Pearl Izumi X-ALP Launch

7.6
7.6 score
[Editors rating (7.6)] = Runnerclick score (7.6)/10

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Editor rating: 7.6 / 10
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Pearl Izumi X-ALP Launch Review Facts
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Even though Pearl Izumi designed the X-ALP Launch for cycling and mountain biking, it also works as a fantastic trail running shoe. Its Vibram outsole has a Megagrip pedal zone for greater contact and connection with the pedals. The forefoot and heel feature chevron shaped gripping lugs to ensure a strong grasp on rugged surfaces like rocks and roots. A full-length EVA midsole ensures plenty of cushioning and shock absorption for neutral runners. And the seamless bonded upper is made from both plastic and textile in order to maintain the shoe’s shape, aided by a toe cap and heel counter for protection.

Editor's Pros & Cons
Pros

-Very supportive

-Versatile wear

-Fits true to size

-Lots of toe room

-Protective

Cons

-Too stiff for some

-Lacks overall traction

 

Outsole
Outsole

Outsole

Although Vibram usually specializes in outsoles meant for trail running or hiking, Pearl Izumi relies on them for their cycling shoes. The X_ALP Launch’s outsole is made entirely of dual density zonal compounds which cover the entire underfoot to help the shoe maintain its shape for longer and provide stronger traction. A Megagrip compound creates the pedal zone, which is smoother and features multiple shallow grooves for both flexibility and a better grip on the pedals. Furthermore, chevron-shaped lugs are placed at the forefoot and heel to enable incredible traction while walking on rugged surfaces. Reviews on this feature seem to be mixed, as it performs perfectly well during walks and runs but doesn’t always provide a substantial grip on bike pedals.
Midsole
Midsole

Midsole

A full-length, standard EVA foam is used to create the X-ALP Launch’s midsole unit. Even though more advanced and responsive technologies are available to shoe brands today, most still rely on this particular material for its incredible cushioning and responsiveness. The type found in this shoe is especially useful when it comes to mountain biking and hiking. Although EVA foam is known to be quite flexible, this model’s Vibram outsole and overall construction of its upper still ensures a very stiff wear that requires some break-in time in order for it to feel truly comfortable.
Upper
Upper

Upper

The X-ALP Launch has a seamless bonded upper, made with 80 percent plastic and 20 percent textile. Not only does this lightweight design allow the shoe to better maintain its shape, but it also safeguards the foot from trailing debris and accidental impact. It also comes with a relatively wide toe box for ample toe room and, as a result, a greater sense of stability. A traditional lacing system features flattened laces which stay tied for longer to avoid potential accidents. For even greater protection, a rubber toe cap and heel counter are fixed in to shield against potential impact and ensure that the foot stays locked into place.
Weight
Weight

Weight

Most product listings and online reviews aren’t entirely clear on the X-ALP Launch’s exact weight. Zappos has listed the men’s sizes as averaging at around 15 oz., so it’s safe to assume that women’s sizes round out at just two ounces less. Despite the fact that it clearly weighs more than the average athletic shoe, most reviewers still say that it doesn’t feel cumbersome at all. In fact, some even say that it’s actual weight is less than those of other cycling shoes that they’ve owned before.
Breathability
Breathability

Breathability

Because most of the X-ALP Launch’s upper is made with 80% plastic, it’s seriously lacking in breathability. Multiple slits are present along the top of the forefoot to allow some airflow to reach hotspots where they most often occur. Still, it won’t offer nearly the same amount of ventilation as an upper made mostly from mesh or knit fabrics. On the other hand, this type of design can make it more comfortable during cooler weather.
Comfort
Comfort

Comfort

Most reviews seem to focus more on the X-ALP Launch’s overall performance than its comfort level. Those who do mention this quality seem to be very pleased with the amount of toe room that it offers, as well as its soft fabric inner lining. They also feel that the EVA midsole gives them a great deal of cushioning and shock absorption, meaning that they’ll feel less pain and fatigue after running and biking. It should be said, however, that this particular model isn’t for those who don’t like stiff footwear, and it does require a serious amount of break-in time in order to be suitable for rugged activities. Some also won’t be satisfied with its lack of breathability.
Style
Style

Style

Overall, the X-ALP Launch has a relatively simple design. Since its overlays are within the same general color range and don’t add any bulk, they provide a very streamlined look that allows the shoe to fit in just as well in casual settings as it can on biking and running trails. All models are available in various shades of black and grey with a single accent color depending on the sizing range. Men’s accent color options consist of brown, red, and light blue, while women can choose from pink, light blue, and mint green. Although it would be nice if this model was available in more vibrant options, most reviewers don’t seem to mind.
Durability
Durability

Durability

The X-ALP Launch seems to be an incredibly long lasting piece of footwear, which is absolutely necessary for use on trails and during mountain biking. Vibram’s unique outsole design, featuring a Megagrip pedal zone, is able to successfully hold up to both runs on rugged terrain and constant fast-paced biking. The use of both plastic and textile for the upper already ensures that this unit will last a great deal longer than mesh or knit fabrics paired with standard overlays. And the use of a rubber toe cap and heel counter further ensure that this model continues to retain its shape.
Protection
Protection

Protection

As a mountain biking shoe that also works for trail running, the X-ALP Launch has to give the wearer an extremely high level of protection against many possible outdoor hazards. This begins with its full-length Vibram outsole, with chevron lugs that allow for a secure grip during the entire gait cycle. Its Megagrip pedal zone is also designed for more precise contact with the pedals, which should result in better performance. The EVA midsole delivers incredible shock absorption that safeguards against pain and fatigue. While the upper's significant use of plastic does mean that it loses breathability, it also means that debris can't enter the inner chamber. Furthermore, a rubber toe cap is in place to shield against accidental impact.
Responsiveness
Responsiveness

Responsiveness

Pearl Izumi relies on a full-length EVA midsole unit to give the X-ALP Launch a responsive wear. Although this quality is not quite as strong as it would be on more recent technologies, shoe brands still rely on it thanks to the incredible shock absorption that it offers. And when paired with the shoe’s other features, such as its durable and stabilizing outsole, it further allows the runner to run and bike on rugged terrains without having to worry about resulting pain or fatigue.
Support
Support

Support

The use of EVA foam for the X-ALP Launch’s midsole unit allows for the right amount of underfoot support for neutral runners. The shoe’s plastic midfoot cage integrates with the lacing system to give the top of the foot a secure and customizable fit. Even its collar is lightly padded in order to support the ankles and prevent accidental removal. On the other hand, those who are in need of more arch support might not be happy with what this shoe has to offer.
Terrain
Terrain

Terrain

Even though it was designed primarily for mountain biking, buyers claim that the X-ALP Launch also makes for an excellent trail running shoe. Those who have used this model for running across rocks, forest trails, and even dirt have found it to be incredibly stable and durable. Some have also stated that they were able to transition onto everyday surfaces with no issues at all. When it comes to mountain biking, however, this shoe may only work with specific types of pedals. There is also no clear indication of how well this shoe can perform on wet surfaces, so runners and bikers should definitely be cautious when moving through rainy weather.
Price
Price

Price

Set at $150 across most online retailers, the X-ALP Launch’s price tag is definitely well above the average cost of a standard athletic shoe. This is somewhat understandable to some, especially when they consider its durability, incredibly versatile wear, and tendency to fit true to size. But given the multiple complaints about its lack of support and proper traction, a lot of buyers don’t feel that this shoe is worth that amount. Lower prices can always be found on sites such as Amazon and eBay, although it may be best to try this model on first before making a purchase.
Traction
Traction

Traction

Reviews are extremely mixed when it comes to the X-ALP Launch’s level of traction. The tread pattern of its Vibram Megagrip outsole has chevron-shaped lugs for a better grip on rugged terrains, while the ball of the foot is smoother with shallow grooves to make it more effective on the pedals. While many are thrilled to use it as a trailing shoe, a large number of people are unhappy with how it performs during cycling. They state that it barely offers any grip on the pedals, no matter which bike they use, and that they don’t feel completely safe using this shoe for rides.
Flexibility
Flexibility

Flexibility

Reviews indicate that the X-ALP Launch is not a very flexible model. Even though the midsole EVA foam material is known to be very pliable and permit an easy wear, this model’s other features are incredibly stiff. Its Vibram outsole, especially the Megagrip zonal compound, has to be on the rigid side in order to provide truly durable traction. And although the upper’s forefoot area is designed to be more flexible for easier pedaling, its overall wear is still quite stiff. Several reviewers state that this shoe takes a significant amount of break-in time in order for it to be easy to move around in.
Stability
Stability

Stability

Reviews indicate that the X-ALP Launch’s stabilizing wear starts off with its Vibram outsole, with chevron-shaped lugs on its heel and forefoot for a secure grip on rugged terrains. Its Megagrip pedal zones may not work quite as well, depending on the type of bike that the wearer uses. The EVA midsole also contributes to this quality by providing the necessary amount of shock absorption to ensure completely smooth movements. Synthetic materials are used to create a midfoot cage that wraps around and integrates with the lacing system for a more secure and customizable fit. A rubber heel counter is also placed at the back and works with the slightly padded collar to keep the foot locked into place.
Drop
Drop

Drop

Product listings and reviews don’t list the X-ALP Launch’s drop height, and it’s a bit hard to get an exact measurement from product photos. However, based on its overall description and comparisons to similar models, it looks as if this particular shoe has a zero drop platform. Not only does this permit easier pedaling during bike rides, but it also means greater balance and overall stability while on trails.
Key Features
Key Features

Key Features

-Zonal Vibram Megagrip outsole
-Full-length EVA midsole
-Bonded seamless upper
-Reinforced rubber toe cap
-Stabilizing rubber heel counter
-Expensive $150 price tag
Bottom Line
Bottom Line

Bottom Line

All-in-all, reviews for the Pearl Izumi X-ALP Launch cycling shoe have been very mixed. Buyers do seem to appreciate its performance as a trail running shoe, as well as its overall level of support and incredibly protective wear. On the other hand, many are very unhappy with its pedaling zone, as it doesn't provide as good of a grip on certain pedals and proves to be highly ineffective. Others feel that its cushioning is way too stiff for their liking and that it requires too much break-in time. What can be said, for sure, is that this versatile shoe fits true to size and can offer athletes a great deal of protection and support.