I tried on a pair of Pearl Izumi trail shoes sometime last year. I remember they felt almost bulky and up off the ground a little more than I was looking for and ultimately passed on them. So when the opportunity to test out a pair of the Peak II’s, I’ll admit I didn’t exactly drop what I was doing to switch out current shoes which were working for me for something that probably wouldn’t.
Boy was I wrong!
The Pearl Izumi Peak II’s were clearly constructed with some serious thought and input from Scott Jamie and their team of ultra runners at Pearl Izumi.
This is not the same shoe I tried on a year ago.
When you take them out of the box they feel light, with the weight equally distributed from the upper to the outsole. I don’t care for shoes where all the weight is distributed on the outsole (Roclite 295′s for instance) and the entire upper and support is just fabric offering little to no support. Slip on the Peak II’s and they are snug right away. They hug the top of your foot locking it in place, your ankle supported and toes able to move around in the toe box.
TRC was provided a size 11 for testing and as I typically wear a 10 for most trail shoe brands I was worried they would be too big and it would affect how I ran. As it turns out the new improvements to the Peak II specifically worked towards a more snug fit while being closer to the ground. So most reports on the shoes suggest at least a 1/2 size more than you normally wear. I would definitely agree with that as even a size 11 felt snug, but not uncomfortable. I probably would be best for a 10.5 for reasons I’ll mention later on.
The “perfect shoe” for me is something that allows for the lightest shoe with the most protection with the most comfortable fit. Pearl Izumi has created something very close to that with this shoe, coming in under 10 oz in weight while having an outsole that handles even the sharpest rocks. I’ve scrapped many a shoe because I would finish a long run on the trails with bruised feet from sharp bedrock or scree cutting into the bottom of my feet through the shoes or just a general lack of protection on the downhills where a heel strike is necessary in places. This shoe dominates in that regard, something I was surprised to find and was really impressed with. Despite miles and miles of rocks, nothing poked through. Very few shoes I’ve tried can say that on these trails, nothing that was under 10.0 oz.
A few observations of the shoe:
Climbing in these shoes is incredible. Very smooth, light and the traction was very grippy, solid and holds when it needs to while bending when it doesn’t. The tread really allows for a great spring off each step. The even distribution in the weight of the shoe makes the shoes themselves feel much lighter than they really are. While the Altra Lone Peak’s are nearly identical in weight, the Peak II’s feel much lighter.
Shoelaces seem like such an insignificant part of the shoe and one part you probably only notice when they are terrible. Those that have tried a few series of the Cascadia’s will remember the horrible shoelaces a few series ago…I know there are a number of different ways a shoe can have their laces designed but really, who cares as long as they keep your feet snug and toes from slamming into your toe box? I just want my feet to stay in place and the shoelaces to stay tied. Mission accomplished in the Peak II’s.
Overall the Pearl Izumi Peak II’s are a very solid shoe in overall design and concept. They are lightweight (9.6oz.) and have a 8mm drop and a stellar outsole that protects from even the sharpest of rocks. They hold your feet in really snug, tight but not uncomfortable, and downhills are done without concern for toenails. They designed the upper to have one piece, very thin and breathable and it holds your foot right where you want it. Full control on the downhills with an excellent tread to do what you want when you hit the rocks or roots. They also probably have some of the better aesthetics of trail shoes out there. While neon green might be a little bold right out of the box it’s tamed dramatically after one run. Overall though, they just look like a cool shoe.
The only challenge I’ve experienced thus far with the shoe that I would be remiss to not mention is a hot spot on the bottom of my heels on the downhills. It’s something I’m not sure can be fairly attributed to the shoe design as I am wearing a slightly large shoe for my size and likely should be wearing a 10.5 not 11. Due to this I have the laces a bit snugger than I would have normally and on the downhills, especially extended ones, my heels have obvious friction and after 15+ mile runs I’ve been left with blisters on the forefront of my heels on both sides. Given that I have had maybe 2 blisters in the last couple years I know it’s not due to the condition of my feet. I’m not ready to place the blame on the Peak’s until I’ve run the same distances on the same trails with a size that likely would be more ideal than the ones I tested out. Until then I’m comfortable supporting this shoe in its design as it is. Very impressive shoes and Pearl Izumi is making it clear they are in this trail running business to stay. They are making all the right changes, right improvements and their involvement in the ultra running community is as great as any of the big name companies. Well worth the investment, these shoes will last and to me, that counts for a lot.
Editor’s Note: Trail Running Club requested and received size 11 Pearl Izumi Peak II shoes to test for both men and women. Unfortunately, all the testers that tried them were 1/2 size too big or too small for a perfect fit. Testers all agreed the Pearl Izumi Peak II is a great shoe and one of their top choices, but stress the importance of trying this shoe on at your local running store and getting assitance with the perfect fit before purchasing.
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