Pearl Izumi X-Project Elite Mountain Bike Shoe Review

Looks can be deceiving, when opening the box of the Pearl Izumi X-Project Elite shoes, they actually look a little on the chunky side, but that’s where it all ends. Once these 376 gram wonders are in your hands you were saying wow, that is a light mountain bike shoe.

Pearl Izumi X-Project Elite Mountain Bike Shoe
The BOA lacing system and wrap around heel cup give the Pearl Izumi X-Project Elite superb performance and comfort.

The X-Project Elite is the second generation X-Project mountain bike shoes from Pearl Izumi. The line combines a rigid carbon sole that stays stiff while pedaling and flexes while walking without compromising off-the-bike hike-ability and traction. The shoe is designed for mountain bikers and cyclocross riders alike but could handle gravel riding and touring as well. I would not hesitate to take this shoe to a cross-country race, cyclocross race or weekend in the backcountry with the guys.

Pearl Izumi X-Project Elite Mountain Bike Shoe
A rather basic look, the Pearl Izumi X-Project Elite isn’t super flashy until you toss your leg over the top tube, then it’s hammer time.

Pearl Izumi X-Project Elite Fit

The X-Project Elite comes with a standard Pearl Izumi insole that works, I know a lot of folks will wanna replace the footbed for custom molded or their favorite aftermarket one, but I really did not feel the need. The shoe fits like a glove thanks to the BOA system and a heel cup/closure that wraps around part of the foot. Best of all, this shoe does not require much of a break in period and has very minimal stretch in the upper.

If you have never experienced the BOA lacing system, it is time to crawl out from under that rock. I do admit, I am a big fan of BOA and have used the system in past with other cycling shoes and have loved it. The X-Project Elite uses BOA’s IP1 system. This features incremental adjustment when the dial is under tension and a pull-up feature for quick release. The hex shape of the BOA makes it easy to grip with gloves on and adjusting on the fly.

Pearl Izumi X-Project Elite Mountain Bike
The shoe is well designed and fits like a glove, but we still have to give major props to BOA for adding the icing on the cake.   

X-Project Elite Carbon Sole

For years, I have been riding with carbon shoes and X-Project’s is right up there with the best of them. The responsive ride and increase pedaling efficiency are something you will not want to live without. If you primarily ride cross, mtb or even touring, you will appreciate having a shoe that is comfortable, light, stiff and responsive but also walkable. The lug pattern on these shoes is placed well and does the job.

Nothing super crazy on the lug pattern but it does the job. The carbon rubber lug provides traction on rocky and slippery surfaces while replaceable front toe spikes can be adjusted for muddy days.

Pearl Izumi has put in a lot of research and development into the new X-Project Elite — supposedly with countless hours of feedback from the riding community. The Project Elite is a really great shoe and nicely designed, solid price point and great performance for anyone looking for a really good mountain, xc or cross shoe.

Retails: $275.00 | Learn more at

Features of the Pearl Izumi X-Project Elite:

  • Completely re-engineered carbon composite sole does what no other can: delivers uncompromising pedaling performance and confident off-the-bike hike-ability
  • Advanced 3-Layer Seamless Composite Upper offers exceptional breathability and eliminates hot spots by adapting to your unique foot shape
  • Bi-directional Closure wraps the foot for a semi-custom fit and secure foot retention
  • BOA IP1 reels allow 1mm 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-bike comfort

Video from the folks at Pearl Izumi



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