Finding shoes that are good for both riding my bike as well as walking up hills has been a bit of a challenge for the last few years. I had a pair of trusty Lake 165s that did well for a few years before the stitching went and while they were ok with a good grippy vibram sole, a reasonably comfortable upper for walking and a stiff enough sole that did not flex on the pedals I wanted something better.
I tried a pair of the Pearl Izumi X-Alps. They certainly look like they are built for what I want but I have been pretty disappointed with them. The upper fabric tears easily, the heel cup design gives me terrible blisters every time I walk up a hill and the soles are too flexy and give me sore feet on long downhills. Also having a ratchet on the side of the shoe is a silly idea if using the shoe for walking or blasting down technical trails. I hit the ratchet on a rock on about my 4th ride and busted it off the side of the shoe. A bit of ingenuity had it reattached but things like slippery rocky river crossing bash the ratchets into the side of my foot.
I was looking at the Shimano MT71 shoes, or even the Shimano MT91 boots, but did not want something as big and clunky as a boot, and the shoe did not look aggressive enough for my taste.
I finally decided on getting a pair of the 2012 Mavic Alpine XL shoes. While they look a bit gay with all the white on them at least they have a decent amount of tread on the sole and look like they were designed to be good on the bike and walking up hills.
I have had them out for one decent ride, but have not yet walked up a hill carrying my bike. First impressions of them are good. The sole seems stiff when clipped into the pedals but comfortable walking around. The cleat is recessed enough that it does not touch the ground on the flat. The heel cup holds onto my heel very well and I am unable to get my heel to rise out of the cup which is great. There seems to be plenty of room to wiggle my toes in the toe box while the lace and strap system holds the shoe fast on my foot. My foot has no “float” inside the shoe unlike some other shoes I have.
I do intend to wander up a hill in them sometime soon and I will report back with my findings, but so far I am impressed with them!
Ok, first ride/walk impressions here https://mountainbikingzane.wordpress.com/2012/01/18/evening-blowhard/