Shortly after Nike broke through with their FlyKnit uppers, the knit-shoe craze exploded. And with good reason: knit uppers stretch, leading to greater comfort for both running and casual streetwear.
But cycling shoes? They’ve gotten more, rather than less, restrictive over the years, trading in comfort for rigidity in the ruthless, often painful pursuit of energy transfer. Sure, cycling shoes keep getting lighter, but if you put in a bunch of commuting and training hours a week, you’ve known foot pain. Basically, cycling footwear is about as kind to your dogs as ballerina slippers or alpine ski boots — that is, not friendly at all.
Giro wants to change that wth their new Xnetic line, the entirety of which comes equipped with exceptionally breathable knit uppers that will suit all sorts of riders. There are three shoes in the line, one each for road, dirt and commuting.
The path to the Xnetic line started few years back, with Giro's retro-style lace-up models, the Republic LX and Empire SLX. Laces, it turns out, have more give and variability than the now-standard ratchet straps. Old-fangled tech has advantages.Those laces remain, with lace locks to prevent catching in your bike’s drivetrain.
If you tried some of those early Nikes, you no doubt noticed that it's possible to have too much upper flexibility. Giro obviously recognized this issue and sought a happy medium —adding a thermoplastic frame over the knit construction that should aid motion control.
The three models start at $140 with the Republic R Knit, designed for commuters, with reflective laces, a more walkable rubber-and-nylon outsole, and two-bolt cleat mounting ideal for using mountain-bike style pedals or wider flat pedals with recessed cleats. The road-focused Empire E70 Knit, $200, gets a stiffer carbon outsole.
The oddest, and maybe coolest version is the $250 Empire VR70, with a socklike knit upper that continues over the ankle to prevent grit penetration, a rubberized guardrail framing the carbon fiber outsole-upper junction, and visible exoskeleton on the upper. These also get a grippy, trail-worthy Vibram rubber outsole.
All Xnetic shoes will be on sale by October. More: www.giro.com