Mountain Gear

Gear: Pearl Izumi Race MTB Shoe

If an affordable off-road shoe that doesn't take months of agonizing rides to break in is of interest, then Pearl Izumi's Race MTB is one to consider.

At $135, Pearl Izumi's Race MTB shoe is affordable, yet it offers features found on more expensive shoes. Photo by Brad Kaminsk
At $135, Pearl Izumi's Race MTB shoe is affordable, yet it offers features found on more expensive shoes. Photo by Brad Kaminsk

When it comes to choosing mountain bike shoes, three things guide my selection: Price, cost and expense.

OK, the criteria are actually price, fit and — yes I admit — aesthetics. OK, and durability, but that takes a lot of use and abuse to determine. Once gained, however, that information is something you’ll take along on your next trip to spend your hard-earned dough.

Price-Point Pondering

Pearl Izumi’s Race MTB shoe met my initial criteria: At a MSRP of $135, the shoe isn’t dirt cheap, yet it isn’t on the crazy end of the expense spectrum. Once on my size 45 dogs it was immediately clear that the fit was good enough to give the shoes a go. As far as looks, which are in the eye of the beholder, the Race MTB is just my style — non-flash black.

Pearl Izumi Race MTB shoes
MSRP $135
The Scoop: A comfortable, semi-light weight all-purpose mountain bike shoe with great features at a decent price.
Pros: Accomdates wide feet yet excellent heel hold. Ratchet buckle. Stiff but not foot-numbingly so. Affordable.
Cons: The ratchet lever on the buckle is small, making on-the-fly adjustments difficult. May be a bit heavy for weight-watchers.

Venturing over the $100 price point for shoes is difficult for some people. But the old saying is true: You get what you pay for. At $135, the Race MTB offers what most shoes at higher price points do yet without breaking the bank. A sturdy ratchet buckle system is paired with two hook-and-loop straps that are set to follow the natural rise of your foot when tightened down. Pearl Izumi designers say the slightly angled straps will help eliminate hot spots and remove pressure from the instep. The buckle’s mounting plate is also adjustable, further allowing you to tailor the shoe’s fit to your foot.

What helps keep the price down on the Race MTB is that Pearl Izumi left the carbon soles in their more expensive shoes. And that’s just fine with me, as the nylon-composite fiber plate sole is plenty stiff yet forgiving when hoofing it and still fairly light. The Race MTB weighs in at 374 grams for a size 43 (9.5). To compare, Mavic’s Fury, those yellow MTB shoes you’ve likely seen on the feet of top pros, weigh 350 grams (43/9.5) yet cost around $300 (and did I mention they are yellow?).

Quick Comfort

As noted earlier, when I first slipped my foot into the Race MTB it felt good. If you have wide feet like I do, you’ve undoubtedly wedged your dogs into too many pairs of narrow cycling shoes to count. The accommodating wide-foot fit made for a roomy toe box yet heel movement was negligible without having to strap and buckle everything to a foot-numbing maximum.

What sold me on the Race MTB, however, was that pretty much out of the box I wore them in a 30-mile race and I didn’t even think about my feet. In my book, that speaks volumes about a brand new pair of shoes.

The shoe is lugged aggressively enough and with Time ATAC cleats I had no problems walking. My only beef is that when clipped in and riding, the ratchet lever used to tighten the upper foot strap is a bit small, making it difficult to get a hold of and make an adjustment on the fly.

If you are a minimalist, this isn’t the shoe for you. But if an affordable shoe that doesn’t take months of agonizing rides to break in is of interest, the Race MTB is one to consider.