First published in Singletrack Magazine issue 99
Shoe choice is very personal. A good shoe is a comfortable, durable friend that is strangely invisible. Bad shoes are miserable and can turn the best ride into hell. After all, a shoe that keeps you turning the pedals is preferable to one that has you calling a taxi or jacking in a race.
These are my second pair of Pearl Izumi X Alps. A previous model were constant companions until I killed them with three years’ heavy use. So I was delighted when the trendily-monikered X Alp Enduro IV landed in the office. I have wideish, flattish feet and find super narrow-fitting shoes a pain (literally), and very few shoes have suited me as well.
They have not failed to please or to perform. I have ridden them in anger, racing long hot days through the actual Alps, as well as for extensive training on local trails in more temperate conditions. Despite the name, they can be ridden cross-country and downhill without vaporising. Importantly, after 10 months of riding, they’re showing little sign of wear and I hope I’ll have them for a couple more years, like their predecessors.
So, what do you get? They’re styled as smart trainers with a low-cut construction and they feel like trainers to wear. The footbed and upper are cushioned and comfortable, with an EVA foam midsole. They’re an SPD-compatible shoe with much of the comfort of riding in flats. And true to their trainer styling, they’re actually pretty good if you’re forced to slog up an unrideable climb or scramble over rocks.
The upper is synthetic, with a number of mesh panels over the toe, inner arch, outer side and heel. This makes them highly breathable and stops them overheating – less of a problem in my natural Yorkshire habitat but noticeably comfortable in real heat in the Alps. With all those mesh panels, they’re not at all waterproof, but compensate by being quick drying if soaked. Despite the mesh, I’ve not had very cold feet wearing them, even when damp.
The shoes are secure, boasting an anatomical buckle closure system to eliminate hotspots and reduce pressure on your instep – which basically means a firm ratchet strap plus Velcro toe and arch straps that keep your foot snugly in place.
The best thing about them, to me, is the movement they allow for toes while being secure where it matters. The toe is flexible, with a wide footbed that allows plenty of room for toes to flex without the fit over the arch or at the heel being sloppy or wide. Meanwhile the platform under the ball of your foot is sturdy and protective. It spreads the force exerted at the contact point with the cleat so that there are no hot spots.
The sole is carbon overlaid with a rubbery tread (“rubber lugged” in the marketing spiel). It promises traction, and while the tread is not very aggressive, it hasn’t failed me yet. Sizing was one up (I wear a size 42 in ordinary shoes but these are a 43). For the weight aware, the size 40 women’s shoe claims 375g and the men’s 405g for a size 43.
These are my favourite mountain biking shoes; they are comfortable, flexible, durable and seem to work well in temperate climes. If you are looking for a flexible but sturdy shoe for spring to autumn wear (the mesh, cut and low profile tread make them a bit optimistic for the depths of winter), these could be the ones.
|Product:||X Alp Enduro IV shoes.|
|Tested:||by Beate Kubitz for 10 months|