Pearl Izumi X-Alp Flow Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Comfortable, good beginner shoe, inexpensive
Cons: Less supportive, less sole grip
Manufacturer: Pearl Izumi
Our Analysis and Test Results
We rode and pushed our bikes in a variety of conditions, from hot and dry desert gravel bike riding to cold and wet high mountain rides. We found these shoes provide good comfort and adequate performance in a basic mountain bike flat shoe.
The sole of the Alp-X Flow is comprised of two different rubber compounds. The business portion of the sole that contacts the pedal is a stickier and softer rubber material than the toe and heel of the shoe. This softer rubber with its narrowly spaced (siped) chevron pattern is able to lock onto the pins of a flat pedal better than the firm rubber of the toe and heel. Why not use the same rubber throughout the sole? By utilizing a firmer material for the rest of the sole, the shoe is able to provide better off bike grip during hike-a-bike sections by providing more bite than a soft rubber. This also aids in the shoe's overall durability. We found the sole adequately gripped flat pedals in most conditions, although not our first choice for wetter riding.
Comfort and Arch Support
We noticed that out of the box comfort was high with this shoe right away. The Alp-X Flow has a street shoe feel with plenty of flexibility throughout the upper and the sole flexes easily for a natural walking gait. The shoes have a less beefy feel than several other models of mountain bike flat shoes in our test lineup, with thinner upper materials, and less padding and reinforced areas. The softer uppers easily take on the shape of your foot with the traditional lacing, which also has a welcomed lace keeper loop. This shoe also features less arch support than several other flat shoes and has more of a skate shoe feel even with the removable insole. Like most flat shoes, these sport an EVA midsole for added support. On the bike comfort is good for shorter and less intensive riding but the lighter overall construction becomes more noticeable when you're out for longer or more technical riding. For an everyday cruiser shoe, especially for less aggressive conditions, the Alp-X Flows is worth a look.
For the weight conscious crowd, these shoes come in on the light side at just 11 ounces each in a men's size 9. Between the lighter feeling construction and the lower actual weight, these shoes can put a little extra spring in your step.
Rigidity and Power Transfer
Along with the lighter overall construction, the shoe's rigidity and overall energy transfer to the pedals is also on the lighter side. That's not to say the shoe feels like a standard running shoe, but that when compared to other flat pedal shoes, the shoes have noticeably more flex and give. For easier riding we didn't really notice the flexible feel as much, but for harder efforts like short and steep sections of trail we definitely felt the shoes bending and flexing. On a side note, our lead tester found the added flexibility of the Alp-X Flow allowed for enough grip to safely ride some blue-rated trails on his cyclocross/gravel bike! If your riding takes you into more demanding environments, you may want to take a look at some of the beefier shoes in our lineup.
The lightweight uppers of the Alp-X Flow provide ample ventilation for grinding out the miles on all but the hottest days. The upper is comprised of the same material throughout the shoe rather than using mesh inserts like several other models. The upper and tongue does feature some vent perforations that likely help with keeping your feet cool, but the lighter overall construction seems to breathe naturally on its own.
The Alp-X Flow seems to have the recipe for good durability; minimal seems, reinforced toes, rectangular lace openings with flat laces, and higher density rubber in the right parts of the soles. After wrapping up testing we noticed a few small cosmetic rub marks on the uppers and small nicks on the soles. The shoes came out relatively unscathed even after a lot of tough riding and hike a bike days, showing just normal wear.
With good basic riding and off the bike performance in most conditions and a budget friendly price, the Alp-X Flow is a good value for riders who need a comfortable and reliable daily shoe that doesn't break your piggy bank.
The Pearl Izumi Alp-X Flow is a good shoe for mountain bike riders who are looking for a comfortable footwear that doesn't necessarily need all the extra padding and support.
— Jason Cronk