What is it
Pearl Izumi‘s X-Project Elite mountain bike shoes deliver exceptional comfort and walkability without sacrificing power transfer. A grippy outsole provides surefooted confidence and a BOA/Velcro closure ensures excellent foot retention.
- Great power transfer
- Superb walkability thanks to grippy outsole and flexible forefoot
- Modular insole provides custom feel without the cost
- Tall stack height compared to many competitors
We want it all. We want our tires to be supple but puncture-proof. We want our suspension to work flawlessly and require less maintenance. The same goes for shoes. We want them to transmit every last ounce of our effort to the pedals but still be comfortable and surefooted when walking.
Pearl Izumi’s X-Project Elite mountain bike shoes are able to provide both, with little to no downside. To do so, Pearl Izumi created a carbon fiber sole that can flex while walking but remains stiff under pedaling forces. In particular, the toe of the shoe can curve just like a non-cycling shoe. Rubber lugs along the shoe provide excellent grip off the bike, and an EVA foam heel insert helps absorb impacts off the bike. For better traction in muddy conditions (think cyclocross) toe spikes can be installed.
Fit on the X-Project Elite is neither super narrow nor is too wide. The toe box is ample and only crowded my toes with extra thick socks. The heel cup is fairly tight but not uncomfortably so. Sizing on Pearl Izumi shoes, at least for the X-Project Elite, runs small. I went up a half size to attain a fit similar to Shimano and Bontrager.
While I rarely adjusted the front Velcro strap on each shoe, I appreciated the ability to cinch down on my low volume foot provided by the BOA IP1 dial. With 1mm adjustment increments, the IP1 dial has performed well for me through a variety of conditions and situations. Mounted on the tongue of the shoe, the placement on the BOA keeps it away from harm on rugged trails. It also helps maintain a slim overall size for the X-Project Elites.
Beyond the walkable, stiff sole, Pearl Izumi also increases value on the X-Project via a clever modular insole. With adjustable arch support and forefoot varus (canting or wedging), it is easy to dial in a custom-like feel. I also like the insole’s metatarsal pad, which helps spread toes apart.
At the risk of gushing over the X-Project Elites, I even like the low-key black and gray color combo reviewed here. If you fly a little flashier, Peal Izumi also offers the X-Project Elites in a brighter black and lime punch colorway.
While there is a lot to love about these shoes, I do have one complaint. These suckers have a much taller stack height compared to the mountain bike shoes I normally wear. It was so noticeable that I had to raise my saddle to feel at home pedaling. Perhaps the walkable/stiff sole requires more vertical space to achieve its Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde capabilities. Thankfully, most riders wear a single pair of shoes and stick with it. Just note that you should re-evaluate your seat height after any shoe purchase, especially if you’ve changed brands or models.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
More Info: www.pearlizumi.com