Exclusive Review: The X-ALP Launch Is The First Ever Flat Pedal Shoe From Pearl Izumi

by Andi Sykes 4

Pearl Izumi says that the X-ALP Launch has been designed to survive the rigours of all-mountain riding, while remaining comfortable enough for all-day rides. Being a flat pedal rider I obviously wanted to see whether the X-Alp Launch could in fact, serve double duty.

Generally, mountain bike shoes designed for use with flat pedals tend to have a more casual look to them. Pearl Izumi has followed the tried and tested ‘skate shoe’ look for the X-ALP launch but with a slight technical makeover. It’s clear that the X-ALP Launch is designed specifically for mountain biking, but they remain stylish enough to be worn in Singletrack Towers (Ed: ha! As if we have standards), at the local pub, or even walking around Ikea for half the weekend, *shudder*

Pearl Izumi X-ALP Launch Flat Shoe
The one-piece upper is hardwearing.

Pearl Izumi is offering the X-ALP in two colour options. The black/shadow grey that we have is easily the better-looking colour combination. The other option is a smoked pear/monument version with a lime green logo that gives the shoe a more of an ‘Active Wear’ feel and are little too techy for wearing out and about. But that’s not really much of an issue if you only intend to wear them riding.

The black pair has also received the coveted Andi’s Wife Seal Of Approval® – quite an achievement for someone who tends to spend most of her time browsing designer brand websites.

Pearl Izumi X-ALP Launch Flat Shoe
Simple lace-up design.

Despite that slightly technical look, Pearl Izumi has been able to sneak into the X-ALP Launch isn’t just a styling experiment though, these shoes are properly feature-packed.

Upon receiving the X-ALP I was taken back by their weight of 340g. They are lighter than the 5.10 shoes I had been wearing, and the materials used instantly give the impression of a shoe that will breathe and dry easily (which they do).

Pearl Izumi X-ALP Launch Flat Shoe
Slots on the toe offer air flow but not great in very wet conditions

A bonded seamless upper looks almost waterproof, but take a look at those vents in the front and you’ll realise that they aren’t. Although the shoe will keep a light drizzle out I wouldn’t want to wear them as a winter shoe without a decent waterproof sock inside. The good news here is that there is plenty of space around your foot for thicker feet garments, or just a little extra breathing space for when the sun does decide to shine.

Pearl Izumi intends the X-Alp will be used for all-mountain riding, so basically everywhere including rocky trails that may want to bust your dainty toes up. A reinforced toe cap, while not quite of steel work-boot strength, adds enough protection up front for inevitable rock striking.

Pearl Izumi X-ALP Launch Flat Shoe
Dual compound sole for grip on and off the bike.

The lightweight and simple design of the X-ALP means that you have a traditional lace system keeping your shoes from flinging off, and you’ll note that there isn’t a lace cover. Again, for dry conditions this is fine, but it does mean water and mud will eventually work its way in on longer, wetter days in the saddle.

Between your feet and the Vibram sourced soles of the X-ALP Launch is an EVA midsole that offers vibration damping and helps to take the sting out of hard landings. Hardtail riders will especially like this feature, while also appreciating the stiff sole that gives just enough not to make it feel that you’re walking around in wooden clogs.

Pearl Izumi X-ALP Launch Flat Shoe
Chevron tread gives good climbing traction in all but the most sloppy conditions.

Larger hits can also be absorbed with the help of the Vibram Idrogrip compound, which sits at the ball of your foot in a dual compound sole. This area of the shoe (the big black patch) boasts a stickier compound right where your flat pedals are going to dig in. We’re not talking 5:10 levels of grip here, and if you’re moving from Stealth rubber to these you are going to notice that they don’t grab as much as you might be used to.

But just as I found in the OWN review earlier in the year, I much prefer a less sticky sole so I’m able to easily reposition my foot while on the move. If you’ve ever found yourself dropping into a trail only to find that it feels like your feet are locked in the wrong place, then you’ll like the less aggressive grip the X-ALP offers.

Pearl Izumi X-ALP Launch Flat Shoe
Black Vibram Megagrip compound gives the right balance of grip and float on flat pedals

The rest of the sole uses a tougher Vibram Megagrip compound with chevron shaped tread offering plenty of traction for walking on the trail, while remaining comfortable enough to wear off the bike.

I’ve been riding with the Pearl Izumi X-ALP Launch now for just over a month and while I wouldn’t really recommend them as a winter shoe, they do make a fine autumn shoe, and I’m fairly certain that they’ll become my summer riding shoe of choice for 2018.

The wide fit coupled with plenty of room above and around your foot means there’s nice airflow, while the specially chosen Vibram sole offers the right balance of grip while allowing enough freedom for foot adjustment on the move. Your foot also feels protected from all but the hardest of rock strikes, but not so much from rain and water ingress.

Pearl Izumi X-ALP Launch Flat Shoe
If you do get them wet they do dry quickly

What we loved about the Pearl Izumi X-ALP Launch

  • Lightweight
  • Fast drying
  • The right balance of grip and float

What could be improved on Pearl Izumi X-ALP Launch

  • We would like to see a version of the X-ALP Launch that is designed for all-year riding i.e with the option of a lace guard and some type of water resistance.
  • Only 2 colour options available
  • Not much ankle protection, and no boot option at all in the Pearl Izumi range.
Pearl Izumi X-ALP Launch Flat Shoe
That’s where your foot goes

Overall

For riders looking for a fair weather/summer specific riding shoe that offers great breathability and ample grip then the Pearl Izumi X-ALP Launch makes an ideal riding shoe. The lightweight of the shoe also lends itself well to being packed away in a travel bag for those European summer excursions where the shoe will really shine.

Review Info

Brand:Pearl Izumi
Product:X-ALP Launch
From:Madison, madison.co.uk
Price:£109.99
Tested:by Andi for 2 months

Comments (4)

  1. Neat. Shame it doesn’t have a black sole. Do they have some sort of lace retention band to stop the dangly laces getting drawn into the chain ring?

    ‘Riggers’? Or ‘rigours’? **Fixed – Ed**

  2. the laced laces are the lace retention. simple tuck job.

  3. I see some wear from the pins. How do you think it will hold up after a year and 2000 miles?

    How stiff is the sole? My flat feet did well with the old 2FO but the new 2FO 1.0 is not stiff enough for me and causes pain within 30 minutes.

  4. Got to agree with bsnake, those soles seem to have taken a fair battering. Is that so, or a trick of the light? And if so, how does that compare to 5.10s or the Shimano flats?

Leave a Reply