Let’s face it: for most MTB riders, that bike-to-hike stuff can be a drag. However, it’s the technical trails that are often the most alluring. If you anticipate getting on and off the bike frequently, your best option is a shoe that’s built for both a good ride and a good hike.

Pearl Izumi X-Alp Elite MTB Shoe Features:

  • Compatible with SPD and all Look pedal systems
  • P.R.O. 1:1 Anatomic Buckle Closure
  • Dual density EVA X-Alp outsole/midsole
  • Carbon rubber lugged outsole
  • Breathable mesh/synthetic upper
  • Low cut construction
  • Energy Cell heel crash pad
  • Weight: 360g (size 43)
  • MSRP $150

Pearl Izumi X-Alp Elite MTB Shoe Review

Hike-to-bike shoes are the MTB equivalent of shampoo and conditioner: when you combine them, they don’t perform nearly as well as each element could do separately. Combining the stiffness and structure of a bike shoe with comfort and flexibility of a hiker may be an impossible dream, but Pearl Izumi makes a respectable effort with its X-Alp Elite.

Overall fit of the shoe is extremely comfortable, thanks in part to a soft sockliner, but primarily to the outstanding anatomic buckle closure that helps customize a precise amount of tension across the instep, and virtually eliminates any hotspots or pressure points. In fact, the shoes feel so comfortable that I typically wear them sockless unless I know I’ll be going through a ton of scree. The cut of the collar is low enough to allow full range of motion and avoid any irritation around the ankle.

No socks, no problem!

Off the bike, the Elite borrows technology from PI’s rapidly progressing line of running shoes, such as quick-drying breatheable mesh uppers, energy cell cushioning in the heel and a dual-density EVA midsole. Outsole lugs are super knobby and deep, providing great traction in slick mud or loose gravel. Protection around the foot is solid as well, with synthetic leather overlays in key abrasion areas, and a durable rubberized toe cover up front.

Deep lugged outsole; firm EVA midsole (green) in forefoot

When clipped in, that same outsole uses a nylon plate for added stiffness, and a firmer density EVA in the forefoot midsole is also designed for transferring power from foot to pedal. However, this is where the shampoo/conditioner analogy comes into play. Stiffness of the X-Alp Elite is fairly solid, and perfectly suitable for recreational use or long casual rides, but it’s not nearly comparable to dedicated riding shoes. If you’re part of the hardcore crowd, it’s probably worth shelling out the extra bucks for PI’s X-Alp PRO, which has a carbon fiber footplate.

Good X-Alp Elite

  • Customized fit from anatomic buckle closure
  • Extremely comfortable upper
  • Good protective features
  • Great traction for hiking in tricky conditions

Bad X-Alp Elite

  • A little on the heavy side for hybrid shoes
  • Less stiffness than dedicated MTB shoes

Bottom Line: Pearl Izumi X-Alp Elite

For unpredictable terrain or long days on the trail, the X-Alp Elite is a very comfortable bike-to-hike shoe that doesn’t compromise too much pedal performance for walking convenience.

Buy Now: Pearl Izumi Shoes at CompetitiveCyclist

About Author

Donald is a physical therapist, ultrarunner, barefoot aficionado, and father of three with more than 20 years of experience in endurance sports. When he's not training for ultramarathons, he enjoys hiking or slacklining with his family in Monterey County, CA.

2 Comments

  1. The most comfortable shoe I have ever worn. Never once do I think about my feet. They should make two versions of this shoe with current sole and a stiffer one. The company reports they did this in past with no success, but it was not this shoe. Highly recommend and best with a Candy pedal or pedal with little more platform due to the flex.

  2. I have these shoes. They are the most comfortable shoe I have ever worn unfortunately they are to flexible for daily riding. I know they are a hike and bike but if Izumi took this exact shoe and stiffened the sole, I wouldn’t want to buy anything else for trail riding. I called them and they said they made the shoe in a stiffer sole but it didn’t sell. I found them online and purchase them but it wasn’t the same shoe or fit. They feel like the most comfortable tennis shoe I have ever worn. I hope they will reconsider stiffening the sole and keep the same design. Come on Pearl Izumi…do it for me!!!

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