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Deckers X Lab Recovery Footwear, Late 2021
XSCAPE Knit Low Full Review, Wool Low, Evrst and Ba Da Da
By DOR Contributing Team


Deckers X Lab came into the recovery game with a bang over the past two years with the KO-Z and XSCAPE footwear lines. Both of these lines continue to develop with more advancements and materials to create a more expansive usage for these recovery lines. The XCSAPE Knit Low is an advancement of the original XCSAPE utilizing a knit upper that is reinforced well and softer than the original and provides a more sleek look aesthetically.

Featured in this review:
- XSCAPE Knit Low Review
- Thoughts as a DPT: Comfort and Recovery
- Contributor brief reviews of the XSCAPE Wool Low, Evrst, and Ba Da Da

Find the rest of our Deckers X Lab thoughts in our original review here.


XSCAPE Knit Low Review
$100 at Deckers x Lab


RECOVERY SHOE SUMMARY

Senior Contributor David Salas: The Deckers XCSCAPE knit is is a shoe aimed at delivering the body with a sense of recovery and softness underfoot without compromising aesthetics or lifestyle. The difference between this model and the previous is that this is essentially an upper change focusing on knit materials. The materials are a little more breathable and soft than the original XSCAPE upper. For time on feet positions or casual wear these shoes have done quite well for helping my recovery. 



FIT AND PERFORMANCE

David: The Deckers XSCAPE Knit Low fits true to size in my normal men's 9. Because this shoe focuses more on recovery and lifestyle wear, I chose to go down a half size since there would be less swelling or need for room in the shoe. The knit material is a little bit more stretchy and thin than the original upper of the XSCAPE, however the knit is still on the thicker end compared to most knit running shoes. The dimensions of the shoe are very dialed in with normal width in the heel, midfoot, and forefoot. The upper or locks down really well in the heel and in the midfoot. There is a toe guard present, however it has not been irritating in any way. There is also no heel counter present, rather a thin layer of flexible plastic/overlay adhered to the knit in the region. The upper holds very well and really knocks the fit section out of the park. I think the comfort of the actual knit material could be a little improved as it is on the thicker end and does require a little breaking in to make it feel fully natural on foot, but otherwise a really stellar upper.

For the intended use of the shoe, I feel like it did a great job. The XSCAPE Knit Low does seem to ride a tad firmer than the original XSCAPE, but still utilizes that same Deckers XLab critical foam through the large majority of the midsole. The heel and forefoot have a much firmer substance that seem to double as a form of stability and as a heel and toe guard. The result firms up the ride for sure and gives the shoe a little more of a rocker sensation when performing gait. This is not a problem for me as I actually really appreciate it. Even though there is firmness in the heel and forefoot because of the thickening of these regions, there is also a moderate amount of forefoot flexibility at toe off. For being a high stack recovery shoe, the stability components and flexible toe off actually make it feel really nice and natural at these transition points. This is a shoe I wear in the clinic very often.

Bach: The Knit Low ran true to size for me (using my running shoe size). The fit is glove-like, but accommodating due to the stretchy knit. Cool detail: the shoe is highly sustainable with 80% planted-based knit and features a sugarcane EVA midsole underneath. The one piece upper's tongue and pull tab is absolutely key to sliding the foot with this design. Once in, the shoe locks down incredibly well throughout. This detail is important in terms of comfort: anyone looking for a more relaxed fitting shoe will definitely want to consider the original XSCAPE Low. This is a very athletic fitting shoe. Shoes like the Ultraboost come to mind in terms of the performance fit over the foot. This may be a deal breaker depending on what you want from the shoe.

The midsole of the shoe is a bit firmer than the original XSCAPE Low, which inherently makes it a very stable shoe. Walking in the Knit Low is very smooth and fluid with the rocker feeling more prominent due to the firmness. This is a shoe for someone who prefers a slightly firmer, but comfortable daily use shoe that has a very athletic look and fit compared to the rest of the XSCAPE line. It is also extremely durable with a very cool outsole that features little hexgonal pods that grip well in any condition. As a walking/recovery shoe you'll likely be getting many hundreds of miles out of this pair. I've had the shoe for about two months now and the shoe looks as fresh as day one. The shoe is also very agile at 9.5 oz/276g and feels light on foot thanks to the snug design.

STABILITY

David:
Being in the recovery category of footwear the Deckers XLab XSCAPE Knit Low doesn't utilize many formal stability components. However there are some things that make it much more stable than its predecessor. First, it continues to utilize a wide platform underneath the foot which creates a large amount of cross sectional area to walk over creating a stable feeling underneath the foot. It also utilizes a thickening of the foam with sole flaring in the rear foot bilaterally as well as a toe guard that seems to do the same thing extending into a slight sore flare to further increase the cross-sectional area. The thickening in these regions also decreases the amount that the foam can deform underneath the foot and does seem to help keep the foot moving in a linear direction. The knit upper is also reinforced very well, and although it is a little bit thicker than I would like it to be he does hold the foot onto the platform really nicely. The traction throughout the full contact outsole also does a good job of gripping onto a good amount of surfaces. It isn't quite trail ready, but it'll do its job in most situations. 


THOUGHTS AS A DOCTOR OF PHYSICAL THERAPY (DPT)

When looking at a piece of recovery footwear it is important we shift our focus on the necessary components of a shoe. For example, I'm not too worried about responsiveness or a lively toe off. I am more interested in the relationship with the foot and the platform and how natural the transitions are. The aim of recovery shoes is interesting, for you want to give the foot a stable platform yet a forgiving one at the same time. On top of that the recovery category of footwear isn't exactly deep and still has a lot anecdotal evidence vs empirical evidence. Despite all of that, Deckers XLab does a good job of this with incorporating the sole flaring in the rearfoot and forefoot that is accompanied by a higher durometer foam that helps keep the foot feel centered. The large majority of the midsole is their critical foam that is really resilient and holds its structure while also being very soft underfoot. With the two components above mixed, this shoe does come off a little bit more firm than the original XCSCAPE but feels more natural. There has been some research to suggest a softer midsole underneath can increase the muscular activity of the lower leg in stabilizing muscles and be productive in recovery. This is assuming these muscles are not overactive as well. This is why I like the design of firming up the rearfoot and the forefoot while still allowing for natural flexibility at toe off. The shoe begins to feel like an extension of your foot, but really padded. After working full time hours the combination has worked quite well in my own recovery. You can tell there is some experimentation going on in the recovery footwear category and I'm here for it. I think some innovation for this specific category can only increase our knowledge and see what works for consumers. 

- David Salas, PT, DPT, CSCS

RECOMMENDATIONS

David: My main recommendations are on the upper materials. I really like the direction of having an option with a knit upper, however this upper does seem to be on the stiffer and thicker end. After breaking it in it does feel much more comfortable, however I would like for the material to be a little bit softer on foot and a little bit more sock like. Otherwise, I'm actually really happy with the model as it is currently.

Bach: My recommendation mirrors David. I think the upper could benefit from a much softer material to help emphasize the recovery aspect. A softer upper - even something like the excellent hypoknit on New Balance products - paired with this firmer, yet cushioned and smooth rolling underfoot would be really fantastic. This is important also to help really identify it from running shoes, which people may end up deferring too over the shoe. Adding that touch of premium may make it a better selling point for Deckers.

WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR

David: The Deckers XSCSAPE Knit Low is a piece of recovery footwear for those looking to ease the pressure on their feet after running sessions. The way the shoe is designed does give it some cross over in to the lifestyle components of wear and has done really well for me in the clinical setting. It gave me a chance to rest my feet without having discomfort at the end of the day from prolonged standing while also being a fashionable option to pull out.

Bach: The Knit Low fills a unique gap for anyone who wants a more athletic piece of footwear that is snug, not overly soft, but still comfortable and very smooth rolling. If you are deciding between the Deckers line, this would be the most stable of the XSCAPE line, most athletic aesthetic, and most firm, yet still very well cushioned of the shoes. This is great for casual outfits when you want to pair something sports-oriented, but comfortable on underfoot at the same time. The color options also the most simple of the XSCAPE line and offer a sleek look compared to the other Lows. Additionally, it is the most affordable of the Lows to boot, coming in at $100, well under its siblings.


GRADING

David
Fit: A- (Dimensions and fit are great, I would just like the knit material to be a little more soft and comfortable)
Performance: 
A (Great for time on feet, upper is reinforced well and comfortable throughout day, though thick)
Stability: A- (Really good for a naturally high stack and softer shoe, good rearfoot and forefoot stability)
DPT/Footwear Science: A- (Using components like heel and toe guards and upper integration to create fluid transitions done nicely in this shoe)
Personal:  A (A comfortable option I can dress up and wear casually, my feet thank me)
Overall: A- (A really good option for recovery post runs for those that have to be on their feet for many areas and would still like a shoe with a touch of firmness)

Bach

Fit: B+ (True to size for running footwear, and no doubt locks down well. Loses points for comfort as I think it can be softer)
Performance:
A- (A really fine rolling shoe. The mix of rocker and slight firmness makes you move)
Stability: A- (Firm ride and snug fit along with a decently wide base makes it inherently stable despite a high stack)
Personal:  B (Doesn't fully hit my needs due to the athletic look and upper when I want something more classic like a Vans or Converse)
Overall: B+ (A great shoe if you want that combination of athletic styling and a smooth rocker to get you from A to B, but may be a little too specific for others who want something more relaxed or softer in terms of recovery. Also a good price point into Deckers)


 
XSCAPE Wool Low
$130 at Deckers x Lab


Contributor Andrea Myers: I love the XSCAPE line of shoes for both recovery and for work. I spend most of the work day on my feet and I find I feel better after walking around in my X-SCAPE Low shoes. The fit of the Wool model is similar to the others in the X-SCAPE line, except for the upper, which fits tighter and requires looser lacing than the NBK or Sport models. The wool material is soft and warm and the shoe is very comfortable to wear sockless. I find the heel collar in this model and the NBK to be too padded, but it does seem to compress slightly with extended wear. The Contoura insole is very cushioned and does mold to the foot after a couple of days of wear. This does help to improve the overall fit of the shoe, as the foot sinks down into the insole.

Grade: B+/A-

Senior Contributor David Salas The Wool Low hugs mild to moderately narrow through the heel, midfoot, and forefoot. The wool material itself is very warm and placed strategically throughout. I like that the tongue is not covered in wool as it provides a little bit of breathability to the rest of the shoe. I think the materials are comfortable but I think the fit could be refined a little better.

Grade: B/B+

Social Media Wizard Bach Pham: The Wool Low provides the super soft, super comfortable midsole seen in the original XSCAPE with an 80% wool/20% recycled polyester upper. The fit is very similar, except that the volume in the toebox is very low. It does stretch overtime, but is a bit snug at first. Make sure you purchase your running shoe size for this pair. Once broken in, the shoe is cozy and wraps the foot well, like a warm hug. Design wise, it's a bit slimmer than the original low, with no extra padding in the heel area and a bit of a lower volume throughout to give it a refined look. I actually would like to see the shoe get more and more refined for everyday use, along with sleeker laces to help give it less of a kid-shoe look. Comfort-wise though, this matches that XSCAPE Low experience, but for the winter months. For changes, I would love to see a lot more volume in the forefoot area to provide room for toe splay and comfort.

Grade: B+

 

Senior Contributor David Salas: I have never been a huge flip flop person but these have been growing on me. The platform underfoot provides plenty of underfoot cushioning and it feels great following long efforts. The thong portion of the sandal probably could be improved a little bit to help with locking the foot down to the platform. I find that the sandal works really well when I get my foot as snug into the anterior portion of the thong as possible, but it does not provide much room for error. If I’m not pushed up against it all of the way I can feel some instability and rolling of my foot and ankle on the platform. With how wide and soft it is, you don’t want to leave too much room for the foot to do crazy things. Otherwise a great sandal.

Grade: B/B+

Contributor Andrea Myers: The BA DA DA is a good flip flop for tired, swollen running feet. It is ideal for immediately after a race or a hard workout when you need something on your feet, but don’t want anything actually restricting your feet. The base is very wide and the fit is a little loose due to the foot straps being situated a little too far forward on the dorsum of the foot. I would not walk long distances in this sandal due to this lack of stability. The EVA midsole provides light arch support and has more cushioning than most flip flops. The heel bevel and meta-rocker contribute to a smooth gait pattern, no matter how slowly you are walking. This sandal is best as a recovery sandal. I would not recommend it as a sandal for everyday use or even as a house shoe due to the lack of foot lockdown from the straps. This could be improved by making the straps tighter or by making them wider and providing more coverage over the midfoot (similar to the strap design of the EVRST).

Grade: B

Contributor Megan Flynn: The width of these sandals took some time to get used to, however after walking around in them for a bit, they grew on me. The width of the underfoot allows for free movement of the toes which is a great quality not seen in many slippers or flip-flops. The comfortable upper strap locks down the foot very well, making them feel secure throughout the foot. The Meta-rocker and layered foam creates a rolling feel each step and is unique to these flip-flops versus other recovery sandals. As a flip-flop, they have a bit more of a higher stack and extended rearfoot than I would normally prefer, but overall they’re an excellent sandal/slipper option!

Grade: B+

Social Media Wizard, Bach Pham:
These are the widest flip flops you will find. This does take time to get used to, but provides a large comfortable platform to land on. It has all the elements seen in other Deckers X Lab products, with a rocker and bevel that makes it weirdly good transitioning flop. Use-wise, this has been a staple around the house for me. I've used it while working at home, taking out the trash and doing yard work. It's one of the most affordable shoes in the Deckers X Lab line at $45 which admittedly is a lot for a flip flop. There is a strong outsole here though that is plenty durable and will last you through many regular flip flops. I like the design in general for going over some dirt or even sand as the wide platform and rocker helps work through all of it much easier than a traditional flip flop. If you are a major beach goer, or someone who just really likes using a light flip flop for quick errands or things around the house, this is worth a look. PS: Size down a full size if you'd like a less wide fit.

Grade: B+
 
 

Contributor Megan Flynn: These are a perfect cross between a slipper and a flip-flop making them an excellent recovery shoe to walk around your home in. Every point of contact with the foot is covered in a wool layer providing the ultimate softness. The wool and the upper strap are snug (more snug than the BA DA DA due to the added thickness of the wool layer) which adds to the comfort by providing a more secure fit. A lot of slippers have pretty poor ventilation, but the EVRST are pretty unique in that they have the comfort of a slipper, while also having the breathability of a flip-flop. Like the BA DA DA, they have a higher stack height than I would prefer.

Grade: A-

Contributor Andrea Myers: I have really enjoyed using the KO-Z EVRST as a recovery shoe and house slipper. I love the high stack, firmer cushioning, and the soft nubuck/wool upper and wool/memory foam footbed. The straps are on the tighter side, but as the memory foam insole breaks in, the tightness of the straps feel secure rather than constrictive. The toe post is wrapped in memory foam and is not irritating like other flip flops can be. The heel bevel and meta-rocker feel similar to the X-SCAPE line and contribute to a fluid gait pattern, which is much appreciated after a hard workout. The flip flop design (as opposed to a slide or mule) allows the foot to breathe and provides room for swollen feet. This has become my go-to house shoe after workouts or anytime my feet are tired.

Grade: A

SHOP | SUPPORT DOR

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FURTHER READING

Find our review of original Deckers X Lab products here, updated with new contributor thoughts!

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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.

***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the  people at Deckers for sending us a pair.  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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Contact us at doctorsofrunning@gmail.com

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Best Stability and Stable Neutral Shoes of 2021

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