Giro Jacket II Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
Giro bills the Jacket II as the "daily driver of our footwear line, at home on the pump track, the shop floor, and over doubles on the trail - or at the pub." After testing these shoes, we'd say that's a relatively accurate assessment. These affordable and casually-styled shoes seem to work well for just about every application except for those where you want a stiff and super grippy sole. That said, riders who don't need or want the stiffest or grippiest soles, dirt jumpers or those who really like to feel the pedal underfoot, may find these shoes to be exactly what they need. They wouldn't be our first choice for pedal heavy trail rides or long and rough descents, but that isn't necessarily what the Jacket II was designed for anyway.
For the sole of the Jacket II, Giro uses a Vibram EcoStep rubber compound which is made with 30% recycled rubber. It has a look and feel similar to that of a classic Vans skate shoe, although the tread design has been optimized to work with flat pedals. The rubber feels reasonably soft to the touch and is easily compressed with a thumbnail. It seems like it should grab onto pedal pins as well as other compounds. While they do provide a decent connection to the pedals, we didn't find them to inspire confidence or the "locked-in" feel of some other models we tested. That said, they might be perfect for those who prefer a bit of foot mobility.
The Jacket II utilizes multiple shapes within the tread pattern. The toe and heel have a hexagon-like design, and underfoot, the shoe uses a pattern of small opposing triangles. Throughout the whole sole of the shoe, the tread is raised approximately 2-millimeters. In between all of the tread knobs is a small channel that is a couple of millimeters wide. This tread looks like it would interface with pedals pins quite effectively and hold them in those channels, but that wasn't really the case.
Both the rubber and the tread design seem like they should provide confidence-inspiring grip, but it is average at best. When fully weighted, the grip feels okay, though it doesn't come close to that of our top-rated models. On rocky and chattery trails, our feet were bounced around far more easily than the competition. One positive is it is quite easy to reposition the foot on the pedal. Since the pins aren't truly connecting with the sole, it's easy to do a slight rotation of the ankle to change foot position. While the grip isn't super impressive, perhaps that's also the point. Not all riding styles or riders require your feet to be glued to the pedals. Those who frequent the dirt jumps or the pump track may appreciate this reduced grip more than most.
Off the bike, the Jacket II works quite well. Whether you are strolling around town or pushing your bike to the top of a sketchy line, they offer solid amounts of grip on most surfaces. In addition, the softer, more flexible, sole allows for a very natural walking motion.
We found the Jacket II to be a comfortable pair of shoes. We can see this shoe working quite well for a lot of different foot shapes. The fit runs true to size for length, with a roomy medium volume. Riders who require a slightly higher-volume fit may have more success with these shoes than most of the others we tested. On the flip side, those with a low-volume foot might find them a bit too spacious.
Once slipping your foot into the Jacket II, it fits a bit like a skate shoe and the roominess is quite apparent. Often, a shoe is spacious in one particular region, such as a wide toe box. This is not the case with the Jacket, it is a relatively wide and roomy shoe from heel to toe. One might go as far as to say the fit was a little sloppy. Riders with narrow to average feet might find their feet moving within the shoe a little more than they would like. That said, the laces run down quite far, and it is possible to tighten the shoe over the upper toe box.
The microfiber upper is quite pleasant against the foot. This skate-inspired shoe avoids being overly cushioned or puffy. Instead, we found it used a sensible amount of padding and foam. The EVA foam footbed was quite pleasant, although relatively basic with little support for the arch. The underside of the tongue was soft and adequately padded. The tongue is smooth and flat and is absent of any ridges or textures that irritated the foot. Additionally, they have a little reinforcement for the toes and the heel to ward off rock strikes and impacts.
Rigidity and Power Transfer
If there is one area where the Jacket II really stands out from the competition, it is the lack of rigidity. The soles are considerably less stiff than any other model we tested. Upon removing these shoes from the box, the old hand flex test was revealing and it was very easy to bend the soles in half.
On the trail, a softer sole delivers excellent pedal feel. If you're the type of rider who likes their shoe to conform to or flex around the pedal, these could be a great option. When standing up on the bike, they communicate the pins and edges of the pedal extremely well. While this may be great for some riders and riding styles, it can cause discomfort and foot/calf fatigue on trail rides or over the course of a long climb or descent.
Due to the sole's relative lack of stiffness, power transfer is subpar in the Jacket II. When you are hammering on the pedals, you can feel your power flex into the sole of the shoe if your foot isn't positioned well, putting more strain on the foot, ankle, and calf. If your foot is hanging off the back, or side, of the pedal it feels like it is folding over the edge when you are putting the power down. A stiffer and more rigid sole transfers power more effectively.
The Jacket II delivers above-average levels of breathability. The microfiber upper construction has perforations on both sides of the foot and above the toe box to allow heat and moisture to escape. In addition, the looser fit seems to play a role in helping things stay cool and ventilated. A shoe, like the Jacket, with more air circulating through looser areas will promote better airflow than a super snug shoe. The low weight paired with the relatively low amounts of padding and armor also play a role in keeping things cool.
Throughout testing, we observed no serious signs of premature wear or breakdown of the materials. The synthetic upper material is in good shape and isn't heavily scuffed. There is a lot of exposed stitching in the construction of the Jacket II, although it appears to be in good shape with no fraying or damage to speak of.
Our size 11 test shoes hit the scale at an average of 392-grams, or 13.8-ounces, per shoe. That is respectively light and puts it among the lightest shoes in the test.
Normally, we praise lighter shoes as being better options for longer rides. Unfortunately for the Jacket II, the lack of rigidity really detracts from our desire to ride 30-miles with these shoes. We would happily add a couple of dozen grams for better pedaling performance. Still, kudos to Giro for making an attractive and functional shoe that delivers a low weight, comfortable fit, and attractive price.
The Jacket II are the least expensive shoes we tested, and we feel they are a good value to the right consumer. Riders who appreciate foot mobility and a softer sole, looking at you dirt jumpers and pump track riders, are the most likely candidates for this shoe that can easily go from the bike park to bar without missing a beat.
If you're looking for a shoe for trail or gravity riding, you'll be better off spending slightly more money for a shoe with better grip and power transfer. That little bit of extra cash secures a far more performance-oriented shoe that will deliver a much better on-trail experience.
The Giro Jacket II is a functional and stylish shoe that works on the mountain bike trail or out on the town. This skate-inspired shoe delivers high levels of comfort, a low weight, and decent breathability. While we feel its grip and power transfer are lacking, it may be perfect for riders who value foot mobility and pedal feel.
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