What started out in the world of running trainers with Nike’s release of the flyknit in 2012 has now found its way to cycling – Giro and Fizik were the first on the scene last year when they released knitted versions the Empire E70 and Infinito R1 at Eurobike. But the introduction of woven uppers to cycling may not be just a flash in the pan, with Mavic set to release a pair of shoes with woven uppers in September. So, what’s the deal with knitted shoes? And are they a serious alternative to the ubiquitous synthetic leather upper?

The Giro Empire E70 Knit and Fizik Infinito R1 Knit

"Using knitted shoes in the UK may seem counter intuitive – aren’t your feet just going to get soaked with the slightest bit of rain or spray from the road?"

The idea of a knitted shoe is that you get a greater level of breathability, a comfortable fit similar to a sock, and an incredibly light shoe – what with all those holes. But using one in the UK may seem counter intuitive – aren’t your feet just going to get soaked with the slightest bit of rain or spray from the road? Well, we performed a 'scientific' test (squirting water on them from a bidon) on the Empire E70 Knit and Infinito R1 Knit that we had in the RCUK office, and were pleasantly surprised.

The Giro Empire E70 Knit undergoes our scientific water-repellency test

The water-repellent ability of the Giro was particularly impressive considering it's got an awful lot of holes in it. This is made possible thanks to a DWR (that's Durable Water Repellent) treatment that has been added to the fabric, which causes water to bead on the upper's surface, rather than soak into the fabric. The Fizik performed even better thanks in part to a 'second skin' that has been integrated beneath the upper's knitted layer. Both aren't perfect and let a little bit of water seep through, but not more than a shoe with a synthetic leather upper.

The Fizik Infinito R1 Knit fared much better than expected

Breathability is where knitted shoes really come into their own. Even just sat in the office with them on, you can feel air flowing through the shoes’ uppers. Both Giro and Fizik have boosted this by including vents in the soles, which draw air to the soles of your feet too. When you take this to the road, it leaves your feet with maximum comfort, especially when things start hotting up.

The Giro Empire E70 Knit includes one vent at the top box, keeping things cool as you put the hammer down

Again, knitted shoes rival their non-knitted peers when it comes to comfort thanks to the upper’s increased flexibility. They really do fit like a sock, but there is still the support you need from a shoe when you’re putting the pedal down. All the conformity of the knitted upper is balanced with the stiff carbon sole for the pedal efficiency you'd come to expect from a top end cycling shoe

The Fizik Infinito R1 Knit includes an aerodynamic carbon sole, and six vents to maximise the shoe's breathability

Overall, there's definitely a place in the market for knitted shoes, and if the success of Nike's flyknits and its imitations are anything to go by, the cycling shoe market could be in for a big shake up.