The Giant Charge Elite XC shoes are durable, comfortable and offer decent levels of stiffness for when you want to give the pedals a stamp. The Boa system gives a secure wrap around the foot, while the tread helps your footing on muddy trails. They're pricey compared with rivals, though, and you'll need to go up a size.
The Charge shoes are actually designed for cross-country mountain biking, but they cross over very well into the gravel market which is where I've been using them for the majority of testing.
The Elites sit in the middle of a three-shoe range, so you don't get the full carbon fibre ExoBeam sole that you do on the Pro model. ExoBeam is the dual beam design which runs the length of the sole, which Giant claims increases stability and power transfer.
The Elite's version of it is made up of a composite of carbon and glass fibre, so it's not super-stiff like the full carbon fibre sole found on the Shimano RX8s, with just a little bit of flex when riding hard in or out of the saddle.
That's not a bad thing, though, especially if you aren't out for a 'smashfest' and want to get some steady miles in. The bit of movement provides some comfort and helps deal with the vibration coming through from the pedals.
The design of the sole gives mud clearance for clipping into your pedals (twin-bolt cleats only), and up front you get mounting points for studs if you're likely to be dragging yourself up muddy climbs on foot.
The PU upper is brilliantly robust, and after plenty of miles on gravel tracks and forest trails they have shrugged off most of the knocks and scuffs, so they still look like new.
Up front the toe guards stop the upper getting scuffed up and torn when you walk on gravel, and the heel is also protected.
The upper is also water resistant and it does a good job of keeping the rain out, even with quite a few holes for breathability. A real soaking gets through, like if you are riding in heavy rain all day, but in light rain or when dealing with road spray, they stay dry for quite a while.
Getting a close, comfortable fit is achievable thanks to many different details. First up, you get a Boa dial and cable which deals with two-thirds of the foot retention, with the lower section taken care of by a simple Velcro strap.
The Boa system gives a good wraparound, and you can get a close fit without any pressure points.
Inside, you get arches to place under the insole to suit your feet, and a SharkSkin heel liner stops your foot lifting on each pedal stroke.
I've been testing the size 45, which Giant refers to as a UK11, but they aren't. I'm a UK10 and these are a good fit on me, so I'd say you definitely need to go up a size from your norm. Sizes across brands fluctuate a fair bit, and I can range from a 44 to 45 in a lot of them.
The Charges aren't the widest shoe on the market either, although they do start to give a bit as you wear them a lot.
At £194.99, they aren't cheap. The Bontrager Foray Shoes are similar in design, although I'd say that the fibre/nylon sole isn't quite as stiff as that found on the Giant, judging by John's review. The Forays have a Boa dial and strap for closure and a leather upper but only set you back £129.99.
Overall, I like the Charge Elite shoes. They are comfortable and offer a good fit (sizing aside), plus they also have lots of neat little touches throughout, especially that tough upper and decent water resistance. There's a lot of cheaper competition out there, though.
Tough, comfortable and relatively stiff shoes for use on the gravel, just make sure you size up
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Giant Charge Elite XC shoes
Size tested: 45
Tell us what the product is for
Giant says, "Thanks to an all-new, dual design thermoset carbon/glass fibre composite ExoBeam plate, internal ExoWrap for custom arch fit and secure BOA closure, the Charge Elite provides the power transfer, efficiency and fit you need to move to the head of the pack."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Giant lists these features:
Exclusive thermoset carbon/glass fibre composite ExoBeam plate featuring a full rubber covered dual beam design increases power transfer and stability.
Reinforced high-density, water resistant PU upper with laser cut micro-perforations combines optimal support with extremely low weight while providing ventilation and promoting a balanced foot climate.
On-the-fly micro-adjustment BOA System closure combines with ExoWrap for superior fit.
Exclusive Slip-Last construction allows the forefoot to be stiff while enabling torsional rotation of the rear and mid foot.
Reversed forefoot strap ensures maximum comfort and a secure fit.
Ultra grippy SharkSkin heel liner gives a secure, slip-free fit even under the harshest conditions.
Moulded TPU toe guard protects forefoot and features double secure cleat inserts.
Removable sock liner with tuneable arch support and TransTextura Plus™ anti-microbial layer promotes a balanced foot climate.
They come up small by about one UK size, like for like.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
A capable pair of shoes for use on the gravel bike or cyclo-cross, as well as for cross-country mountain biking.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tough and smart looking PU upper.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Sizing is off.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The Giants come out more expensive than many of their rivals.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Possibly, depends what deal I could find.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
They're very good in terms of quality and performance – stiff enough in the sole, comfortable for riding and good for walking, and with tough uppers that should mean they last well – but they are expensive compared with many.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!