Strong, light, cheap — pick two. That was Keith Bontrager's famous maxim about bike parts, and it applies well to cycling shoes, too. Giro's new Prolight Techlace shoes have stiff soles, comfortable and customizable insoles, and a total weight that's nearly half of say, some high-end Sidis. And no, they are not cheap.
Giro is advertising the Prolight Techlaces as sub-150g. One of my test 45s weighs 187g. Compare that to a Sidi Shot that weighs 349g in size 45.
So does this ultra-low weight come at a cost of comfort or efficiency? Or just at a financial cost? It's mostly the latter.
The uppers are a mix of mesh and Tijin TPU bonded into a single piece of hyper-thin fabric. It feels almost like tent material: strong, malleable and paper thin.
The mesh is good for ventilation and showing off your socks, if you're into that kind of thing.
Quite unlike Giro's snug-fitting lace-up Empires, the Prolight Techlaces feel roomy and comfortable like the rest of Giro's line. [Giro insists that the Empires fit the same as its other shoes, having been made on the same last. I'm here to tell you they fit much narrower.]
There isn't any stiff lateral support in the Prolight Techlaces; if you like the bathtub fit of something like a Bont, you might find these too pliable.
The sculpted heel cups do their job; there is no slippage when out of the saddle. But they are a far cry from the clamped-down feel of the S-Works 6 or the Sidi Shot. I don't know if one design is better than the other, but the fit and feel are worlds apart.
Laces + Velcro. Best of both worlds or a gimmick?
The lace closure works well enough, but it has a couple of quirks.
One, you have to set the fit somewhat deliberately by straightening the length of the laces, tightening, then folding and securing. Otherwise, the lower laces get pinned by the pressure from the upper section and don't slide freely. Not a big deal; just something to keep in mind.
The second quirk is that the laces can stretch a bit over the course of a ride.
I found the fit of the laces to be comfortable, without any pressure points or stiffness anywhere on the shoe. With some Boa-based systems, there is often a plastic base or two that the dial rides on. It's seldom uncomfortable, but the plastic by nature just isn't as flexible as the rest of the upper. Here, the whole upper is malleable.
The padding on the tongue stops just short of the upper lace, weirdly enough, but I never felt that upper lace on my foot.
The system is faster to use than laces alone, but not as quick or as easy to tighten down on the bike as a Boa or another dial.
Giro shaved weight in a couple ways with the outsoles. Using TeXtreme carbon (a la Felt bikes or Giro's own time trial helmet) increases stiffness with minimal material, as does the titanium hardware. However, instead of the common adjustable cleat bolts that slide fore and aft, Giro opts for a fixed position of the three bolts.
Compared to most shoes, Giro sets the holes 1cm further back on the sole, closer to the heel. For me, I slam my SPD cleats all the way forward to get the ball of my foot centered on the spindle.
Giro ships the shoes with two sets of footbed options: ultralight thin footbeds, and then Giro's SuperNatural fit kit, which has three different arch-support options that attach via Velcro to the underside of each footbed.
Both have X-Static anti-microbial fibers. I have a pretty neutral fit I suppose, as the stock beds worked well enough that I didn't bother to fiddle with the SuperNatural footbeds.
Bottom line: comfortable, very light shoes
Shoe companies have been rejiggering closure systems for years with dials, Velcro straps, laces, and ratchets in various configurations. Combining Velcro and laces isn't going to change the world; either these shoes will fit you well or they won't.
They are remarkably light, though, and I found them comfortable for long rides and short races alike.
If you like really tight shoes, you probably won't like the how the laces stretch. But if you like the looks and want to lighten your rotational weight and your wallet, the Giro Prolight Techlaces are a good bet.