The Pearl Izumi Pro Leader III Road Shoe is at the top of the Pearl Izumi range. Adorned by Tejay Van Garderen of Team BMC we were eager to see if it lived up to the challenge. At the time of editing this Tejay has just won a stage of the Giro d’Italia, his first grand tour victory/ So it’s clear that there’s no clear loss of watts in ‘the ultimate Pro Tour level shoe’.
Pearl Izumi claim the Pro Leader III is designed to disappear on your foot but still transfer every last watt of power to your pedals. New features include the new 1:1 Integrated Power Plate which eliminates the traditional lasting board and reduces stack height by 1.5mm. Plus the combination of an ultra thin upper with our unique dual-zone Bi-directional closure system wraps the foot without wrinkling delivering a secure and comfortable second-skin fit.
RRP £249.99 it’s not at the cheap end of the scale. Although retailing at £174.99 on Cyclestore.co.uk, it definitely slots into the middle of the price range. There aren’t many top end shoes at bottom end prices. However the mix of carbon fibre, BOA dials & a high quality upper material often push the price.
New features include the new 1:1 Integrated Power Plate which eliminates the traditional lasting board and reduces stack height by 1.5mm. This means that whereas normally the upper part of the shoe is attached to a lasting board, which is in turn attached to the sole. The upper of these shoes is attached directly to the carbon, which is then mostly covered with another piece of material. This reduces the stack height to 5mm and means that your feet are right on top of the pedal.
The upper section of the shoe is the thinnest on the market. Pearl Izumi boast that the Pro Leader III is just 0.9mm thick. Comprising of a ‘Power Web’, a non-stretch web welded to the underneath layer of mesh. The idea is that this build up completely eliminates hot spots & adapts perfectly to your foot but keeps you bolted to the pedal for maximum efficiency under hard efforts.
A small amount of stitching holds the tongue in place but that’s all making the upper virtually seamless. This leaves nothing to rub your feet over the course of a big ride, although that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for irritation to occur.
The new included Zonal Bi-directional Closure delivers a semi-custom fit by gathering equally from both sides. This in turn gives even foot retention with the precision of two IP1 micro-adjustable BOA reels per shoe. A common favourite among the peloton now, the BOA dials offer a great amount of flexibility on the go. Very easy to adjust the tension through the upper part of the shoe.
Out of the Box:
The Pro Leader III is available in two different colours. And shockingly enough the options aren’t black and white. Although black is one of the choices. The other is the pictured red & lime. We quite liked the colour of this shoe, although it does look slightly like your 12 year old sons football boots. We thought that Pearl could have done more to improve the aesthetics of the shoe. After all, if it looks good it’s faster. Right?
With a plethora of ventilation, the side of shoe does look very thin. It looks like a shoe that you’d take with you on a training camp in the south of France, or for a week long spin in the Pyrenees. Not exactly something you’d wear for a rainy time trial in Somerset. Clearly ventilation was at the forefront of design for the Pro Leader III. This has left durability exposed letting the shoe down slightly, so not the best if your local climate is more of a damp and gritty one.
The 1:1 Insole System gives independent left and right arch and forefoot various canting height options. This means you can adapt the insoles but they’re not heat mouldable. You get differently sized inserts that provide support and stability where you need it although it’s not as fluently designed as the Giro or Specialized version. That being said it’s great to see that Pearl Izumi have started to consider this.
Onto the foot and it’s clear that Pearl Izumi’s recommendation that the shoe fits on the tight side was a fair assessment. We’d agree with them that you probably need to add a size on to your usual if you’re after a pair of these shoes. Although as with any set item of new gear, trying it on first is of utmost importance.
Onto the Bike:
It’s clear from the outset that the Pro Leader III has fantastic power transfer. The difference in the sole of the shoe clearly haven’t had a negative impact. You can really feel the pedals under your foot, a feature generated from the newly low stack height. It’s responsive and ready to drop the watts when your legs fancy a go.
The ventilation through the shoe is fantastic. Not just an aesthetic bonus, the upper design works well to let air flow through the shoe and let all the moisture escape through the upper. Mixed with the air holes on the bottom of the shoe Pearl Izumi haven’t left anything to be desired. The feet can almost be left cold in these shoes at points, so make sure you really find a size that fits you.
Even long into the ride we didn’t experience any hot spots on the foot and they were exceptionally comfortable. This would be due to the nature of material. One downside we did find is that the BOA dials were slightly less accessible than in a normal side mounted shoe. This is because you have to reach further road to get to them, although not much of an issue. The heel cup holds well and there really wasn’t any slippage. We absolutely can’t complain with the performance of the shoe.
The shoes weigh in at 235g (size 43) so are down at the lighter end of the scale. They weren’t as light as the Giro Empire SLX‘s although they felt far from heavy on the feet. No different to the majority of market shoes.
The Pro Leader III is a great shoe at a very affordable price. The american brand have worked well to design a shoe with performance in mind. It’s clear that ventilation and power transfer at the top of the priority list when designing the shoe. So if you’re a weekend warrior in the U.K., or somewhere with a slightly cooler climate, these shoes might not be for you. Something more durable, warm and comfy may be worth your investment if you’re not so worried about the lost watt here and there. But if you’re in a warmer climate and you’re looking for a cheaper, top end shoe, these will definitely fit the bill.