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Pearl Izumi X-Project P.R.O.

Xan Marshland reviews the Pearl Izumi X-Project P.R.O. for Blister Gear Review

Pearl Izumi X-Project P.R.O.

Pearl Izumi X-Project P.R.O.

Stated Features:

  • 3-Layer Seamless Composite Upper offers exceptional breathability and eliminates hot spots by adapting to your unique foot shape
  • Zonal Bi-directional Closure wraps the foot for a semi-custom fit and secure foot retention
    Double BOA IP1 reels allow 1 mm micro-adjustability and pop up for full release, BOA dials are directional and twist to tighten in different directions on the left and right shoes
  • Co-molded carbon rubber tips on hollow TPU lugs provide impressive traction on an extremely lightweight bottom unit
  • EVA foam heel absorbs impact for off-the-bike comfort
    1:1™ insole system allows independent left and right arch and forefoot varus canting adjustability for optimal pedaling mechanics

Size Tested: 43

Blister’s Measured Weight per Shoe (with SPD cleat): 454 & 455 g

MSRP: $350

Reviewer: 5’10”; 143 lbs.

Test Duration: 30 days

Test Locations: Colorado Springs, CO; Salt Lake City & St. George, UT

Intro

New for 2017, the X-Project P.R.O. is Pearl Izumi’s premium mountain bike shoe. Rather than pigeonholing the shoe into one specific discipline, Pearl Izumi states that the P.R.O. is “perfect for all mountain bikers and cyclocross riders.”

Given this broad designation, I was curious to see whether and where this all-around shoe actually excelled.

Construction

At first glance, the X-Project P.R.O. looks like a beefed-up XC shoe. The slim, low-cut shoe is constructed with minimal stitching, and a layer of hard rubber covers most of the toe to ward off rocks.

Xan Marshland reviews the Pearl Izumi X-Project P.R.O. for Blister Gear Review

Xan Marshland in the Pearl Izumi X-Project P.R.O., St. George, UT.

Pearl Izumi uses a stiff carbon composite shank that runs from the heel to the ball of the foot to allow a bit of flexibility for walking. The shoe also features rubber and metal lugs on the underside of the toe area for off-the-bike traction.

The P.R.O. is tightened via a BOA system that features two separate reels per shoe. For user-friendliness, the dual BOA system is hard to beat – the reels offer almost as much adjustment as laces or straps, they’re easy to adjust while riding, and you can easily remove the shoes by pulling the BOA reel upward and sliding your foot out of the shoe. The biggest disadvantage of the BOA system is that it can get clogged with silt and mud, which can hinder operation.

Fit and Adjustability

The X-Project P.R.O. comes with Pearl Izumi’s 1:1 insole system, which is basically a set of removable foam inserts that slide into the shoes’ insoles and modify their shape. Following Pearl Izumi’s included fitting guide, I dialed in my own arch and forefoot support based on the shape of my feet.

My feet are pretty average in width, but have high arches. As expected, the fitting guide recommended the thickest arch insert, which felt perfect for me.

I’m lucky in that I feel pretty comfortable in most shoes I try, but I’ve heard a few very positive reports about the insole system from people who usually struggle to get a good fit in most cycling shoes. So kudos to Pearl Izumi for helping people find a better fit without forcing them to resort to custom insoles.

The fit of the P.R.O.’s upper seems pretty in line with most shoes I’ve tried, although the P.R.O.’s toebox feels a little on the tighter side. The P.R.O. also cup my heels perfectly, so I’m left with no complaints regarding fit.

As for the shoe’s external adjustability, the dual BOA closure system worked great for me. Again, I’m glad that Pearl Izumi opted to include two BOA reels per shoe, as it allows the wearer to vary tightness down the length of the shoe.

Performance

The X-Project P.R.O.’s performance is more or less in line with its appearance. It’s a stiff, lightweight shoe that is clearly designed to prioritize efficient power transfer over everything else. The shoe also offers great support and distributes weight nicely, which kept the balls of my feet happy over long descents. This makes for a shoe that will be at home on most XC and enduro race courses.

Xan Marshland reviews the Pearl Izumi X-Project P.R.O. for Blister Gear Review

Xan Marshland in the Pearl Izumi X-Project P.R.O., St. George, UT.

As is to be expected with a stiff, race-oriented shoe, the X-Project P.R.O.’s biggest weakness is apparent whenever it’s not clipped in and pedaling. Walking in the X-Project P.R.O. is fine for short distances on low-angle, grippy terrain, but I’d swap it out for a true “trail” shoe for a hike-a-bike on anything steep or slippery. The shoe barely bends, and the minimal lugs at the shoe’s toe do little for traction when scrambling up boulders or hiking through the “kitty-litter-over-hardpack” conditions of Colorado Springs.

So all in all, the X-Project P.R.O. is a great shoe for aggressive XC, trail, or enduro riding, just as long as you plan on spending nearly all of your riding time clipped in.

Durability

The X-Project P.R.O. has held up nicely over a month of riding and occasional hike-a-bikes on primarily rocky terrain. Neither the reinforced toes nor the uppers show any real signs of wear, despite being scraped against a variety of sharp rocks. And although I’ve heard complaints about BOA systems giving people trouble after being exposed to mud and silt, my shoes’ BOA reels are still functioning perfectly.

For about two centimeters on the inside arch of one of the shoes, the sole has started to delaminate from the upper. This would worry me if it had happened at a more crucial point (i.e., the toe) or if the area of separation was bigger, but for now, it’s basically a non-issue.

Comparisons:

Pearl Izumi X-Project P.R.O. vs. Five Ten Kestrel Lace

In my review of the Kestrel Lace, I wrote that it strikes my personal optimal balance of walkability and on-the-bike performance. This still holds true for most situations. You can’t really go wrong with the Kestrel Lace – it pedals well, handles short hike-a-bikes acceptably, and is extremely durable. Because of these characteristics, it’s easily the first shoe I’d reach for before a big trip or backcountry adventure.

That said, there are plenty of situations where I’d choose the X-Project P.R.O. for its superior power transfer. These include most XC rides, XC and enduro racing, and banging out laps on local trails that I know won’t require hiking.

Additionally, the X-Project P.R.O. offers a few advantages over the Kestrel Lace. It ventilates better, the BOA system allows you to adjust the shoe while riding, and it offers a wide range of fit adjustability.

Pearl Izumi X-Project P.R.O. vs. Pearl Izumi X-Alp Enduro IV

While the X-Project P.R.O. favors on-the-bike performance over everything else, the X-Alp Enduro IV is equally happy pedaling and hiking. Riders that spend time hiking their bikes will be much better served by the X-Alp Enduro IV, but will miss out on the customizable fit offered by the X-Project P.R.O.

Bottom Line

The Pearl Izumi X-Project P.R.O. is a great option for anyone seeking a racing-oriented shoe with great power transfer and an enormous amount of fit adjustability right out of the box. Those seeking a versatile, hiking-friendly shoe should look elsewhere, but for XC, trail, or enduro riders who prioritize going fast and staying on the bike above all else, the X-Project P.R.O. leaves little to be desired.

1 Comment

  1. Blister Member
    Mike May 23, 2017 Reply

    Great review, thank you. I was wondering if you could compare this shoe, and the x alp II, to the Shimano ME7.

    I have a pretty narrow foot, and I’m trying to find a mountain bike shoe that is happy walking off the bike, but doesn’t lose too much power transfer a d is good on the bike. The X Alp is a bite wide in the toe box, as is the Shimano ME7. And the Terraduro seems pretty heavy.

    Any advice you have would be appreciated. Thank you!

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