Pearl Izumi X-Project PRO Mountain Bike Shoe Review

The Pearl Izumi X-Project PRO is Pearl Izumi’s top of the line mountain bike shoe featuring the BOA lacing system and is ready for a serious beating on the trail. Last year, we had the opportunity to review the X-Project Elite and loved it, but now the game has been taken to another level!  Available in plain and simple black or a bright “catch me if you can” orange.

Pearl Izumi X-Project PRO
The bright orange version Pearl Izumi X-Project PRO screams fast even before you put it on. The design and weight backs it up.

Pearl Izumi X-Project PRO Features

The X-Project PRO is designed to fit, and fit like a fine pair of driving shoes.  Pearl Izumi has put some thought into this shoe and it shows. What appears to be a shoe that might be slightly on the heavy side is actually a wolf in sheep’s clothing; lightweight, great fitting and fast. The shoes comes in at a claimed weight of 370 grams for a 43. Our test model came in at 490 grams for a size 46 with a Time ATAC Cleat and a little bit of dirt.

Pearl Izumi X-Project PRO Mountain Bike Shoe
The x-Project PRO doesn’t look super light, but it is, and offers a sturdy heel cup, nice rock protection up front and lugs designed for the nastiest of conditions.

The first thing most cyclists think about when the discussion of cycling shoes comes up is “is it stiff?”.  Yes the X-Project PRO offers a carbon sole that is rigid on the bike but flexes for walking, hike-a-bike sections and even cross. Seems like something David Copperfield would need to come up with right? The carbon essentially ends underneath the ball of the foot, and thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) takes over from there, all the way through the front of the shoe. This allows the flex while off the bike.

Pearl Izumi says testing revealed that extending the stiff carbon sole through the toe offered no additional power transfer benefits while on the bike. Makes sense.  Have you ever pedaled a bike with you toes? And the system works pretty well. The X-Projects are easy to walk in, especially on steep, rocky trail sections. However, you won’t want to go for an extended hike in them — they’re still riding shoes, after all.

Pearl Izumi X-Project PRO Mountain Bike Shoe
The carbon sole essentially ends underneath the ball of the foot, and thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) takes over from there creating a shoe that is stiff and walkable. Our assumption is this is about an inch in front of the cleat.

Boa Fit System

Now, onto our favorite part, the Boa Fit System. The Pearl Izumi X-Project PRO features two BOA IP1 reels that allow 1mm micro-adjustability and a quick pop up for full release, even in muddy conditions. The Boa dials are directional and twist to tighten in different directions on the left and right shoes allowing for an ideal fit. The fact that Pearl Izumi opted to include two Boa reels shows their dedication to making this a top level shoe, and is also an upgrade from the Elite shoe, as it allows the wearer to vary tightness down the length of the shoe. This could be extremely beneficial to those with narrower feet.

If you’ve never tried the Boa Fit System, you are missing out. It makes getting the perfect fit as easy as turning up the volume on a cassette player, or an iPhone for all you youngsters. Slip on your shoe, turn to the dials to tighten, pull up to release, it’s that simple.  They’re positioned on the top of the foot rather than the side, which helps protect the dials from miscellaneous run ins with rocks and other trail obstacles. Releasing the tension on the system requires nothing more than an upward pull on the dials. It’s quick and easy.

Up close and personal with a well used Boa Fit System. The Boa Fit System takes a licking and keeps on tightening. Load it up with mud, not an issue.
The Pearl Izumi X-Project PRO includes two BOA reels per shoe allowing the rider to vary tightness down the length of the shoe providing superior comfort.

Pearl Izumi X-Project PRO Fit

Okay, fit is subjective to everyone, much like a pair of women’s jeans (just a rumor we’ve heard). In our opinion and those we’ve read online is that Pearl Izumi got this right. The fit of the PRO’s upper is ideal, it offers a fit that contours with the foot, provides support, good power transfer on the upstroke all while not having to deal with numbness in your feet.

The lightweight upper is comprised of a TPU skin over a single layer mesh and synthetic leather lining bonded together. It’s super-thin — 1.1 millimeters, according to Pearl Izumi. The three materials each have a different job: the synthetic leather provides structure, the mesh offers breathability, and the TPU skin prevents excess stretch. The only seam is behind the heel of the shoe, which eliminates pressure points and potential failure points, according to Pearl Izumi.

Rumor on the street is a few people would like to see the lower dial closer to the toe box. Like other Pearl Izumi shoes, the dial that adjusts the forefoot is not directly over the toe box. This lead to a few comments from people with narrow feet who couldn’t snug up to the front of the shoe as much as they might want to.  In a perfect world for people with narrow feet, the Boa would be positioned closer to the front for more effective tightening. With an average width foot this was not an issue. Also the tops of this shoe are pretty supple and contours to the foot quite well.

Insoles are Worth Mentioning

Inside the X-Project PRO is Pearl Izumi’s 1:1 insole system, which is basically a set of removable inserts that slide into the shoes’ insoles, one on the forefoot and one in the arch. Perfect for a rider who might tend to ride with their knees towards the top tube or even like a chicken wing. The arch support is simply a small piece of foam that slides in and under the arch of the foot. The video below shows the details, and well worth the watch.

One thing we did notice is that our pair came with the toe inserts installed which left the toe box a little on the snug side. Play around with this a bit before mounting cleats and realizing with an insert the shoes maybe too tight.

Pearl Izumi X-Project PRO Mountain Bike Shoe
The top and bottoms of the 1.1 insole with inserts shown. When it was all said and done, we ended up running the arch inserts and left out the forefoot inserts.

Overall thought on the Pearl Izumi X-Project PRO

Overall the Pearl Izumi X-Project P.R.O. is a great option for anyone seeking a super high end trail riding or racing-oriented shoe with great power transfer and a generous amount of fit adjustability right out of the box. Those seeking a versatile, more hiker hiking-friendly shoe should look at a few other shoes in their lineup, but for XC, trail, or enduro riders who prioritize going fast and staying on the bike above all else, the X-Project PRO leaves you with all the necessary tools.

The X-Project Pros have become my go-to riding shoes. But if you want them as your everyday dirt kicks, be ready to pay for the privilege: they’ll run you $350. Fortunately, after several months of single track and even a tad bit of road riding they have proven durable enough to last many riding seasons.

Retails: $350.00 | Visit to learn more.



Adventure, Travel, Outdoors, Gear and Fitness