Giant’s Charge Elite shoes use the latest evolution of the brand's unique twisting twin-beam, twin-piece sole design for a distinctively mobile foot feel. They’re still impressively efficient under power though, and they're light and secure if you can find the fit and tension sweet-spot. Let's see how they stack up against the best gravel bike shoes on the market.
Giant has been using its distinctive ExoBeam ‘Slip last’ sole design for a while. The deep thermoset carbon/glass fibre composite twin beam that extends along the midfoot to the heel is a key part of the stiffness package but also allows the rear and midfoot to twist naturally as you pedal. It has the tread skin laid along the full length of it too (original ExoBeam shoes had a very slippery, ‘naked’ centre section) with shallow triangular tread lugs either side of the broad cleat pocket and cloven heel. The front of the shoe is an entirely separate section which wraps up around the lower nose of the shoe and includes twin toe studs.
The upper uses a medium-soft water-resistant PU upper but also gets extensive toe and side perforations. The padded heel cuff uses a non-slip ‘sharkskin’ fabric with a soft external cup at the base. Tightening is achieved with a short forefoot Velcro strap and a single Boa dial. This closes the shoe conventionally but also pulls on what Giant calls ExoWrap, an internal strap that’s anchored into the instep of the shoe behind the ball of the foot on the inboard side of the shoe. The removable insole has switchable mid foot orthotics (a slightly thicker pad is included) and a TransTextura Plus anti-microbial layer fights against fool smells. The whole set up comes in impressively light too. They are expensive for a shoe with just one Boa though and the finishing isn’t quite as neat as similarly expensive competitors.
Despite a soft feeling upper and engineered twist in the sole, the Charge Elites definitely feel stiff and prescriptive at first. That includes potential hot spots around the tongue and under the Boa dial. This version of the Boa can be backed off incrementally though so if you go slightly too tight you can ease if off slightly. Once they’ve worn in a bit the rotational aspect of the rear end definitely helps if you’ve got mangled ankles or other tracking issues when you pedal. It makes walking on random surfaces easier too and it doesn’t impact on the impressive power transfer of the deep beam design. The instep orthotic combines with the ExoWrap to hold the midfoot securely, and the heel is well captured, too.
The sole tread is sticky enough for gecko-like dry grip but struggles to find purchase in muddy conditions unless you add toe studs. Perforations also undermine the water-resistant nature of the upper but they do stop overheating and the shoes clean easily and dry reasonably quick if you do get wet.
Lightweight and power happy shoe with useful and unique twist mobility for those with tracking issues. Upper construction and tightening architecture need careful tuning (and patience while they wear in) to find a sweet spot between comfortable and secure. They’re expensive for the level of features, too.
Tech specs: Giant Charge Elite XC shoes
Weight: 756g (Size 44 with cleats)
Colours: Grey/black and olive/black
Price: £194.99 / €229.00 / US $285 / AU $334.95