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Two-Minute Reviews

Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch Flat Pedal Shoes

Words Andrew Major
Photos Dave Smith (unless noted)
Date Mar 29, 2018

X-Alp Launch

An incredible amount of thought and technology are packaged into Pearl Izumi's  X-Alp Launch flat pedal shoes. At first glance, the bright green PI logo is the only thing that separates them from the grey DCs I was riding in circa 1999. That's a compliment.

The shoes are light, damn light, at 356-grams/shoe. For reference, that's 24-grams/shoe lighter than the fantastic Shimano GR7, which is a lightweight shoe itself. Impressively, the X-Alp is also a stiffer shoe when it comes to laying down the power. 

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Lightweight, stiff under pedaling loads, comfortable to hike in, hydrophobic, all in a clean and simple looking package.

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Excellent volume adjustability from my thinnest socks to a these Showers Pass waterproof numbers. 

The X-Alp has a one-piece laser-cut upper that is firm and comfortable like the perfect hug. The material is also hydrophobic so it stays light even when soaked through. Breathability is excellent. On cold days I'll wear a fairly thick wool sock to compensate for air flow and in the cold-and-wet I sport a pair of Showers Pass or Sealskinz socks.

Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch Flat Pedal Shoes

The Vibram rubber sole consists of a durable compound fore and aft in a more hike-able tread pattern and a softer rubber insert designed for max pedal grip. Photo: AM

On Trail

The X-Alp uses a Vibram rubber insert in the sole to enhance pedal grip and traction with the right pedals is excellent. The sole is fairly stiff and I had my best results with a combination of mean pins and ample concavity. Any pedal that falls into the 'it only works well with Five Ten shoes' is definitely a pass with the Pearls. Of the pedals I've been regularly riding, the X-Alp mates best with the Blackspire Big Slim. I also had a chance to jump on a friend's Chromag Scarabs and that combo is amazing.  

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The Vibram rubber insole helps balance traction and stiffness. It works great with some pedals. 

With judicious pedal choice, the X-Alp's are excellent for long rides on flat pedals. I know a fair number of people who only run flats, even for all-day XC-epics and a spot of XC racing, and to them, I say the extra level of support makes a big difference after hour two. 

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Wah Wah 2: Tall pins grip the X-Alp tight but feedback is vague. 

Crankbrothers Stamp 3 AndrewM

Stamp 3: Not enough traction on wet days but fun in the dry. Photo: AM

Blackspire Pedal AndrewM

Big Slim: Sharp pins and a bit of concavity for the win. Photo: AM

The Alp-X Launch Customer

I make no secret that the Shimano GR7 is my favourite flat shoe. I like the lightweight, grippy Michelin sole, the fit, and every shoe - including these Pearls - should have oval eyelets for the laces. Even so there remains an ample market for the Pearl Izumi Alp-X. If you're putting in off-road centuries, punching out epic, single speeding, or racing XC on flat pedals these shoes are worth checking out. Likewise, the extra support could be the answer for anyone getting foot pain riding flats. 

If that sounds like you, there's more information on the 150 USD Alp-X on Pearl's site here

Comments

Vikb
+1 Andrew Major
Vik Banerjee  - March 29, 2018, 7:02 a.m.

I'm a 5.10 for lifer here on flat pedals. I'm surprised by the reviews that other brands are never as grippy as 5.10s. Is that an intentional design goal or does 5.10 have access to sticky rubber nobody else does? It would seem a company with the tech smarts of Vibram could replicate the grip of 5.10 soles if they wanted to.

Just curious...

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - March 29, 2018, 1:15 p.m.

The dual compound of these Pearl shoes is trying to do both - a sticky area for the pedal interface and more durable rubber for walking surfaces. They’re also trying to deliver more support for all day pedaling (which they do). The trade off is wet weather grip and general grip with some pedals.

Less specifically, I think the GR7 is a better comparison. The Michelin sole is very grippy, the texture makes it better for hike-a-bike, and it’s way longer wearing compared to my Five Ten experience while overall also a light weight shoe.

Five Ten wins in terms of absolute grip with any pedal in the worst conditions but I don’t think that is the end-all/be-all for a lot of flat pedal users. In other words, Shimano/Pearl could probably make a shoe just as sticky but Five Ten owns their niche so why not focus on making a better all-around product? That’s my take on it anyways.

Reply

IslandLife
0
IslandLife  - March 29, 2018, 8:59 a.m.

I've wondered that as well... my own take on it:

I am also a 5.10 lifer on flats... but I do see the biggest complaint from 5.10 riders being how short a life span the soles sometimes have because they are so soft and grippy.  So maybe it is intentional by other manufacturers to provide a more sturdy, longer lasting sole that just isn't quite a grippy?

Reply

pedalhound
0
pedalhound  - March 29, 2018, 9:22 a.m.

Wondering what you mean by the feeback is vague on the Wah Wah 2?

Reply

DaveSmith
+4 mikeynets Velocipedestrian Cr4w Andrew Major
Dave Smith  - March 29, 2018, 9:24 a.m.

Vox really hasn't made a good Wah-Wah since the 60's. I find the feedback harder to generate on the second generation pedals even when run through my big-muff.

Reply

craw
0
Cr4w  - March 29, 2018, 4:04 p.m.

You had me at big-muff.

Reply

DaveSmith
0
Dave Smith  - March 29, 2018, 9:24 p.m.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 pedalhound
Andrew Major  - March 29, 2018, 1:09 p.m.

What Dave Smith said! Ha.

No, what I mean is the Grip is good with the Wah Wah (big platform / long pins) but with the stiffer feeling of the Pearl shoe it’s very vague in terms of feeling where my foot is on the pedal when I’m riding. 

On the other hand, pedals with more concavity seem to centre the shoe more naturally and it’s easy to tell without thinking about it that my foot is right where I want it. Plus it’s easy to correct positioning with these shoes.

Hope that helps!

Reply

pedalhound
0
pedalhound  - April 3, 2018, 10:48 a.m.

It does, thank you! I like that these shoes are stiffer...always thought that flat shoes needed to be a bit stiffer. I love Shimano shoes a lot...but these may replace them.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - April 3, 2018, 8:16 p.m.

Just as I believe chainstay length and seat tube angle should be size specific, I also think that companies need to take into consideration the flex points/flexibility of shoes as foot size gets bigger. Especially for flat pedal shoes.

Reply

whatyouthink
0
whatyouthink  - March 30, 2018, 7:10 a.m.

this shoe has a lot of appeal to me. I only ever run flats even for long  XC days and I have big feet that suffer from lack of support. pretty excited to try some of these.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - March 30, 2018, 7:33 a.m.

I’ve never more wished that a demo program existed to try shoes - maybe something like WTB (and others) have been doing for years with saddles - as after reading your post.

If you get a pair I’d love to hear how they work for you both in terms of support and the weight savings.

Reply

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