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Unconventional PRO Leader III shoes from Pearl Izumi

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Pearl Izumi's new Pro Leader III road shoes are chock full of features but it's what's hidden inside that's most intriguing

Pearl Izumi's new Pro Leader III road shoes are chock full of features but it's what's hidden inside that's most intriguing (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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The main benefit of the innovative construction methods used on the Pearl Izumi Pro Leader III shoe is a fantastically low stack height

The main benefit of the innovative construction methods used on the Pearl Izumi Pro Leader III shoe is a fantastically low stack height (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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The co-molded perimeter of the Pearl Izumi Pro Leader III outsole neatly finishes the edges of the upper that's wrapped around the bottom of the carbon plate

The co-molded perimeter of the Pearl Izumi Pro Leader III outsole neatly finishes the edges of the upper that's wrapped around the bottom of the carbon plate (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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Whereas uppers are usually glued on top of the carbon plate with a secondary layer of material added in before the insole is installed, the Pearl Izumi Pro Leader III wraps the edges of the upper around the bottom. This places the rider's foot directly on top of the carbon layer and decreases the stack height

Whereas uppers are usually glued on top of the carbon plate with a secondary layer of material added in before the insole is installed, the Pearl Izumi Pro Leader III wraps the edges of the upper around the bottom. This places the rider's foot directly on top of the carbon layer and decreases the stack height (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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Because '11' is so last year. Cleat slots are extra long for heaps of fore-aft adjustability

Because '11' is so last year. Cleat slots are extra long for heaps of fore-aft adjustability (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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The design of the outsole isn't just for show. It's cleverly hiding the innovative way that the shoe is built

The design of the outsole isn't just for show. It's cleverly hiding the innovative way that the shoe is built (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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The T-shaped heel counter is meant to keep your foot stable without adding too much weight or bulk. The pared-down shape also improves ventilation, too, as the mesh can extend nearly all the way back

The T-shaped heel counter is meant to keep your foot stable without adding too much weight or bulk. The pared-down shape also improves ventilation, too, as the mesh can extend nearly all the way back (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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Dual Boa cable reel closures are backed with specifically shaped padding on the tongue to relieve pressure on the top of the foot

Dual Boa cable reel closures are backed with specifically shaped padding on the tongue to relieve pressure on the top of the foot (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)
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A schematic look at how the Pearl Izumi Pro Leader III shoes are built

A schematic look at how the Pearl Izumi Pro Leader III shoes are built (Image credit: Pearl Izumi)
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The two-layer upper material is printed together in its final shape so there's little waste

The two-layer upper material is printed together in its final shape so there's little waste (Image credit: James Huang/BikeRadar)

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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