I took the Men’s Tri Fly V Carbons through their paces while Silvia (“Humdrum”) gave the women’s Tri Fly V a good going over.
Speaking to a few coaches over the years the general consensus regarding bike shoes was that for anyone doing any significant miles in either racing or training that road shoes were the best option. Athletes generally have not had an issue with this as up till recently road shoes have generally offered better fit, comfort and adjustability.
Now it seems though, that Tri shoes are becoming a defined sector of the market and some serious research and development is going into the design of tri specific shoes.
For those that have used any of Pearl Izumi’s products, be they run shoes or clothing you will know that comfort is very high on the Pearl Izumi priority list, translating that to a tri shoe though is no easy feat.
A tongueless upper makes for easy entry and also possibly an awkward tan mark
On my first outing in the Tri Fly V Carbons I managed to meet up with Transitions resident Pro Michael Fox who was out for a training ride. Foxy has been using the exact same show since its release and is a big fan. While it is true he is sponsored by Pearl Izumi, there is no reason for him to wear tri specific shoes when he is not racing. I asked him about this and his feedback was: “After using tri specific shoes for years I'd accepted the fact that they just wouldn't be as comfortable as the road shoes I trained in. However, the PI Tri shoes are very supportive and fit far more like a road shoe. I now race and train in them daily.”
After a few rides in the Tri Fly’s I could see where he was coming from. My previous 3 or 4 pairs of tri shoes had been left in the kit bag for race day duties only and even then only used for races up to 40km; for training or any longer races road shoes were the default.
Part of the appeal of the Pearl Izumi’s is the feel of the inside of the shoe. As soon as you slip it on you realise the interior is softly lined and free of bulky seams, bumps or lumps. With or without socks you shouldn’t be soiling these puppies with blood from rubbed toes anytime soon.
On the outside the features are numerous. The upper contains a fair portion of ventilated material to keep your feet cool, the heel is reinforced with a heavier material to protect the shoe for those times when it gets unceremoniously dragged through transition. The heel loop for pulling the shoe on is a sizable number and placed slightly to the outside of the shoe to make for a fumble free entry. There is also separate smaller loop for your rubber band for those who use them for “shoe on bike” transitions.
The heel loop in anatomically shaped for easy grip, and a spare loop for elastic bands.
The upper fastens with two straps with the forefoot strap allowing for a more customisable fit than single strap shoes. The main strap fastens away from the chain and is notched to keep the shoe open when awaiting mounting. The upper also has no tongue to allow a fuss free entry.
The closure tab is notched to keep it open for fast entry.
On the bottom there is a range of sole options. The pair I tested, the Tri Fly V Carbon, as they say on the box have a carbon sole. Apart from being superbly stiff they also have forefoot and midfoot ventilation areas, these ventilation areas are replicated in the insole to allow air in and excess moisture out.
Forefoot and midfoot ventilation keeps fet cool and dry.
Size wise I had been warned that Pearl Izumi shos can run small, however I generally use a 45 run shoe and fitted a 45 Pearl Izumi shoe perfectly. From a personal fit perspective I generally struggle to find shoes that fit me “off the rack”, I have low volume feet and often need a thicker insole or even an extra insole to lift my foot up in the shoe. The Pearl Izumi Tri Fly’s, for me didn’t need any adjustment, something I put down to Pearl Izumi’s anatomic TRI closure system and the additional forefoot strap.
The forefoot closure give the TriFly more adjustability.
While sceptical at first I can certainly see why “Foxy” is happy to use these as his everyday shoe. For mine is I had to distil this review down to one word it would be “comfort”. Yes they are stiff, well designed, ergonomic and have all the tricks but the overriding factor is the comfort.
I was lucky enough to receive a pair of Pearl Izumi Tri Fly V's (White/grey)to test drive – it's not often there is something in my size for these things .
Anyway the shoes arrived with a bonus pair of socks as well so I might go into those first briefly;
Women's Elite Low sock.
The official blurb says it provides great next to skin feel – And I have to agree!! They feel very seamless and soft and have that little bit of compression but don't feel tight. They actually felt so good, that I also used them for some running. I had a couple of lingering blisters from a run on Friday, and running in these socks (and different shoes) didn't make it worse, so that is great in my books. They will be my favoured running socks for now.
I have never used a tri specific cycling shoe, as I'm not in a category where a few seconds in transition make a big difference. I'm not too fussy.
This model is the entry model with the reinforced nylon sole. Because I've never had carbon soled shoes, I can't compare stiffness...but they felt 'fine'.
The insoles have a nice bit of spongey feel to them and plenty of ventilation and draining holes. All up pretty comfy.
The nylon sole version still has ventilation in the forefoot.
The Upper has fully lined mesh with a nice big 'hole' – definitely keeps the feet cooler and drier
Heel Cup - Nicely shaped fit, stable but not too high, so rubbing wasn't an issue
Toebox – with the narrower fit this is maybe where they will not be for everyone. If you have really wide feet, they may not be for you. I like a wide toebox, but I still found this one comfortable enough.
The whole Forefoot of the Pearl Izumis fit narrow but I didn't find it too restrictive. For a tri shoe that is normally not as supportive I could feel relatively little difference to a road shoe.
Now to the big strap - The Pearl Izumi has the 'anatomic TRI Closure' – to me it's a wide upper Velcro strap with a pretty big 'handle' (The Pearl Izumi Logo) – this makes it very easy to loosen or tighten on the go, which is a great thing when you need to relieve pressure – or obviously for transition ! There is also an oversized heel tab, to pull them up on the go.
There is a second smaller strap over the forefoot, which keeps the foot nicely in place, which again gives it a nice stable feel.
Now for the actual 'on the road' test.
The upper of the more cost effective model still includes all the features of the carbon models.
As I mentioned I'm not too fussy and probably haven't tried loads of different shoes.
I do have a bit of an issue with stinging toe pain on longer rides. I think it is partially because I ride with (and pretty much wear all my shoes) rather loose shoes and my toes slip a bit forward... But too tight a shoe and I feel discomfort as well... so it is a balancing act that I am yet to master...
I wore the Pearl Izumi’s on a few rides so far, the first one being an early morning ride where my feet simply were cold for the whole 2 hours, so obviously the vents work fine!!
I again wore them on a long ride on the TT. Again they felt really good for the first few hours. This was a hot day, and after 4 or so hours my feet did show their usual symptoms. So I opened up the shoes a little - or even a lot, took the heel out to wriggle my toes a little, pulled them back in with the heel tab – all on the go. So they may have not solved my issues (I probably need to look at custom moulded shoes and a lot more $$$ for that) but it did help me a lot to keep it under control and relieve it every now and then. Because of that I reckon they would be my choice of shoe (between my road shoes and these) for an IM ride.
In short, I really like that they feel very similar to a road shoe but also give you the advantage of easy entry and exit of a tri shoe. At $ 199 rrp it is certainly a tri shoe I would consider buying.
As far as negatives go, well maybe just the one….. the white seems REALLY white, how do you ever keep that clean ??
Pearl Izumi are distributed in Australia by Shimano Australia
Pearl Izumi Tri Fly V Carbon $264
Pearl Izumi Tri Fly $199
Thanks to Silvia "Humdrum" for taking the ladies shoes and socks for a spin for us.