Pearl Izumi claims the X-Alp Elevate are down to ride anything and after hitting all sorts of terrain with them the past 3-4 months, I would have to agree. A cross between a stiff race and a sneaker-like shoe, these mountain bike shoes are not only super comfortable for all day wear and hike-a-bike but also deliver enough stiffness for hammering up steep inclines or through technical sections of trail.
The X-Alp Elevate are made from a 3-layer seamless upper that does a pretty good job at keeping water and dirt out while remaining breathable. The combination Velcro toe and Boa lacing system lets you dial in your preferred fit and even adjust on the fly. The foot hugging heel keeps your feet from sliding all over the place but it’s not so stiff as to make it painful to walk — plus the entire shoe collar is lightly cushioned to cut down on any hot spot potential.
A problem I’ve had with other mountain bike shoes is that they tend to collapse over the pedals when riding out of the saddle or hammering through technical stuff. But thanks to a carbon composite shank running 3/4 the length of the X-Alp Elevate, you not only get good power transfer with each pedal stroke, but they can handle a full on out of the saddle assault without collapsing. You are also left with enough flex in the toe to make these shoes super comfortable for walking.
The Vibram Megagrip rubber outsole is aggressively lugged to give you good traction on most any terrain. There is also a lightweight foam midsole that adds a level of cushioning for walking or just to keep your feet comfortable when wearing the mountain bike shoes all day.
The X-Alp Elevate are SPD compatible with plenty of room for cleat adjustment forward and aft. I have not had any problems with quick engagement in the pedals as there is a small guide ramp to move your foot in the right direction.
In terms of sizing, the X-Alp Elevate fit more true to size than some of the Pearl Izumi road shoes where I have had to size up recently. But the X-Alp Elevate also come in half sizes so if you like a little more room in the toe box, you could go a half-size up from normal.
If you aren’t looking for a full on race shoe, the X-Alp Elevate offers a great level of performance with the added bonus of comfort for long days in the saddle or rides with plenty of hike-a-bike sections. These have now replaced my old X-Project 2.0, which served me well through racing the Breck Epic as well as riding across Bolivia and Argentina, and will be my shoe of choice for riding across Central Asia this summer.
The Pearl Izumi X-Alp Elevate retail for $180 and are available now.