Pearl Izumi Peak II
With a sensitive trail “feel” that allows the foot to flex naturally, and a bit of protection underfoot, the Peak II is a great choice for racing or high-speed training on smooth to medium trails. But its minimal structure in the upper and narrow profile outsole still result in considerable lateral instability over loose or angled rocks. Relative to others in its category, we felt this was a major issue, especially since the Peak II is not feather light.
The most noticeable feature of the Peak II out of the box is the lush inviting inner: super soft material all around, with bonded seams to minimize potentially abrasive stitching. The slightly padded, gusseted tongue secures the foot and keeps the tongue centered—although it could use a bit more padding under the laces to allow for tighter lacing without pinching. The combination provided a snug, slipper-like feel with no noticeable hot spots throughout the testing.
Weight & Speed
At 9.6-ounces (men’s size 10) the shoes are not ultralight relative to this category, but certainly light enough to feel really fast and nimble, while also offering some protection. They are certainly race-worthy: best on smooth dirt trails, even with short sections of pavement, but also okay for slightly technical routes where the extra protection will justify the few additional ounces.
With a medium-drop design (17mm-8mm), and low-to-the-ground profile, there was still enough EVA foam for decent cushioning in the heel and midfoot for light heel striking and worry-free midfoot striking.
However, despite their comfort and quickness, two testers had the same major complaint about the Peak II: In unpredictable terrain they feel squirrely and unstable. Like many race shoes, the minimal structure in the upper allowed our feet to slip sideways violently in uneven terrain, like landing on the side of sharply angled rocks. Combined with the narrow-profile outsole, this became particularly problematic in loose gravel like volcanic rocks, where the highly uneven and unstable surface caused my feet to rock violently from side to side.
Despite the instability, the Peak II offers a very comfortable, tactile ride, over a wide variety of terrain and even pavement. The thin forefoot plate was surprisingly flexible and worked well at the front of the metatarsals, but stopped a bit too short to protect under the rear of the ball.
Traction on the full carbon rubber (softer and stickier, but lower durability) outsole was solid over most terrain, considering the low-profile design. Tiny knobs on each lug added grip on the slick stuff, and the shoe’s impressive flex—even in the thermoplastic support bridge under the arch—allowed the foot to wrap naturally around obstacles, improving traction. And mud and moisture seemed to have little negative effect.
Fit on the Peak II definitely runs about a half size small—I’m usually a 10.5 (11 in brands that run small) and I needed every inch of the 11. There’s a wide toe box and slightly narrower but well-padded heel cup.
How We Tested It
Tester 1 (Scott Boulbol): Approximately 35 miles of trails including some smoother dirt paths and loose, gravel-strewn singletrack, by a single tester around the Boston area. Mostly rolling hills rather than steep mountains, with a fair amount of mud and standing water.
Tester 2 (Justin Nyberg): Four 5-6-mile test runs at Petroglyph National Monument, on a mix of flat, packed fire road, moderate and steep hills strewn with loose volcanic stones and bedrock. 155-pound tester wore a men’s 9.5 that fit more like a 9. Feet: a little below average volume, on the slightly narrower side. Stride: midfoot with light heel strike. Pace: 6:30-7:30 minutes per mile.
The products featured in this test have been loaned to the Gear Institute. For more on our policies regarding editorial objectivity and sample returns, see here.
Ready to Purchase?
Security (of fit)
Stability (on impact)
Smoothness (while striding)
Speed & Agility
Gear Institute Rating (Total Score)
- Heel Height: 17mm
- Forefoot Height: 8mm
- Heel Drop: 9mm
- Waterproof: No
- Weight Verified?: No