PEARL IZUMI XC
Since discovering the Synchro Fuel by accident I have become a huge fan of Pearl Izumi shoes. So when I saw the Peak XC I had to give them a try. And so my love affair with the PIs continues. While not part of the latest minimalist brigade the Peak are nonetheless very light and flexible. But what sets them apart from others is the PI patented seamless uppers. If you run long you inevitably find something in a shoe that will rub you somewhere. Pearl Izumi have created a line of shoes that boast the absence of seams so there is no inner stitching and no stiff layers or supports impinging on your foot. Read: no pressure points, no rubbing and no blisters. This alone makes them worth a try. And I now have 3 different models including a road version that are my hardtop go-to.
The Peak XC ride is smooth, if a little plush. If you want that harsh feel-every-root-and-rock experience these might not be for you. But if you like a little protection and comfort yet retain a flexible, forgiving ride then you can’t go wrong. Even the tongue is soft and the squishy laces combine nicely to give you that slipper feeling more acquainted to the fireside than the trail-side.
The thing the Peak XCs have over the Synchro Fuels is traction. While the heel is still relatively low in tread profile, the forefoot sports a series of parallel cleat-like lugs that offer great grip on loose surfaces and even mud. Not as aggressive as most mud-runners, they still provide great traction on the rough but allow an easy ride over the smooth as well. The ride is smooth enough that these make an excellent all round trail shoe for transition for everything from bitumen to loose dirt. The lugs are low enough in profile and spaced wide enough apart that they shed dirt and debris well. I had confidence on all surfaces experienced.
There is a protection plate only in the forefoot but there is adequate cushioning across the rest of the midsole that rocky surfaces don’t pose a problem. Pearl Izumi haven’t caught the minimalist bug yet and for those of us who want to go long on rough surfaces that is a blessing. There are no motion control devices so consider the XCs to be a neutral shoe.
The cut is stylish and more importantly functional. The heel is snug but very soft. The toe-box is generous making them ideal for ultras. And the mesh upper is very forgiving while still wrapping the foot up snugly. It drains well and allows your foot to breathe.
The acid test for me for a trail shoe is would I wear them in a 100miler? I wore the Synchro Fuel XC on my Great Dividing trail run over 209km for 53hours without one foot issue. And I like the Peak XC more, so yes, I plan to wear them at my next 100. GNW no less, which is the ultimate testing ground for trail shoes.
The Peak XC has been around for a while and a newer version is now available: the Peak II. While carrying the same name it is a complete rebuild. The XC has a heel-toe drop of 21-11mm (10mm) while the Peak II goes from 17mm down to 8mm. Still a long way from the true minimalists the overall lower profile is definitely attractive. This creates a dilemma for me: do I stick with my tried and trusted Peak XC or plunge into the newer model? Needless to say I am keen to give them a try. Pearl Izumi haven’t disappointed me yet.