Pearl Izumi X-Project 1.0 Review

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Pearl Izumi X-Project 1.0

Ok, first and foremost, let me be up front about my adoration for Pearl Izumi. I am a fan for many reasons, and have worn their apparel and shoes for as long as I can recall.  I personally like to mix things up in my endurance ventures with triathlons (on and off road), ultra-trail marathons, mountain bike races, and long weekend excursions exploring the beauty that the great State of Colorado has to offer. I suppose I also need to mention that Pearl Izumi is headquartered just up the road in Louisville, Colorado. Hence, I like to support my “local” shop, even with their global presence.  The Pearl Izumi X-Project MTB Shoes are something else, and I am quite eager to push them to the limits as I cruise and explore a wide variety of local and state wide trails.

First Thoughts on the Pearl Izumi X-Project 1.0 MTB Shoes

Comfort, breathability, style, and performance are definitely visible upon first examining these shoes. I have been itching to take these out, but initial trail conditions have been less than ideal. A decent amount of snow in March and April caused for muddy conditions, and trail responsibility is high on my list. With that said, it usually dries up pretty fast around here on the Front Range of Colorado, so I’m rather excited to hit White Ranch, Apex, Three Sisters, Deer Creek, or a host of other diverse trail systems.

The fit system sole, inserts and instructions

Out of The Box and 1:1 Fit System

What do you get? Quite a lot actually!  Let’s just say you can’t just throw these on and head out for the trails. Well you could, but then you’d be missing out on the extra benefits and features these shoes come with. I would have just stuck with the inserts that are in the shoes which are simple and straight forward, but for testing purposes I wanted to go through the exercise of seeing what the Wet Foot Test would determine if I needed to add arch inserts.

The wet foot test to determine which inserts to use: a Medium Arch in my case.

After sticking my foot in the sink, and planting it on a piece of cardboard, I was somewhat surprised to see a Medium Arch.  In with the Black Inserts! Take note that there is a Right and a Left insert, and make sure not to put them in upside down. I tried to jam one in incorrectly and realized my mistake after it just wasn’t going in all the way.  I always thought that I had rather flat feet and didn’t need anything to prop up my arches. So be it, I am taking the scientific path developed by PI to see how this will play out.

Side shot of the sole with the 2 slots: 1 at the arch, and one at the forefoot.

The next step was to see if I would benefit from a Forefoot Varus Insert. You stand on one barefoot leg and slowly bend the planted leg until the knee bends to @ 60 degrees.  Standing in front of a mirror will help. If your knee stays in line during this movement, there is no need for the Varus Insert. If your knee moves medially inward during this movement, then you may benefit from the 1.5mm black forefoot varus Insert.  And wouldn’t you know it? I noticed my knee bending inward ever so slightly. So, I went about adding the thinner black insert, and this time they slid right in and the ventilation holes lined up perfectly.

Sliding the insert in. Here it shows how it lines up with the small venting holes in the sole.

Technical Features

I do also associate Pearl Izumi with top performing Triathlon gear, and since I love to hit the X-Terra Trail scene as well, these Pearl Izumi X-Project 1.0 MTB shoes will come in handy as I train for some summer races. They have really gone all out on coming up with a lightweight, strong, and high performing shoe.

Pearl Izumi X-Project 1.0 carbon sole

The X-Project carbon sole is quite unique in that it is not a fully rigid carbon sole, but incorporates some flexibility.  This will come in handy as you have to hike a bike, or walk around for a bit. The patent-pending carbon plate provides optimal power transfer, and shines in the fact that it meets the criteria of a fully rigid carbon bottom. The flexibility to allow for comfort on foot will speak to the mountain biker, cross biker, and the casual Joe that needs to get off the bike at times.

Different length cleat options

And a profile shot of the cleat options.

Seamless .9mm thick upper or dubbed ‘second skin’ is quite comfortable with the unique ability to almost mold to your foot. This is key as it provides for comfort, performance, and individual fit to aid in eliminating hotspots. Breathability is also quite superior in my somewhat limited testing in really hot weather. This will become a strong ally as my feet sweat quite a bit, and the dry dusty conditions I ride in will certainly provide its fair share of challenges. The Power Web is connected to the carbon sole and allows for the upper to conform to your foot while securely being attached to the sole. It doesn’t stretch, and allows for a perfect tandem with the sole to deliver strong contact as one unit to the pedal for perfect power transfer.

The upper and Boa Closure system

The BOA Bio-directional Closure is something that does take a little bit of getting used to. At least it did for me the first few times out. I would tend to over tighten to ensure complete lockdown, but the it started to cut down on circulation. The BOA reel system is such a micro precision tightening system that can’t be achieved with lacing or buckling. It tightens to each and every one’s unique foot and shape. I think the ability to adjust on the fly is great. As the temperatures in the air and body rise, my feet tend to swell, so I would make a slight ratchet adjustment to continue on.

Performance of The Pearl Izumi X-Project 1.0

I decided to give these inserts a try at least for a few times. My initial thoughts were that the arch inserts were a bit of an overkill as I could feel them push up on my foot. After going through the fit process and using them several times, they really seem to work. I haven’t noticed anything out of the ordinary on the bottoms. I’d say the instructions provide with this fit system work!

Pearl Izumi X-Project 1.0

Here on the front range of Colorado it goes from prairie and plains to foothills pretty fast. This always makes the views of the snow covered peaks pretty dramatic.  For most of the front range riding trails that also means a lot of initial climbing. No warm-up!  Immediate heartrate through the roof is what you need to get used to.  For the average Joe, the granny gear does come in handy. Throw in a few technical rocky sections, and hike a bike is a common sight as you make it to top. I have come to appreciate the stiff yet pliable sole that the Pearl Izumi X-Project 1.0 MTB has provided.  One trail in particular is a very steep washed out gully with nothing but loose rock and gravel. A single track has formed where you can pick your way through, but with oncoming traffic that gets challenging.  Once you lose traction a decent hike is the call of the day. The outsole definitely provided enough traction, and also allowed me to make my way up with relative comfort. I run these same trails as well, so I know what it feels like to churn up with lightweight shoes.

A long Mountain Bike weekend was on tap, and included a couple rides that were 4-5 hours long. I honestly never experienced any discomfort at all. The recommended inserts are staying in there for good. The terrain at Buffalo Creek is a little more rolling, so the hike-a-bike wasn’t as extreme, but with long snaking climbs and descents the grip and feel of my Pearl Izumi X-Project 1.0 gave me the confidence to attack. The rain has been over the top here in Colorado this year, and stream crossings are abundant. I could feel that cold water soak my feet, but within minutes they were dry.

Splish Splash – Feet got wet, but dried in no time at all.

The popularity of Cyclo Cross is definitely on the rise especially here in Colorado. I have not gotten my own specific cyclo cross steed, but am starting to play around in my local ‘out of the house’ trails. Nothing fancy, but a few creeks, open spaces, and construction sites are providing a fun and good workout. I have taken these Pearl Izumi Project-X 1.0 out on my little explorations to really test the running, jumping, bike carrying capabilities. Running up some steep rocky inclines has proven quite technical to run up, and these kicks were up to the task. They are not my nimble trail running shoes, but provide adequate support to handle the load of me and my bike. The cleats also help to dig into the dirt and loose gravel while the slight flex in the midsole makes running possible.

Pearl Izumi at its finest on the Colorado Trail.

Available Colors and Sizing

I tested the Mandarin Red/Black color, and really like the bit of color splash it provides. If you are more of a traditionalist or simply like a muted color, there is a Shadow Grey/Black color available.

The size range is 38 to 47 with half sizes, and 48 to 49 in full sizes.

Weight: 340 g (size 43)

Final Thoughts on the Pearl Izumi X-Project 1.0

With the semi-rigid carbon sole, this shoe is perfect for Mountain biking as well as Cross. It allows for you to be able to walk, run, hike, and climb over anything when pedaling just isn’t possible.  The Pearl Izumi X-Project 1.0 is a high end option to provide top notch performance. The carbon sole is solid to provide a good platform for optimal power output, yet it has key flexible points that allow you to get off the bike to walk, hike, run when needed. Yes, at$320 it’s a hefty price to pay for sure. Cycling isn’t cheap, period! You are into this sport because it takes you places that are magical. You work for that view and experience, and over time, you upgrade the parts and pieces to make those woot woot downhill bombings all that more special when you relive that ride with friends over a post ride cold one.

MSRP: $320

For more information and purchase for this and other quality cycling products please visit:

Niels Oomkes: I am a multi-sport endurance athlete, and love to get out into the great outdoors to push the body to its limit. Most of my weekend expeditions, adventures, trips, or vacations are planned around running, biking, snowshoeing, camping, or anything else that will allow me to enjoy nature's exquisite beauty.
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