Mavic’s Alpine XL trail shoe bridges the gap between rubber-reinforced carbon fiber race slippers and burly, heavy, climb-averse downhill shoes. They’re light (410 grams per pair) without being flimsy and they’re walkable without being floppy when clipped in. They have a few other tricks up their cuffs, too.
The Alpine XLs live in the same general space as options like the Giro Terraduro or Specialized Rime; they’re vaguely technical, but without the large swaths of carbon fiber or complicated, finely-tunable closure systems found on cross-country models.
A walkable-yet-stiff trail shoe is something of a holy grail, and the Alpine XLs nail it. The mid-foot is quite stiff, eliminating hot spots under the cleat even after hours in the saddle, but the toe is very flexible. Walking feels normal, nothing at all like most XC shoes. The Alpine XLs are worthy of long hike-a-bikes and are even comfortable when left on after you’ve unclipped (though the Stormtrooper looks might have you looking a bit silly.)
The sole is aggressively lugged, providing excellent traction on loose surfaces, and the soft rubber sticks to slippery rocks and roots as well.
Volume is on the higher side, particularly in the toe box, which is unusual for Mavic.
The lacing system, which Mavic calls Quick Lace, sits above a heavily padded tongue and underneath a Velcro cover. It pairs a nylon lace with a sliding stopper, tightening the whole shoe in a single movement, and is augmented by a wide Velcro strap at the ankle. It works well, tightening the shoe with a simple tug, but the upper set of eyelets is set too high. Tighten the system enough to snug down the forefoot and the top of the lace digs into your ankles, particularly when the Velcro strap is tightened over the top.
The fix is an easy one, though. I simply cut the laces and pulled them out of the top set of eyelets, then rethreaded the sliding stopper and tied the two cut ends of the laces together. Took less than five minutes.
Toe and heel protection are top-notch. The toe is actually so well protected that, in combination with the heavily padded tongue, the Alpine XLs can get a bit warm mid-summer. Mesh sides help with cooling a bit, but an airy XC shoe these are not.
The neoprene-like ankle cuff is fantastic, effectively keeping dirt and even light rain out of the inside of the shoe. Though you can feel the edge of the cuff around your ankle when the shoes are first put on, the light pressure is quickly forgotten once on the trail.
The price of $130 is exceptionally reasonable for a shoe of this caliber and puts it miles ahead of most of its competition.
The Alpine XLs have become my go-to trail shoe, as capable of tackling long clipped-in days as they are hiking the last 500 meters to a hidden trailhead. The stiffness afforded by the EVA midsole is enough to handle anything short of cross-country racing, and the walkability is better than any shoe in its class.
Suggested retail price: $130
We like: Grippy sole, perfectly stiff midsole, flexible toe, higher-volume fit than most Mavic shoes
We don’t like: Lacing system goes a bit too high on the ankle
The scoop: Walkable, yet stiff, trail shoe that offers excellent durability and foot protection