The Pearl Izumi X-Project P.R.O. is a high end XC style mountain bike shoe that does everything well. They are stiff without being uncomfortable and feature a plush upper. The closure system works well to lock rider’s feet into the shoes, but the tongue makes putting the shoes on a pain. Surprisingly, for how stiff the shoes are, they are decent to walk in, making them suitable for just about any riding conditions.
The Pearl Izumi X-Project P.R.O. features a carbon composite sole that does what Pearl Izumi claims no other shoe can: be incredibly stiff while riding and flex while walking. Surprisingly enough, our testers found this to be true. While the shoe is not as stiff as the Bontrager XXX or the Bont Riot, it is stiff enough for all but the most demanding cyclists, and with the added bonus that it really does handle quite well off the bike. The Pearl Izumi X-Project P.R.O. is the shoe that our testers called out if they consistently had hike-a-bike sections in their rides. The BOA closure system and comfortable upper did well to keep our testers feet locked in the shoe, providing for efficient power transfer. They lack some of the immediate pop of the other shoes in the test, but there was never any feeling of power being lost to shoe flex.
The Pearl Izumi X-Project P.R.O. was one of the most comfortable shoes tested, next to the Giro Empire or Specialized S-Works. As mentioned, the sole is stiff without being too chatteringly so, giving a comfortable ride even on long days in the saddle. The upper is a proprietary composite that hugs and contours to riders’ feet. Not overly thick or hot, that same upper transfers the pressure from the BOA closure system well. There is one main complaint from our testers, though. The BOA reels are placed on the tongue of the shoe, which makes the tongue heavier than normal and more prone to collapsing into the interior. This made putting the shoe on a bit of a pain, as the tongue had a tendency to collapse and try and wrap under itself while while slipping the foot inside. This model does come with inserts to help fine tune fit and comfort.
As mentioned, the Pearl Izumi X-Project P.R.O. utilizes a BOA closure system, with two BOA IP1 reels. The lacing pattern is quite good, allowing the two reels to work simultaneously to provide accurate and precision fit adjustments. Our testers really prefer having three closure straps to allow for finer tuning and better fit over the toe box, but with this design the lack of a third velcro strap was not missed as much as on other shoes. The IP1 reels are our favorite from BOA as they allow for complete release with a quick pull and give 1 mm of adjustment. The shoes held those adjustments quite well, needing just a minute level of fine tuning only on the hottest and hardest of rides.
The construction of these shoes is top notch. The stitching of the upper looks excellent, and the bonding of the upper to the sole is among the best that our testers have seen. The only thing that we would like to see addressed is an adjustment to the tongue as mentioned above. Over the long term, that seems like the potential weak point of the shoe, but there were little to no signs of wear during our testing period. After a season of use, including hike-a-bike sections, the Pearl Izumi X-Project P.R.O. appears as if it should last for many seasons.
The Pearl Izumi X-Project P.R.O. breathes quite well. Pearl Izumi claims that their Advanced 3-Layer Seamless Composite Upper offers exceptional breathability, and our testers generally found this to be true. There are small vents on the sides of the upper that do a good job of managing heat and moisture, and the material is light enough to maintain a reasonable amount of breathability. We didn’t encounter any significant water crossings while using the shoes, but suspect that they would likely stay waterlogged as the placement of the vents is rather high on the side panels.
*Your purchase helps to support the work of Gear Institute.
HOW WE TESTED
To conduct this test the shoes were tested over a season of riding in Western Montana, on all types of trails, including plenty of hike-a-bike slogs and long days in the saddle. All of these shoes are very high quality and would serve people well for day-to-day riding, but after a season on the bike, we discovered a number of subtle differences noted in each of the individual reviews.