A few months ago we published a roundup of 11 new flat pedal shoes, and there are already more to add to the list. The focus of this review is on the new Specialized 2FO Roost and Pearl Izumi's X-Alp Launch Mid WRX, with comparisons to Five Ten's classic Freerider Pro, a worthy benchmark in this category.
Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch Mid WRX
On paper, the X-Alp Launch looks like a flat pedal aficionado's dream shoe. The mid-top design provides extra ankle protection and support, and instead of laces there's a BOA dial that's used to cinch everything down, along with a velcro upper strap.
The Cordura fabric used on the outside of the shoe has been treated to repel water, and Pearl Izumi's WRX membrane adds another layer of water resistance. Goodyear created the rubber used for the sole, and Pearl Izumi added their chevron shaped tread pattern for on- and off-bike traction.
• BOA fit system
• Water resistant Cordura
• Goodyear rubber sole
• Weight: 467 grams (size 45.5, per shoe)
• MSRP: $175 USD
Just how sticky are the X-Alp Launch shoes? Unfortunately, the answer is 'not very.' On rough trails my feet had a tendency to get bounced around, even when I was using some of the grippiest pedals on the market.
The rubber itself isn't that sticky compared to the slower rebounding compounds used by Five Ten or Specialized. In addition, the tread pattern isn't that deep, which means the pedal pins don't have a secure channel to settle into, and when you add mud into the mix the level of traction drops even further.Fit:
The level of grip may not have been as high as I'd hoped, but luckily the fit and finish of these shoes is excellent. They worked very well with my average width, flattish feet, although riders with wider or higher volume feet may find themselves looking for a little more room. For how much coverage they provide they don't feel clunky or cumbersome at all, and the sole is stiff enough for longer rides without foot pain, while remaining flexible enough for walking around. If I had to nitpick, I'd like to see the toe box reinforced even further, and the ankle strap could be moved down just a little bit lower, but those are relatively minor details – the overall quality of these shoes is very high. Function:
There's been no shortage of wet weather lately, and I've lost count of how many puddles these were dunked in weeks ago. The X-Alps do a great job of keeping water out, and they clean off easily after a muddy ride. They're quick dying, too, and one round on the boot dryer was all it ever took to make sure they were ready for another round.
Lightweight and very comfortable+
Mid-top design provides extra ankle protection +
Water resistance is useful on wet rides
Sole isn't as sticky as top contenders in this category-
Price is on the higher side
Specialized 2FO Roost
Specialized's new 2FO Roost shoes have low key, skate style look, with a simple lace up design. There's an elastic holder to keep the laces getting sucked into a chainring, but otherwise there aren't any details that immediately scream “These shoes are for riding my bike in the woods!” which is a good thing.
There are suede panels at the toe and heel, and leather on the sides. The sole is all-new – Specialized call it SlipNot SuperTacky, and it consists of hexagonal lugs that are spaced out in order to allow room for pedal pins. The rubber itself rebounds very slowly for additional grip.
• SlipNot ST rubber sole
• Colors: black, oak
• Weight: 418 grams (size 45, per shoe)
• MSRP: $120 USD
It may seem silly, but there have been times when I've been legitimately worried about what would happen if Five Ten left the mountain bike world. There have been so many failed attempts by other brands to create their own sticky rubber that I considered stockpiling an assortment of Stealth rubber soled shoes, just in case. Luckily, Specialized's new 2FO Roost shoes have made it so I don't need to channel Imelda Marcos anytime soon.
There's as much, if not a little bit more grip than that of Five Ten's Freerider Pro shoes. That extra bit of grip comes down to the lug height – they're a little taller on the Specialized shoes, which helps create a very secure interface between the sole and the pedal's pins. Fit:
The Roost are nice and comfy, although the toe box was a little roomier than I would have preferred. I do have a lower volume foot, so that's not entirely out of the ordinary – a thicker insole took care of that. The overall stiffness is comparable to that of the Freerider Pro, which means there's enough support for longer rides, while still remaining flexible enough that you don't need to immediately remove them after a ride.Function:
The suede outer does tend to hold on to mud more than a smoother, less textured surface would, which is really my only gripe about these shoes. They don't ward off water like the Pearl Izumis do, but they also don't retain a ton of water and they dry pretty quickly.
Suede outer is hard to keep clean-
Roomy forefoot may not suit all riders
If I had to choose between the Freerider Pro, 2FO Roost, and the X-Alp Launch Mid, I'd stick with the Freerider Pro, with the 2FO Roosts coming in an incredibly close second. The Freeriders fit my feet a little better, and there isn’t any suede to be seen. However, they do cost $30 more than the Roosts, at $150 vs $120. If I was on a budget, the Roosts would easily be my pick.
What about the X-Alp Launch Mid? I think Peal Izumi is onto something, and if they can just sort out the sole's rubber compound and tread pattern they'll have a real winner. I really like the extra protection of the mid-top design, and the same goes for the water resistant outer. The price is on the higher side, though, and fact that they don't provide enough grip for really rough trails puts them out of contention for me. However, they could work well for riders who would rather have an easier time repositioning their foot, and don't need the stickiest sole possible.