Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch SPD shoes review$160.00

Comfy, casual clip-in shoes for wide, flat feet

BikeRadar score3.5/5

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.

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)

The little lace keeper did its job perfectly
The little lace keeper did its job perfectly

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. 

Even though Pearl Izumi claims the uppers are seamless, there's this one but it was entirely not noticeable
Even though Pearl Izumi claims the uppers are seamless, there's this one but it was entirely not noticeable

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.

The cleat pocket has good length and makes clipping in and out simple
The cleat pocket has good length and makes clipping in and out simple

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. 

Before hours of dirt, water, snow and rocks, they were new once
Before hours of dirt, water, snow and rocks, they were new once

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. 

Russell Eich

Tech Writer, US
Russell fell head over heels in love with bikes in the '90s, and has been involved in the bike industry ever since. Between wrenching in bike shops, guiding professionally, and writing about bikes, Russell has honed an appreciation for what works, gained knowledge of what doesn't, and can barely contain his enthusiasm for what comes next. His two-wheeled passion continues in the Rocky Mountains high above Boulder, Colorado.
  • Age: 39
  • Height: 6'3"/190cm
  • Weight: 175lb/79kg
  • Waist: 34in/86cm
  • Chest: 42in / 107cm
  • Discipline: Mountain, road, cyclocross
  • Preferred Terrain: High altitudes, forgotten singletracks, bike parks, roads without cars
  • Current Bikes: Custom Meriwether steel hardtail, Specialized S-Works Enduro 29, Kona Jake the Snake, Trek 69er, and a bunch more
  • Dream Bike: Yeti SB5c, Intense Tracer 275C, Black Cat custom road
  • Beer of Choice: Gin + Tonic
  • Location: Rollinsville, CO, USA

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