At a glance, Pearl Izumi’s all-black P.R.O Leader v4 shoes are unassuming. Don’t be fooled. Like their dazzlingly colorful soles, these shoes shine in terms of comfort, stiffness, and overall fit.
The two Boa IP1 dials mounted atop the tongue are the P.R.O. Leader’s most prominent feature. Most cycling shoes opt for dials on the outside. Pearl Izumi has found a way to protect the foot with dense padding on the tongue. There was no pinching, no pressure points. The dials are out of harm’s way without sacrificing comfort.
A supple, seamless upper material surrounds the tongue and its dials. Pearl Izumi disperses mesh venting throughout, giving the P.R.O. Leader ample breathability, but not to the point of feeling flimsy. That supple material is reinforced at the heel by a T-shaped plastic frame. Those of us with bone spurs on our heels were riding pain-free. Adding to our comfort, the toe box is generous in both volume and width, compared to more-narrow European shoes.
On the interior, Pearl Izumi outfits these shoes with a tunable insole. Using foam inserts, you can add arch support with either a mid or high wedge. You can also add a varus wedge in either forefoot if necessary. Forefoot vents on the insole match up with toe vents on the shoe’s outsole.
Then there’s that outsole, that flashy iridescent gold finish that looks like an NFL receiver’s Nikes. Well, the electroplated finish is all show, and the unibody carbon sole is all go. Pearl Izumi says the carbon fiber plate is its stiffest ever. Although these aren’t the absolute stiffest shoes we’ve ridden (Bont’s Vaypor S still reigns in this category), the P.R.O. Leader is plenty stiff for any ride or race on our calendar.
The shiny finish is very cool, but it got scuffed up after we traipsed around on the side of a road. Nothing gold can stay. Also, Pearl Izumi can be critiqued for putting the cleat adjustment lines inside of the bolt holes, where they aren’t visible with a cleat mounted. At this point, we’re splitting hairs.
Indeed we need to get very picky to find fault in the Pearl Izumi P.R.O. Leader v4 shoes. Fit and shape are a personal thing, so perhaps you need a shoe that’s narrower if you have a very small foot. But with its excellent upper, dialed Boa placement, adjustable insole, and stiff sole, they are one of our top picks for long rides, lunch rides, or any day on the bike.