Giro may be a household name for cyclists when it comes to helmets, but it takes more than brand recognition to sell a $290 cycling shoe. Code is Giro’s flagship offroad shoe, combining an EC90 unidirectional carbon sole with Teijin microfibre upper. A good start, but then Giro adds welded scuff guards, a sturdy but not bulky ratchet buckle, and dual density lugs. What’s surprising to me is the level of refinement and attention to detail that the Code offers. A lot of thought went into the design of the shoe though quirky gimmicks are avoided. The placement and design of closures pulls the upper snugly over the instep without creating pressure points and the heel cup fits close but comfortably. The one feature that does border on gimmick, the “SuperNatural Fit Kit” footbed, actually is executed extremely well. The footbeds have interchangeable arch support inserts that are held in place by a Velcro-like (but low bulk) interface and provide 3 different heights. You can even reposition the placement of the support, allowing you to experiment to get the best comfort.
From the 2012 sample I received, I needed to go a half-size larger than my regular Sidi size. However, when I tried a 2013 version of the Factor, Giro’s analogous road shoe, I took the same size as the Sidi. Powering on the pedals, this shoe is stiffer than the majority of road shoes on the market, is adequately ventilated, and is fairly comfortable. The textured grip between the forefoot and heel was definitely appreciated when footing down in rocky terrain or catching the pedal without clipping in on a tricky remount. However, the area of the upper between the instep buckle and the outside ankle is stiff right to the edge of the cuff. Since my ankle bones are distinctly rather wide and low, the edge digs in hard under the ankle bone near the shoe’s tongue. It is annoying while riding, but it is enough of a problem while running that I would choose a different shoe for cyclocross. Talking to Giro staff who acknowledged that they had heard of some complaints, the 2013 Code has been amended in that area with a slightly different, lower angle to the edge. Yet, they did not actually have an example in my size for me to confirm at Interbike this week. For those considering Giro shoes in general, it is worth noting that the Factor road shoe had a much more supple upper in that area. It is possible that the welded on scuff guards of the mountain shoe are part of the issue, not just the underlying support for the buckle.
At $290, the Code is a solid offering from Giro and a well-made shoe. For $65 less, consumers can get the Giro Gauge which has the EC70 carbon sole and an unbranded microfibre upper but is otherwise nearly identical. The Gauge also comes in a High Volume model to accommodate wider feet or perhaps orthotics.
As the Pacific Northwest transitions into fall, I will get back to readers about the wet weather wearability and long term durability of the Code.
Update (2012.12.07): After about 20-30 hrs of riding time, the area of the shoe that was rubbing my ankle bones finally conformed to my foot. While riding, the Code’s light weight and stiffness gives a very direct and powerful transfer to the pedals. Ventilation in warm weather is excellent. I often use mtb pedals while road training, and the Code serves well. However, I personally don’t choose it for cyclocross. The mesh panels deliver insta-chill in the water and mud. And that carbon sole is so stiff that running suffers a bit, even though the lugs on the bottom of the shoe adequately function in the slop. The shoe does dry well afterwards, though. In the end maybe riders in other regions might choose these shoes for cyclocross, but the Code is quite faithful to cross country racing as its raison d’etre. I’m putting these shoes away for the winter, but come summer they’ll likely be on my feet for some long hours in the saddle.