Monday, April 2, 2012

Pearl Izumi Isoseek IV

I want to start this review with a disclaimer: what hasn’t worked for me, could be exactly what you’re looking for. This is simply an account of my experience with the shoe.

First, to give you a little history. Sobering up after a Vibram FiveFinger related injury, I was looking for a trail shoe with a degree of stability for my moderate pronation and cushioning for the long haul. The Isoseek IV seemed to fit the bill, but what really attracted me at the store was the Cadillac sized toe box.

Now let’s take a look.

The strongest feature of this shoe is the seamless upper design. The lightweight mesh covering is very breathable. Coming in at around 14 ounces, this is one hefty running shoe.  I wouldn’t have believed that a few ounces can make a difference, but whenever I transition to or from my Mizunos, the difference is immediately apparent.

The toe box is great if you tend to bang them up in other shoes. Nothing is going to harm them behind that thick toe guard and the high ceiling provides plenty of clearance for movement.

The bottom is made of a heavy duty rubber that is very rigid. The lugs are widely spaced and fairly shallow, good for running on a wide variety of terrain. You won’t have trail junk piling up in here. The only conditions I’ve had any trouble with is on wet rocky surfaces. The shallowness of the lugs along with the extra cushioning make it acceptable for pavement work.

At first they felt great out on the trails. But after taking them on a few longer runs, I began to notice that my right heel was rubbing up against the back of the shoe. This was not an issue of buying the wrong size; everything else fit as it should. I tried experimenting with different lacing methods, wore thick socks and even brought heel inserts. Nothing seemed to work. Then the fabric in the back began to tear. I suspect that the extreme rigidity of the bottom has everything to do with this issue.

In the meantime, I purchased the Mizuno Wave Cabrakan shoes and was (and still am) thrilled with their performance. The Pearls fell out of use for awhile, but more recently I purchased new, thicker soles that have at least reduced the heel movement to a tolerable level. Now I primarily use them for pavement pounding.

To sum it up, my feet have never felt at home in this shoe. While I appreciate support and cushioning, I don't want them at the expense of flexibility and basic comfort.

Ok, time for a beer. Cracking open a Happy Camper IPA from Satan Fe Brewing brings me back to the first time I enjoyed one of these at the top of Frijoles Canyon in New Mexico. Sore muscles, dry air, the smell of pine and a spectacular sunset - all packed in a can.

A solid IPA even without the memories. Cheers!

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