It’s only been a few months since Giro introduced the Factor Techlace, and it’s garnered no shortage of armchair criticism in that short period of time. Detractors have panned the shoe as a marketing-driven gimmick with no real benefits to offer, and lots of needless complexity to sully the elegant simplicity of the lace-up Empires.
Yet here’s the thing about the “Techlace” concept — it works.
What Giro has done with the Factor Techlace is create a quick-release version of the Empire, emulating the latter’s glove-like feel and suppleness, but casting aside the perceived hassles associated with traditional laces. The Factor Techlace is definitely quicker to get on and off, and it’s easier to get a consistent fit from outing to outing.
Riders who found the Empires to be a bit narrow should also find a bit more room inside the Factor Techlace’s (very slightly) more voluminous interior. And if you’re one to constantly fiddle with their shoes during the ride, these won’t require you to pull off the side of the road to do so, either.
Giro equips the Factor Techlace with Easton’s top-end EC90 SLX carbon fiber outsole. The heel pad is replaceable.
Other characteristics that have carried over include Giro’s typically excellent heel fit, and the girder-like stiffness of the Easton-made carbon fiber outsole. Breathability has been very good, too, simple black-and-white motif of my test pair is enviably attractive, and the shiny surface has been easy to keep clean even after being soaked in road spray.
In my opinion, though, the Techlace concept is really only appealing if you find the Empires to be too cumbersome to live with on a day to day basis. The Factor Techlace shoes are heavier than the Empire SLX, the upper isn’t quite as form fitting and supple (although it’s close), and while it looks great, it’s still not as simplistically elegant.
And then there are those insoles.
I applaud Giro for not only incorporating a measure of tunability into the insoles, but also including all three foam arch insert options with every pair of Factor Techlaces instead of forcing users to buy the alternatives separately. That said, I’ve sampled Giro shoes regularly since their launch in 2010, and I still wish the company would integrate at least some arch support directly into the outsole. The squishy foam inserts admittedly accommodate a wide range of foot shapes, but the design also can’t match a more rigid foundation in terms of support.
The included SuperNatural Fit insoles feature interchangeable arch inserts to fine-tune the level of support. The upper layer features X-Static antimicrobial fibers to ward off odor.
Giro has previously stated its preference for flat outsoles since they allow for more “spillover” and are more forgiving of different feet, and fair enough. That said, perhaps the company might consider using a semi-rigid arch insert, similar to what’s used by Australian company G8 Performance.
Overall, the Factor Techlace is yet another solid shoe from Giro, and it tackles head-on some of the complaints surrounding the full lace-up Empire SLX. I’m just not sure those minor annoyances are significant enough to justify the trade-offs.