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 Xtep 160x 2.0 Review 

By Chief Editor Matt Klein

The Xtep 160x 1.0 was a unique shoe that we were able to get our hands on last year after I spent weeks working through international websites. Since that time, more Chinese companies have continued to debut their own carbon fiber plated marathon racing shoes. Unlike most of the shoes coming out, the Xtep 160x 1.0 and now 2.0 have a bit more traditional stack height. This sets them apart, providing a now unique option for those who may not want a max stack height shoe but still want a PEBA based, carbon fiber plated shoe. The 2.0 returns with an updated upper and some sole resculpting that provide some additional stability in the rearfoot with a surprising amount of flexibility in the forefoot.

XTEP 160x 2.0 in hand, "the Matt shot" with pairs in hand. Outsole lightly seen on left shoe. Red side of XTEP seen laying above with yellow sidewalls.

Specifications for the XTEP 160x 2.0
Weight: Unknown
Measured Weight Men's US Size 10: 8.5 oz / 235 grams
Stack Height: Unknown
Drop: Unknown
Classification: Distance Racing Shoe 

Blue side of the XTEP 160x 2.0. Lateral view. Heel foam seen curving up sharply.

RUNNING SHOE SUMMARY

The Xtep 160x 2.0 is for those wanting a carbon plated, PEBA foamed shoe with a more traditional stack height and a little more flexible forefoot for longer races and tempo runs. With a slightly firmer PEBA foam and a unique plate design, the Xtep 160x provides mild stability at the heel and forefoot while still having enough cushioning for use as a lightweight trainer. A new upper provides a secure, slightly snug and slightly long fit that handles swelling from longer efforts well.

The forked plate is shaped like an X, providing a snappy forefoot that still maintains stability and a stable heel. For those wanting a great tempo/uptempo shoe that can handle longer distance racing, the Xtep 160x 2.0, now available to individuals in the US without the hassle of navigating international websites.

Upper view of both pairs. Red pair on right, blue pair on left. Moderate padding seen and XTEP written across both forefoots

FIT (LENGTH / WIDTH / COMFORT)

The Xtep 160x 2.0 fits me true to size in my normal men's US size 10, if not a hair long. This version features a completely new and redesigned upper. The overall fit is similar to that of most lightweight trainers being slightly snug. The heel and midfoot are normal to snug in width. The forefoot opens up and provides plenty of room for a racing/lightweight trainer, which combined with the slight bit of extra length provides enough room to handle mild swelling over long miles. The mesh material used is fairly secure and provides only a little bit of stretch. The heel lock down is very good thanks to the mildsnugness and a flexible heel counter.

I did not have to lace lock the shoe and the security was good even while turning. The heel counter did not bother me at all despite there not being a ton of heel collar cushioning. The tongue is very thin and does slide a little during fast turns but overall has been fine. This is not a shoe I would use sockless as the new upper is scratchy against bare skin. So I would suggest using socks, which will also help with the slightly long fit. 

Close up of the XTEP heel. Extended heel seen with sharp cuve up. Some Chinese writing on the heel. A part of the foam is seen in bright light blue.

PERFORMANCE (RIDE / SPEED)

The Xtep 160x 2.0 is a distance racer, but doubles as a lightweight trainer. The midsole foam is a firmer PEBA (PB) foam that feels similar to Saucony PWRRUN PB. The 160x 2.0 is not a max stack height shoe and has a more traditional stack height, similar to a training shoe. This amount adds to a little more firmness in the midsole. When the pace picks up it becomes responsive, but the ride is not bouncy. It has enough protection though that the 160x 2.0 can easily be used as a lightweight trainer. The heel drop, although not provided, feels like it is in the 6-8 mm drop range. It isn't too high or too low. There is a carbon plate in this shoe, although it is forked like the previous version. This adds some snappiness to the midsole, but still provides a little flexibility. This makes toe offs smooth enough to handle some daily training, but snappy when the pace picks up.

There is a significant heel bevel, although it is centered. This makes breaking the shoe in a little stiff, but this breaks in a creates a fairly smooth ride. The midfoot transition is somewhat awkward. Despite the carbon fiber plate, the elevated midfoot causes the shoe to bend/flex there, which feels awkward until the pace picks up. Use wise this shoe feels best at tempo and uptempo efforts. The PB foam and plate design make this shoe great for runs where consistent paces are needed. The mid range stack height and not aggressive carbon plate do not make this shoe optimal for extremely fast runs. The collapse/flex that occurs at the midfoot is particularly noticeable for slower runs. Thus, the Xtep 160x 2.0 can be though of as a lightweight trainer.

It is great for tempo/uptempo runs but may be a little awkward for recovery paces unless you are used to lighter shoes. Some looking for a PEBA foam with a little more flexibility and a traditional stack height may enjoy this shoe for race distances from 10k to half marathon. Durability has to be mentioned as there is extensive outsole rubber that has no wear even after almost 70 miles. The midsole feels exactly the same and I expect to get a large number of miles out of this shoe. Thus far, the Xtep 160x 2.0 has one of the most durable outsoles of any shoe this year. 

Heel of the XTEP 160x 2.0. Sharp keep of the heel seen exposing outsole. Fairly flexible heel counter.

STABILITY 

The Xtep 160x 2.0 is a neutral shoe. However there are several methods that add stability. The rearfoot features elevated side walls, cradling the heel. The flexible heel counter adds to this without being too aggressive. Like the previous version, the plate is split in both the heel and midfoot. In the heel, the carbon plate comes up medially along the heel. This provides some gentle resistance to eversion/medial motion at the heel. The split forefoot plate will act like guiderails, keeping the foot a bit more centered through toe off. These methods seem to do well enough to offset the midfoot, which is narrow and as mentioned splits/flexes there. Those with midfoot instabilities should be cautious here, but those that need stability at the heel or forefoot will find this shoe acts like a mild stability shoe. 

Outsole of the 160x 2.0 X's seen through each midfoot. There is some cutout in the midfoot. Rubber across all of forefoot and edges of heel.

THOUGHTS AS A DPT / FOOTWEAR SCIENCE

I have many thoughts on this shoe. As mentioned in the review of the previous version, I really like the plate design. It still provides some forefoot flexibility for those who want a plate but do not want it to be absolutely rigid. We know from research that some people need more or less stiffness in their shoes to optimize their own unique performance (Mcleod et al., 2019; Ortega et al., 2021). So this is a great option for those who want a little less stiffness. The heel design is quite stable. The sole flare, thicker heel, elevated side walls, massive bevel, split plate and having the plate come up on the medial side of the foot create a very stable rearfoot. This somewhat offsets the continued problem with the midfoot.

     Midtarsal joint motion during gait

Elevated midfoot soles is something I have been criticizing for a long time. Even in shoes that used a trusstic system (plastic shank), my experience with patients is that when the trusstic wore out, the shoe began to bend there. Despite having a carbon plate, the Xtep 160x 2.0 begins to bend there almost immediately because the forefoot is also somewhat stiff due to the two extension from the plate there. The lack of midsole here creates a flex point, because less material inherently means more chance of motion. The problem with this happening is that there is not joint in the midfoot in this plane of motion. All the midfoot joints are NOT in the sagittal or frontal plane (front/back or side/side). They are all at varying diagonal angles. The midfoot is not supposed to flex like this. That kind of motion is reserved for the talocrural or ankle joint and the MTP or toe joints.

Those individuals with sensitivities of their midfoot ligaments or the plantar fascia may want to avoid this type of shoe as it may place additional, unnecessary stress in that region. If there is no joint there, there may be extra stress or compensatory motions to accommodate a shoe flexing here. I understand that companies try to do this to save weight or look cool, but there are many other ways to do this without putting certain people at risk for injury. For this reason, I would suggestion either stiffening/reinforcing the midfoot portion of the carbon plate or filling in the midsole here. This would certainly smooth out the ride here and the more comfortable a shoe is, the better. 

-Matthew Klein PT DPT OCS FAAOMPT

References

McLeod, Aubree & Hunter, Iain & Bruening, Dustin & Johnson, Aaron & Remund, Kirk. (2019). Running shoe optimal stiffness and speed. Footwear Science. 11. S207-S208. 10.1080/19424280.2019.1606336


Ortega, J. A., Healey, L. A., Swinnen, W., & Hoogkamer, W. (2021). Energetics and biomechanics of running footwear with increased longitudinal bending stiffness: a narrative review. Sports Medicine, 1-22.


Rear lateral view of the XTEP 160x.

RECOMMENDATIONS

My major recommendation echos my thoughts in the above section. The midfoot needs to be filled in to smooth out the ride and maintain integrity of that area of the shoe. The plate does not do enough and the shoe still collapses/flexes there. This may put certain people at risk for injury, so I would change this. Other than that, the Xtep 160x 2.0 is a solid shoe.


Close up on foam of 160x showing midfoot slightly cut into and elevated from ground.

WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR (Conclusion)

The Xtep 160x 2.0 is for those looking for a more normal stack height, carbon plated, PEBA based racing shoe for 10k to half marathon for most and up to the marathon for others. The fit is slightly snug with a very secure upper and there is a little extra length to handle swelling. The midsole is slightly firmer, but is very smooth during tempo and uptempo efforts. The X plate provides enough snappiness to pick up the pace, but still allows some flexibility through the forefoot. Some work still needs to be done on the midfoot as the shoe still flexes at the point, but the design of the heel and forefoot are solid. Chinese companies continue to produce interesting shoes and for those that are interested, the Xtep 160x 2.0 is worth checking out. 

Second Matt stacked shoes photo, with blue side this time.

GRADING (SHOE CATEGORY)

Matt
Fit: A- (Secure fit particularly in the heel and midfoot. Slightly more room in the forefoot with a little extra length for swelling)
Performance: 
B+ (Rides like a lightweight trainer. Feels best at tempo/uptempo efforts but can still be used as a daily trainer for some. Not versatile at slow or extremely fast paces)
Stability: B+ (Several non-traditional methods of stability in the rearfoot. Forefoot has forked plated that provides mild guidance. Midfoot is less stable due to collapse of midsole, but this smooths out at uptempo paces )
DPT/Footwear Science: B- (Solid points for x plate design for stability, but the midfoot collapse may place certain populations of people at risk for injury. )
Personal:  B+ (I have enjoyed this shoe most as a tempo shoe and the heel stability works very well for me. However, the midfoot collapse makes this shoe difficult for me to reach for over other shoes. Yet I continue to grab it as a lightweight trainer)
Overall: B+ (A unique option from the Chinese market for those wanting a shoe that doubles as a lightweight trainer and racer. Great for 10k to half marathon distances and those wanting a carbon plated super foam shoe with a little more flexibility in the forefoot)

VIDEO REVIEW



Listen in to Matt Klein's full thoughts in his video review of the shoe!

SHOP | SUPPORT DOR

Find the XTEP 160x 2.0 at https://global.xtep.com/.

Shop Gear We Love
Mizuno Wave Rider 25: New full length Enerzy is a simple joy. Soft, flexible forefoot is unique
Hoka Arahi 5: One of the best stability shoes of the year, and the best walking shoe as well. Versatile.

Rabbit Running Clothes: Incredibly soft, high quality clothing for your next run
Feetures Socks: Massively grippy socks that will make you feel more one with the shoe
Spring Energy Gel: Smooth and goes down easy. Great flavors
UltraAspire Fitted Race Belt: Fantastic fitting belt that's durable, quick-drying, and comfortable
Trigger Point Foam Roller: Help get those knots out post-run and feel better for tomorrow
Coros Pace 2 Watch: Excellent watch for various running goals and a massive battery life
Theragun Massager: This small version is great on the go for working tired legs

FURTHER READING

Find more carbon plated shoes at our resource page here.

Recently at Doctors of Running
Hoka Bondi X Video Review
August Round Up at Doctors of Running
New Balance 860v12 Review -
The premium stability trainer gets a big upper update to make the ride plush and comfortable for long miles
XTEP 160x 2.0 Video Review - Editor Matt Klein digs into what's new with the Chinese brand's updated carbon fiber plated racer
Running Research Resource Center
- Interested in scholarly research on running? Check it out here!
On Cloudstratus 2.0 Review - On Running revamps their maximal neutral trainer with a redialed midsole and new sustainable upper


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TESTER PROFILES:


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

Dr. Matthew Klein is a 150 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.  The stability guy of the group, he also prefers a little stability in his footwear. However, as a researcher, clinician and running shoe aficionado, he will run in anything. 

***Disclaimer: These shoes were purchased for their full retail price from the US Xtep website. 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.

Please feel free to reach out, comment and ask questions!
Contact us at doctorsofrunning@gmail.com

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New Balance 860v12 Review

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