Pearl Izumi Peak II Review

Looking for a low-riding, but protective trail shoe to tackle some gnarly terrain in a sub-10 ounce shoe? Well, if so, take a look at Pearl Izumi’s Peak II ($120).

The Peak II can handle the burliest terrain on the Hardrock 100 course with ease. The platform is both wide and low-to-the-ground, which allows for great confidence when running on unpredictable trail or entirely off trail. While the rockplate is limited to a 1.5-2″ strip across the ball of the foot, the rest of the shoe’s design and construction makes the small rockplate feel entirely adequate. Traction is more than adequate and rates highly against all but mud-specific models. The mesh upper is woven closely enough that the only place debris will enter your shoe is through the ankle collar. Minimal debris entry and the Peak II’s seamless upper combine to reduce the likelihood of hotspots and blisters.

The Peak II is definitely a neutral shoe. If you heavily pronate, these shoes will roll inward. We’d recommend going at least a half up in these snug fitting shoes.

Call for Comments

  • If you’ve run in the Pearl Izumi Peak II, what did you think?
  • What’s the craziest terrain you’ve run on in the Peak II?

Pearl Izumi Peak II Review Transcript

Pearl Izumi has made some significant strides in just the last couple of years in terms of trail and ultrarunning. You can see that with the formation of their really excellent trail and ultrarunning team that they have currently, as well as with their new iterations of shoes that really seem to have a focus on not just trail but ultrarunning. They even call out on their website and in some of their literature on their design of shoes on keeping you comfortable from 26.2 or up to 100 miles, which is not something you see all the time in terms of big name manufacturers of trail shoes. We’re really excited to see that. With that, what we’ll do is take a look at the Pearl Izumi Peak II. This is a complete re-work of the previous Peak. So let’s get up close and personal and see what this shoe has to offer.

The Pearl Izumi Peak II weighs in at just over 9.5 ounces in a men’s size 9. Something to note: this shoe fits maybe a 1/2 to 3/4 of a size small. This is a 9.5 and I’d say that in my normal shoe I wear a 9. I could probably go up to a size 10 and still feel that this is right about how my other shoes fit. So this is just something to keep in mind. It has a 9mm drop with a 17mm heel and an 8mm toe. So it’s definitely lower to the ground in terms of its overall profile. Also with that 9mm drop you have something that’s more along the lines of a race-type of feel unless you’re a minimal-type person in which that maybe a little taller than you’re used to.

So let’s start off with the tread. The tread is obviously very trail specific. You have lots of small lugs across the entire shoe from toe to heel. Multidirectional lugs are up front and as I move to the back you have the rear facing lugs so you can brake downhill. You also have the lines here, which are pretty common on a lot of trail shoes that you’ll find out there.

In the middle of the shoe you have a little bit of torsion control. In terms of twist, the shoe is relatively flexible. It’s not overly stiff and it’s definitely a lighter weight feel and also flex, letting your foot have some movement, with the exception of here in the midsole (torsion control) which is added for just a little bit of rigidity though not a lot. I will note that myself, Bryon from iRunFar, and some others have noted that on this left shoe on this medial portion, it does have a little bit more flex maybe than what you’re used to. So if you’re not a 100% neutral runner, that’s just something you’re going to want to look out for.

Let’s move on up to the front part of the shoe. In terms of a rockplate, you can see it through here in just these two little spots is where that rock plate exists. Now, this does have a good feel of technical terrain, the road, this is a nice versatile shoe. In terms of the rockplate, it’s really just on this part of the midfoot, so if you’re a midfoot striker, it’s going to be an ideal situation. Of course, throughout the rest of the shoe with this traction and tread, you do have a shoe that is very well suited for trail and performing on trail. So even though that rockplate does not extend the length of the shoe you have some more plastic here in your arch and a pretty well cushioned heel, so you’re not going to feel too much of that pushing through.

Onto the midsole. The midsole is a single density foam all the way around with the exception of right here on the outside of the shoe and right here on the inside of the shoe (in the forefoot), but this foam is really not anything in terms of correcting your gait or anything like that. Actually, it just looks like some color that they’ve added to it there. I’ll point out on the back on the heel that this is a very flat heel. Some shoes that you see that are neutral will have a slope to the outside meaning this side (medial) is built up more than the outside (lateral) so if you’re somebody that is not neutral that will basically let your shoe land a little farther to the outside (supinated) without having to put a post or anything like that in here (medially). The shoe actually does the opposite as it rocks just a little bit internal causing me, when I step into it, a bit of pronation just by standing in it. Of course, when you’re running, you’re going to feel less of that but as a race goes on, it’s something to look out for. So just know that this is a racier type of neutral shoe.

Let’s move up into the upper. This is where Pearl Izumi does a really awesome job. What they do is they have this whole seamless upper. If you look around at this whole shoe, you’ll notice that there’s really not anywhere that there’s a seam. They’ve added some overlays here for some structural control. You’ve got some of that up here for the laces and the side and then down here for the foot to anchor in that bottom part of the midfoot to the front of the foot. The overall of this is a very light, airy feel to it.

On the inside of the shoe, which will be hard to see here, you have a seamless upper. This is one of those shoes that you can wear without socks and more than likely get away with it. Not a lot of times you can do that with shoes, especially if they have a lot of seams. They’ve really done a great job of eliminating the seams. That was the first thing I noticed when I put these shoes on, that excellent sockless type of feel – slipper-like when you wear this.

Continuing on with the upper, the tongue is kind of interesting on this. The tongue doesn’t have really much to it at all. Up here at the top we have a little bit of fabric reinforced with just a bit of padding inside of this though not very much. And then once it moves beyond that, what we have in this part of the shoe is really nothing more than just more fabric. You should be able to see my hand poking through there. That is simply a piece of thin elastic type mesh that runs through the whole shoe. It has two connection points that run all the way down so the tongue, instead of being free-floating, is what I’d call semi-gusseted. So it goes down to the side here, probably just about to where my hand is, and then the same thing on this side. But this is not a fully gusseted tongue, because from basically this little Colorado symbol here (mid laces) down is open so you can get your finger in there which probably means you can get debris in there. The nice thing is it does splay out relatively well in terms of the tongue so once your foot is in there it’s going to move that up but it’s not gusseted all the way which would have been nice to see.

In terms of the lacing, this lacing is off-set just a little bit which you can see, so kind of back and forth, back and forth, which means you’re not going to have that one pressure point across the top of your foot. So it does allow for some back and forth movement. I mentioned earlier about the sizing of the shoe and I would say one of the reasons for that is when you look at this, it’s a relatively low profile toe box. Because of that, that’s where I noticed I needed to size up just to get myself in one that was more comfortable. This has a little narrower type of toe in it, but it does have a nice well-structured toe box here in the front. It’s very hard right here on the apex of the shoe, that’s the outsole rolling up and around. Then, on both sides is some more plastic or rubber placed upon there, which is going to give this nice deflection for when you are kicking things.

Then, lastly, we’ll hit up the collar here. This is a fully structured heel here. It’s nice and padded as you can see. You’ve got a good amount of padding through here. You’ve got the pull-tab to get this on your foot. In terms of the heel cup, it is in there. It is hard in terms of having an actual structure to it.

So in closing, the Peak II from Pearl Izumi is an all around great shoe for somebody that is more neutral and looking for a lightweight, more race-y feel trainer that they could wear everyday because of the amount of cushioning and the type of feel that this has. Or, if you’re someone that is looking to get into that lower profile more neutral type shoe, this is a great stepping-stone to get you there. As always, any questions or comments, please leave those below the video. Thanks and we’ll catch you next time.

Travis Liles

resides in Portland, Oregon where he is a husband, father, and a technical specialist for a software company. In his spare time, he is exploring his new home in the Pacific Northwest, getting more vertical but still not living in the thin air, while producing "Trail Trials with Travis Liles" video gear reviews for iRunFar.

There are 25 comments

    1. Anonymous

      I agree on the sizing. I had to send them back twice to and still couldn't get the correct fit. Normally I am a size 10, but would need to go beyond 11.5.

  1. mylesmyles

    I'm a big fan of this shoe, even if their sizing is off (I wear a 9 in most running shoes, a 9.5 in the PI streak 2 and a 10 in this shoes). My only comment would be I wish they would lower the drop from 12mm to 6-8 mm. Toe protection is great for rocky east coast running.

        1. Travis

          Just a note about the Runningwarehouse metric. They are measuring the stack height which is different than the ride height. Stack is measured from the ground to where the foam stops. Ride height, or the drop that we are refereing to in the review, is the angle at which the foot sits inside the shoe.

          thanks for pointing that out. I'll make sure to include both stats in future reviews.

    1. Travis

      The drop is actually 9mm with a 17mm heel and 8mm toe per Pearl Izumi product page. But with the current trend and the trail running team they have I could see this taking a "step down" in the future. That's not insider information, just a hunch.

      1. Timothy olson

        Correct, the drop is 9mm.
        I wont spoil the surprise, but the Peak 3.0 is going to be the bomb!
        Look forward to more room in the toebox and a lower heel drop.
        That being said, I love the Peak II and ran in it for every race of 2011.

        It's fun to watch all the different shoe companies make excellent trail running shoes, I'm excited to keep seeing all the possibilities.

  2. Mike Place

    Bryon, I'd be interested to hear sometime about how shoe companies are approaching the visual design element of trail running shoes. It seems like over the past year or two, companies have started really paying attention not just to how the shoe feels but how it looks as well. Am I crazy, or are companies starting to invest in the visual appeal as much as the comfort and ride of new products?

    (I say this because that Perl Izumi is really a nice looking shoe.)

  3. Hugh Davis

    Great review ! I think Travis did a great job explaining this shoe. I think it is one of the most versatile shoes out there. I have worn it from the rockiest to the muddiest places I could find and they have never dissappointed me with their performance and protection. I did size up 1/2 size to get enough room in the mid/toe box for optimal comfort.

  4. David Walker

    I have a couple hundred mile son mine and love them. The upper is the best I have EVER worn and really feels just supportive enough but also slipper like!

  5. JJ Johnson

    I did a review of these a while back as well as its predecessor the Peak XC and I found both to be good shoes. The Peak 2 has a better upper that lets less debris through and seems to be more durable. The upper on the Peak XC tore at just over 300 miles and was showing problems much before then. For the Peak 2 I had to end up using a full size larger than normal but I wish I could go with 3/4 size larger as the 10 felt slightly big.

    For drop I measured the shoes to be 10 mm and agree with the other comments that i wish they would make their lightweight race offering in a lower drop (4-6). They are a good shoes and I have used them from road to technical trails. Here in Bend, Oregon we have drier conditions so these are an ideal shoes for just about anything.

  6. Steve Bohrer

    My work server blocks the video, so if I'm repeating something I'm sorry. I've run a couple hundred or more miles in the Peak II and in general I love it. The first time I wore them I ran full out down a rocky, vegetation-covered trail and felt like I was in heaven. I'm wearing a full size bigger in it than any other running shoe. The sockliner, in a word, sucks. It's too spongy so it never dries and I get some weird foot movement that's given me blisters where I never blister in other shoes. I would also say the glue used for the overlays could be better, I've had to shoe goo a couple spots. But that's probably worth the weight and stitch savings.

    I know there's been some discussion over here about shoe prices, but seriously, $120 is a little steep. So if I found a pair on sale I'd snatch them up.

    1. KenZ

      Hey Steve,

      The Amazon link right below it has them for $76! Depends on size and color, but I found them in my size at that price. It's not the shoe that I'm looking for, but the discrepancy between the MSRP and the actual selling price is pretty massive….


    2. Rhielle Widders

      Steve- The overlays shouldn't be coming off in the normal 300 mile usage range. They are welded on which is a technology that doesn't normally falter. Pearl Izumi has a great guarantee on their products so if you are frustrated with the quality of the overlay, contact them for an exchange.

  7. adam

    kinda looks like the old la sportiva Sonic trail shoe. I think they ran;) tight too? wonder if some of the PI designers used to work over at sportiva?

  8. Chris


    On stack vs. ride height: do you mean stack is looking at the outside of the shoe only, so if the foam is higher on the sides, the stack height is not meaningful? Is 'ride' height then the pertinent stat?

    1. Travis

      correct ride height is the one that matters. I dont know that there is an industry standard for that measurement but where your foot sits in a shoe is different that the height of the midsole. A lot of times your foot will sit down in the midsole instead of directly on top of it.

  9. patrick stewart

    Travis, great review. I've put a bunch of miles in the PI Syncrofuel the last couple years and have been considering the Peak for more of a race shoe. It looks like it has a lot of the same features that I love about the Syncrofuel. Can't wait to try these out!

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