Pearl Izumi X-Alp Flow shoes (2023)

Pearl Izumi's X-Alp Flow is a great option for people who want a shoe that offers all-day on and off-bike performance with really good grip on pinned pedals. While it doesn't offer quite as much cushioning as some rivals, as a practical bit of kit it's an excellent compromise.

  • Pros: Good grip on and off bike, sensible comfort levels, nice solid pedalling performance
  • Cons: Upper vent holes let in water

I tested Giro's Jacket II flat shoes recently and the overwhelming sensation while wearing them was of cushion-like comfort. The Pearl Izumi's X-Alp Flows tested here are to all intents and purposes aimed at the same market but they're not quite as prodigiously plush. In truth, there was something a little disconcerting about feeling like I was pushing the pedals in my slippers, and while the X-Alp Flows are more than comfy enough, they also feel like they're ready to do a job.

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Build is very straightforward with a minimal, almost seamless lightweight synthetic upper with lace closure. At the sole, there's a mixture of rubber tread designs – siped, soft and sticky in the middle for pedalling, deeper treads at the toe and heel for walking – which combine with an EVA midsole for performance. Rounding out the spec is a lace lock to keep anything from flapping about into the drivetrain.

Pearl Izumi X-Alp Flow shoes (1)

So far, so standard, but the X-Alp Flow does have one slight quirk that initially strikes you upon wearing. The footbed seems to have a smooth raised ridge roughly slap bang in the middle of it. It's far too central to be an arch support, and it feels a little strange when you first slip the shoes on. Within a few seconds, though, you quickly forget about it and it certainly has no negative effects either on or off the bike.


Obviously, the contact between flat shoe and pedal isn't quite as secure feeling as being clipped in, but if you've never tried flat shoes with pinned pedals, you might be surprised at how effective it is. Using fairly modestly pinned metal Wellgo pedals, thanks to the grippy central rubber I didn't suffer any pedal slip, even on damp days.

Pearl Izumi X-Alp Flow shoes (2)

It's worth bearing in mind that, rather than the rough and tumble of off-roading, I tested these shoes purely with commuting or leisure riding in mind. In these more sedate conditions, grip on pinned pedals is very good. And while this is obviously a cycling shoe test, off-bike traction in most day-to-day situations is better than the Giros. I've happily worn my X-Alp Flows every day, whether I've been riding or not.

Pearl Izumi X-Alp Flow shoes (3)

In fact, all-round practical performance is where the X-Alp Flows excel. As well as secure contact with the pedals, the EVA midsole offers good stiffness for effective pedalling with useful levels of feel, too.

Pearl Izumi X-Alp Flow shoes (4)

(Video) Almost Perfect "Gravel" Shoe?

With vents on the synthetic upper, the X-Alps are sufficiently breathable, although the little holes that facilitate this can become a rain hazard and water will sneak in. It's not too bad, though, and I far prefer this setup with an otherwise impermeable upper than totally non-rainproof breathable material, where you tend to get very, very wet feet rather just a few drops.


For leisure riders and commuters who want a more direct relationship with their pedals, there's the SPD-compatible Fizik Terra Ergolace X2 for £119.99 or Giro's Gauge shoes at £79.99 (review to come). But the most obvious rival product to the X-Alp Flow that I've tested is Giro's Jacket II, mentioned above, which has a very similar build, style, purpose and, at £89.99, identical price.

> Buyer's Guide: Essential advice for choosing cycling shoes

There's also the £84.99 Giro Rumble VR, which is a similarly styled albeit clip-in shoe for dry days. Shimano's GR5 is a comparable shoe for £80 or there's the GR7 for £99.99. FiveTen also makes all sorts of similar shoes but probably its most similar model – the Freerider shoe – starts at £84.95. This all tells us that the X-Alp Flows are in the right kind of price band.


While I was blown away by the comfort levels of the Giro Jacket IIs when I tested them, I have to say these Pearl Izumi X-Alp Flows seem to offer just slightly better levels of practical performance. Their grip levels are superb and they seem equally capable whether on or off the bike. That said, with such good pedalling feel and usability, these aren't just a jack of all trades – first and foremost, they're great flat cycling shoes.


Great flat shoes with good grip on or off bike, yet also offer very decent pedalling performance

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Make and model: Pearl Izumi X-Alp Flow shoes

Size tested: 45

Tell us what the product is for

Officially these are flat mountain bike shoes, but I've been testing them as commuting or leisure cycling shoes. Pearl Izumi says: "A flat pedal shoe built for lightweight performance and long-term durability."

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Pearl Izumi lists:

Lightweight upper materials and minimal seams for all-day comfort

Traditional lace closure

(Video) PEARL iZUMi Flat Pedal Shoes featuring PinLoc Outsoles

Lace lock

EVA midsole

Dual density zonal outsole compounds

Open, chevron shaped lugs in toe and heel areas for grip

Smooth, siped rubber in pedal zone offers instant pedal pin engagement

Flat pedal design, not clipless compatible

Rate the product for quality of construction:


Well made with no obvious areas of concern. Footbed's a bit weird, but not uncomfortable.

Rate the product for performance:


For flat shoes these offer really great pedalling feel, grip and performance, and are impressive off the bike, too.

Rate the product for durability:


I've worn mine lots – no issues so far.

Rate the product for fit:


(Video) Pearl Izumi X-Alp Flow Pop flat sole shoe with BOA

Slightly narrow shoe, which I quite like, but check if you have wide feet.

Rate the product for sizing:


Perfect – sizing seems just right.

Rate the product for weight:


Noticeably lighter than some rivals.

Rate the product for comfort:


Not as super-cosseting as some other flat shoes, but perfectly comfy in their own right.

Rate the product for value:


Bang on the money.

How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?

Not washed them, but given them a wipe down – easy peasy.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Very good performance for pedalling. Good grip off the bike, too.

(Video) Best Mountain Bike Shoes? Sedona Testing Pearl Izumi X Alp

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

They just felt like they would do the job. That sounds a little vague, I know. But whether I was on the bike or not, I never felt like my shoes were a compromise one way or another.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Maybe the vent holes in the upper, but that's really nit-picking. Essentially, there wasn't much to criticise.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on

The most obvious rival product to the X-Alp Flow that I've tested is Giro's Jacket II shoe, which has a very similar build, style, purpose and, at £89.99, identical price. Then there are the £84.99 Giro Rumble VRs, which are similar-styled albeit clip-in shoes for dry days. Shimano's GR5 is a comparable shoe for £80 or there's the GR7 for £99.99. FiveTen also makes all sorts of similar shoes but probably its most similar model – the Freerider shoe – starts at £84.95. This all tells us that the X-Alp Flows are in the right kind of price band.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your overall score

For anybody who is hopping on and off bikes regularly, or commuting without wishing to change shoes for the rest of the day, the X-Alp Flow is a fantastic choice. Whether on foot or in saddle, you don't feel like you're making a huge compromise with footwear. Pedalling performance is great, grip is perfect for daily life, and comfort is more than good enough.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 39Height: 6'0Weight: 16 stone

I usually ride: Islabikes Beinn 29My best bike is: 25-year-old Dawes Galaxy

(Video) pearl izumi x-alp flow

I've been riding for: Over 20 yearsI ride: Most daysI would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking, leisure


Should you size up or down in cycling shoes? ›

When deciding what size cycling shoes to get, go with your normal shoe size, as bike shoes run true to size. However, if you're normally between sizes, for example sometimes you go with a 9 and sometimes a 9.5, it's recommended that you size up.

How do I know if my cycling shoes fit? ›

A well fit cycling shoe should be snug in the heel with even pressure on the instep. You should not be pressed against the end. You should have a little toe room at the end of a well fit cycling shoe and the shoe should hold your forefoot stable without pinching or restricting.

Are my cycling shoes too big? ›

The shoe must fit comfortably snug. If you are able to move your foot back-and-forth then the shoe is too big. Your toe should touch the front of the shoe but without any pressure. You heel doesn't slip up and down in the shoe.

Should you size up in workout shoes? ›

Make Sure You Have Extra Room For Your Toes.

This means it's wise to have just a little extra room (about a thumb's width) between your longest toe and the front of the shoe. With this in mind, your running shoe should be around a half size larger than the shoe size you usually get.

Should you go half size up or down in shoes? ›

It will be better for you to get half a size up because otherwise you will not be able to wear them. If they are a bit bigger, just choose thicker socks. On my experience while ordering online, shoes are always made smaller therefore you can't go wrong with half a size up.

Should I be able to wiggle my toes in cycling shoes? ›

Cycling shoe fit

About 1.5 cm of toe room should be plenty. Stiff soles and snug shoes stabilize the foot, but they should not be so tight that they pinch. And even though your toes don't need wiggle room, they should not hit the front of the shoe at any point while riding.

Should toes touch front of cycling shoes? ›

Since there is no rolling movement when cycling as when walking or running, the foot does not need any additional space in the front of the shoe. A few millimetres of space in front of the big toes in the cycling shoe is completely sufficient. If the shoe is too long, the cleats cannot be mounted biomechanically.

How much difference do good cycling shoes make? ›

Cycling shoes can make you significantly faster on your bike. They improve your speed by creating a better power transfer from your feet to the pedals. In addition, they keep you locked into the bike, which improves handling, safety, and muscle recruitment, making you a better, safer, and faster rider.

Should your toes touch the end of shoes? ›

Generally speaking, there should be about one finger's width of space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe. Another way to check this is to slip a finger between the heel of your foot and the heel of your shoe. There should be just enough space for your finger to fit nice and snugly.

How do I make my cycling shoes more comfortable? ›

Here are a few tips. (Your feet will thank you.)
  1. Use a supportive insole. A supportive insole will help evenly spread the pressure under your foot. ...
  2. Size your shoes appropriately. ...
  3. Use thin socks. ...
  4. Don't buckle your shoes too tight. ...
  5. Check your cleat position. ...
  6. What are your specific foot problems?

Is it OK to wear slightly bigger shoes? ›

The only time that you could wear a shoe in a bigger size is when purchasing a sneaker but you should only go up about half a size. The reason for this is that our feet tend to swell because fluid accumulates due to gravity with prolonged standing and weight baring activities.

Is it better to go bigger or smaller with shoes? ›

When purchasing the perfect shoe, fit is always the most important. If your shoe is too tight, you may have blisters, numbness and general discomfort; to avoid this, many experts recommend buying a running shoe half a size larger.

Does 0.5 shoe size make a difference? ›

A half-size represents a 1/8” difference. It may not seem significant but is enough to distinguish between comfort and discomfort. Because there is no standardisation for shoe sizing, a half size difference will also depend on the brand of shoe. With some makes, a half size will be more significant than others.

How do you tell if shoes are too big or too small? ›

If your shoes fit well, you should be able to feel one finger's width of space between the tip of your longest toe and the front of the shoe. You can also insert a finger into the gap in between the back of your heel and the back of the shoe to check how they fit, and the width can be checked using the same method.

What if my shoes are half a size too big? ›

If your shoes are only too big by a half-size or one full size, you can try some of these tactics to make them fit better: Insert a full-size shoe insole. Add heel strips or liners. Insert toe cushions.

What happens if you wear shoes a half size too small? ›

If your shoes are too narrow or short, the extra pressure placed on your toe can lead to the edge of a toenail growing into your skin. Ingrown toenails can cause pain and the skin around your nail to become red or infected. Ingrown toenails are most common on the big toe, but can also occur on other toes.

Should you pedal toe down or heel down? ›

Heels up. In conjunction with applying force to the pedal , you want to work on your foot position and keep your heel slightly raised with a stable ankle at 90 degrees. The importance of the raised heel and stable ankle are to ensure that the force vector going into the pedal is occurring at the most efficient angle.

Why do my cycling shoes numb my little toe? ›

Common Causes of Numb Toes and Feet While Cycling

There are several factors that can cause nerve compression including, “the cleat placement, improper arch support (too much or too little), or shoes that are too tight or especially too narrow, and the incorrect pedal stance width,” says Holz.

Should you drop your heel when cycling? ›

“At 12 o'clock, your toes should be pointed down about 20 degrees, but as you come over the top, start dropping that heel so that it's parallel to the ground or even 10 degrees past parallel by the time you get to 3 o'clock.”

Should I be able to touch the floor on my bike? ›

For most styles of bicycles, including road, gravel, and mountain bikes, you're at the CORRECT saddle height when you can only touch the ground with the TIPS of your toes while your ankles are flexed with your toes pointed downward (see pic below).

Why do my toes hurt when cycling? ›

Soreness in the toes can be experienced among cyclists, especially if a hammer toe deformity, bunions or other foot deformities exist. These can cause increased pressure around the toes leading to pain in feet while cycling.

Do lighter cycling shoes make a difference? ›

If you want to get faster without training, get lighter shoes. Lighter weight shoes also feel faster on the bike, which provides a huge mental advantage. Or, more precisely in our experience, heavier shoes can feel really heavy and provide a distinct mental disadvantage when you're already struggling up a hill.

Are stiffer cycling shoes more comfortable? ›

The experts interviewed generally agree that competitive or serious recreational cyclists should aim for the stiffest shoe their budget will allow, but more casual riders will benefit from a less efficient, but more comfortable, shoe.

Do cycling shoes make a difference in spin class? ›

The right cycling shoe can make a good Spinning® class great. Make the switch from athletic shoes or sneakers to cycling shoes, and you will experience a more comfortable, efficient and safer ride! Increased power and safety are just two of the biggest advantages of wearing cycling shoes in your Spinning class.

Should your feet slide in your shoes? ›

When your foot bends to take a step in a new shoe, your heels should slip slightly. 1/8” movement is normal but can feel like much more. Loose slipping in the heels will not cause blisters when broken in gradually, but wearing shoes that are too small and tight will cause friction and then blister.

How far forward should your toe be in a shoe? ›

Leave Half an Inch at the Front of the Shoe

There should be about half an inch between the end of your longest toe and the front of the shoe. If you have small hands, this is about the size of the tip of your index finger. If you have large hands, it's about the size of the tip of your pinky finger.

How much space should be at the toe of my shoe? ›

Check the space at the end of the shoe.

Stand up and make sure there is 3/8" or 1/2" (about the width of your finger) between your longest toe (usually the second toe) and the end of the shoe. Always stand and walk around in the shoes to see if they are comfortable, fit well, and don't chafe or rub anywhere.

Can I walk with my cycling shoes? ›

Whether you change shoes at work or keep your bike shoes on all day, mountain bike shoes are better than road racing shoes for commuters. That's because two-bolt mountain bike shoe cleats are smaller and recessed. As the cleat doesn't protrude any further than the sole, you can walk normally in them.

Why are my cycling shoes so stiff? ›

Cross-country mountain bike and gravel cycling shoes usually have a stiff sole for good power transfer, whereas other mountain bike shoes have more flexible footbeds, which help absorb impact while improving all-around comfort.

Why do cyclists use clip in shoes? ›

Being clipped into your pedals allows you to pedal more fluidly as your pedals and cranks become an extension of your body. At the end of a long day in the saddle people who have ridden clipped-in to their pedals often feel less fatigue in their legs because the pedal stroke is more smooth.

How do I stop my feet from hurting when cycling? ›

How to prevent foot pain: at-a-glance tips
  1. Make sure your shoe is the correct fit for your foot.
  2. Get the cleat position right.
  3. Invest in some good quality cycling insoles.
  4. Use wedges and shims as required.
  5. Have your bike fit reviewed, especially saddle height.
Oct 13, 2022

Do you really need arch support in cycling shoes? ›

There's a reason why you should consider replacing the paper-thin factory insoles from your favourite cycling shoes. From your ankle to mid-back, proper support for your feet can prevent injury, provide more powerful pedalling and create more comfort for you overall.

What cycling shoes do pros use? ›

Shimano's S-Phyre shoes (RC901 model) are popular in the peloton. Rigoberto Uran races in Sidi Shots while EF Pro Cycling teammate Tejay Van Garderen uses Giro Imperial shoes. Israel Start-Up Nation is racing on the Mavic Comete Ultimate. Valentin Madouas of Groupama-FDJ is racing the older Shimano S-Phyre shoes.

How tight should cleats be on cycling shoes? ›

Do them up tight, but not screamingly so, you want them to be firm enough to engage and disengage carefully - without moving, but you're likely to need to make an adjustment or two before finding the 'sweet spot'.

Why are cycling shoes so tight? ›

Cycling shoes are designed to be narrow for a reason. They provide more power transfer when pedaling and help athletes achieve optimum performance. Narrow shoes also reduce the risk of foot pain and discomfort during long rides, making them an essential tool in any cyclist's gear arsenal.

Does size matter in cycling? ›

One of the most important things to get right when choosing a new bike is the frame size. Although there's a lot you can adjust on a bike so that it fits better, if you start off with a frame that's too small or too large for you, you may be placed awkwardly and uncomfortable as you ride.

Should you size up or down in cleats? ›

Generally speaking, a soccer cleat will fit true to regular shoe size. That said, some players (especially elite-level athletes) prefer their boots to fit much more snug than, say, a pair of running shoes.

Are new cleats supposed to be tight? ›

Are Cleats Supposed to be Tight? In general, your cleats are supposed to be tight. Well, maybe “snug” is a better term. You don't want boots that are so tight that they cut off circulation to your feet, but you want them to feel responsive, which means they should be very snug.

What happens if cleats are too far back? ›

If the cleat is positioned too far back (foot too far forward) ankle movement is limited to too great a degree and the pedal stroke becomes jerky-2 mm can he the difference between feeling spot on and ordinary. As usual there are exceptions.

Does cycling reduce waist size? ›

Yes, cycling can help lose belly fat, but it will take time. A recent study showed regular cycling may enhance overall fat loss and promote a healthy weight. To reduce overall belly girth, moderate-intensity aerobic exercises, such as cycling (either indoor or outdoor), are effective to lower belly fat.

Is it better to cycle longer or harder? ›

Shorter sessions are easier to recover from

Even though you're going to go harder during a shorter ride, you will be able to recover more quickly from that session compared to a much longer ride. Your overall kilojoule count will be lower.

Do pros ride smaller frames? ›

In more modern times, pros often use a smaller frame that a similarly sized recreational rider because they want to ride a big drop to the handlebars. As head tubes continue to grow for a given frame size, pros are forced onto smaller frames to maintain their positions.

Do you have to use Peloton brand shoes with bike? ›

1 has got to be compatibility: the shoe must be able to work with your bike's pedals. If you have a Peloton, for example, you'll need clip-in cycling shoes with 3-bolt cleats, to match the way the shoes clip into the Peloton pedals.

Do you have to wear Peloton shoes with bike? ›

You need special shoes to ride.

If you buy your shoes from Peloton, that'll cost you another $125. You can wear your own sneakers instead, but the company's website recommends attaching toe cages to the pedals if you want to do that. And of course, those are sold separately.

Do you need Peloton cycling shoes? ›

We encourage you to use the pedals your Bike comes with for an optimal ride. For the most secure ride, we recommend clipping in using Delta-compatible shoes. However, if you would prefer to ride using sneakers, we recommend attaching toe cages onto your pedals.


1. Gravel Gear: X-Alp Gravel Shoe from Pearl Izumi (Long-Term Review)
(Green Mountain Gravel)
2. Technology behind the new X-ALP Launch
3. REVIEW: Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch Flat Pedal Shoe - Hardtail Party
(hardtail party)
4. Remote Otter - Pearl Izumi launches high end X-Alp flat pedal shoes
5. Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch SPD - Mountain Bike Shoe Overview
(Bike Shoes)
6. Pearl Izumi X-Alp gravel cycling shoe: Tested and Reviewed!


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