If you're a trail rider, commuter or simply someone who likes to clip in but still wants to walk around like a normal human, Pearl Izumi's X-Alp Launch SPD shoes are certainly worth a look.
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Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch SPD shoe highlights
- Bonded, seamless upper
- Vibram Megagrip outsole
- 3/4 length nylon composite shank
- Two-bolt cleat compatible
- 19 sizes: Euro 39–49 / US 6–14
- 500g including cleats and bolts (size 46)
Best for flat and wide feet
As I'm sure you're aware, shoe sizing varies from style to style, and brand to brand. The X-Alp Launch SPDs are wide and flat. And seem to run big.
Is that a detriment? For some cyclists, probably not, because most riders' feet swell as they rack up the miles. But it's worth noting that trying before buying is a smart move.
Comfy with no seams and laces
The inside of the X-Alp Launch SPDs is smooth. From the mid-foot to the toes there are no seams to chafe, rub or develop hot spots.
The laces allow for a good, custom fit initially, but on long rides I did miss the ease of the in-the-saddle adjustment, which buckles and Boa dials offer.
The little lace keeper on top of the tongue is well placed and never once let out an errant lace.
Decent on the bike, great off the bike
Pearl Izumi includes a 3/4-length nylon composite shank for a bit of pedaling stiffness. When riding clip-in pedals with a cage around them, such as XT Trail pedals, I could not feel the pedal underneath.
However, when hammering hard on standard, smaller sized SPD pedals, I could feel the shoe bend a slight bit. But, as you'll see below, that's not necessarily an awful thing.
Clipping in and out was easy. The cleat pocket seemed well placed and had a good amount of fore/aft adjustment range.
Blasting through streams and puddles let in some water but the X-Alp Launch SPDs resisted becoming soggy sponges and did dry out quickly.
Off the bike, the X-Alp Launch SPD shoes were excellent, whether I was hopping off the bike to check out an overlook, do trail maintenance, or stop for a nature break.
Pearl Izumi states the smoother mid-sole tread is designed for pedal pin engagement. For hiking, it looks almost slick but there are enough sipes in it as well as enough toe and heel tread lugs for confident bike-pushing on dirt and scrambling over rocks and boulders.
A little flex saved a crash
These shoes literally saved my bacon. Coming down an unfamiliar trail, I boosted off a little rock kicker and landed, only to have my left foot immediately slam into an embedded boulder lodged into the side of the trail.
The shoe literally buckled. So much so that the top of the laces on the inner side smooshed my ankle and the whole shoe felt bent and crooked for a while. After a few minutes of pedaling, the shoe straightened back out and I was able to finish the ride only a bit spooked, and thankfully not smashed.
If I had been wearing a shoe with a much stiffer sole, I have no doubt I would have been ejected violently to the ground.
Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch SPD bottom line
These are the shoes you want if your bike has over 120mm of travel and you have flat feet or appreciate a wide shoe.
Walking around town or hiking out on trails is also a strong suit for the X-Alp Launch SPD shoes. On my feet, they've proved to be all-day comfortable. The Vibram soles have plenty of useable traction and so far show no signs of wear or delamination.