Pearl Izumi Vortex Road Shoe Review

Pearl Izumi Vortex Road Bike Shoes

Pearl Izumi Vortex Road Bike Shoes

I’ve had these shoes for 3 years and I’ve added up over 10,000 miles on them, mostly comfortable pain free miles.

I’ve always had feet problems riding and it wasn’t until I discovered shimming my cleats that I was able to ride without burning pain on the outside of my feet.  To get comfortable on the Vortex I had to run the cleat as far inside as possible and use one shim on each cleat.  With that setup my feet were a bit outside on the pedals but I didn’t suffer from foot pain and I found the shoes to fit comfortably.  One drawback with that cleat setup was how fast the outside of the cleat wore out causing the them to fail to early. 

 The shoes have ample toe room and plenty of adjustablity with an excellent strap  and mechanical buckle system.  They are wider then most shoes I’ve had in the past which was good thing for me.  This was the first shoe I had with a mechanical system and I love it.  Seems like half way through a ride I need to tighten my shoes, and with the mechanical system on Vortex is was very easy. 

Sole stiffness is important I guess, but in my opinion just to the point where I’m not feeling the shoe bend around pedal.  With the wide and long SPD-SL platform I never felt stiffness to be a problem.  I think the shoe could have been stiffer, but I can’t believe it would make much difference.  The shoe doesn’t have any forced air vents in the sole, but there are plenty of mesh vents to keep my feet cool.  In fact in cooler weather I ducktaped the front of the shoe to keep my toes warm. 

So how did these shoes hold up, pretty well with a few problems.  The first problem was the material lining the inside of the tounge.  After about a year it came loose and bunched up causing lots of pain until I yanked it off.  Under the cloth lining material the tounge was rubberish.  After about 60-75 miles I could start to feel that rubber tounge rubbing the top of my foot, and it would be a bit sore after a long ride, this really wasn’t a big problem for me since my longest rides are usually in the 60-75 mile range, but the few centuries I did in these shoes were getting uncomfortable near the end.  This would have ruined these shoes if the owner was a long distance enthusiast.

Pearl Izumi Vortex Road Shoe bottom

Pearl Izumi Vortex Road Shoe bottom showing the worn heel tread

The heel tread wore off way too fast on these shoes in my opinion.  Its not replaceable and without it the shoes became even worse to walk in.  I would have gladly accepted a bit more weight for a more durable and larger heel pad.

I noticed recently that one shoe’s mechanical buckle system was starting to break, as in it misses ratcheting sometimes, so far just a mild annoyance. 

Considering the price I paid for these shoes and a retail price of around 120 dollars I don’t have a problem with any of those drawbacks, I got many comfortable miles out of them.  Though I need to mention that I’m finding my new Specialized shoes to be more comfortable without using any wedges.  So I wouldn’t buy these again, but your mileage may vary.


About Matt Gholson

Cycling, school teaching, husband.
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