by Joe Schneider
Mavic’s trail-focused mountain bike shoe, the Alpine XL, bridges the gap between their cross country line and the downhill shoes on the market by combining some interesting features from both heritages. We put it to the test to see what that mix translates to in actual on-the-trail performance.
Alpine XL Shoe Highlights
- Contagrip Rubber Sole
- XL Vent Tongue
- Quick Lace system
- Ergo Fit OrthoLite Insoles
- Lace cover
- Synthetic and mesh upper materials
- EVA midsole
- Mid ankle protection with perforated neoprene
- Toe and heel protection
- Higher volume fit
- Sizes 3.5-13 US
- Weight: 410 grams
- MSRP $130
When I lifted the Alpine XL shoes out of their box, I was surprised by how light they were, how thin the material was and by the flexibility of the sole. They were much less bulky than what I had expected.
When I first put them on they felt good, the padding in the back cupped the heel of my foot nicely and the neoprene cuff was not too tight. The length was slightly on the shorter side of all the other brand size 44 EUR shoes I have previously owned, but they did feel the same length as my other pair of Mavic shoes. Although they were slightly short, the little bit of extra room in the toe box made this acceptable. For your reference as you're reading this, my foot is low volume and my instep is not very tall. I have a medium arch and medium width feet.
On The Trail
Some of my initial impressions were confirmed once I got on the bike. I was really satisfied with the weight and the fit. The length was fine and the insoles were comfortable and supportive in the right places. The padding that cups the heel wraps around both sides of the ankle. This provides nice support but I did notice some marks on the side of the shoe from the crank arm rubbing. The neoprene cuff found on the top of the shoe did a good job of keeping debris out, which kept the ride more comfortable and my socks a bit cleaner.
The material on either side of the shoe is a pattern of synthetic leather and mesh which helps keep the temperature in check. In contrast, the top of the toe is solid material and not mesh, more like a DH shoe - which in turn helps keep water out and provides a nice wind block on cold rides. The guard which wraps the front of the toe sort of resembles a truck bed spray on liner. It will help keep the shoe from being damaged but only provides light impact protection because it is very flexible.
The sole has enough flex that it is nice for walking or hiking, whether on the trail or grabbing a bite to eat. I did not notice the flex in the sole while pedaling or riding, so I decided it was not a bad characteristic. The tread is a hybrid of an XC style along the cleat but with good coverage all around - additionally the knobs are made from a rubber compound that will actually grip rocks and dirt. Overall I was very impressed with the function of the shoe and the unique features like the neoprene cuff.
Things That Could Be Improved
I was very excited about these shoes but was quickly disappointed by the lacing setup. The quick lace system extends from the toe to the ankle. It has a metal eyelet on either side, very high up on the ankle, actually above the strap. For my foot, with its squat profile, I could not get the quick lace to distribute the pressure where needed. It was very tight around my ankle and very loose along the whole length of my foot. It also caused the metal eyelets to severely dig into my ankles, even if there was hardly any tension at all in the laces. The strap was completely useless because it only added further pressure to the one area the laces were already digging into.
I decided to fix the problem. I cut the laces and unthreaded them from the top two sets of eyelets, the metal ones and the ones directly under the strap. I put the keeper back on and tied the laces back together. Now, the laces tighten my foot as securely as I need and the strap holds my ankle exactly where I want it. There are no longer any bad pressure points from the metal eyelets. The transition in feel is seamless between the laced up area and the strap. Additionally, the laces now fold up nicely under the lace cover instead of the in the pocket in the tongue, which I find more convenient anyway. Changing the lacing took these shoes from the most uncomfortable pair I have ever had to my favorite pair of mountain bike shoes. Some people with a higher volume foot may not have this issue but this is my fix for those who don’t.
Long Term Durability
There is a lot of stitching and bonding between all the different materials, patterns and the sole. I feel like those places are more prone to failure, especially where the sole meets the side at the ball of the foot. Too much walking could cause the sole to separate at the ball of the foot and may also cause the already flexible sole to break down too much and become too soft for riding. However, the overall quality seems high and these issues should only occur towards the end of the shoe's life, if at all.
What's The Bottom Line?
The Alpine XL is great for all around riding. They are perfect shoes for epic rides and completely race capable for all day events. By combining many bike shoe characteristics Mavic produced a comfortable and functional shoe with rather unique styling as well as innovative and valuable features. The quirky lacing system doesn't work for every foot, but the fact that any issues can be easily fixed means these shoes can be considered by a majority of riders.
For more info, cruise over to www.mavic.com.
About The Reviewer
Joe Schneider grew up in Durango, Colorado. Beginning in 2002, at the age of 13, he started riding mountain bikes and racing in the local race series. One thing led to another and he eventually made it into the mid-ranks of the pro cross-country field. Collegiate racing shed light on technical riding and he began to pursue longer travel bikes and most recently dirt bikes. He enjoys smashing through rocks or getting loose on flowy singletrack. Ultimately the alpine shuttle is his favorite, with a couple thousand feet of climbing and two or three times that in descending. He is currently a Mechanical Engineer who designs tools to blow things up. He loves to ride snowmobiles, motos, and mountain bikes whenever possible with his lady and many good friends. As a practiced mechanic, he enjoys spending the remainder of his free time fixing and maintaining all of his rides.