Pearl Izumi's Elite Road IV Shoe uses a lot of technology that's trickled down from its range-topping PRO Leader, so for your £150 you're getting a super-stiff carbon sole and the excellent Boa retention system. On the flipside, they aren't the lightest out there.
I'm not a fan of a flexible shoe, and I was impressed with the stiffness of the Elite IV's unidirectional carbon fibre (all the fibres travel in the same direction) sole. Put power through the pedals and there's no discernible flex. They aren't the stiffest I've used but they are very close to it, which helps on the comfort front if you're out for a few hours.
The sole itself has a deep central section which offers support under the arch of the foot before increasing in width at what Pearl Izumi calls the Power Plate – the bit where the cleat goes, to you and me.
It's set up for a three-bolt system, which covers the majority of road pedal cleats, and comes with a good amount of adjustability fore and aft. For walking you get an impressively thick heel bumper which is also replaceable should you wear it out – though I doubt you will.
The sole also has some decent sized mesh-covered vents to aid cooling in the summer months, but the holes in the insole are little more than pin pricks, so I can't see this making much of a difference on a hot day.
When Mat tested the earlier Elite II version one comment was that they lacked ventilation. Well, Pearl Izumi has since addressed that with seven mesh vents on top of the toe and around the outside of the foot.
The upper material is man-made – most are, so that's not a criticism – and it's very thin. It's created pretty much in one piece, so the only stitching is at the rear and running up the sides where it's attached to the tongue, meaning no seams to rub against your foot.
For those who've never used one, the Boa system uses a wire that is threaded through the front of the shoe, just like a lace really, and to apply tension you twist the dial and the wire pulls the shoe in from either side. Tension is spread evenly across the top half of the foot – helped by the bonded upper of the Elite being one piece of material. You get a single Velcro strap just above the toe box for a little more security.
To provide extra support, the upper has another layer of material, a PU-style fabric in a web design bonded to it. It provides some added strength and comfort to the shoes.
The size 45s I tested are on the generous side compared with a lot of others I've worn, especially in length (the width was fine). They aren't sloppy but you could comfortably go a bit thicker with your socks. As for comfort, the only thing I would say is that I'd like a bit more stiffness around the heel cup for a bit of stability when climbing out of the saddle.
At 644g for the pair, they're on the heavy side when compared with others at this price. In all honesty, though, it isn't really noticeable, so unless you are really trying to cut grams, especially revolving weight, I wouldn't get too hung up on it.
Overall I like the Elite IVs very much. They are comfortable, stiff, and look to be very well made to justify their £150 price tag. I'd like to see a couple of refinements such as a stiffened heel cup and maybe a drop in weight, but it's hardly a deal breaker.
Very comfortable race shoes with no compromise in stiffness, though a touch heavy for the weight weenies
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Pearl Izumi M Elite Road IV Shoe
Size tested: Size 45, White/Black
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
The Elite Road IVs are designed as mid-range road race shoes using plenty of technology from Pearl Izumi's top end models. They are stiff enough to race in while also being comfortable for longer treks.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Pearl Izumi says:
The ELITE RD IV cycling shoe features the same revolutionary 1:1 Adaptive Fit system as the P.R.O. Leader II cycling shoe, conforming to your unique foot shape to eliminate hot spots.
* Fully bonded upper eliminates uncomfortable seams and hotspots
* Bi-directional Closure: delivers a semi-custom fit by gathering equally from both sides for even foot retention, with the precision of a micro-adjustable Boa reel
* Integrated boa lace guides allows for an extremely low profile upper that excellent pressure distribution
* ELITE 1:1 Power Plate
* ELITE Grade Uni-Directional Carbon used in shoe sole for ultra-light stiffness
* Direct-Vent technology for cooling and drainage
* Concave shaping for ultra low 7.0mm stack height
* Enhanced plate stiffness and anatomic support
* Built in Longitudinal Arch Support for optimal power and efficiency
* Now with a replaceable heel bumper
The white stains quite easily so the black versions might be a better option for year-round riding. I'm slightly concerned that such a thin upper might not stand up to a crash too well, but so far that's not happened!
A good 100g heavier per pair than others we've tested at the same price.
The Boa retention system and bonded upper make for a very comfortable shoe.
Good value for what they are, and you can shop around for discounts.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
They are a decent pair of shoes for racing and general fast paced riding.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The stiff sole.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
A bit more support around the heel cup would be beneficial.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
The Elite IVs are good shoes all-round, with a decent performance/comfort/value ratio, and they certainly look pretty good. A few refinements like a stiffer heel cup would improve the overall feel quite a bit. Impressive, though, in what is a very competitive price point.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: Mason Definition
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!