Pearl Izumi’s X-Project: A Lightweight and Flexible MTB Shoe

This big news from Pearl Izumi this year is the X Project MTB shoe, a lightweight and comfortable–yet high performance–set of kicks. MTB hall-of-famer Brian Lopes and Ross Schnell helped Pearl Izumi shape and test these shoes and I have to say, the team hit this one out of the park.

First and foremost, the X Project shoes are cycling shoes which means they’re designed for optimal power transfer between foot and pedal (read: stiffness). But unlike road weenies, mountain bikers need a shoe with a little flexibility for hike-a-bike and Le Mans style starts so Pearl Izumi tried to strike the right balance with this shoe.

Using my hands I had a difficult time flexing or twisting the X Project shoes (despite what some of the reps said) so I was skeptical. But after strapping into a pair of X Projects at Outdoor Demo I could instantly feel the difference on my feet. Walking around the demo area felt completely comfortable and natural, a welcome relief from the clunky, awkward MTB shoes I was wearing. As you can see from the photo above, these shoes are capable of flexing a good bit more than a traditional MTB shoe.

On the bike, the X Project shoes felt like… cycling shoes. Honestly they didn’t feel any different than the shoes I normally wear and that’s a good thing. I suppose there has to be a tradeoff between flexibility and power transfer on the bike but for someone like me it’s not noticeable. And based on the fact that Lopes and Schnell are riding with these shoes I’m guessing any power loss is negligible for them as well.

Beyond the sole, the X Project shoes feature a flexible and well-ventilated upper that reminded me of a pair of minimalist running shoes. The ratchet strap is height-adjustable so it’s possible to get a fairly customize fit. My feet are wide and while I did feel some pressure on the sides of my feet, it wasn’t any more than I’m used to. In fact the synthetic upper material is extremely supple and I imagine over time it can be stretched a bit.

This entire package is not only comfortable, it’s also lightweight. Pearl Izumi says the X Project shoes weigh 320g on average which is much lighter than the typical MTB rider is used to. Over the course of a long ride, those weight savings add up to much fresher legs!

I’m looking forward to putting more time and more miles on a pair of X Project shoes from Pearl Izumi soon. Pricing will fall between $160 and $280 for these shoes once they hit the market.