Pearl Izumi X-ALP Launch
• Lace closure with lace keeper
• Colors: Men's Smoked Pearl/Monument & Black/Shadow Grey; Women's Pearl/Monument, and Black/Smoked Pearl
• Weight: 340 grams (US M's 8 )
• Sizes: Men's EU 39 - EU 49/ Women's EU 36 - EU 43
• MSRP: $150.00 USD
Oh how I love marketing hype…. Pearl Izumi touts this as, “the first flat pedal shoe designed to handle the abuse of all-mountain riding to give you the confidence, control and comfort you need for all-day riding", which strikes me as a bit of a bold claim given that FiveTen came out with their first MTB shoes well over a decade ago. Marketing speak aside, Pearl Izumi makes quality gear. In this case, they’ve crafted a bonded, seamless upper with a reinforced toecap and wrapped that around an EVA midsole for comfort, and then shod the bottom with Vibram’s Megagrip rubber for positive pin engagement in a nice, lightweight package. The outsole under the ball of the foot features a simple siped pattern for pedal pins, while the toe and heel feature molded chevrons for off the bike traction. One care note on the website clearly states that one should keep them away from excessive direct heat as that could cause the rubber to dry out or crack.
Bekah and I tested the women's version of the X-Alp Launch in EU 40 (US M's 7/W's 8 ). The company touted that the only difference between the men's and women's version is that the women's shoes are built on different lasts (foot forms), but that the materials and general construction are the same. Colors aside, the women's version was a very narrow fit for both of our feet. While the length was perfect for our feet, that narrow width took us out of our happy place. I never thought I had fat or wide feet, but this shoe made me feel that way. Otherwise, the internal volume was good, offering enough room in the toe box and a comfortable, cradled feel.
Sizing aside, the shoes were fairly stiff—8 out of 10—and are nicely supportive for your everyday (three hour max) rider. The pedal grip by comparison to some of the other shoes, felt deceptively average. Which was surprising, as this is the same rubber that is found in the Giros. Having said that, they were grippy enough to keep my feet on the pedals in the rock gardens. If you look at the tread pattern, the siping in the pedal zone of the sole is the key: those cross cuts go edge to edge, and allow for solid pin penetration; but the flat sole where the pedal sits combined with the lateral flex of the sipes also allows for easy and intuitive foot adjustments on the pedals. For off the bike traction there are more traditional chevron patterns on the heels and toes, which were perfect for scouting rock gardens or pushing up the silly slippery trails. Speaking of which....as we did do all our testing in the dry season, I would be curious to see how the siped pedal/shoe contact surface performs in mud and rain. Last, breathability was excellent.
When out riding, the narrowness of the shoe was a bit of a problem. There was a bit of a burning sensation across the balls of my feet due to the tightness. I feel like I would err towards ordering the men's version next time I have the opportunity, but it's also important to note that this might be just the perfect option for those of you whose eyes light up when you hear "narrow shoe".
Overall, this shoe is aesthetically pleasing with a nice, cool color scheme and a positively svelte look as compared to most of the other shoes we tested. That svelte look comes at a price, though, as they are not as armored up as some riders might like—I definitely wouldn't want to accidentally smack a rock with these on! However, I would be totally comfortably putting them on for sweltering adventure rides with potential river crossings. Pearl Izumi has a reputation for designing quality riding apparel and these shoes easily meet that standard. For a competitive price they offer solid grip, decent stiffness for pedal power, a svelte style and extra breathability (although the narrow fit won't be for everyone). -NR
Details of the Pearl Izumi X-ALP Launch shoes.
Stylish non-bulky appearance+