Taking its cue from Pearl Izumi's range topping PRO Leader II shoe, the Elite RD IV is a well designed, comfortable and stiff road shoe that brings high-end features to a more modest price point.
The 'Elite' grade uni-directional carbon sole uses the same material as Shimano's range and completely banishes memories of flexiness from Pearl Izumi's range of a few years ago. Weighing only 580g a pair (size 45), they're only 35g heavier than the PRO Leader II shoes, yet considerably cheaper.
The Elite 1:1 power plate outsole design has thick inboard and outboard ridges for strength while the concave interior means a stack height of just 6.5mm, getting the foot closer to the pedal axle for maximum pedalling efficiency.
It's an almost unyielding base that only the most committed ham-fisted twisting can affect – and one that's obviously stiff and stable while out on the road, with no sense of lost power.
There are two mesh vents under the toebox and another larger one behind the three-bolt cleat fixing, which is reinforced and also has around 3mm of fore-aft adjustment built-in. In tandem with cleats themselves, the moulded heel and toe bumpers have protected the sole well over a couple of hundred miles of testing, but only the heel is replaceable via screws on the inside of the shoe.
Feelings of rigidity and strength while riding are down in part to the light weight, fully bonded seamless upper and the security of the Boa retention system, the dial for which sits in the centre of a thickly padded tongue. This placement means the shoe is tightened evenly over the top of the foot, which helps avoid pinch points and hotspots.
It's also extremely simple to adjust fit while riding on hot afternoons that result in swelling of the feet. There's a Velcro strap over the toebox too, to secure the front of the feet.
The heel cup is tall enough to support the Achilles tendon, but didn't rub or otherwise cause discomfort. In fact, the snug heel fit worked in perfect harmony with the Boa dial to avoid heel slipping entirely – something my long, flat feet often have issue with. The stiff upper construction around the ankle initially rubbed painfully around the ankle bone, but this turned out to be a cleat alignment issue – something always worth double checking when moving from shoe to shoe.
Nine mesh vents adorn the front of the shoe and offer a decent flow of air to cool comfortably on warm days. A structured, foam insole adds to the comfort with a bit of arch support – helping to avoid over pronation on the downstroke – and perforations dotted over the front and arch areas to avoid toasty toes.
The Pearl Izumi Elite RD IV shoes are superbly stiff, comfortable and secure. The fact that you forget all about them while riding is testament to just how good they are.