Relaxed trainer-like shoes offering all-day comfort with pedalling performance and the ability to walk more normally than a flat footed duck are a sought after commodity if you like touring, and are just as useful for casual around-town errands or weekend café rides.
It's a bit of a personal quest of mine to find a shoe with just the right balance between comfort on and off the bike mixed in with a decent level of stiffness to maximize ride efficiency. The trickily named Alp-X Drift II from Pearl Izumi ticked all the boxes on paper. Factor in the fact that they actually looked good too, not like a couple of bricks with laces like many mtb/touring crossover shoes and I was keen to try them.
You could be forgiven for thinking that the Alp-X Drift IIs were just a cool pair of ordinary trainers, rather than a bike specific shoe, such is their general overall prettiness (yes, I'm a girl. Deal with it, these things are important). Predominantly mesh uppers (apart from a more rugged toe area) mean they're not for winter use, or indeed if you're expecting prolonged periods of rain, but if you're expecting a long dry spell, or for hot weather day rides, the mesh is a good thing. The lacing system is a single handed pull lace and there's a neat little hook on the end of the loop to secure it to the front of the shoe, minimizing the chances of getting it stuck in the drive train. The sole is a chunky rugged trainer-type sole, with plenty of tread for walking, but capable of taking MTB-type cleats. There's a wodge of seriously cushy padding at the heel too.
In wear, they were incredibly comfortable, with the padding at the heel making them excellent for all day wear. Walking was a breeze, with little or no protrusion of the cleat beyond the confines of the tread and yet this didn't interfere with the ability to clip in and out of the pedals at all. My walking gait was refreshingly normal. The sole was surprisingly stiff for such a lightweight shoe, offering a decent level of pedalling efficiency, although obviously there's always going to be some small compromise with a casual shoe of this type.
There was no evidence of aching feet from shoe flex or of hot spots under the foot, so there was a good balance of stiffness and support. The mesh was enough to see off small stones and the like, and the ventilation it offered was excellent, with feet remaining a good temperature even in hot conditions.
I probably wouldn't choose them for wet weather, although, in fairness, they would drain very quickly and dry out faster than shoes with more solid uppers. The single handed lacing was neat and quick to use. Sizing is very slightly on the small side, but not a huge amount. I'm normally an EU38.5 and the 39's were spot on, with a good medium width and volume.
£80 may seem a lot for a pair of low key riding shoes, but when you consider that most walking and outdoor shoes are around that price and more, it's not bad. They'll last a good while and are the sort of shoe that could quickly become your go-to riding shoe.
An excellent compromise between on and off bike comfort and performance and a good looking shoe.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Pearl Izumi Women's Alp-X Drift II Shoe
Size tested: Size 39
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Aimed primarily at mountain bikers, but so much more versatile than just that.
Spot on for tourers and recreational cyclists too. For anyone who spends time walking about off the bike as well as riding it!
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Nylon X-Alp Ride & Run Plate for stiffness/comfort balance
EVA running shoe midsole
Quick lacing system
Available in sizes EU 36-43
Very well made with excellent quality components/materials
Performed really well. A great balance between on and off bike usefulness.
Should last well.
Not a bad weight for a trainer-type cycling shoe. No feeling of weight being carried about unnecessarily.
Extremely comfortable, both on the bike and for walking about it.
Not cheap, but the same price as a hiking shoe and you'll be using this shoe a LOT.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Performed really well.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Looks, comfort on and off bike, mesh upper, cushioning at heel.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing at all.
Did you enjoy using the product? Very much.
Would you consider buying the product? Definitely.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Definitely.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
Extremely well designed casual styled riding shoe with enough technical features to make it spot on for long days in and out of the saddle.
About the tester
Age: 37 Height: 1.65m Weight: 67kg
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, general fitness riding, mtb,
Lara has been riding bikes for longer than she'd care to admit, and writing about them nearly as long. Since 2009 she has been working as part of the road.cc review team whilst championing women's cycling on the side, most notably via two years as editor of the, sadly now defunct, UK's first and only women's cycling mag, erm, Women's Cycling.
Believing fervently that cycling will save the world, she wishes that more people would just ride a bike and be pleasant to each other.
She will ride anything with two wheels, occasionally likes to go fast, definitely likes to go far and is always up for a bit of exploring somewhere new and exciting.