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 Deckers x Lab Recovery Footwear Review
Assessing the Benefits of Recovery Footwear


      Deckers X Lab is bringing the heat with big aims for the X-SCAPE and KO-Z collections. The aim of the Deckers X Lab is to bridge recovery footwear and either active lifestyle or relaxation. The X-SCAPE line is for those that are going to be on their feet and on the move even after logging a lot of training beforehand. The KO-Z Collection is aimed more for lounging and daily type wear. Both collections have unique features to them that give them character and some components that subjectively (David) do seem to help with recovery. In this review we will outline a little bit about each of the models and dive into some of the literature around recovery footwear and what this means.


X-SCAPE LOW

David: The X-SCAPE Low is a model that I have worn significantly. The aim of the shoe is to bridge recovery and active lifestyle. The shoe dabbles on the edge of lifestyle and daily wear and professional footwear/sneaker aesthetically. Because of this I have worn it in my clinic quite a few times. The upper is done really well throughout with a hybrid suede and Matryx upper (as seen in the HOKA ONE ONE Evo Rehi). The tongue has a nice mesh that holds the dorsum of the foot really well. The lockdown in the heel could be refined for it is more on the wide end. With a lace lock that seemed to do the trick for me. The midsole is really interesting in the X-SCAPE Low. The foam is very suspensive, but still has enough integrity to not feel overly soft. It feels like sinks where you want it to, but levels out when you want it to as well. The shoe also uses a meta rocker design with a Swallowtail like heel seen in the Carbon X2 or in the HOKA ONE ONE Mach 4. The result is a slightly decoupled heel that feels like there is a little bit of a medial and lateral wedge in the heel. For met that seems to help with some stability at the heel. If you can find the right style for you the X-SCAPE Low is worth looking into. Pricing ranges from 140-160 dollars but the midsole and constructed does seem to take pressure off of the feet especially after long running efforts.

Bach
: Out of the Decker Lab product line, few showcases the relationship between Hoka, Teva, and Ugg better than the X-SCAPE collection. The X-SCAPE Low features an incredibly luxurious upper that’s particularly soft from the mid to forefoot area. With my fairly narrow-to-standard feet, the fit for me was true-to-size as far as my walking, everyday shoe size (eg. Vans, dress shoes, etc.). There’s a unique, generous padding piece that’s slightly disconnected from the heel, resting on your ankle for additional comfort. The upper in general conformed nicely to my feet.

The midsole is where it obtains it’s Hoka identity with a thick stack of ultra soft polyurethane (PU) foam that’s protected in the heel and forefoot by a layer of TPU covering. I don’t feel people say this about non-running shoes often, but I get excited when I take the X-SCAPE Low out for grocery runs, walks, and general everyday activities. There’s a gentle rocker here which gives the shoe a very smooth, very effortless forward momentum while walking. The split heel design seen in recent running shoes from the Hoka Carbon X2 to Saucony Kinvara 12 is also found here. Recently Hoka stated that the split heel helps their running shoes provide a smoother gait cycle, and you really feel it here in the design of the Low. A thick PU insole only further heightens the comfort.

The high abrasion outsole of the Low should last ages. It grips well to wet surfaces without issue and takes to different surfaces well. In general, the shoe feels made to last. The upper has had little wear over two months of use, and Deckers even provides a second (albeit firmer) insole which helps further add to the lifespan of this shoe. Though it comes in at a steep cost upfront of $160, there’s no doubt that you will get your money’s worth here.

The real question regarding the X-SCAPE is whether it is worth the price upfront over a classic everyday shoe or even an end-of-running shoes like the Clifton or Bondi from the Hoka branch of Deckers. Hoka in its own right has steadily become a favorite among a diverse range of users, from those in the medical field to cooks in the kitchen who have to be on their feet all day. I believe the Low could be a better alternative as there are more layers of comfort in the overall design better suited to daily use while the Clifton has a bit more of a rocker edge to it that could be uncomfortable at the end of the day. For run recovery, the cushion feels welcomed after a long running week. I’ve had some minor arch pain recently and it’s been nice to have a shoe dedicated towards comfort to help get through errands and whatnot on rest days. Whether or not it has played a role in my arch pain recovery is hard to say, but it’s been wonderful having a go-to shoe to put on that I know will feel good despite any pain I have and protect me through the things I need to do outside of the home.



Nathan: The X-SCAPE may be the most squishy casual shoe I've ever had. So soft, in fact, that I changed the insoles from the ones that came into the shoes to the extra pair (a memory foam that is firmer than the one that was originally in there). The shoe is a true hybrid of running, slipper, and casual wear. Such a hybrid, in fact, that most people who see me in them say "what are those supposed to be?" What you get is a sporty heel with a split posterior heel flare with a transition to a lifestyle/professional looking front and a slipper-like upper.

In terms of feel, it is completely soft and squishy from back to front. There is a smooth curve through the heel that gives a soft and smooth heel strike when walking. When working, they do well with standing for long periods (I'm on my feet 9-10 hours per day at work), but was a bit too soft for me without changing the insole. I felt my feet were getting a bit tired from stabilizing on such a soft surface. However, once I switched the insole, it worked much better for me and they do really well during my work day. The upper is also a hybrid between a casual shoe and a slipper. It is very stretchy and folds over the foot well. Even with the stretch, though, it was tight over the top of my foot so I had to really loosen the laces to the point where I couldn't keep the heel locked down. Therefore I wish I went with a size 9 (my typical running shoe size) instead of a size 8.5 (my typical casual shoe size).

X-SCAPE MID
Specs: Measured weight Men's US size 10: 18.1 oz, 6mm drop (25 mm / 19 mm, 5mm PU insole)

Matt: It has been a long time since I have had a shoe actually meant for casual purposes and I have used the X-SCAPE Mid exclusively. In clinic, while teaching, running through airports, on errands. Even a few 2-3 mile runs. The X-SCAPE Mid takes everything from the X-SCAPE Low and adds a significant amount of wool and a higher ankle collar. This creates both the look and feel of a very big shoe. The shoe itself is very comfortable. The upper is thick, but very supportive. There is a flexible heel counter and the H-Brace provides a very good lockdown on the arch and ankle. The platform is very wide, which when combined with the H-brace, heel counter and overall lockdown makes the shoe very naturally stable. There is a significant of medial and lateral heel flare. However, it is beveled, which still provides a smooth ride but certainly increases stability at the heel (which is noticeable in a good way).  The ride is fairly rockered and features a metarocker design. Despite the rocker, the forefoot actually has a good amount of flexibility, making toe off very smooth. Heel contacts initially were a bit premature due to the posterior heel flare/swallow tail design. As I got used to this, the PU midsole foam compressed nicely and the shoe rolls along with me efficiently without feeling weird.

The ride is fairly soft throughout the length of the shoe between the PU and wool insole and the PU midsole. PU is a heavier material, but it is more resilient and bouncy than EVA. Running along the shoe feels lighter than my measured weight of 18.1 oz for a men's size 10. This certainly is not a performance running shoe, although running a few miles in them was not horrible. The X-SCAPE MID is definitely more of a long casual day shoe however. The upper has a good amount of volume. The laces integrate well with the upper and the heel, midfoot and forefoot can be widened or tightened down depending on what you need. The upper responds very well to the laces, which I encourage people to mess with to create your best fit. There is plenty of room in the toebox, with a more anatomic fit up front. The midfoot and heel vary in width depending on how tight the laces are. At a normal tightness, there is a medium width with potential for more room as needed. The tongue is gusseted, is very thick and does not slip at all. I have worn this shoe sockless for up to 6-7 hours at a time and had no blisters or hotspots. The wool heel collar and insole provide a very nice against skin feel, so this is definitely a shoe you can do that in.

Despite the weight, the X-SCAPE Mid is a well designed casual shoe that has keep my feet fresh over long days. I have not noticed my feet fatigue and there is a mild arch. The styles are great. Know that you are purchasing a $200 performance inspired shoe. This is not a running shoe, although I did run without too much issue (outside of the weight) in these, it can be used to run, has a high amount of cushion, features an incredibly comfortable and adjustable upper, features a great deal of wool and there is a lot of shoe here. The combination of these factors plus a leather and wool upper makes it worth $200 in my mind due to the quality of materials. I would not normally spend this much on a casual shoe, but the quality is clearly there. So if you want a performance leather, high ankle collared, highly cushioned, rockered but flexible,  against skin comfort, and a large amount of shoe, the X-SCAPE Mid is a shoe you should check out.

KO-Z Collection

KO-Z Slide | $130
KO-Z Mule | $130
KO-Z Gldtr | $130
KO-Z Venture | $140

Matt: The KO-Z SNPR Mid has the softest and most comfortable upper I have ever tried. It beats all the slippers I have had. The upper can easily be worn barefoot and the upper and insole, with the extensive amount of wool, it is very comfortable. The fit is very slipper like. It does fit very true to size, if almost a hair short, in my normal men's size 10. I have to wear this sockless as it feels short with socks. The width is normal to slightly wide. There is a plenty of room throughout the shoe and the wool will accommodate a variety of foot types.There isn't much of an arch in this shoe, but there is a low heel clip around the medial and lateral sides of the heel. As the fit is a bit higher volume, I did not notice the clip. So overall a stable ride due to the wide platform, but not much other influence. However, due to the wider volume fit, the lock down is not best. While walking, I get a great deal of heel slippage and rise with every step. The wool upper protects against rubbing. The ride is not the smoothest. This is definitely a shoe that you should use for short distances. The wool insole is comfortable, but it sits on top of a firmer EVA midsole. There is an 8 mm drop with a 25 mm / 17 mm stack height. Although a meta-rocker is listed as a component here, there is not much of a rocker. There is a very small heel bevel and a posterior heel flare that does cause an early initial contact. While that are holes cut through the forefoot to supposedly add flexibility, The forefoot is fairly stiff with very subtle toe spring. The wool upper though makes up for all this by keep the feet very comfy. It has kept my feet warm during cold weather, but can get a little warm during heat. A great shoe for keeping your feet warm and walking around the house or shorter distances. While this a large shoe with a high quality upper with sheepskin and wool, it is a very expensive, but comfortable pair of slippers that double as casual shoes.

David:
The KO-Z Collection is indeed quite cozy. I have found myself wearing this collection of footwear SO much more than I though I was going to. I was sent the SNPR Mid, SLIDES, and GLDTR. The KO-Z Collection utilizes some familiar components from several of the Deckers companies including HOKA ONE ONE, UGGS, and Sanuk to some degree. They all utilize a memory foam platform that is closest to the foot bed with a total of a 5 layer foam underneath. All of the foams are of different density. This seems to make the foam having components of both suspension, cushion, and support at the same time. The outsoles are full contact and they all feel very stable for how much foam there is. It is an interesting combination of soft and firm. The shoe also uses a metarocker in the heel to help with transitions at initial contact (much more prevalent in the GLDTR and SLIDES). At first it feels a little bit clunky but overall it works pretty well, especially in standing for the bevel angle is large, but not rounded so much that it feels like your weight is shifting when you are standing. Below are some distinguishing and unique features for each model.

SNPR MID: The KO-Z SNPR MID on the surface looks very similar to a pair of UGGs. The construction is of high quality throughout. The shoe is water resistant throughout on the outside with a soft leather like material. The inside is a temperature resistant wool that is incredibly comfortable. The shoe is wearable both with and without socks. The foot bed does have a couple of high contact areas with a different like material that has some texture with more grab for a bare foot if you are wearing them that way. The wool does a great job of keeping your foot warm without overheating it. The pricing is not up on the site as I am typing this, but I remember it being around the 180 to 200 range. Given the colorway works for you, this is one is definitely worth consideration. Incredibly comfortable throughout. If you are in between sizes, order a half size down.

SLIDES: The KO-Z SLIDES utilize the same memory foam foot bed and 5 layer midsole. The upper is constructed of a soft wool an d leather like upper on the outside. The inside of the upper is constructed of the same wool in the SNPR mid. The hold is really good over the dorsum of the foot and I had no problems with slippage or foot translation. It is incredibly cozy and comfortable. There are 2 straps along the lateral aspect of the shoe that you can adjust to help make the lockdown more comfortable for you. I think these are the most versatile of the collection for me personally, for aesthetically I can wear them in warm/hot conditions as well as slightly cold conditions as well. Pricing is at 130 dollars. It is pretty steep for the sandals, but I do wear these almost every weekend when I am out or after my runs. I do stay away from some "dirty" areas like walking trails out of fear of making the wool dirty and retaining material, but this model is definitely worth consideration as well.

GLDTR: The KO-Z GLDTR and the SLIDES are similar but different at the same time. The GLDTR utilizes a more traditional flip flop like design with a sturdy thong strap between the great toe and second toe. The hold and lockdown is done really well in this model. The inside of the strap also utilizes the temperature resistant wool and continues to do a great job. The lateral three toes are exposed outside of the wool, but this didn't seem to be a problem for me with temperature. I am more of a SLIDES guy personally, but for those that like having a thong strap and a solid lockdown the GLDTR could be an option worth looking into. Pricing for GLDTR is at 120 dollars.



Nathan: The KO-Z Collection sports a combination of 5 foams throughout the midsole, and I must say that it is really a great combination. It feels cushioned, supportive, and stable (with some issues I'll dive into on individual shoes). Each of the shoes I tested have unique features like being more of a boot slipper vs. a slide vs. a fancy clog, which make them suitable for different times of year (for me in Wisconsin) and personal preferences. I've reviewed them here in order of my personal favorite to least favorite.

SNPR Mid: I have to start here because this is the shoe of all 4 that I was sent that I can vouch for the most on a number of different levels. First, the platform is great. Very cushioned, strategically placed areas of memory foam and material to prevent breakdown and distribute pressure (like under the heel and the ball of the foot), and the wool interior make it an incredibly comfortable "slipper". This was my absolute go-to throughout the Wisconsin winter. If I hadn't been testing out other shoes, I would have worn it at home every day. During the winter, it was the perfect blend where it kept my feet warm without making them sweat. That said, I do prefer to wear socks in them versus going barefoot for the sweating reason. The outsole is robust where I've also worn them out of the house quite a bit, and work really well for transitioning from running/hiking back to casual wear during the winter because of the comfort and how warm they keep your feet. The kicker is that everyone that saw them absolutely loved the looks. Top to bottom a very comfortable, warm, and cushioned slipper. The price sits at $150. It's a lot, but for the amount that I've used them I would pick up a pair for myself. Definitely holding their value for me. As for sizing, I appreciated the fit in my size 9 (my typical running shoe size). It felt slightly snug initially, but quickly the memory foam compressed and the wool did as well, making a very nice fit.


VENTURA: This has been a new arrival for testing here at Doctors of Running, and it quickly became my non-winter go-to and the SLIDES were relegated. I tested this throughout the entire summer of 2021 and it was on my feet from the minute I get home to the time I go to bed. Much of the construction mirrors what was happening with the SLIDE, including the 5 layers of foam, wool underlays, and extended heel. However, there is more coverage over the top of the foot and it has a heel strap. the heel strap is what makes this a sandal/slipper that I can use for almost anything around the house and even taking my kids for walks around the block. There are two adjustable areas to secure the foot. One is the heel strap itself and the second is a small strap on the outside of the coverage of the top of the foot. The way it worked best for me was to secure the heel strap to fit and then never touch it again, while using the second, smaller strap for loosening the sandal to take it on and off. With having multiple velcro adjustments, I was worried about longevity and security. But even after daily use for the last several months, it has stayed secure with no slippage or worsening in the velcro security and stability. 

 




The footbed has also been very comfortable for daily use during hot summer days. Even with the increased coverage, I did not fight with overheating or excess sweating in the feet. Given the heel strap and securing the foot to the foot bed, the extended heel was not as much of an issue as it was for the SLIDES, but it still was "in the way" when descending stairs or even when sitting on the floor with my legs extended. The extended heel just elevates the entire leg off the ground, so if I want to hang out on the floor with my kiddos or just to watch TV or read, I have to take them off. I think this could be modified and really improve the overall functionality and comfort of the VENTURA (and other models). Finally I should talk about aesthetic. I personally am fine with anything that feels good on my feet, and this certainly does. However, my wife has, more than once, asked me to change footwear before we went somewhere. It may just be one person's opinion, but I think she's pretty "hip", so that might be worth considering. I think that a less extreme heel and different colorway options may temper the aesthetic. 

SLIDES: The SLIDES come in as my second (now third after the VENTURA arrived) favorite in the KO-Z collection. I find the adjustable strap very useful and makes fit much easier to adjust. My history with slides is that the straps are too loose, but the strap mechanism here is slick and effective. The wool underlay of the strap is also quite comfortable and even kept my foot mostly warm throughout the winter. There are some things that I had to get used to/had issues with. First is the footbed. It utilizes a memory foam bed that is mostly a synthetic feeling material with the arch being of wool. Without socks, I felt that the foot bed felt a bit sticky as my foot interacted with it more and started sweating a bit. Therefore, I wore socks with them and really enjoyed the comfort (yes, I know...I'm super fashionable). The other issue I had with this shoe (as well as the Mule) is the extended heel. I understand some of the theory of extended heels that are beveled for running (prolonging the weight absorption time and therefore decreasing impact forces), but this actually functioned more as a tripping hazard for me. Given that the heel isn't secure on the foot, it would separate from the heel when walking (as sandals should). When going down stairs, I would regularly catch the heel on the stair above. I never fell, but for people who are at a fall risk, I'd be cautious before investing in these. All things considered, I love the ease of sliding in and out of these and will certainly utilize them this summer.

MULE: Finally we get to the Mule, which takes third place for me among the KO-Z collection. One of the things that I liked most, and think it would be interesting to see in the SLIDE, is the full wool footbed. It was soft on the foot, prevented any weird moisure, and made it easy to go sockless or wear socks. However, the issue I had with the footbed is that the heel felt too narrow and I would regularly slip off the outside of the footbed. I just could never get my foot to settle into the center of the shoe. The other stability issue I had here was the same as I referenced above with the SLIDE and tripping on the stairs. The final issue I had here was with fit through the forefoot. I went with my typical running shoe size (9) and it was simply too tight. I felt like I couldn't get my foot slid all the way forward (which likely effected how my heel sat on the platform) and when I wore it for too long I would start to get some numbness in my toes. Next time I'd go a size up (don't have half sizes) but I'm not sure if that would fit me well either. The fit just didn't work for me. There is a stretch panel on the upper that is meant to adapt to foot sizes, but I would be interested to see if they could implement an adjustable strap system similar to the side into this clog somehow, or simply open the toe box a bit. I do like the aesthetic of this shoe and prefer clogs in general (I love Crocs...but not for the aesthetic) so if this fit better I think I'd be jumping on this over the SLIDE.


Bach: Working from home means I’ve had a lot of time spent in the Slides and Glidtr. When you think about sandals and flip-flops, you typically are looking at a very thin material or a slab of foam. There’s something jarring at first to sudden be atop such a huge platform like this. The foam does take a minor bit of break before you start feeling the benefits of the many layers of cushioning. Once the foam is broken in though and the top layer starts conforming to your feet, the sandals provide a soft step-in that feels good after long runs and on rest days. I do take issue with the amount of foam that extends past the heel, making for an uncomfortable transition there unlike the X-SCAPE Low design. It's also a lot of foam to crash into the ground, which makes me hesitate from moving quickly in either pair.

I went with my typical walking shoe/sneaker size [eg. Vans, Converse] instead of sizing up to my running shoe size and felt that was the right decision for the Slides. For the Glidtr though, there are some issues compared to the Slide.

The key difference between the Glidtr and Slides is how the upper wraps your foot. The Slide uses velcro to help strap the upper to the midfoot while the Glidtr fits like a regular flip-flop that you simply slide your feet. Due to the significant amount of foam underneath and slightly heavier weight than your typical sandal, the lockdown of the Slide feels significantly more secure and stable for daily use and helps make you feel like you’re really getting the full benefits of the foam underneath. There’s the added benefit of all the soft fur from the full length strap over your midfoot. I wasn’t able to get that with the Glidtr due to the loose fit. The strap will surely also accommodate a large range of foot widths which is another advantage. The Glidtr may benefit from sizing down in order to get better footing, but the extra security of the velcro from the Slides is hard to pass after trying the two side-by-side over time.

There are a couple of quirks with the sandals. The top foam is a slightly slick, squeaky material. The outsole is also very grippy which is great for walks outdoors, but for use at home it’s hard to not hear the noise on hardwood flooring or tile.



THOUGHTS AS A DPT / FOOTWEAR SCIENCE

What is the Current Science on Recovery Footwear?


Matt
: There is very little research on recovery shoes. Most of it has been done privately by companies and has not been released to the public. The few studies out there do not have the best methodology and make some exaggerated claims. One of the most notable studies thus far has been from Nakagawa et al., (2018) that suggested that soft, maximalist, rockered shoes improved isometric force output and muscle hardness after a marathon within 24 hours compared to 8 days in the control group. This author did another study in 2014, but I will not cite it or discuss it further here because it is absolute garbage. For a very thorough and well done analysis of that article, I encourage you to read Craig Payne's thoughts HERE. The 2018 article (while not perfect) does suggest that a few shoe components may facilitate recovery faster. Additional extrapolated evidence may come from a systematic review done last year on shoe types that may impact lower limb blood flow (Lerebourg et al., 2020). Similar conclusions were made, with unstable and soft shoes facilitate better blood flow compared to shoes with firmer, high heeled, immobilization or barefoot conditions. This may be due to the muscle pump effect on the venous system. The veins do not have muscles in them to pump blood out of the limbs and back to the heart. They rely on pressure from external forces and from the arteries. That pressure frequently comes from muscle pumps, ie the surrounding muscle tissue contracting and helping squeeze blood back to the heart. This is the basis for the concept of active recovery and why staying moving in a way that doesn't overtax the system tends to improve recovery.

In this case, soft unstable shoes may continue to increase muscle activation, which may help keep the body and blood flow going. However, you have to stay moving in some way to get this. Just sitting while wearing these shoes may not have much of an impact. Walking around in them however might. The rockered sole will reduce work at the ankle (which is a common place for fatigue after long distance running). The softer and thicker midsoles will reduce the perception of impact, potentailly allowing for more mobility. The instability may improve muscle activation (this is a debatable topic for another day). However, you have to be moving to get the benefits. So remember, active recovery post exercise is very helpful. These footwear types MIGHT help with that, but we need a great deal more research before we make definite conclusions on this subject.

-Matthew Klein PT DPT OCS FAAOMPT

References

Lerebourg, L., L'Hermette, M., Menez, C., & Coquart, J. (2020). The effects of shoe type on lower limb venous status during gait or exercise: A systematic review. PloS one, 15(11), e0239787.

Nakagawa, K., Inami, T., Yonezu, T., Kenmotsu, Y., Narita, T., Kawakami, Y., & Kanosue, K. (2018). Unstable rocker shoes promote recovery from marathon‐induced muscle damage in novice runners. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 28(2), 621-629.



RECOMMENDATIONS
(All Decker's Shoes)

Matt: I really enjoyed my pairs of X-SCAPE Mid and KO-Z SNPR Mid. The X-SCAPE Mid has been a great casual shoe (and doubles as a strengthening tool for my hip flexors while walking) and the KO-Z SNPR Mid has been a fantastic, comfortable around the house shoe. The lock down is great, the shoes are stable, the foams are resilient and the fits are good. My suggestions for Deckers X-Lab centers around weight, performance and the rockers. The X-SCAPE Mid is a heavy shoe. If the goal is to keep the sole the same height, I would suggest reducing the thickness of the upper. There is a great deal going on up top and likely more than necessary. While the wool and leather are comfortable, I challenge Deckers Lab to see what they can learn from some of their Hoka racing shoe uppers. While the swallow tail designs are becoming more popular, I also encourage Deckers to focus on the heel bevel and reduce the posterior flare. The greater the flare, the more work the anterior tibialis and quads are going to have to do for shock absorption. That is not optimal for a recovery shoe, so increase the heel bevel and reduce the posterior flare. On the same topic, the rockers need to be increased. The KO-Z Chukka has a thick midsole and very little rocker, making for a stiff ride particularly at the forefoot. If the midsole is going to be that thick, the rocker needs to be improved. There is barely any heel bevel, which when combined with the posterior flare makes for a very early and initial contact. This is much less noticeable in the X-SCAPE Mid, but right now the SNPR is limited to very short distances because it isn't the most pleasant to walk around in for long distances. The lock down in the SNPR is also not great. That much heel slippage in a running shoe would be an instant return. It certainly isn't a running shoe and the wool is very protective from any issues, but the lock down needs to be dramatically improve without reducing the wonderful volume. These are great (albeit expensive) shoes that certainly have unique positions. However there is some work to be done to refine them.

David:
Overall I was really happy with what Deckers X Lab did with all of these models. The foam and midsole took a little bit of convincing but after some wear and break in I was really happy with it. I think the wool is integrated really well into all of the models. The lockdown is solid on all of the models. I think my main recommendation for the models might actually be in the heel component. The meta rocker in the sandals could be slightly rounded a little bit more to make the transition a little bit more natural. The X-SCAPE Low could have improved heel security, for I did have to lace lock it. The uppers are really solid and comfortable. I think heel refinement would be the place to look for more improvement in these shoes.

Nathan:
I appreciate the thoughtfulness put into the construction of these shoes and look forward to watching the development of this footwear. I think my biggest recommendation, aside from the fit of the Mule, is to consider the implementation of the extended heel in this footwear. I think it poses more potential problems than benefits, especially in shoes like the SLIDE and Mule that do not lock the heel. It can increase lever arms that would need to be controlled by tibialis anterior and also pose potential tripping when going down stairs. My big question is whether the potential benefits outweigh the risks. Also, don't change the Mid. I love that thing.

Bach: While comfort is without a doubt present in all of Decker X Lab’s products, I’d really love to see Version 2’s focused on lockdown in the KO-Z sandals. For flip-flop lovers, the Glidtr could use a more dialed in fit to help provide better lockdown for carrying the five layers of foam. I also agree that the heel of the sandals is extremely aggressive and could be dialed back with a slight bevel added for smooth transitions while walking.

For the X-SCAPE, I think it’s a fantastic product as it is, but a bit controversial in design. I’d love to see a slimmer, low profile product that captures the feeling of the upper and some of the midsole, but refined for everyday office settings. I believe it would open it to a broader audience potentially if they can dial the same comforts found in the X-SCAPE Low.


WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR (Conclusion)

Matt: The Deckers Lab footwear series is a maximal series of running inspired casual shoes. With a large amount of comfort provided, these are great for relaxing and non-running activity. Some components have been added that may help with recovery, namely a softer ride, a rockered sole (not all of the models may have enough) and a higher volume fit. I found the SNPR Mid a very comfortable shoe for walking around the house, but did not have enough of a rocker and upper security for more extensive wear. Thus it is a bit expensive for a house slipper. The X-SCAPE Mid, while heavy, is very protective, comfortable and styles very well. This is perfect for those who want a very protective, high ankle collar maximalist casual shoe with an adjustable amount of volume. There is a massive amount of shoe, so you are paying for volume. I would like to see these shoes lightened up a bit, but they are extremely protective and will last for extremely long periods of time. The price is somewhat justified on the X-SCAPE series given the uniqueness in a well designed maximal casual shoe. This may change as more companies consider moving in this direction, but Deckers Lab is the first out the gate.

David:
I think the Deckers X Lab footwear series is for those looking to maximize their recovery and lifestyle combination. The footwear is aesthetically pleasing while still being very comfortable throughout. I have stood on my feet for full days in these shoes with minimal soreness at the end of the days. The shoes are a little steep on pricing, but they do have a style that dabbles in each category to find one piece of footwear that will work for most consumers. For me personally, the SNPR Mid and the SLIDES are the two that I would look into for personal investment. The X-SCAPE Low is a shoe that I have also used in clinic many times as well.

Nathan: The Deckers X Lab is exciting in that they are putting real collaborative effort into creating daily footwear. I hope to see it continue to trend in a positive direction that combines what we know about recovery, style, and performance. I see the X-SCAPE Low as a daily shoe option for those who want a very soft footbed and slipper-like upper and don't mind an aesthetic with a little identity crisis. The KO-Z series are a great set of comfortable slippers for those who can swallow the price tag. The SNPR Mid is a great winter time slipper and transitional slipper for moving from running, cross country/downhill skiing, and then ultimately just lounging around the house. The SLIDE is a nice adjustable option for those who like some freedom for their toes and don't mind a more synthetic footbed, while the VENTURA takes the slide and makes it much more versatile. The Mule will be for those who prefer clogs and the overall wool level of comfort given the footbed being of wool. That said, I would caution those with balance deficits and issues with stairs given the extended heel without a secured heel.

Bach
: Something we haven’t talked about is the culture of shoes like the New Balance 990 series that has led to the dad athletic shoe movement. There are many parallels in the Deckers x Lab story with the 990 series: born out of running, a premium shoe with a premium price that’s custom made to combine street style with comfort and performance. Those who love the 990 series out of New Balance or related shoes will find themselves perfectly at home in the X-SCAPE Low. It’s a seriously eye-catching shoe that will stand out in the crowd, but also provide you with comfort and everyday performance that other athletic shoes don’t quite match in. I think the sandals potentially have a place, with the Slides being the best of the bunch currently, but could use some refinement to help really replicate what Teva and Ugg have done so well in the past already, and to some extent Hoka with their recovery slides.

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Interested in Decker's Lab sandals? Check out Running Warehouse here. Using this link to purchase running gear helps support the work at Doctors of Running. We greatly appreciate it!

Available at Running Warehouse:
KO-Z Slide | $130
KO-Z Mule | $130
KO-Z Gldtr | $130
KO-Z Venture | $140


FURTHER READING

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Thanks for reading!

TESTER PROFILES:
Dr. Matthew Klein is a 140 lb male with notable PRs of 14:45 for 5k and 2:32:44 for the full marathon.  He typically runs 70-100 miles per week and trains at a variety of paces from 8min per mile recovery runs to 4:40 per mile 1k repeats.  He prefers firmer and responsive shoes with snug heels and medium to wide toe boxes.  He is particular to less cushioned shoes and close to the ground shoes, but can handle a little cushion when he gets beat up. IG handle @kleinrunsdpt

Dr. David Salas is a 135 lb male with notable PRs ranging from 3:54 in the 1500m to 1:08:36 for half marathon. He typically runs 60 to 70 miles per week and trains from about 7:30 recovery runs to fast shorter efforts at 4:30 pace. He normally prefers neutral shoes with a firmer ride, but is completely open to other types of shoes.  He is a footwear enthusiast at heart and will always appreciate a high quality shoe when it comes around. For updates on training or testing, IG handle: @docsofrundavid

Dr. Brown is a 155 lb male with notable PRs of 18:18 5K, 39:25 10K, 1:29:01 half marathon, and 3:54 marathon. He typically runs between 20-40 miles per week at a variety of paces from 7:30-8:30 min/mile for recovery runs to 6-6:45 min/mile for tempo runs. He typically prefers shoes that provide some cushioning underfoot but still maintain a more firm and responsive feel. Current goals for 2020 are to break the 1.5 hour half marathon and 3:30 marathon. IG handle: @nate.docsofrunning

Editor's Note: As always, the views presented on this website belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts. This website should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking medical care. If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your local running physical therapist. If you are in the Los Angeles area, I am currently taking clients for running evaluations.

Matthew Klein, PT DPT OCS FAAOMPT
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists

Nathan Brown PT DPT MS
Doctor of Physical Therapy 
Masters in Anatomy and Clinical Health Science
Movement Performance Institute Certified in Advanced Functional Biomechanics 

David Salas PT DPT CSCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

Bach Pham MS
Marketing and Social Media Manager
Master of Arts in Cultural Anthropology

***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the  people at Deckers Lab for sending us several pairs.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We systematically put each type of shoe through certain runs prior to review. For trainers and performance trainers, we take them on daily runs, workouts, recovery runs and a long run prior to review (often accumulating anywhere from 20-50 miles in the process). For racing flats we ensure that we have completed intervals, a tempo or steady state run run as well as a warm up and cool down in each pair prior to review. This systematic process is to ensure that we have experience with each shoe in a large variety of conditions to provide expansive and thorough reviews for the public and for companies. Our views are based on our extensive history in the footwear industry and years testing and developing footwear. If you are a footwear rep looking for footwear reviews or consultations on development, we are currently looking to partner with companies to assist, discuss and promote footwear models. Partnership will not affect the honesty of our reviews.

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