Summary

We spent 8.9 hours reading reviews from experts and users. In summary, this is what cyclers think:

9 reasons to buy

  • The majority of reviewers applaud the stiff sole of the Giro Empire VR90 shoe. Some even add that it doesn’t waste any energy exerted by the cyclist.
  • Numerous wearers find this pair exceptionally comfortable.
  • Many testers appreciate the shoe’s Vibram-equipped outsole as it is very grippy and allows walking comfortably.
  • Several users express delight over the Empire VR90’s notably lightweight construction.
  • The shoe features customizable insoles, which some people admire.
  • A handful of buyers think this model looks aesthetically appealing.
  • Some cyclists claim that the shoe cleans up very easily.
  • A couple of riders especially like how the lace-up prevents hotspots.
  • A few commenters praise the pair’s durable construction and premium quality materials.

2 reasons not to buy

  • A couple of consumers think the shoe is expensive.
  • A few cyclists have said that the sides of the upper don’t offer much protection for enduro or gravity riders.

Bottom line

Another addition to the Empire collection, the Empire VR90 provides necessary tweaks for mountain cycling. With lauded features such as excellently stiff and grippy sole, comfortable fit and lightweight feel, it has been recommended for XC racing.

Some have also used this model for road, cyclocross and gravel grinding rides. The pair’s reported downsides are deemed to be minor compared to its benefits. Overall, the majority of consumers think they’ve got what they paid for.

Facts

Use: Mountain, Cyclocross
Cleat design: 2 holes
Closure: Lace
Feature: Reflective, Breathable, Lace Tucks
Collection: Giro Empire
Price: $300
Weight: Men: 11.1oz | Women: 10.8oz
Brand: Giro
Colorways: Black, Blue, Red
Size
Small True to size Large
Fit
Tight Loose
Rigidity
Soft Firm
Breathability
Warm Breathable
Impact protection
Low High
Durability 9/10
Comfort 9/10
Traction 8/10
See more facts

Rankings

A top rated Giro cycling shoe
A popular pick

Expert Reviews

Experts are cyclers, who post reviews at youtube, directly at RunRepeat or at their own websites. Each expert is categorized from level 1 to level 5 based on expertise. See stats on expert reviews and how we calculate scores here.

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92 / 100 based on 9 expert reviews

  • 97 / 100 | Katie Kookaburra | Level 1 expert

    The VR90 feels better than the Manta.

  • 100 / 100 | OutdoorGearLab | | Level 3 expert

    The Empire VR90 is the lightest, stiffest, and most comfortable shoe in our test and the winner of our Editors' Choice award.

  • 90 / 100 | Road.cc | | Level 3 expert

    All the performance of a top-end carbon road shoe with the practicality of a treaded sole

  • 80 / 100 | Mountain Bike Rider | | Level 2 expert

    There’s no doubting Giro has worked hard to create a shoe for which performance, comfort and efficiency cannot be faulted. The problem lies within the retention system. The laces, whilst providing a very secure closure will limit the Empire’s appeal for some riders due to the added faffage.

  • 96 / 100 | Cyclocross Magazine | Level 1 expert

    Very light, conforms to foot beautifully, comfortable.

  • 93 / 100 | Bike Radar | | Level 1 expert

    Stiff-soled but comfortable with grippy Vibram tread. Go up a half size, though, because they are narrow

Become an expert

The Giro Empire VR90 is a mountain cycling shoe specifically designed for cross-country racing. It is basically the off-road version of the Empire model. Its highlights include a lightweight construct that consists of a one-piece upper and full-carbon Easton EC90 outsole. 

The shoe also comes equipped with grippy Vibram soles and stud mounts for relentless traction. Designed with a road-like minimalist aesthetic, this model is also revered for its simple yet classic aesthetic.

Pro-level stiffness. The Empire VR90 employs a full carbon Easton EC90 sole. Giro worked together with Easton to develop this sole type. It was created using an exclusive model last. It is engineered to provide stiffness in three areas: toe, arch, and heel. This rigidity translates to impeccable power transfer to the pedals hence no energy is wasted.

Traction and walkability. Bonded with the sole is molded Vibram rubber. Vibram is known for excellently high traction rubber.  It provides comfort and grip when you mount off the bike. 

Accommodates steel toe spikes. There are two stud mounts at the front of the sole. They offer users the option to add toe spikes which help enhance grip, especially in muddy trails. Note that studs are also included upon purchase.

The Empire VR90 features a 2-bolt cleat mount. This cleat design is often seen in mountain cycling shoes as it is easier to clip in and out compared to the three-bolt version. This shoe works perfectly with small platform clipless pedals or no platform pedals like the Shimano XTR M9100 Race pedals.

Breathable, lightweight, and easy to clean. Crafted with a technology called Evofiber, the shoe combines the best attributes of mesh and microfiber. This fusion aims to provide water-repellency and a breathable fit at the same time. It is also easy to clean. Moreover, the one-piece upper eliminates seams and adhesives, which prevents hotspots and unnecessary weight.

Protective rubber toe cap. A rubber toe cap protects the wearer’s foot from impact and provides added structure to the shoe overall.

The Empire VR90 by Giro is available in both men’s and women’s versions. The latter version is designed after women-specific last to shape after the ladies’ naturally narrower feet. The upper’s material does not fully bend to make putting on a breeze. Reinforced rubber toecaps may affect the fit in the forefoot area. Moreover, the changeable arch foams provide excellent fit and stability.

Adjustable footbed. This shoe employs the brand’s signature SuperNatural Fit Kit. This insole set comes with an interchangeable arch support system. It consists of three levels of arch support foams labeled as S, M and L. Users can attach and detach the foams according to what they feel best via Velcro.

Anti-microbial. This model’s inner lining is treated with the XT2 anti-microbial technology. This innovation incorporates silver into yarns for a long-lasting odor fix. It restricts bacterial and fungi growth, which causes odor. 

  • Lace tucks are provided to keep laces from getting stuck in the chain or pedal.
  • Perforation holes are placed on the lateral and rear parts of the upper and the tongue.
  • Two top-most eyelets are crafted from metal for enhanced durability.
  • Branding can be seen on the tongue, lateral and rear parts of the upper.

Comparison