Absolutely gorgeous shoes with an ultra-stiff carbon sole and a unique twist on the BOA LI2 dials. There’s a lot to like about the Giant Surge Pro road shoes but the exterior material and closure system holds them back a bit.
- BOA Li2 dials look great and pop open for easy on and off
- Exo-beam carbon plate is incredibly stiff
- Chromaflair colour option is gorgeous
- Resistance to toe overlap destruction
- Lots of ventilation
- Swappable insoles and arch support options
- Velcro strap does little to enhance fit
- Top BOA dial tightens too low on the shoe
Way back in late 2015, Giant came to market with a shoe that was unlike anything else. It had two features that made it unique, ExoWrap and ExoBeam. Seven years later the latest version carries over the same two features but they are almost completely unrecognisable. There's actually a lot more of the DNA from that early model in there as well. The question is, are the evolution of those unique details enough to help the latest version of the Giant Surge Pro compete among the best?
With that question in mind, we took a few spins in the old shoes just to get reacquainted then we spent time testing the new shoes. Giant likes to name drop Simon Yates and Team BikeExchange-Jayco for their use of the new shoes but that's what every company does. It's not a bad thing that pro riders use the shoes but what about the rest of us?
To find out, we headed for the hills, the flats, and the virtual landscapes to get a sense of what the updates to Giant's best cycling shoes bring to the table. Now we are ready to discuss their strengths and their weaknesses. If you are looking for a new pair of summer road shoes keep reading to see what we think of the Giant Surge Pro.
Design and aesthetics
If there's anything about the Giant Surge Pro shoes that make them what they are, it's the ExoBeam design. Look at any shoe, cycling or otherwise, and there's a relatively flat bottom that covers the entire area of your foot. When the original Giant Surge Pro launched, the brand looked at that standard and decided we didn't need all that material in the midfoot. Instead, it put a beam of carbon through the centre of the sole. The midfoot had almost no width but a thick beam of carbon made the shoes some of the stiffest on the market.
This year the ExoBeam became a dual-beam to address complaints. The narrow support through the midfoot wasn't ideal for anyone with wider, flatter, feet and the new structure looks a lot more conventional. The spirit of the beam concept is still there though. The carbon plate does narrow a bit in the midfoot and there's a distinct double channel of support from a pair of twin beams. It's a design that, very roughly, carries over from the offroad specific Charge Pro but the road version takes on a much different look.
The aesthetic of the bottom of the Surge Pro shoes has always revolved around the ExoBeam. Over the years it's softened on that front a bit but it continues to be the vehicle that drives the design. In this version the very top of the channel, after it wraps around the cleat platform, is where you'll find a large ventilation hole. At the rear, the angle of the channel as it heads off the shoe to the right, creates a space for a replaceable, triangular heel pad. There's also a toe pad but it's not replaceable.
On the outside of the heel cup, you'll find the same material as the toe and heel pads protecting the outer finish of the shoe. It wraps almost to the arch and climbs as it reaches the back of the heel. From there it takes a short dive to the carbon sole as it wraps to the outside of the shoe. It's in the right spot to protect against a chainstay rub or stepping a little too close when descending a set of stairs.
On the inside of the heel cup is a material Giant refers to as a "SharkSkin material." This isn't a new feature compared to the previous version of the shoe but it remains a highlighted detail of the design. Like shark skin, it's smooth in one direction but grabs in the other, allowing the foot to slide in and then feel locked into place.
Keep moving into the interior of the shoe and you'll find a customisable insole. There are two options with one being completely flat and the other deeply shaped. The shaped option also includes two sets of arch supports both with the same shape but with different levels of stiffness. The material covering the top of both insoles is a rapid moisture-wicking material called TransTextura that Giant uses in its hot weather clothing.
Keeping your foot held within the interior is the job of the Li2 BOA dials. These are a relatively new take on the BOA dial that's not only lower in profile but also offers more precise adjustment. Each click is a 1mm change in tension and towards the toe on each shoe tightens the two BOA dials on each side while away from the toe loosens. Unlike the metallic BOA S3 dial found on the Specialized S-Works Torch, these pop to release. These are all standard features of BOA dials but instead of the standard wire, Giant has used a Dyneema rope that is lighter and threads easily.
That second feature is important for the ExoWrap feature that represents the other pillar of Giant Surge Pro shoes. While the upper BOA dial tightens a flap of the exterior material across the upper foot, the lower dial tightens across the foot in the opposite direction. The Dyneema threads through the outer part of the shoe but actually tightens a hidden strap on the inside of the shoe. That hidden strap attaches to the sole below the insole to create a wrapped feeling when tightened. Below both dials, there's also a velcro strap.
The exterior, which the BOA dials are pulling against to tighten, is entirely made of polyurethane. That's plastic if you don't recognize the name and it's available in a gorgeous Chromaflair that should be on your shortlist. The only better-looking shoe is the women's version which gets a purple that's close but, to my eye, even a bit better. If you prefer a bit less flash there's also a Gunmetal or White to choose from.
If you do choose the Chromaflair, it's what dominates the look of the shoe but there's also a pattern of venting. Polyurethane doesn't vent so to combat what would otherwise be a sweltering shoe there are laser cut perforations covering much of the exterior. Where you don't find vent holes there is instead a dimpled pattern. The inside uses a coating, in most places there's no extra padding, that feels like synthetic suede. Under the tongue, there's extra padding but it's still not what you would call extensive.
In my experience, the hallmark of the ExoBeam design was always how incredibly stiff it made the shoes. The idea is to allow your foot to move sideways easier, and it may do that, but I can’t tell any difference on that front. What I can feel is how stiff the shoe is front to back. The move from a single beam to two hasn’t changed that character and I find such a stiff shoe far more useful inside where I spend time doing intervals or racing on Zwift.
Along with a stiff sole, you'll want to expect a narrow toe box. Many companies have gone away from that design but Giant continues to work best if you prefer a narrow toe as well as a narrow heel. The midsole has, as part of the stated design goal, widened up somewhat. This wasn't something on my radar previously but if that has been an issue for you in the past, you'll be happy about the change.
Despite my preference for the stiffness on Zwift, the polyurethane doesn’t work so well inside. The exterior doesn't allow heat to escape at all. There's tonnes of ventilation and without any interior padding to stop airflow, the vents work. They actually work better than most, but only if they are getting airflow. Inside, the Giant Surge Pro is hot and the moisture generated tends to stick around in places like the back of the tongue where it can. On the other hand, use the Giant shoes outside and you’ll notice how well the polyurethane holds up. There is not a single mark on the shoes added during the time I've spent in them.
When it comes to the closure system, it's a mixed bag. The velcro strap adds nothing. The strap has a position where it naturally sits and that's where it stays. Try to tighten it and the exterior of the shoe will fight you. If you manage to get it a little tighter, it only creates pressure points from the flex of the exterior. You could loosen it but the outer surface of the shoe won't grow so you've not changed anything.
Move up to the lower BOA dial and you've got a winner. This is the ExoWrap piece and it works beautifully. You can feel it tighten against the side of your foot and there's not a hint of any hotspot.
Go up again though and the upper dial has a design that misses the mark. It would seem like it tightens the strap it's attached to, and it does, but that only works in practice if your foot is just the right shape. My foot doesn't make contact with the upper edge of the strap. Tighten it down and it only tightens the edge touching my foot. Ride long enough like that and it's uncomfortable. What worked for me was to use the lower BOA dial to tighten the shoe and the upper just tight enough to keep the heel from lifting. The lower strap is essentially for show. It works but there are better designs.
The Giant Surge Pro isn’t a terrible shoe but it’s not a great match for my style of riding or foot shape. I’ve come to really love the wider toe box that Specialized has moved to in the last few years. Going back to a narrow shoe isn’t my favourite and the same can be said of the closure system. Li2 dials are great and the use of Dyneema is a brilliant engineering solution but the velcro strap is an older design that feels like a step back to see on a modern shoe while the top BOA dial isn’t optimally placed.
I really love the design because of how well they’ve held up and how gorgeous the chromaflair colour option is. These are beautiful shoes and if you like a narrow toe and stiff sole they are going to work well for you.
Tech Specs: Giant Surge Pro
- Price: $399 / AU$509.95
- Sizes: EU 41-48 (Half Sizes 41.5-45.5)
- Weight: 252g per shoe (actual, size 43.5)
- Colors: Gunmetal; Chromaflair; White
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Josh hails from the Pacific Northwest of the United States but would prefer riding through the desert than the rain. He will happily talk for hours about the minutia of cycling tech but also has an understanding that most people just want things to work. He is a road cyclist at heart and doesn't care much if those roads are paved, dirt, or digital. Although he rarely races, if you ask him to ride from sunrise to sunset the answer will be yes.
Weight: 137 lb.
Rides: Orbea Orca Aero, Cannondale Topstone Lefty, Cannondale CAAD9, Trek Checkpoint, Priority Continuum Onyx