2013 Mavic Alpine XL Mountain Bike Shoe
Size Tested: 9.5 US
Weight: 410g (size 9, manufacturer’s stated weight)
- Contagrip trail grip outsole
- Quick-Lace system
- XL Vent mesh tongue for ventilation
- Ergofit Ortholite insole
- Lace cover
- Synthetic and mesh upper
- EVA midsole
- Mid ankle protection with perforated neoprene
- Toe and heel protection
- Higher volume fit
Reviewer’s Feet: “Normal” size 9/9.5 with no funky sixth toes, bone spurs, etc. Relatively high arch, above-average volume foot.
Test Duration: 2 months, 4-6 hours of weekly riding
Test Location: Green Mountains o’ Vermont. Rooty, rocky, tight n’ twisty singletrack, ranging from exceptionally dry to a bit monsoon-y. Also, driving stick to and from the trailhead.
Let’s begin with the obvious: mountain biking is different from road biking.
The terrain is different. The bikes are different. The clothes are different.
So why are mountain bikers still wearing modified road bike shoes to clip into their (poorly named) clipless pedals?
Most mountain bike shoes on the market are pretty light, pretty stiff, and are generally good for pedaling. Get off the bike, however, and it’s a different story.
Those stiff lugs that are glued or bolted to the sole are good for tromping around in soft dirt or mud, but get them on wet roots or rock, and all of a sudden you look like baby Bambi on ice: no traction, tons of heel lift, awkward stride caused by that super-stiff sole. They’re basically the worst walking shoes ever.
If you’re thinking, “Yeah, but I never get off my bike and when I do, I don’t really mind all that,” then you probably don’t need to bother with this review. But if you’d like a shoe that pedals pretty darn well and walks like a normal shoe, read on.
Mavic, the French company long known for their lineup of wheels, has more recently branched out into cycling apparel. And while Mavic does offer some of the aforementioned modified road bike shoes for mountain biking, they also offer the decidedly more MTB-friendly Alpine XL.
The Alpine XL has a lot of features that I’ve come to love, and the soles are really the highlight. They’re made of a durable rubber known as Contagrip, which consists of well-spaced softer lugs with recessed harder rubber lugs to bite into softer ground.
Sidenote: Contagrip has been around for years, most notably on Salomon’s line of trail running and hiking shoes. Given that Mavic and Salomon are part of the AmerSports Group and share an office building and production complex in Annecy, France, it’s no real surprise to see some cross-pollination.
The Alpine XL also shares Salomon’s quick-lace system for super-quick one-pull tightening. I’ve used this system for about seven years now on various pairs of Salomon shoes, and I think it’s a good, functional, and simple lacing system. It’s easy to get the right tension, the laces themselves are robust, and the excess laces and plastic closure device tuck into a little mesh pocket on the top of the tongue. This system helps keep the shoe lower profile than other similar designs that rely on traditional laces that then must be tucked under the tongue-flap.
Salomon also provides lace replacements which are pretty easy to install, should you ever wear out a pair of laces.
The quick-lace system is complemented by a hook-and-loop strap at the top to secure the mid-to-upper arch area of your foot. It’s simple and it works. I feel like my feet are as snug in these shoes as with any shoes I’ve owned in the past that feature ratcheting straps (Sidi, Specialized, Bontrager).
A tongue flap covers the lower part of the shoe for a clean look.
If you’re looking for a super-tight, no movement fit from your shoe, the Mavic Alpine XL will probably not be your shoe of choice.
I’ve owned Specialized Body Geometry shoes, Sidi Dominators, and Louis Garneau high-end, carbon-soled, thermo-moldable mountain bike shoes. Those all fit my foot a lot tighter than these Mavics do. But there’s a big ‘but’ here – the Alpine XLs are still very snug fitting and have performed really well for a shoe that strikes a great balance between comfort, weight, walkability, and pedaling performance.
(Note: Blister’s Noah Bodman recently reviewed the Teva Pivot, so I wanted to offer a few initial comparisons of the Pivot’s fit compared to the Alpine XL, and I hope to get more time in the Pivot soon.
The Teva provided my foot with a more precise fit—the toe box is decidedly less roomy than the Alpine XL, and the Pivot’s mid-foot volume was spot on for my foot, and lower overall compared to the Mavic.)
The Mavic’s heel pocket is generous and really holds my heel down. Some shoes let your heel drift up and down a bit while pedaling, and especially while walking. Not the Alpine XLs. Between the quick-lace and the hook-and-loop over-arch strap, your heel ain’t goin’ nowhere. Maybe if you have a really thin foot/heel there’s a chance that you could get your foot to move, but I usually can’t.
(The heel pocket of the Teva Pivot didn’t immediately shine for me like the Mavic’s. The Pivot was adequate, seemed to hold my heel OK, but didn’t really provide me with a sense that no matter what, my heel would be locked in.)
Through the arch / midfoot of the Alpine XL, the fit is somewhat generous. I personally notice less vertical roominess (bottom to top of my foot) than I do lateral roominess (side to side of my foot).
So what does this mean for pedaling performance?
Generally, when I lift up my foot to get a little extra pedal power, I get it. But when I’m pushing against the pedal in a turn, the shoe feels a bit…squishy for lack of a better term. It’s not sloppy, just squishy.
The Alpine XL’s toe box is by far the roomiest toe box of any clipless mountain bike shoe I have ever used. This tends to give that same squishy feeling when really stomping on the pedals, but again, because of the security of the instep strap and the quick-lace system, my heel and arch are pretty well locked in place. So the sacrifice in pedaling performance for overall foot comfort is minimal.
The toe box is also pretty beefy, which helps to protect against those unexpected foot strikes.
The one gripe I have is that, for some reason, Mavic covered the toe box cut out with some sort of leather / fabric patch, instead of throwing some mesh on there. This makes the shoe a little warmer than it would be otherwise, and soggy socks are a bit more common with this design.
Overall, the fit on this shoe for my fairly average size 9.5 foot is good—not overly snug anywhere, and probably roomier than most shoes out there. Think skate shoe vs. ballet slipper.
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