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Xtep 160x 3.0 Review: Narrow, but Fast.
By: Chief Editor/Founder Matthew Klein

The Xtep 160x series is the continuation of Xtep's marathon racing shoe. The original was unique in that it was one of the few carbon-plated, PEBA foamed racing shoes out there besides the Saucony Endorphin Pro and the Nike Vaporfly (PEBAX). It was different than those two as it sat far lower to the ground and did not utilize the geometrical benefits other companies were having success with. It was a fun shoe, but the sizing was off and it did not perform like the others. Version 2 came along and there were clear improvements. The stack height increased, although there was a weight increase as well. A continued issue with the midfoot gap pervaded, but it was stiff enough that it was approaching some degree of performance as these other companies. Version 3 finally evolves into a true max stack, carbon-plated racing shoe deserving some attention. Like previous versions, it is still unique and will fit runners with a specific foot shape and mechanics. However, it is a demonstration that Xtep is starting to figure racing shoe design out and is making long strides forward.

XTEP 160x 3.0
Price: Not Provided
Weight: 7.0 oz, 200 g (men's size 8), Women's Weights Not Provided
Stack Height: 39 mm / 31 mm
Drop: 8 mm 
Classification: Carbon Plated Superfoam Road Racing Shoe


The Xtep 160x 3.0 is a carbon plated, max stack height, PEBA foamed racing shoe for those with stable/neutral mechanics wanting a narrow fit. A snug synthetic upper sits up top, providing a comfortable fit for those with narrow feet. A large amount of bouncy foam sits underfoot with a unique carbon plate that curves up around the heel, providing a guided ride at the rearfoot. A narrow shape at the heel and midfoot cut a large amount of weight, but sacrifices stability. This makes the Xtep 160x an excellent fast racing option for those looking for a lighter max stack height racer for 5k to half marathon for most. 


The Xtep 160x fits me true to size in my normal men's US size 10. The fit is snug/narrow throughout the length of the shoe, particularly in the forefoot. The forefoot has a significant taper, which combined with the synthetic see through upper gives it a track spike like fit. The upper is thin, but features many laminated overlays that provide a really solid lockdown. The rearfoot is well-padded and features a highly flexible heel counter. Those with heel sensitivities will have no issue with this shoe between the extra padding and how flexible the counter is. The tongue is thin to medium thickness and quite wide. It is not gusseted and is lock down by the laces. The wider fit required me to fiddle with it while putting it on, but I had not sliding at all. The upper material is more plastic, which combined with the laminated overlays makes this shoe best for use with socks. This is one of the few narrow-fitting racing shoes out there and those wanting that type of fit will definitely want to check the Xtep 160x 3.0 out. 


The Xtep 160x 3.0 is a carbon plated, PEBA foamed racing shoe. The stack height is quite high at 39mm/31mm. There is plenty of cushioning underfoot, but the stiff plate that sits close to the foot, particularly in the heel, makes the shoe feel far more responsive/snappy than cushioned. The forefoot feels a little softer compared to the heel but still has a rockered and snappy toe-off. The rearfoot is a bit stiffer due to the plate coming up along the medial and lateral aspects of the shoe in that area. The PEBA foam feels slightly softer than Saucony's older PWRRUN PB (Endorphin Pro 1), although still feels slightly firmer on the scale of super foams.

With the large stack height, there is still an 8mm drop. This is exactly what this feels like, especially with the slightly firmer heel relative to the forefoot. Despite the large stack height, the Xtep 160x 3.0 still feels highly nimble. This is due to the narrow platform it sits on making it feel less voluminous than other max stack height racers. The weight is around 7.4 oz for men's size 9 (my size 10 weighed 7.8 oz and size 8 weighs 7.0 oz per Xtep). With the lower volume, narrow fit and responsive ride, the Xtep 160x 3.0 feels best during tempo runs, intervals and faster efforts. It feels easy to run fast and turn the legs over, with the foam and plate working together to create a really snappy ride. Longer efforts were more challenging for me. This was not my first choice for longer workouts as I started to fatigue with the slightly firmer sole and narrow platform after 8-10 miles. Thus, the Xtep 160x 3.0 will work better as a 5k-10k and potentially up to the half marathon racer for most people. Those wanting a narrow-fitting shoe that has a little more firmness for a max stack height shoe may be able to take this up to the marathon, but should practice with it over longer distances first.

Durability wise the Xtep 160x 3.0 has done extremely well. There is a solid outsole that has remained intact after over 33 miles of use. I was not able to rip through it despite my best efforts and the midsole and plate have also maintained their resiliency. Not only is it a great shorter to mid-distance road racing shoe, but it will likely last for many miles. 


The Xtep 160x 3.0 is a conundrum in the stability department. It is technically a neutral shoe, but has elements that make it well guided and unstable at the same time in different areas. The rearfoot aspect of the plate does curve upward around the heel on both the medial and lateral sides. This is noticeable and not only locks the heel in place with additional midsole sidewalls but almost feels like a post on both sides. This provides a high level of guidance on each side. Those that want rearfoot guidance will like this shoe, but those sensitive to intrusive aspects may not tolerate this shoe as this is again noticeable. The midfoot is drastically different with an extremely narrow last. Fortunately Xtep filled in some of the midfoot compared to the massive midfoot gaps of the previous version. This prevents the shoe from flexing there and the transition is much smoother than previous versions. That being said, the midfoot is not stable at all. The contrast from the rigid/guided rearfoot can be a bit jarring unless you are moving at decent speeds and have decent midfoot stability. The plate helps somewhat to stabilize this but is unable to compensate fully for how narrow it is. The forefoot is fairly normal guidance-wise, with a more narrow shape (wider than the rest of the shoe). There is some sole flare on each side of the shoe and the forefoot aspect of the plate does stabilize this decently.

Overall, the Xtep 160x 3.0's narrow shape makes it far more of a neutral shoe, but the rearfoot does provide a high level of guidance in the form of the supportive medial and lateral curves to the plate. Those sensitive to unstable midfoot areas or those sensitive to pressure into their foot/posts should approach this shoe with caution.


High Specificity
By Matt Klein

The amount of guidance or stability in a shoe is never based on one factor, but on the culmination of all the parts (whether positive or negative). Having something that provides stability can easily be negated by something that takes it away. The 160x 3.0 is unique in that it is one of the few carbon plated, max stack height, super foamed racing shoes that has a feature that truly could be considered a stability measure. The rearfoot aspect of the plate comes up far enough around the medial and lateral aspects of the calcaneus that it feels like a post. It is great that they created this on both sides, as this could easily push runners one direction, like the Adidas Adios Pro 2's heel did (extreme posterior lateral bevel combined with a narrow and soft heel). It does an excellent job of cradling and creating a firmer hold on the heel, which may benefit those needing purely rearfoot guidance or stability in a racing shoe.

However, both the narrowness of the sole in such a max stack height shoe and particularly the extreme narrowness of the heel negates this as a guidance/stability shoe overall (it was never classified as one to begin with). The foot does not work in isolation, particularly with 26 bones, 30 joints, and 4 layers of muscles just on the sole of the foot to name a few. Attempting to stiffen one area of the shoe and leaving another less stable means any extra motion may occur there as compensation. The extremely narrow midfoot is not stable even with the plate and the contrast with the heel may make it even less stable for some people.

Fortunately, this shoe will work extremely well for a unique population. This with stiffer mechanics who want a narrow sole/fit will enjoy this shoe. Those who have hypermobile rearfoots and stiff/hypomobile midfoot joints will finally have a racing shoe just for them. While many people with hypermobilities tend to move quite a bit all over, that is not always the case. Often times stiffness can occur at the midfoot as a compensation for excessive motion at the rearfoot, particularly at the subtalar joint. A common treatment for this clinical may be to tape or post the rearfoot and work on midfoot mobility. For those that are looking for this in a racing shoe, the Xtep 160x 3.0 may work. Just keep in mind that overall balance and stability of the lower extremity is still needed given the extremely narrow sole and softer foam. 


The Xtep 160x 3.0 has taken massive steps forward as a high-level racing shoe. The stack height has been maxed out, giving the PEBA foam a chance to shine. The plate does narrow at the midfoot and combined with the somewhat filled-in foam, makes version 3.0 flex at a far better place. While I got the miles I needed to and moved on from the previous versions, the 3.0 is still a shoe I reach for during faster and all-out efforts given how the narrow upper fits like a track spike.

That being said, the narrow fit and narrow sole may make this shoe challenging for a large number of people. If Xtep plans to keep the PRO as the marathon racer, then the 160x 3.0 will fit perfectly as the 5k to half marathon racer. If they want to extend that distance, the sole and fit will need to be widened to accommodate both swelling and a larger variety of foot shapes.

I still would like to see that midfoot filled in a bit more and not narrowed so much. Higher stack height shoes are inherently more unstable. Hence the reason many of them have wider soles. Racing shoes can play with this thanks to the plate, but this shoe is too narrow to get away with that kind of geometry. 


The Xtep 160x 3.0 is carbon-plated, super foam racing shoe for those wanting a secure rearfoot and a spike like fit. The plate design combined with the high stack height of PEBA foam makes for a fast and snappy ride for workouts and 5k to half marathon efforts. Those wanting a narrow/snug foot will feel at home with the plastic synthetic mesh and flexible heel counter. A unique part of the plate design cradles the rearfoot, providing a design that those wanting pressure into their heels will enjoy. The sole is quite narrow, especially at the midfoot, so users will need to have stable mechanics, particularly in that area. A unique shoe that takes some solid steps forward (but still has a few things to work on), the Xtep 160x 3.0 is a rare super shoe for those with narrow feet or wanting the fit of a track spike for the road. 



The XTEP 160x 3.0 is a new generation racing shoe that provides the bouncy and protective feel of a peba based foam and the responsiveness and rigidity of having a carbon fiber plate. The geometry of the shoe is balanced decently well throughout with a moderate heel bevel and toe spring. The midsole foam is definitely soft and bouncy underfoot, though the plate does firm it up quite a bit. The shoe feels pretty stable throughout with having a wider plate through the heel and midfoot and having some sole flaring medially and laterally in the forefoot. The plate design is what seemed to get me though.

Unfortunately, I did have a little bit of a calf strain after running these. The ride is pretty fun, but I struggle with the forefoot transition. The shoe definitely feels fun, as it gets you up onto your forefoot and lets you push into that platform. The closest thing I can compare the feeling of the forefoot to is a track spike when you get up onto the spike plate. The shoe definitely has a little bit of an aggressive feel to it as you get closer and closer to toe-off. The shoe has a competitive weight comparable with many other racing shoes on the market and does provide a highly responsive ride underfoot. The spike plate feeling is normally something I like in a racing shoe, but I think my calves just struggled a little bit with it for longer miles. Overall a fun shoe though!

- Senior Contributor, David Salas



Fit: B+ (Narrow and secure fit that locks the foot down like a track spike upper. Flexible and padded heel counter)
Performance: B+/A-
 (Fast, snappy, cushioned ride that works best 5k-10k and maybe up to the half marathon. Best for faster paces)
Stability: B (Plate comes up around medial and lateral heel almost acting like posts. However, this is offset by the narrow shape and extremely narrow midfoot. Best for those looking for heel guidance but stable elsewhere)
DPT/Footwear Science: B (Solid improvements with the increased stack, full plate and unique rearfoot plate design. However, there are still several things that need to be improved, particularly as the higher stack is not offset by a wide enough sole, leading to a narrow and unstable platform. This will work for those looking for it, particularly those with narrow rigid feet, but few others)
Personal: B+ (A fun shoe for faster efforts. Snappy, stiff and a solid ride. However, I have trouble taking this shoe for distances past 10 miles, so it will not be my first choice for racing. Those with narrow feet however will love this shoe)
Overall: B+ 


Skechers Persistence - A beginner friendly shoe for daily training, featuring a forefoot H Plate for pop
Asics Metaspeed Sky+ - A big update to the super shoe stride racer
Topo Athletic Pursuit - A solid trail runner for almost any situation
New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Trainer - Brand new massive stacked shoe for long runs
Salomon Phantasm - Lighter, super rockered road shoe

Find all Shoe Reviews at Doctors of Running here.

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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 XTEP 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 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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