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Xtep 160x Pro: Super Stats, but is it a Super Performer?
By Chief Editor Matthew Klein

While footwear companies in the United States have been experimenting with PEBA foams and carbon plates, several other companies throughout the world have not begun to experiment, but integrate these materials across their entire running line. Xtep's original super foam/plated shoe, the Xtep 160x, was a good initial attempt from the company for both versions one and two. There were some slight issues, particularly with fit, midfoot stability and higher weight than necessary. However, clear lessons were being learned. The recent selection of racing shoes from Xtep has begun to expand. A new shoe to the lineup, the Xtep 160x Pro, takes everything learned from the original 160x and takes it to a maximal stack height. Featuring a huge amount of midsole at 39.5mm/36mm and billed as a marathon racer, the Xtep 160x Pro enters the quickly expanding Super Shoe Trainer/Longer Racer category.

Xtep 160x Pro
Price: $250 at Xtep Global
Weight: 8.9 oz, 255g (men's size 8), Women's Weights Not Provided
Stack Height: 39.5 mm / 36.5 mm
Drop: 4mm 
Classification: Carbon Fiber Plated Super Foam Performance Trainer




RUNNING SHOE SUMMARY

The Xtep 160x Pro is a highly cushioned, PEBA-foamed, carbon fiber plated performance trainer. A large amount of foam sits underfoot, providing plenty of responsive cushioning for easy to tempo paces. A secure and slightly thinner upper sits up top, providing a racing style fit that has a little more volume for longer efforts. The Xtep 160x Pro features a bit more weight and a higher level of durability underfoot, making it a great option for those who want a lower drop, faster, highly cushioned performance trainer that can handle long runs, longer racing and workouts.

FIT 


The Xtep 160x Pro fits me a hair short, but otherwise true to size in my normal men's US size 10. The slightly shorter fit comes from the quick taper at the toes with a little thicker toe guard. The toe box is lower volume. Those who are between sizes may want to go up a half size if they are interested in using this shoe for longer efforts. I have used this shoe for up to 15 miles and have fortunately not come away with blisters, but have certainly noticed the pressure up front with longer efforts. I personally prefer this shoe true to size as it provides a little snugger fit through the heel and midfoot. Meanwhile, the forefoot has has a more normal fit. The upper is a thin synthetic mesh that does not stretch. There are additional overlays, especially in the midfoot that with the laces help lock the shoe well on the platform. The tongue is not gusseted, but locks down decently well by its attachment to the laces. The heel features a stiff heel counter that is covered by some moderately thick heel collar cushioning. This does lock the heel in well and I have not had to lace lock the shoe. However, as the cushioning in the heel collar begins to compress, I have begun to feel the counter against my Achilles insertion. Thus, those who are sensitive to stiff/hard counters may not do well in this shoe. The large number of overlays and the synthetic mesh make the Xtep 160x Pro best for use with socks which contributes to a snugger fit that is secure.




PERFORMANCE 

The Xtep 160x Pro is a performance trainer with a full-length PEBA midsole and a carbon fiber plate. Xtep is advertising it as a marathon racer, which may be appropriate for some people. However, it is on the heavier side for a marathon racing shoe, coming in at 9.7 oz for my men's size 10. This weight is noticeable. The incredibly high (but legal) stack height of 39.5mm/36.5mm does provide a ton of bouncy cushioning underfoot. This feels good for both uptempo training as well as faster efforts. I was concerned that the higher weight would hold the shoe back, but found that the Xtep 160x Pro excels at steady efforts from long run to half/full marathon paces - particularly at longer uptempo or tempo runs. It can handle shorter faster workouts, but would not be my first choice due to the heavier weight. For most people, it will be a full marathon racer (maybe half) if they want a little more shoe than others. Most may find this as a "Super Shoe Trainer" given the similar characteristics, but with better outsole coverage and durability.

The Xtep 160x Pro is a lower drop shoe. The 4mm drop is immediately noticeable and feels almost zero drop. This is likely because I am a heavy heel striker. The transition at the heel is fairly smooth thanks to the large bevel and transitions into a stiffer forefoot. The forefoot does feel stiff at slower paces, which combined with the lower drop can be hard to get over going at easier efforts. It takes the shoe and my body a few minutes to break into that. As the pace picks up, this transition is much smoother. This is just another reason that this shoe works better for uptempo and tempo efforts unless you like lower drop shoes.

Having a thick outsole and being a performance trainer, the durability of the Xtep 160x Pro is good. I have 54 miles on my pair and only have a little wear on the posterior lateral heel (have not worn through the outsole). The midsole foam has continued to break in, becoming slightly softer and bouncier with a few more miles. Thus, I expect the Xtep 160x Pro to be a more durable performance trainer that will double as a long run/workout shoe for higher miles for those who want to spare their less-durable super shoes.

STABILITY 


The Xtep 160x is a neutral shoe. There are a few methods that may improve foot lockdown, but this is not a stability shoe.  There is midsole flare, but it does not reach the ground, thus preventing it from contributing to stability. The actual sole width that is in contact with the ground is fairly average to slightly narrow in the heel. The midfoot contact is extremely narrow and elevates slightly. Combined with the softer foam and high stack height, this is not a stable place. The heel is better with a more normal width. There are also sidewalls in the heel, which combined with the stiff heel counter does provide a stable rear. The carbon plate also extends into the medial side and goes far enough to be visible. This provides a secure fit and a more stable heel. However, this contrasts greatly with the midfoot. The forefoot is better, with a slightly wider shape (consistent with most super shoes) and the rigidity of the plate adds torsional stability.

The Xtep 160x Pro has a decently stable heel and forefoot, but a narrow and unstable midfoot. Thus, for those with midfoot instabilities, this shoe may not work or may only be used for shorter distances. Most will find this shoe works best for those with neutral mechanics or those with mild stability needs in the heel.




THOUGHTS AS A DPT / FOOTWEAR SCIENCE

People who read/watch/listen to Doctors of Running have frequently heard me discuss narrow midfoot and midfoot gaps. The wider a platform is, the more inherently stable it is. The more narrow, the less stable. The taller a platform is, the more potential for instability UNLESS it is balanced out with a broader platform.  Combining a tall and narrow platform is not a great idea except for certain people. Someone who has an extremely rigid foot AND a high level of intrinsic muscle strength in the foot and hip may do fine with a narrow midfoot as they do not need an inherently stable platform. Everyone else may have trouble either as they fatigue or if they have side-to-side instability. With the narrowness of the midfoot in the Xtep 160x Pro, both those who go too far lateral or medial may have trouble.

RECOMMENDATIONS

I have enjoyed training in the Xtep 160x Pro, but would personally not race in it due to a few factors that I think can be improved upon. I mentioned this above, but the midfoot does need to be widened. A platform this tall becomes inherently unstable unless you have an appropriate base. It doesn't need to be super wide, but the lower drop combined with the softer foam and narrowed midfoot is not going to do well for those who have any extra side-to-side motion or if some. The pseudo outsole midsole in both the heel and forefoot don't really do anything for stability. If Xtep wants this to be effective, that flare needs to reach the ground. Otherwise, it is just a waste of space and unnecessary weight.

To be competitive with some of the other marathon/longer distance racers out there, some weight needs to be dropped. My size 10 is coming in at well over 9 ounces and is far above its true competitors like the Nike Alphafly (even version 2), Adidas Adios Pro 3 and others. I think some additional weight could come off by toning down the midsole flare and/or redistributing it to be more effective. The excessive amount of posterior foam sticking out the back of the heel is also wasted weight. There are a ton of ways to redistribute and reduce weight in this shoe. At this time, this is a really solid PEBA/plated trainer/longer distance racing shoe for those who want a shoe that can double for both, but falls short of many of the competitors. 

WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR 

The Xtep 160x Pro is for those who want a slightly snug fitting, lower drop high stack height, full-length PEBA/carbon fiber plated performance trainer for uptempo training, workouts and marathon racing. The upper provides a balance between a training and racing fit, with a secure and slightly lower volume fit locked down by a stiffer heel. A stable heel combines with a less stable midfoot, making a ride that is better for those with more neutral mechanics. A full-length PEBA midsole makes the ride feel far faster and lighter than the listed weight. The high stack midsole provides plenty of cushioning for longer efforts, but the durability of the sole makes this an excellent choice as a trainer/racer for those who want a little more durable shoe for training efforts while saving their lighter-weight aggressive racers for race day and key workouts. Many will find plenty of responsiveness for marathon racing, particularly those who like a little more shoe and using performance trainers for racing. The Xtep 160x Pro is a unique progression from this company, pairing extremely well as a workout/training companion for the shoes like the Xtep 160x 3.0.


GRADING 

Matt
Fit: B (Slightly snug/secure fit. Toebox tapers and toe guard causes pressure on toes. Rigid heel counter locks heel well, but is stiff)
Performance: 
A- (Bouncy, low drop, responsive ride for both training, long runs, workouts and marathon efforts/races)
Stability: B (Stable locked in heel, but unstable midfoot due to high stack and narrow width)
DPT/Footwear Science: C+ (High stack height of PEBA and plate create a responsive and fun ride. However, the taller stack height, extremely narrow midfoot and waste)
Personal: B+ (A great shoe for training and workouts. Not light enough or stable enough in the midfoot for me to race, but is a great shoe to expose me to PEBA and plates without being as aggressive or wearing down my other super shoes)
Overall: 

SHOP | SUPPORT DOR

Running Shoe
Price: $250 at Xtep Global

*Using the link to purchase helps support Doctors of Running. Thanks so much!

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FURTHER READING

Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 - Bigger, with tons of cush for the long distance
Asics Metaspeed Sky+ - A big update to the super shoe stride racer
Topo Athletic Pursuit - A solid trail runner for almost any situation
Puma Run XX Nitro: A women's specific trainer with broad stability elements
Saucony Endorphin Speed 3 -
The fan favorite comes back more stable than ever before

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 Global 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.

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

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Topo Athletic Pursuit

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