Gear Review: Pearl Izumi Elite MTB II Shoes

Pearl Izumi Elite MTB II mountain bike shoes. D2's RATING: 4/5 stars. Pros: carbon sole, snazzy upper, easy to use buckle, comfortable fit. CONS: stiff upper can be uncomfortable around the ankle; tread makes it hard to get in and out of pedals; sizing seems a bit off.


I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, but the move to Colorado from Arizona derailed me for quite a while, so I hadn’t had a chance to thoroughly test these shoes. In the little free time I did have, I ended up redesigning my website…I’m new to the world of html, so I had no idea how much of a lame time-suck that could be.

Now that I’ve got some solid rides under my belt with the Pearl Izumi Elite MTB II shoes, I feel it’s time to give ’em a good public flogging.
Okay, not really. The shoes are actually pretty damn good, though not without their faults.

First off, I should say I made the transition to these shoes from SIDI Dominator 5′s, which I rode for six years until they finally kicked the bucket. I like SIDI shoes a lot, but I don’t like the price tag, and I definitely don’t like the narrow toe box. They made my feet feel like midget feet, akin to “fat guy on a little bike.” Normal guy on little feet. Tight. Cramped. Uncomfortable on long rides. My feet got used to the SIDI shoes, but it took a while. The one thing I will say about SIDI shoes was that they were very adjustable and they were snug when I wanted them to be snug.

So that was the baseline for the Pearl Izumi Elites. I got these a few months ago from Flag Bike Rev, and I initially ordered the wrong size. I ordered a size 10.5, but they ended up being way too big for me. I think Pearl Izumi tends to size their shoes on the large size, so keep that in mind if you order. Once I got the right size, my first impression was that these were snazzy shoes. They have an attractive looking upper, an easy to use buckle (easier than the buckles on SIDI shoes), an aggressive tread on the soles, and carbon soles that are stiff as hell. Best of all, they are light shoes.

When I put them on, the first thing I noticed was the wide toe box. I don’t have wide feet by any stretch of the imagination, but I definitely appreciate the toe wiggle room in these guys. If you’ve got wide feet, these are definitely worth considering. If you’ve got narrow feet like me, you might feel more wiggle room than you like. As for me, I dig it, especially after feeling cramped in the SIDIs for so long.

The second thing I noticed was the rigidity of the uppers. This is a good thing usually, but I still think they’re a bit too stiff, especially around the ankle cuff. Stiffness is great when you’re on the bike, but those hike-a-bike sections can get rough in these guys. I’m wondering if this will change as I break them in more.

I love the carbon sole. It’s stiff as hell, and I feel like all my pedaling power gets transferred directly to the pedals rather than to a flexy sole. Score one for Pearl: a (relatively) affordable shoe with a carbon sole should be a hot seller.

As for the tread, I like having the grip, but I’m finding two problems: one, the tread is so deep that I sometimes have trouble getting in and out of my clipless pedals; two, the treads seem to be wearing fairly quickly. Luckily, they’re so deep that I’m not worried about my shoes turning into a ballet slipper anytime soon.

Overall, I really like these shoes, though I think the ankle cuff stiffness is still a problem. I’m glad I bought these shoes and I would buy them again for sure, but I definitely recommend trying on a pair for the right fit before you buy. I ended up having to wait quite a while for the replacement pair because we had to send back the original pair, and that’s just no fun.


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About D2

I am a writer and a photographer. I never killed a man in Reno, but I once rode a bike through a casino in Vegas. Bikes are cool, huevos rancheros are for breakfast, whiskey is for dinner. Denver, Colorado, USA

11 thoughts on “Gear Review: Pearl Izumi Elite MTB II Shoes

  1. I have been wearing these all season I too ordered the wrong size the first time! I also agree with all the issues you have been having with your’s I’ve been using mine for the cross season as of late and there have been a couple times I look like a noob cause the tread is making it hard for me to get in my pedals.

  2. i buy 44.00 shoes from nashbar. im still wearing my old adidas from 4 years ago for road, and LG MTB shoes from 2 years ago. i guess im cheap. the pair of sidi’s i bought for road are too tight, like you said. they were worn 2xs and now sit in a milk crate among a bunch of other crap i don’t use. nice review write up though.

  3. …d2…yeah, riding shoes, like saddles get real personal…once you find the right ones, you tend to wanna stick with that…

    …shoes in particular because every company has their own ‘last’ & some lasts & shoes just fit certain feet better than others…sidi has always worked for me so i’m good with that…

    …bottom line, d2…i was feeling guilty ‘cuz while i was one of the first to buy your book, the weather got nice & i put it aside but winters working it’s way ’round, even here on the left coast, so i’ll soon be ensconcing myself & giving your work the attention it deserves…

    …my best, amigo…enjoy…

  4. …to whom it may concern…i have a titanium heart but a carbon soul…

    …& anodized aluminum nipples…

  5. BGW: I suppose I can forgive you for eschewing my book in favor of good weather. That’s basically what I did to the one I’m writing now anyway…but it’s almost done!

  6. Nice review. The wide toe box goes through the whole Pearl lineup. Kind of like the fat assedness of their shorts.

    Oh, and the rest of you cheapskates can suck it. I’ve done the last four road seasons in a pair of Northwaves that I picked up new for $10. Can’t beat that value without a dumpster dive.

  7. Break out a razor blade and trim the tread back from your cleats. Had to do that with my Specialized shoes, problem solved.