Style first, then meaning
Pearl Izumi’s P.R.O RD II is one of the slickest cycling shoes we’ve seen this year. We’d swear it was sculpted in a wind tunnel with Philippe Starck throwing out style tips.
Visually, it strikes a balance between high decibel flash and timeless classic that’s rare in the world of gaudy shoes. The simple white body has silver and black accents and a touch of red on the top ratchet-band and the underside of the two velcro straps.
That’s the understatement. The attention-getting factor is the super sheen white gloss and swept-back graphics that make the RD II look like it’s slicing wind at high speed. Look down while pedaling and you feel faster.
The P.R.O. RD II is Pearl’s top shoe with a ratchet buckle. That’s a given for us because three velcro straps don’t provide the lock-down or the longevity we require. We liked the two-lever design, the bottom closing down, the top releasing the strap — it feels as solid as a Sidi and that’s praise. There’s a choice of three positions for the strap so you dial in fit for arch height and foot volume.
The heel deal
Perfect fit can be accomplished in many ways, some so basic you wonder why shoe companies forget them. The RD II has a nice deep heel cup and internal pads on both sides to do the anatomical fill and hold the heel in place. Then outside, they’ve run a black carbon band around the heel counter to set the anchor even better. Our feet are narrow and bony but still felt stabilized with this set-up. Once you’re in, the toe box is plenty roomy and while our feet were happy with width, other reviewers find the forefoot on the narrow side.
The Carbon Curve
It’s a shame the underside of the RD II won’t stay pristine forever. It’s a beautiful, uni-directional slab of white carbon. The interest here is that Pearl went to a concave shape which builds in some fit, support and power benefits. First, your foot rests deeper in the sole for a better fit — if you plan on swapping out inner soles for a beefier SuperFeet, that’s a plus. The curve up will also give you more arch support and that leads to power transfer. Three good things to keep in mind.
Towards the front of the sole, there’s a small silver mesh vent to increase airflow. We didn’t notice the effect but then we weren’t doing 200 miles across the Mojave desert while being chased by bobcats. Speaking of air conditioning, the 40 mini vents along the body are well- integrated into the shoe design but we do question effectiveness. The heel and toe counters are not replaceable — a drawback for such a stylish shoe.
Beauty aside, we especially appreciated the fit of the RD II. Because of our narrow foot, we’re not the ideal candidate yet the combination of serious ratchet, adjustable top strap, deep footbed and Achilles grip pads in the heel kept us in good shape. Even jamming out of the saddle, we cranked without wasting wattage sliding around inside the shoe. We abuse the scale at 200 pounds, but the carbon sole feels more than stiff. The sticker shock on cycling shoes can be pretty high but at $250, the RD II’s feel like a deal worth cutting.