PU which, now bedded in, has become quite supple to help the fit from the Boa lacing system.
The section on the inside of the foot which the lower Boa loop is attached to sits free from the rest of the upper (only being stitched near the sole), which means that when the laces are tightened it wraps around the shape of your foot better. It's a nice touch for an improved fit.
There are plenty of ventilation holes too, but if you like the white option here bear in mind they are going to get marked quickly, although most of it does wash off. If you want them to staying looking fresh, black is probably the better choice.
The tongue is a good shape, with a cutout in the top centre to remove any pressure points as your foot passes through the angles of the pedal rotation.
It's good to see the inclusion of SharkSkin lining at the heel – a grippy, Velcro-like fabric that keeps your foot in position as you pull up on the pedals.
I got on fine with the shape of the standard sole, but you can increase the arch by way of inserts should you need to.
Sizes can fluctuate quite a bit between various shoe brands, especially if you go by the EUR sizing. I'm a UK10 which sees me as a 44/45 depending on the shoes. The Giants are EUR45 but say UK11 and I found them a great fit; I wouldn't want to go any smaller, so bear in mind they come up a little small in UK sizing.
Width-wise they are pretty standard, so that taut material might make them even more uncomfortable to start with for people with wide feet.
In pretty every aspect of life, £275 for a pair of shoes is pretty mental, but the Surge Pros aren't anywhere near the most expensive. The Scott Road UC Ultimate are £349.99, for example.
These are all very good shoes, and the Surge Pros sit there alongside them easily in terms of performance, and they're light, too, at just 566g per pair.
Pro-level shoes at a pro-level price, arguably worth it for the stiffness and performance...
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Giant Surge Pro road shoes
Size tested: 45
Tell us what the product is for
Giant says, "Power up steep climbs. Maximize your watts in the final sprint. Go longer distances with more comfort and less strain. The Surge Pro combines a new 100% thermoset carbon ExoBeam outsole combined with the BOA System closure featuring BOA Powerzone for direct pull ExoWrap support to provide a seamless connection to your bike."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Giant lists these features:
Reinforced high-density non-woven PU upper with high frequency welded seams offers optimal support and extremely low weight while conforming to virtually every foot type
Laser cut micro-perforations in the upper provide ventilation and promote a balanced foot climate
Unique on-the-fly micro-adjustment BOA System closure featuring BOA Powerzone with direct pull ExoWrap to support to every foot and arch type
Exclusive to Giant, Slip-Last construction allows the forefoot to be stiff while enabling torsional rotation of the rear and mid foot
Cycling-specific performance last enhances efficiency and overall performance
New 100% thermoset carbon ExoBeam plate produces the lightest, stiffest plate that exceeds industry standards in terms of heel-to-toe stiffness while allowing the lower leg and heel to move independently of the forefoot and pedal
ExoBeam technology helps produce an efficient pedal stroke, reducing strain on the knee and ankle joints
Injection molded TPU removable heel element and fixed toe protect the ExoBeam plate from wear
Grippy SharkSkin heel lining for secure heel fit
Removable sockliner with tunable arch support and TransTextura Plus™ antimicrobial layer promotes a balanced foot climate
Sizes: EU 40-48 (half sizes 42.5-45.5)
Colors: White, Black
They took a while to bed in but once they had, the fit was very good.
I'd say go by the EUR sizing rather than the UK one, as these felt more like a UK10 than the 11 marked on the tongue.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
The upper marks easily but most of them will wipe off with a damp cloth.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
If you want some of the stiffest shoes out there then they are a very good choice.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The white shoes won't stay looking new for long.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The Fizik and Pearl Izumi shoes I've mentioned in the review offer similar performance and weight for the same money, so I wouldn't say the price of the Surge Pros is overly excessive.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
A quality pair of shoes with stiffness as the ultimate goal, provided you are willing to put up with the breaking-in period.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!