A couple months ago, I wrote a rave review of the Pearl Izumi X-Alp Enduro III Shoe, but lamented the fact that Pearl Izumi was replacing the X-Alp Enduro III with the X-Alp Enduro IV. It seems like whenever I find the perfect shoe, the manufacturer discontinues it and I have to start the great search all over again.
Well, the folks at Pearl were nice enough to assist me with that search, supposing that if one likes the III, they’ll like the IV just as well. They put their shoe where their mouth is and shipped me a pair, which I’ve been thrashing daily since I received them, including nine straight days of technical riding during the Second Annual Spring Break Singletrack Trek and the 30 Days of Biking challenge, in which I rode every day during the month of April ranging from a daily commute to work to the full-on gnar of Palmer Park.
So, how does the X-Alp Enduro IV compare to the III? In short, it is very similar. This review of the IV could almost be a cut-and-paste from the previous one of the III. However, here were a few key differences worth mentioning. Before going into the differences, here’s a quick review of the characteristics I noted from the three which the four has in common:
- The upper is a combination of breathable synthetic and mesh material.
- The sole strikes an exceptional balance between efficient power transfer and comfort. It’s not your first choice if you’re a gram-counting racer or on your way to the Red Bull Rampage, but it’s very well suited to anything in between.
- The shoe seems to be tailored to an average to slightly-wide foot. However, the two velcro/one ratchet strap closure system is very flexible and will adapt to most any foot.
- The sole material and construction provide outstanding traction for hike-a-bikes.
- The value offered by this shoe is hard to beat. This shoe hits a perfect nexus of durability, performance, and comfort.
Now, here’re the differences. For me, they are a mixed bag–for others they will range from mixed bag to all good.
- The IV has much less mesh than the III. Along with the comfort and hike-ability, the high proportion of mesh was my favorite feature in the III. I’m the kind of guy who starts sweating about the time I throw my leg over the crossbar, so I like everything I wear, including shoes, to have maximum breathability. However, I did find the IV to be superior in cold weather, including a few work commutes in raging snowstorms. No, it’s not a winter shoe, but it’s a lot closer than the III. If you’re not a human heat source, the lower proportion of mesh in the IV should be a non-issue even during the warmer months.
- While still working well for a variety of foot shapes, the IVs seem to run just a bit narrower than the III. I’m not sure if Pearl changed the last, or if it’s just a function of the lower proportion of mesh, which stretches and gives more. The upside is that the IV is slightly more secure than the III. Unless you have a freakishly wide foot, this should also be a non-issue.
- While the III had excellent traction and inspired confidence on rocky hike-a-bikes, the IV is even better. The sole is so grippy, it’s as close as you’ll ever come to feeling like you’re wearing Five Ten flats when you’re in a clipless shoe.
- The biggest shocker of all: while both shoes are the epitome of value, the IV actually runs $10 cheaper than the III it replaced, coming in at an MSRP of $110.
After all is said and done, my personal preference still leans just a smidge towards the III, but the IV is still so good, I have no need to look for another shoe to replace my IIIs when they wear out. I’ll go straight to the IVs without a care. If you’re looking for a long-lasting, comfortable, high-performance trail/all mountain shoe, I recommend giving the Pearl Izumi X-Alp Enduro IV a try–it’s perfect for the way 90% of us ride.
Thanks to Pearl Izumi for providing the X-Alp Enduro IV shoes for review! If you don’t like the basic black, Pearl also makes this shoe in a more vibrant blue/orange combination.
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