Pearl Izumi X-Project 3.0 Shoe reviewed

Words Jon Harris
Photos Jon Harris
Date Jul 29, 2014

The Pearl Izumi X-Project 3.0 Shoe promises the performance of a XC shoe with a bit more versatility when you’re not pedaling.

If you own a Santa Cruz Tallboy LTC with the naked carbon and orange finish… buy these shoes as they match your bike perfectly. Okay I got that out of the way. Coordinating aesthetics aside, the Pearl Izumi X-Project 3.0 shoe is named like some sort of covert space travel project but it is in fact a SPD compatible mountain bike shoe that promises to have a trick up its sleeve for us mountain bikers.

According to Pearl Izumi, the X-PROJECT 3.0 is a brand new type of cycling shoe, combining pedaling performance with hike-ability. Now this may be the panacea of shoes for those of us that like the disco-slipper style as typically these two features don’t go hand in hand. So I set off with bike in hand to hike up some trails and test out the claim.

Firstly let’s take a closer look at the shoes. The uppers are made from synthetic leather with some good ventilation around the toes to keep your pinkies cool. The toe box has a seamless construction to prevent any uncomfortable chafing in the area that flexes the most.


The buckle closure has an angled strap that didn’t put any uncomfortable pressure on my foot and in combination with the two Velcro straps held my foot nice and snug in the shoe over multiple hour rides and races without having to readjust.

A note here about the buckle. I’ve a habit of smacking buckles on the outside of shoes on rocks and stumps as I pass and although these buckles are still intact now, the material that they are made of appear to be a little more brittle than other shoes I’ve owned. Also while tightening up the buckle I’ve had it jam on me occasionally on both shoes.

The sole of the X-Project is pretty cool. There are molded rubber tips on hollow TPU lugs which are most likely purposely transparent so you can see the hollowed out inners. In combination with this you have a full-length carbon fiber plate to make the soles stiff to transfer the power from your legs to the pedals. The slots for positioning the SPD cleat are reasonably long and I ran them slammed to the back.

A nice feature that I appreciated on the sole was the addition of rubber in the center of the shoe. On many SPD slippers this section is bare, which on the occasion that you don’t clip in properly and end up riding on the pedal on that section can be downright scary. It was very distinct that this rubber actually helps in this situation.


Rubber in the middle of the sole provided traction while walking as well as on the pedals in those ‘not quite clipped in yet’ moments.


More rubber in the toe as well as space for cleats if you need additional traction.

A note on the sizing of these shoes, fit is personal and I do have wider feet than is average. The toe box of the Pearl Izumi shoes is snug, so you may find yourself at least one size larger than normal is you have paddles for feet. I actually felt that the shoe was also short for its size and while the snugness was good for shorter rides, once your feet get warm and swell a little there isn’t much room left to wiggle. I usually wear a 43 in European sizes and this shoe is a 44 with the potential that a 45 might have worked better for me.


A buckle and two straps are pretty standard, but the angle of the straps took pressure off the sensitive part of the top of the arch.


Lots of ventilation on all sides of the shoe make it a good choice in warm climates or for the hot part of the year.

So does this shoe combine hike-a-bike ability and good pedal power transfer? I’d say that the shoe isn’t quite as flexible as Pearl Izumi leads you to believe. While it is better than a lot of carbon-soled race slippers I still would rather hike up a trail in a slightly softer flexible shoe. It is fine for short stints off the bike but if you were planning on hike-a-biking up a big slope in the Chilcotins, there are better options.

That shouldn’t take away from the fact that these are well make shoes with smart styling and quality construction. I think that their construction will hold up well over time and if you have narrow feet then the fit will suit you well.

The Pearl Izumi X-Project 3.0 Shoe retails for $179 CAD / $160 USD

What do you look for in a shoe? Should your shoes match your belt bike?


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Andy Eunson  - Aug. 6, 2014, 4:34 p.m.

One thing to consider on any shoe with a buckle system is to cut the excess off the strap. Often it is the end of the strap that gets knocked by something which then makes buckle tighten or something. It would be far better I think for buckles and straps to be reversed with the buckle on top of the shoe. Ski touring boots often reverse the bottom two buckles for this reason. Post holing in deep snow can open those buckles or they get damaged scrambling on rocks. Boa tighteners are one way around this.

I find the length of the PI shoes to be smaller than the size is. I usually wear a 39 but in the PI i need a 40. But after a couple weeks I am running out of buckle adjustment as the shoe breaks in. I'll need thicker socks or insole to remedy that.


Matt Lee  - July 29, 2014, 11:01 p.m.

Working at a place that sells a boatload of Pearl Izumi shoes, their entire line fits smaller than expected. Jump up at least a size, perhaps a size and a half, and you should be golden.


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