Highly Rated Hightops: The Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch Mid WRX Shoe Review

Anyone who watched Rainbow Bright as a kid and happens to ride mountain bikes has likely already purchased these shoes despite any review considerations. The cute moon-boot aesthetic of the Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch Mid WRX quickly reminded me of Magic Girl Rainbow Bright’s powerful cartoon footwear, and the WRX rally-racing connection is sweet as well. Nice work marketing department. But, how do they do in the dirt?

The Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch Mid WRX shoes are a hightop where the upper and lower are separated by their respective enclosure systems. The lower is similar to other top-notch flat shoes from Pearl Izumi, with an infinitely adjustable BOA dial to cinch it around your lowest bones. The olive-colored upper portion covers the vulnerable tibia and fibula ends, tightening into place with a simpler velcro strap. Between these two tightening mechanisms it’s possible to dial in the shoe’s fit exactly as you like it. I tighten the lower the same I would any low-top shoe, and lash the top with my ankle bent to reduce pressure from the material on the back side of my pedal stroke. I initially rolled out with the top too tight and my ankle was cranky about it, but a small adjustment took care of that.

My usual size 43 fits tightly in these, and I might go up by a half size for a little more space at the end of my toes. The toe box is otherwise plenty spacious, and the BOA string gets tight enough for my narrow feet. I haven’t had any issues with the heel slipping around or rubbing while hiking up hill or running jump sessions. The insole is relatively flat, which works well for my feet but some riders may need to add arch support to this pair.

Pedal grip with these shoes is a smidge less than some, and for my liking that’s a good thing. The way soft soles interact with the puppy teeth protruding from a pedal can drastically change how a flat-pedal shoe performs. These X-Alp Launch Mid WRX shoes hang tight so long as I dip my heels and maintain a modicum of pressure between my hands and feet in the air. While that grip comes at the cost of a bit more focus and proper technique, it affords me somewhat easier movement when I want it. These shoes are already sticky, and with even stickier models it can be difficult to reposition your foot on the pedal. As a recent flat-pedal convert, I find myself regularly re-centering my foot while riding, and not having to fully jump up off the pedals to do so is a welcome benefit. Most of the time I can lighten my feet out of a compression and wiggle them to where I want them before the pressure is reapplied.

On the walking grip front, these are strictly dry-weather kicks. They do have tread, and it’s soft enough to stay on rocks and hard pack, but if you need to hike a bike up something steep or clay-based, a shoe with more tread is going to do a better job.

Like Rainbow Bright’s moon boots, these shoes offer substantial sole thickness. This might be their winning characteristic, as the gum-colored X-Alp Launch Mid WRX soles offer a near perfect amount of support for sprinting and protecting your food from harsh impacts, while they also allow you to feel where the pedal is underfoot. The sole doesn’t glob around the pedal or sit spryly atop it without a care, and instead integrates with a nicely balanced amount of sink into the pins and pedal surface.

I complain about ankle protection almost as often as I whine about XC tires being specced on gravity bikes, and these shoes are here to shut me up. The ankle protection is ample and useful, both against your bike frame and the rocks around it. That same protection could be a nuisance if not designed properly, and Pearl Izumi did their due diligence here. While the upper olive wrap did cause some chafing when I had it too tight, it became unnoticeable once I loosened up the velcro and let it move more freely. Riders will want to make sure the taller tongue is properly aligned in these shoes, as the thicker overlapping materials can be distracting if they’re not seated where they want to be around your ankle.

Packed with sweat and dirt, these shoes weigh 408g per side, which likely drops to about 390g if they were ever dry and clean at the same time. At $175, their added protection and saucy looks should do the trick, no matter how you feel about Rainbow Bright cartoons.

⭐️ The Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch Mid WRX is available from Pearl Izumi and Backcountry.

Party laps

  • Super cozy fit
  • Incrimentally adjustable BOA closure
  • Good pedal grip

Pros and cons of the Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch Mid WRX Shoes.

Dirt naps

  • Low walking grip
  • Fit takes time to adjust