Interview: Giro Creative Director Eric Horton über gestrickte Schuhe und Inspiration

Another cycling shoe invention – was that really necessary?

Hmm – well I believe in evolution and so as a creative leader at my company, by definition I’ve got to be looking and thinking about what’s next. But it’s not just what next, it’s about bringing tangible benefits to our customers and enhancing their experience, so yes, new materials, new processes and new inspiration will always drive new product direction. And the color and graphic opportunities are limitless! Function and fashion!

Cycling shoes aren’t really shoes, they are equipment.

The knitted version of shoes is something already used by Nike, followed by Adidas and then other running or lifestyle shoe brands. Is this where Giro got the inspiration? 

We certainly pay attention to what’s happening in lot’s of other industries like, athletic apparel and footwear, electronics, automotive design, architecture etc. We’ve seen the incredible innovations in athletic footwear but weren’t sure that it would work for cycling until we were introduced to the knitting source itself. We were able to understand that the fibers could be manipulated in ways that running shoes never had before to provide the kind of support and structure that cycling shoes need.

Does Giro get their inspiration from other sports categories in general or is a new technology or new cycling trends also a possible kick in the butt to start something new?

At Giro, we are very open minded and we pay attention to trends and innovations that are happening in all types of industries as well as looking within the cycling culture itself for how the sport is evolving. Inspiration can come from anywhere but the question is – are we ready to seize the moment and change direction in a fast and nimble way when it does? Throughout my career, the most important lesson has been to work hard but to stay flexible and have the ability to change course when the stars align!

Being at the show this year also gave me a spark of inspiration for our apparel category that I am very excited about pursuing so stay tuned for exciting innovations.

What was so difficult in coming up with a knitted material version for the cycling industry – wasn’t it simply copy and paste?

Oh I wish it was that simple… Cycling shoes aren’t really shoes, they are equipment. They are attached to a rigid platform that is very different from an athletic shoe that is attached to a flexible base. Attaching that rigid platform to a pedal and pulling up on that shoe puts completely different types of forces and stress on the shoe upper. We had to get into the chemistry of the fibers and come up with a composite upper that maintained the supple, adaptable fit of the knit all the while providing enough support and structure to efficiently transfer your power to the pedal.

Working on the perfect material how many different versions did come up in all the time?

It took us 6-7 rounds of upper samples to develop just the right combination of suppleness and support.

I was lucky enough to feel the material in real life but to all readers: how would you describe the knitted material does feel?

I would say we struck just the right balance of suppleness and durability. Ours are significantly more durable than a typical knitted running shoe but not so rugged that we lose the wonderful suppleness that the knit technology offers.

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It is water compelling but not water proof – but to be honest which cycling shoe is? But the question is: for what season and weather conditions is the knitted material made?

We do provide a DWR coating on the upper so it is quite water repellant but it is quite arguably our most ventilated shoe ever so I’d say warm weather is probably the ideal condition to take best advantage of this technology but with a quiver of overshoes they can certainly perform year round just like any other cycling shoes.

For offroad riding I’ve been spending a lot of time in the new VR70 knit. There is something really special about the way this shoe feels on the foot.

One of the biggest differences is the price: the knitted Giro shoe does already begin at a quite reasonable price with 160,- Euro. Was that a goal as well, making shoes being a little bit more affordable?

At Giro, we like to believe that we price products fairly. Just because a technology is new doesn’t mean that it has to be expensive, in fact in the case of the knit we able to see some cost savings vs. traditionally constructed uppers so we were able to pass those savings onto the end consumer. This is an exciting new approach to bring fresh energy to middle of the market rather than always at the top.

What would you say is the biggest difference between your regular Giro shoes and the knitted shoes when talking about production?

With the knit uppers we can zonally engineer the characteristics that we want right into the upper itself. Ventilated areas, stretchy zones and parts that have zero stretch. This is a big advantage compared to cutting pieces out of a sheet of synthetic lether that has uniform performance characteristics. And there is very little waste! After the upper is knitted, we thermally bond a strategically placed layer of TPU reinforcement film to add a bit more structure and durability. After that, the upper is ready to be lasted and bonded to an outsole. This new method of construction dramatically reduces the amount of processes required for shoe construction. More efficiency equals lower cost.

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And what about wearing them – any big cool changes compared to the usual?

– Zero break in period! Comfort right out the box. The Knit upper is very adaptable to different shaped feet so we are actually finding that some riders that previously weren’t comfortable in Giro shoes are now able to wear them. We are pretty excited about this upper technology being able to introduce Giro footwear to new customers. And the ventilation is next level!

Sometimes the best shoes do only exist for men – why does now already a explicit women’s shoe exist with the new material?

Typically we like to able to offer all of our technologies to both Men and Women so it made sense to bring the knit technology to a Women’s specific model. If we have success and there is demand then of of course we will expand the offerings.

Designing for women is said to be different than designing for men. Where do you stand on this matter?

We certainly pay attention to human factors data to drive our perspective on fit for women vs men. In the case of footwear – generally speaking – women have lower volume in the forefoot and narrower heels. We have adapted our footform to better fit women’s feet. There are always outliers and so some women with wider feet prefer our Men’s fit. When it comes to color and graphics we are fortunate in that we offer a complete collection from head to toe so we can offer the female rider stylish options that coordinate all the accessories.

What’s your favourite Giro product in shoes, what would you recommend if asked?

I’m riding the Giro Prolight Techlace a lot on the road. Incredibly lightweight and the comfort is really unbelieveable. For offroad riding I’ve been spending a lot of time in the new VR70 knit. There is something really special about the way this shoe feels on the foot. Hard to articulate but somehow the shoe feels very lively like it gives energy back to you. Very unique feel!

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And what Giro product is yet to be made but on your to-do-list since a long time?

Ha! We are actively creating the future in all of our categories so you’ll just have to come by the Giro booth at Eurobike 2018 to see what’s next! Being at the show this year also gave me a spark of inspiration for our apparel category that I am very excited about pursuing so stay tuned for exciting innovations.

Thank you Eric!

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Eric Horton ist seit 2016 Creative Director bei Giro. Mit Stationen bei Specialized und Easton Bell Sports ist er der Fahrradbranche immer treu gewesen und konnte seine Expertise über die Jahre hinweg ausbauen und optimieren. Auf der Messe habe ich ihn als begeisterten Designer kennen lernen dürfen, der sich freudig auf Diskussionen eingelassen hat und sich dankenswerter Weise auch die Zeit für dieses Interview nahm. Danke!

 

 

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