Gravity kicks are a welcomed addition to the mountain bike apparel market. They offer the protection and grippy soles previously found solely on flat-pedal shoes, so riders who like attachment can have it all. The size 44 pair of Line shoes from Giant that I recently tested weigh 534g per side with a set of SPD cleats installed and the shoes retail for $150. While they’re not the lightest set of gravity protection, the thick soles and reinforced toes make these a stellar option for rocky trail riding.
I’ll jump right in with a crucial caveat. While the Line shoes are a well-made pair of protective gravity footwear, riders with narrow or skinny feet may have trouble getting them to cinch up tight enough. I have a pair of flat gardening-trowels for a standing platform, and with the Line ratchet-straps set as tight as they go, they feel just about right. There’s no room for the upper to stretch further over the years, and anyone with a narrower foot would need to add an insole to get them tight. For reference, my foot has a 25cm circumference at the point near my ankle where the ratchet strap tightens, and a 24cm circumference across the first knuckles of my toes.
Though I am able to get the shoes comfortably tight, having the ratchet strap cinched all the way down means that it’s exceedingly difficult to open the ratchet and remove the shoe. It takes the full force of both thumbs to depress it to the point that it opens, whereas if the strap is not “bottomed out” the ratchet is far easier to actuate with one hand.
Larger-footed riders and folks with pronounced arches will be stoked on the amount of adjustability in these kicks. The ratchet is not only designed for larger feet than mine, but the buckle can be moved by a centimeter to further open up the strap.
Apart from those tightening specifications the Line gravity shoes fit well and feel good on the trail. The toe box leaves plenty of space for air flow on hot rides and extra socks on brisk ones. The cinching velcro and ratchet straps are well placed and padded so that you don’t feel them while riding, and the tongue doesn’t fold and bunch up annoyingly as it can with some other shoes.
The toe and heel feel well supported, with added rigidity at either end for protection. Apart from the toebox the front half of the uppers are on the thinner side for gravity shoes, giving precedent to airflow over padding, while the rear half includes some added protection near the ankle. I would love to see more gravity shoes incorporate inner ankle protection to cover the tibia’s bulbous end. I’m often smacking that bit of my ankle against the chainstay or crank arm, and I added a few scars to my ankle skin while wearing these shoes.
Traction and padding on the sole of the Line shoes is no joke. It’s likely where a good amount of the heft comes from. The front and rear third of the sole is packed with wide traction that works well in dry and wet conditions alike. The rubber tread is grippy, and the shoes provide plenty of traction when it’s time to walk up a piece of trail. The midfoot is flatter and equally grip-happy, helping the shoes hold fast to the pedal if you aren’t able to clip in before a technical feature.
While the sole has notably more flex than the Giant Charge XC shoes that we recently reviewed, it is fairly sturdy for a gravity platform. I can just barely feel where the cleat and pedal are located while standing on the pedals, and I have not had any issues with hot-spots or numb feet on long adventures. The thick sole definitely adds some protection to the equation, and I have been thankful for its hardiness following many a stone strike.
The Giant Line cleat channel suffers from the same tight engagement that their Charge Pro XC shoes have. The cleat is recessed ever so slightly deeper than it is on any other clipless shoes I have tested, making it a bit more difficult to clip in and out. This tight tolerance can be partially remedied by installing the spacer that Shimano and other brands provide with their cleats. The recessed cleat, or raised tread, causes the shoe to contact the pedal more than I am used to and limits the ease of movement or float between the shoe and pedal. I tried loosening my pedal engagement, but that only made the cleat release more easily and didn’t affect the lack of float.
Riders who like a super solid engagement with their clipless pedals will likely love these shoes, while folks who prefer a lot of float and free movement may need to remove a millimeter or two of rubber around the cleat channel to loosen things up.
In summation, the Line shoes do all of the things we expect gravity footwear to do, and they do it all quite well provided you have larger feet and like your pedal engagement to be fairly tight. They’re available in sizes 40-48 at your local Giant retailer.
We would like to thank Giant for sending the Line shoes over for testing.