All-day trail/enduro shoe with trainer-like levels of comfort.
You might be forgiven for thinking the Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch ll (…and breath!) is a leisure shoe when you first put it on.
It seems unfeasibly light and soft for a shoe designed around trail and enduro riding. Especially when compared to other company’s offerings. But just like a book, this is a shoe that shouldn’t be judged on first impressions.
Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch II
Designing and building mountain bike shoes for the more typical mixed trail riding most of us are partaking in can be quite a difficult task.
On the one hand they need to be stiff for all-day efficiency whilst flexible enough for the inevitable walking sections. They also need to have an upper with enough protection without resorting to looking like a pair of Robocop’s cast-offs. On both counts the X-Alp ticks the boxes neatly and concisely.
The X-Alp makes use of Pearl Izumi’s innovative X project midsole. First used on the higher end cyclocross shoes, it manages to incorporate flex in the toe and heel without compromising stiffness.
This is created with the use of an ‘x’ shaped carbon-reinforced shank. The stiffness is fairly minimal in comparison to the carbon soled race versions, but it certainly doesn’t feel compromised.
The toe flex is very welcomed and is enough to prevent the typical heel rub that can occur in very stiff shoes.
Furthermore, the light EVA foam midsole sections, normally found in running shoes, adds to the comfort whilst reducing overall weight. I liked the grippiness of the outsole too, not too aggressive but perfectly usable.
Hey, good looking..?
The uppers certainly have quite a unique ‘look’ to them with the centrally placed BOA dial taking pride of place.
A little futuristic in comparison to some (Robocop’s slippers?) but despite even the relatively garish colour scheme, the overall look is quite subtle.
For those put off by the lime green, the X-Alp is available in black and grey.
The rest of the shoe follows the low profile shape of a running trainer, foregoing any extras barring a Velcro strap and reinforced toe.
One area that does feel a little compromised is the heel cup. Like a trainer it grips a little but more aggressive movement, be it pedalling or walking, sees heel lift becoming an issue. The BOA dial helps reign things in a little but it’s not perfect to have to really crank up the tension.
The X-Alp Launch ll manages to pack all the right ingredients of a great trail shoe into a very lightweight and comfortable package. The level of heel lift does spoil it somewhat but as long as you aren't trying to run long distances it is something you can live with.