Unconventional PRO Leader III shoes from Pearl Izumi

Novel construction methods decrease stack height, improve fit quality

This article originally appeared on BikeRadar

With few exceptions, road cycling shoes are all built the same way. The uppers are assembled, shaped and glued on to stiff outer plates, a semi-rigid 'lasting board' is bonded into the inside to cover up the rough edges, and it's all capped with a soft insole. Pearl Izumi is doing things differently with its new Pro Leader III shoes, however, with some impressive claimed performance benefits as a result.

Instead of going the conventional route, Pearl Izumi is wrapping the lower edges of the upper down around the bottom of the carbon fiber plate, creating more of a unified structure somewhat in the spirit of Bont's more radical monocoque layout. Whereas the lasting board is normally used to cover up those edges inside the shoe, Pearl Izumi conceals everything with a co-molded layer of material around the outer perimeter of the carbon plate for an impressively tidy-looking finished product that reveals little at first about how the shoe is actually built.


Instead of bonding a complete upper to the top of the outer plate, the edges are wrapped around the bottom and then covered with molded polyurethane

Such a construction method doesn't do much in terms of weight savings – Pearl Izumi says a single size 43 shoe comes in at 235g, which is already inline with top road footwear. However, the company says that stack height comes down a significant 1.5mm, plus there's supposedly a more direct transfer of power from foot to pedal since there's one less layer of material in compress.

The upper itself incorporates some neat technology, too, with a full mesh body and a reinforcing 'web' that's printed directly on top without the waste normally associated with material that would otherwise be cut away and discarded. Two Boa reels are used per shoe for a tunable fit, while the tongue is bolstered with thick padding only under the cables to reduce pressure on top of the rider's foot.


Dual Boa cable reels promise an even, snug, and comfortable fit

Out back, there's a T-shaped external heel counter to add stability, which decreases weight and bulk as compared to a full-sized heel cup and also allows the mesh to extend nearly all the way around the rear of the foot for better ventilation in hot weather.

Meanwhile, vents underneath the toe box bring in more cooling air, and the cleat slots are extra-long for lots of position adjustability.


Mesh material extends nearly all the way around the back of the foot for what should be excellent ventilation

Retail price is $320, and available sizes will range from 38-49. International pricing is still being finalized, and shoes are scheduled to arrive in stores in December.

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