The latest Pearl Izumi PRO Leader V4 shoes are said to offer not only good looks but performance as well, all for well under £300 – but do they live up to that in real life?
Pearl Izumi as a brand has been around for many years, over 60 in fact, and claims to be the first to use a Boa dial on a cycling shoe among other things. The latest top-end offering, the Pearl Izumi PRO Leader V4, promises to be lighter, stiffer and more breathable than any previous models.
The first thing to note with the new Pearl Izumi PRO Leader V4 shoes is that the sizing has changed to fall in line with its owner Shimano’s sizing. We’ve found that Shimano’s shoe sizing is widely liked so this should help those who didn’t like PI’s previous method, which forced most of us to size up compared to our usual shoe sizing.
As I stated in Cycling Weekly’s Tech of the Month these Pearl Izumi PRO Leader V4 shoes are pretty understated from the top, but the striking iridescent sole more than makes up for it. It’s called electroplating and actually doesn’t add anything to the stack height of the shoe.
Surprisingly the sole’s stack is only 5mm and feels ultra thin. Being black and feeling pretty connected to the pedal these are like the plimsoles you used to go to PE in. Remember the ones that made you feel like you could run faster than everyone else?!
Compared to the likes of Sidi and its Shot shoes, I reckon the stack of the PRO V4s is about half the height. This could mean you need to alter your saddle height, so is something to consider when using them.
This thin sole doesn’t affect comfort and overall I liked wearing these Pearl Izumi PRO Leader V4 shoes. I found no pinching, hot spots or uncomfortable edges to annoy me. My feet never felt numb and I could largely forget I was wearing them, which is a big plus for any shoes.
Although, in saying that, the Pearl Izumi PRO Leader V4 shoes were not the best at holding my feet in place. I found the Boa closure system isn’t positioned particularly well and doesn’t provide total security. Maybe moving them slightly further apart would help secure the toe box a little better and allow for better support of the heel.
The heel cup itself could be a little more supportive, too.
As I say, this doesn’t cause discomfort but I can feel movement while pedalling.
Although the Boa dial placement does help the shoe look minimal, it becomes annoying when used with overshoes. Sticking on booties pops them up (the quick-release function to help open the shoe easily) and it isn’t so easy to tighten back up again once the overshoe is on.
The Boa dial is a good system, though. The pop quick release is useful, even though annoying when using overshoes, and in its regular position you get 1mm increments both in tightening and loosening of the dial.
The second bad point is that the shoes don’t feel as stiff as other performance-led shoes. With the thin sole it is almost like you can feel the pedal underneath you when really pressing down hard. The likes of Specialized and the older S-Works 6 shoes are head and shoulders above these in terms of stiffness and performance.
However, the reason why I have given these Pearl Izumi PRO Leader V4 shoes an eight out of 10 rather than a seven is that you get a classy looking pair of boots that are fairly lightweight (267g a shoe for size 42) and they are a good £50 cheaper than the most expensive shoes out there.
Maybe an improved stiffness rating and a slight revision of the Boa placement could make this shoe a solid 10 out of 10.
The new Pearl Izumi PRO Leader V4s are decent cycling shoes that'll serve you well. However, they are not the most performance-led shoe and others in the high-end realms will be better in terms of stiffness.