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Giro Empire VR90 Clipless Mountain Bike Shoe ReviewBest Clipless Mountain Bike Shoe Review

Best Premium XC Clipless Mountain Bike Shoe

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 100% 100%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 60% 60%
  • Comfort and Fit 70% 70%
  • Durability 60% 60%
  • Weight 100% 100%

Best Application: XC

Closure: Laces

Sole: Easton EC90 Carbon Fiber

Outsole: Vibram Mont Molded Rubber High Traction Lugged Outsole

Weight: 338g (size 43.5)

Upper Material: Microfiber

What We Like: Ultra-Lightweight, Amazing Power Transfer

What We Don’t: Too Narrow for Many, Questionable Durability

Price: $134.98-$300.00

Giro shoes tend to run toward the extremely narrow side of average, and this is especially true of the Empire VR90. However, Giro also offers the Empire VR90 in a high volume variant, which we would recommend for riders with average to high volume feet.

The Giro Empire VR90 is a great clipless mountain bike shoe for cross country racing. Its rigidity and power transfer is on par with the Shimano S-Phyre XC9, and its traditional laces help make it the lightest and one of the most comfortable clipless mountain bike shoes in our review.

Compare to Similar Products

See Our Best Clipless Mountain Bike Shoe Review!

Shimano ME7

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 80% 80%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 100% 100%
  • Comfort and Fit 90% 90%
  • Durability 90% 90%
  • Weight 80% 80%

Pros

Comfortable

Versatile

Great Power Transfer

Great Off the Bike Traction

Cons

Not the Cheapest Nor the Lightest Clipless Mountain Bike Shoe

Best Application: Enduro/All-Mountain

Closure: Speed Lace System and Upper Ratchet Strap, Large Velcro Panel Over Laces

Sole: Carbon Fiber Composite

Outsole: Michelin Rubber

Weight: 425g (size 44)

Upper Material: Synthetic

Giro Empire VR90

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 100% 100%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 60% 60%
  • Comfort and Fit 70% 70%
  • Durability 60% 60%
  • Weight 100% 100%

Pros

Ultra-Lightweight

Amazing Power Transfer

Cons

Too Narrow for Many

Questionable Durability

Best Applicaton: XC

Closure: Laces

Sole: Easton EC90 Carbon Fiber

Outsole: Vibram Mont Molded Rubber High Traction Lugged Outsole

Weight: 338g (size 43.5)

Upper Material: Microfiber

Shimano S-Phyre XC9

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 100% 100%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 40% 40%
  • Comfort and Fit 90% 90%
  • Durability 90% 90%
  • Weight 100% 100%

Pros

Dual Boa Closure

Amazing Power Transfer

Cons

Expensive

Lack of Durability

Poor Off Bike Performance

Best Application: Cross Country Racing

Closure: Dual Boa IP1

Sole: Dynalast Carbon Fiber

Outsole: Dual-density Michelin Rubber

Weight: 390g (size 45)

Upper Material: Teijin Synthetic Leather

Giro Terraduro

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 70% 70%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 100% 100%
  • Comfort and Fit 70% 70%
  • Durability 90% 90%
  • Weight 60% 60%

Pros

Well Rounded

Great On and Off the Bike

Great Value

Cons

Fairly Heavy

Best Application: Enduro/All-Mountain

Closure: Replaceable N1 Ratcheting Buckle Closure at Ankle, Two D-ring Velcro Straps at Midfoot

Sole: Nylon

Outsole: Vibram High-Traction Lugged Outsole

Weight: 458g (size 43.5)

Upper Material: Microfiber

Giro Privateer R

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 70% 70%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 80% 80%
  • Comfort and Fit 70% 70%
  • Durability 70% 70%
  • Weight 90% 90%

Pros

Durable for XC Shoes

Lightweight

Good Power Transfer

Great Value

Cons

Narrow Fit

Less Durable Than Terraduros

Best Application: XC, Trail

Closure: Replaceable N1 Ratcheting Buckle Closure at Ankle, Two D-ring Velcro Straps at Midfoot

Sole: Nylon

Outsole: Co-molded Nylon and High Traction Rubber

Weight: 386g (size 43.5)

Upper Material: Microfiber

Giro Chamber 2

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 70% 70%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 80% 80%
  • Comfort and Fit 80% 80%
  • Durability 100% 100%
  • Weight 50% 50%

Pros

Well Protected

Durable

Wide Range of Cleat Adjustment

Cons

Heavy

Narrow for Riders with Wide Feet

Best Application: Enduro, Downhill, All-mountain

Closure: Laces Plus Power Strap

Sole: Tri-molded SPD Compatible

Outsole: Vibram Megagrip

Weight: 525g (size 44)

Upper Material: Water Resistant Microfiber

Shimano XC7

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 90% 90%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 70% 70%
  • Comfort and Fit 80% 80%
  • Durability 70% 70%
  • Weight 100% 100%

Pros

Top of the Line XC Performance at Half the Price

Cons

Still a Pricy Shoe for Marginal Gains Over the Giro Privateer R

Best Application: XC

Closure: Boa IP1

Sole: Carbon-Reinforced Nylon

Outsole: Dual-Density Michelin Rubber

Weight: 365g (size 45)

Upper Material: Perforated Upper

Five Ten Kestral Lace

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 70% 70%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 90% 90%
  • Comfort and Fit 60% 60%
  • Durability 100% 100%
  • Weight 60% 60%

Pros

Patented Five Ten Grip and Durability

Cons

Heavy

Comfort Issues

Best Application: Enduro/All-Mountain  

Closure: Lace-Up with Hook and Loop Ankle Strap

Sole: Nylon

Outsole: C4 Stealth

Weight: 484g (size 43)

Upper Material: Polyurethane-coated synthetic

Pearl Izumi X-Project P.R.O.

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 90% 90%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 90% 90%
  • Comfort and Fit 80% 80%
  • Durability 40% 40%
  • Weight 80% 80%

Pros

Great Pedaling Efficiency

Comfortable and Grippy off the Bike

Cons

Expensive

Least Durable Shoe in Review

Best Application: XC, All-Mountain

Closure: Two BOA IP1 dials

Sole: Carbon Composite

Outsole: Molded Carbon Rubber Tips on TPU Lugs

Weight: 419g (size 44)

Upper Material: Advanced 3-Layer Seamless Composite

Rigidity and Power Transfer

The Giro Empire VR90 uses an Easton EX90 carbon sole to provide power transfer that is best in class. There is really just not too much to say about the power transfer of the VR90, because it is as good as it gets under just about every scenario.

Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability”

Off of the bike, you are not going to mistake the Giro Empire VR90 for an Enduro or all-mountain shoe. However, its ultra-stiff sole has a tiny bit of flex at the extreme toe end. This is past the point where the shoe clips into the pedal, so it does not compromise pedaling efficiency. However, it gives a bit of comfort off of the bike and an ease of walking that the similarly stiff Shimano S-Phyre XC9 does not.

Its Vibram rubber outsole is also fairly grippy, providing you with decent traction whether on a short hike-a-bike or putting your foot down in a rock garden.

Comfort and Fit

The comfort level of the Giro Empire VR90 is top notch, if it fits. Giro’s clipless mountain bike shoes run toward the extreme side of narrow fitting. However, Giro also offers the Empire VR90 in a high volume variant, which we would recommend for people with average to high volume feet.

If you can get the fit dialed in on the Giro Empire VR90, it has the potential to be extremely comfortable for such a stiff XC race shoe. The synthetic uppers are surprisingly supple, and they work in perfect harmony with the Empire’s traditional laces to create a fit that hugs your foot without creating any hotspots, which often arise from ratchets or Boa closure systems.

Finally, mesh side panels provide adequate breathability.

Durability

Durability was a factor that held the Giro Empire VR90 back. In fact, it was the only hard negative about the Empire. While its narrow fit and can be seen as positive or a negative, the same cannot be said for its questionable durability.

The upper of the Giro Empire VR90 is actually remarkably durable, holding up better than that of the Shimano S-Phyre XC9. Its lace-up system is also much less prone to failure than Boa or ratchet closures.

Unfortunately, the sole of the Empire does not hold up so well. Like the Shimano S-Phyre XC9, we would recommend saving this shoe for race days or big rides, because both the rubber and the exposed carbon of the sole shreds very quickly off of the bike. This is a shame, because the Empire actually feels like an XC shoe that you wouldn’t mind hike-a-biking in.

Weight

Many people will be immediately turned off by lace-up clipless mountain bike shoes. However, they are missing out not only on the best fitting system, but also the lightest. Everything about the Giro Empire VR90 screams ultralight, but at an industry leading 338g per shoe, the laceup system is the cherry on top of this ultralight clipless mountain bike shoe.

The Bottom Line

With an MSRP of $300 and sale prices below $150, the Giro Empire VR90 is a better value than the Shimano S-Phyre XC9 and an unbelievable value if you can find your size on sale.

If you are not opposed to the lace-up system, can get the fit right, and don’t mind trading durability for ultralightweight and unbeatable power transfer, then the Giro Empire VR90 is a race worthy XC shoe to consider.

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