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Giant bicycles offer a four-model range of shoes for the cleat-connected off-road riders out there. The Flux shoe is the entry model and Giant opted for the simple triple velcro closure on this shoe. Next in the range is the Transmit shoe, a nylon/glass fiber composite plate, and a ratchet buckle and velcro system.
The Charge series is the “Pro level” of the bunch. The flagship shoe is the Charge Pro which is Giant's best gravel bike shoe or XC shoe. Pro spec gets you two color options, dual Boa closure, and a 100 percent carbon plate but it carries with it the eye-watering price tag of $440. That brings us neatly onto the Charge Elite that we have on test here.
The Elite level spec has a heap load of the same premium features and it also shares aesthetic cues with the Pro spec model. Boasting two color options (grey and green), a carbon composite sole plate, and a single Boa and velcro closure. It packs all this yet the Elite model has the more wallet-friendly price of $299.
Design and aesthetics
Beginning with the aesthetics, the Giant Charge Elite truly is a looker. Giant has done its homework with regard to the choice of colors. There are no fluorescent scares or lary racing stripes. Instead, it comes in what I will call Battleship Grey or Army Olive Green and both are right on the gravel trend. The shoe is classy and understated, if you can’t tell already I love the Charge Elite shoe visually. But don't judge a book by its cover, it's not just a neat-looking shoe, the Giant Charge Elite is packed with design features.
The Charge Elite is packed with design features, the outer sole has a blend of carbon and glass fibre in the proprietary ExoBeam plate. Exo Beam is a unique technology that when combined with Giant’s Motion Efficiency System offers the rider stiffness in the forefoot where the power is applied and it allows engineered flex in areas. Giant claim that by allowing the foot to move in a more natural way reduces the chance of tension or strain in the lower leg. The composite Dual beam plate is covered by a rubber coating. The Charge Elite tread is of a somewhat minimalist design and can be barely seen from the sides. In the front of the sole you will find provision for toe spikes to boost grip in the slop.
The rubber that covers the sole wraps over the front of the upper to protect your toes whilst the heel area is guarded by an additional layer stitched into the upper.
The water resistant PU upper of the Charge Elite is impressively lightweight and still hard wearing to shrug off the rigors of off road riding. The upper of the shoe features laser cut micro perforations along both of the sides that start from the toe and run up to in line with the top of the tongue. The gratifying holes balance the rider's comfort by allowing the shoes to vent out warm air but are small enough to keep the worst of the spray and splash from leaking into the inside of the shoe.
The closure is by way of a single Boa dial combined with a reversed velcro strap at the forefoot. At first, this flipped strap made me double-check that I wasn't pulling the shoe onto the wrong foot. This closure is combined with the ExoWrap feature. Giant says that this is a unique 360-degree foot enclosure that offers a supportive and fully customizable fit. This design differs from many other shoes on the market, conventionally they only pull the foot to the sole. The Giant ExoWrap design completely supports your foot by also pulling it upwards. This Exowrap element of the Charge Elite shoe is essentially an internal strap that is fixed to the instep at the middle of the shoe.
The tongue has a deep-cut vee designed to reduce unwanted discomfort from rubbing. The tongue intentionally sports minimal padding to provide a comfortable and close fit and it is covered in more vent holes to allow your feet to breathe. The heel liner is covered with a grippy Sharkskin material to offer a secure and slip-free fit even in the harshest riding conditions. This added material has the bonus of reducing rubbing and also allowing the rider to have the strongest connection between the foot and the shoe, granting maximum power on every part of the pedal stroke.
My initial impression when I pulled on the Charge Elite for the first time is that the shoe is stiff, both in the composite sole and also surprisingly the upper, as the synthetic upper material seemed to look soft and sag slightly when I first got them out of the box. The Boa and the way the upper wraps around my foot is supportive and at first comfortable. The sizing seemed to be spot on.
On the bike, the fit and rigidity are on par with the best that I have tried. However, by the end of the first ride, my feet are sore. Both shoes are causing me discomfort on the top of my foot from where the tongue is sewn into the upper. After several attempts mid-ride to adjust the velcro strap, I conclude that the strap isn't the offended party. This trait, unfortunately, continued for the next couple of weeks until the shoes softened and were properly broken in.
The fit is snug if not slightly on the tight side. The Charge Elite is certainly on the sporty side of shoe fit. The Boa dial used can be incrementally backed off which is a nice touch so riders can easily adjust the closure whilst on the hop. They are a narrow shoe but I don't feel that I would warrant upsizing.
The heel is very well held and combined with the ExoWrap and the ExoBeam features offer a lovely balance of support around the foot and twist in the rear of the shoe. This really helps to deliver all of your power down through that twin-beam plate design when you are stamping hard whilst out of the saddle.
A light shoe (a snick under 700g a pair size 42) with subtle gravel looks for cruising rides and the performance package to win the hearts of gravel racers. Once worn in the toe box flex makes walking comfortable enough. The sole tread and grip are fine for normal graded gravel paths. If you stray from the safety of this you will reach the limitations quickly be it damp grass or mud. This is a shame as the rugged upper is more than up to the task of cross-country mountain biking conditions.
The Charge Elite is light and stiff enough to deliver the power down whilst offering enough flex to be able to walk when off the bike and fending off flying debris with ease. I think they look the part too in either of the very “gravel” colorways. So the perfect mixed surface shoe then?
Well not quite, they were not very comfortable to wear whilst on or off the bike for any longer than an hour until you have notched up a good number of rides and the lack of any substantial tread means it just will not cope with slick mud.
Tech Specs: Giant Charge Elite shoe
- Color: Grey, Olive
- Retention: Single Boa wire and reverse velcro strap closure
- Uppers: PU upper
- Outsole: Carbon / glass fiber composite ExoBeam plate
- Weight: 696g a pair Men’s size 42
- Size: EU 40-48
- Price: $299 / £194.99 / €229