a natural flowing, more flexible and friendly super light carbon racer for the rest of us!

Article by Jeremy Marie and Sam Winebaum

Xtep 160X 3.0 ($193.68)

Introduction

The 160X 3.0 is positioned by Xtep as a marathon racer for runners with times between 2:30 and 4:00. Their PRO model will be positioned for those faster than the 3.0. The 160X 3.0 features a supercritical process expanded pellet TPU pellet midsole with a uniquely shaped carbon plate. Weighing within a very few grams of shoes such the ASICS Metaspeed Edge and Nike Vaporfly Next % at 7.4 oz  / 210g US9 with a very near the World Athletics max standard for stack height, on paper it has the goods to contend with better known brands.  The 160X 3.0 joins a family of racing shoes from the brand including the PRO we will be testing soon.

So who is Xtep? A Chinese brand started in 2007, they are now one of China’s leading sports and running brands. In 2021, they sold more than 16 million pairs of running shoes including more than 180,000 pairs of 16X series shoes. They sponsor over 30 marathons in China and have over 6000 exclusive shops. The earlier 160X 2.0 was worn by Nazret Weldu’s of Eritrea to her 4th place at the 2022 World Championships Marathon.  7 of the top 10 marathoners in China preferred the 160 in 2021. They have a state of the art Sports Science laboratory and even a Nobel Prize winner in Physics assisting in the scientific R&D of the foams and shoe structures with an emphasis on vibration.

Here at RoadTrailRun, we have occasionally tested Xtep with promising results including the 160X 1.0 (RTR Review).  The 160X 3.0 on the surface goes well beyond the earlier shoes and Jeremy and I were eager to put them through their paces on the roads of New Hampshire (USA) and in France.

Pros:

  • Friendly, non prescriptive, not overly rigid or aggressive geometry, foam, plate and ride Sam/Jeremy
  • Highly competitive weight for a 39mm heel racer at 7.4 oz  / 210g US9: Sam
  • X-Dynamic Foam foam in concert with plate is energetic, forgiving but also neither mushy nor overly firm. Only ZoomX may be better and only maybe : Sam/Jeremy 
  • Toray carbon plate with rear wings and loop shaped front delivers rear stability, no midfoot hold up at slower paces and a smooth, flexible, easy to find, long rolling toe off with a final spring way up front : Sam/Jeremy 
  • A sophisticated, polished fast any distance racer:  Sam
  • Priced very fairly at $194 delivered US from China : Sam
  • Secure grip even on wet pavement, and the outsole looks durable: no wear after 65kms including on some abrasive ground: Jeremy
  • Stretchy laces offer nice hold with a welcome foot accomodation in an otherwise snug but not constrictive upper: Jeremy

Cons:

  • Tongue wants to fold, care when lacing required. : Sam/Jeremy
  • Snug race fit front to back, too snug for a hot marathon? I was sized a half size up from my normal and would stay there with anything other than very thin socks.: Sam

Stats

Weight: men’s 7.4 oz  / 210g US9  /  women’s oz / g (US8)

  Samples: men’s  7.4 oz  / 210g US9   8.3 oz / 237g (10.5US)

Stack Height: men’s 39mm heel (estimated) / mm 30 forefoot (estimated). No official stats provided.

Available now Xtep Global Store HERE $193.68 (delivered US)

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Bright and cheery in rose, white, and yellow the styling sets a friendly tone, as the ride and performance proved to be as well for me.

The upper is a thin single layer engineered mono mesh type. It is pliable if dense. This is not a soft and silky type feel upper being a bit plasticky in texture and feel to the touch. 

We have toe bumper structure down the sides from a translucent underlay along with medial printed overlays in the toe off area. The front fit at my half size up is very secure and very comfortable if somewhat low in volume and width.

The midfoot has a plunging thin overlay on the medial side with an array of thinner overlays laterally. I was worried that given there is no gusset tongue and the midfoot platform is so carved out I would not have enough support at midfoot but the wide carbon plate there  the seems to take care of that while not interfering (as Puma FAST-R’s plate does) with transitions as does the non stretch of the relatively low volume upper. 

The lacing system has 6 lace holes (plus lace lock hole) in an asymmetrical pattern. While the lace up is surprisingly easy, the very soft lightly padded grid mesh tongue is tricky to get flat without paying close attention. The soft suede material lining the entire inside of the tongue and wrapping to the outside could have more edge structure to prevent the folding. 

Lastly, the tongue extends very high. Handy to pull things up and in no way a bother but I wonder if its length is in part to feature the branding?

We have a substantial heel counter which is rigid down low and towards the back then progressively softer the higher it goes. 

It has relatively soft inner pads and is quite high at the rear and at the very top center rear, maybe a bit too rigid. I had no issues but some may. I advise not wearing no show socks without first trying on a shorter run.

Finally the 160X is supplied with 2 sockiners and extra green laces. The 2nd sockliner is a thicker, more dense EVA. Given the low volume of the shoe, even at a half size up I have kept the thinner one in place 

All in all we have a very comfortable, effective more race fit upper that I think is appropriate for the relatively narrow platform. My half size fits both my narrower right foot and wider left foot appropriately but those looking for a wider race shoe fit are not likely to find it here.  

Jeremy: The colorway of the shoe is very dynamic. The mix of white, bold pink at the heel fading to light pink at the front medial side, and the yellow outsole just showing upfront makes for a distinctive look.

The branding on the top of the toes keeps the same colors palette, and also serves as a light structural element. 

The white parallel wavy lines serve the same purpose and add a nice touch to the look, which I would definitely describe as ” elegantly dynamic “.

A solid white overlay goes all around the shoe, from the base of the laces to the heel, and is no stranger to the efficient foot hold the Xtep offers. 

The heel counter is fairly rigid but perfectly isolated from the foot by a thicker padding. 

The fit is definitely snug, especially for my wide feet, but I’d say it’s comfortably snug. 

The result is a firm and secure foothold, without being too constrictive.  A reason for this are the stretchy laces. I’ve always found this to be a very nice and simple solution for combining a snug fit and still allowing some foot swelling and some comfort for higher volume feet. 

The fit and upper material of the Xtep 160x 3.0 reminds me of the Puma Fast-R, with the same translucent, plastic looking, yet light and breathable upper material, the secure midfoot hold with stretch (although the Fast-R achieve this using an integrated stretch tongue) and a very secure heel hold.

The toe box is not overly wide, and being quite demanding on this aspect of shoes, I did not suffer from cramped toes during my runs, even 25kms with some good downhills. 

One negative aspect, which concurs with Sam’s findings: the nicely padded, stretchy tongue, full of holes for breathability, has a tendency to fold, especially near its top. It might be due to its unusual width, but anyway: take the 3 necessary seconds to put it correctly.

Midsole

Sam: The midsole is made of what as best we can tell is a supercritical processed expanded pellets TPU (ETPU) foam. So think of a lighter, less dense higher and quicker rebounding Boost. TPU material also has the advantage of being less expensive than PEBA most often used in super shoes. 

Xtep claims the following about its midsole foam:

  • Excellent rebound resilience: as high as 85%, far higher than traditional EVA and PU materials, and more than 28% higher than ETPU

  • Featherweight lightness: particle density as low as 0.08 g/cm3, 15 times lighter than hair and 36% lighter than ETPU

The feel is not as firm and is bouncier than the expanded PEBA beads foam in Saucony PWRRUN PB in the Endorprhin Pro and Speed 1 and 2. It is about the same softness as Saucony’s new PWRRUN PB to pressing but on the run is a touch firmer and less bouncy. 

It is clearly not as soft (overly so for me) as New Balance’s FuelCell as in the Elite and Rebel. It is not as dense and firm as Flight Foam Turbo in the ASICS Metaspeed or the Lightstrike Pro in the Adios Pro 1 and 2 but is closer to the slightly softer and more resilient feeling foam in the Pro 3. It is softer and with more rebound feel than Skechers Hyperburst. The New Balance, ASICS, Skechers, and adidas foams all not being beads based.

Of course there is also ZoomX to consider. ZoomX has a silkier somewhat smoother rebound feel and is about the same firmness with the Xtep ACE foam a bit bouncier in feel.

The feel of the foam is of course only one part of the equation as we must also consider the geometry and the plate.

The carbon plate in the 160X 3.0 is clearly a new approach. Plates in these light foam high stack shoes have two purposes: stabilize the softness and high stack and provide propulsion. Here we have a sophisticated design which is far more than a “spoon” having multiple zones in the design each with a purpose. It is formed of T700 carbon fiber with the base material coming from Toray of Japan, the world’s largest supplier of carbon fiber.

Left: Front of shoe Right: Rear of shoe

And unlike just any other carbon plated road super shoe we have tested,  the plate and geometry actually gives the shoe some flex: a bit starting at the mid foot helped by the gap then somewhat more through the ball of the foot and yet more at the very front. Flexed in hand it feels springy unlike other carbon shoes which are totally rigid.

The plate as shown in the exploded view above and below includes rear wings. They clearly help stabilize what at 80mm is a narrowish heel landing. VF Next % 2 is at 70mm so far narrower and we know not very stable. 

The wings work very well in combination with the stout heel counter. As they are on both sides they don’t over prescribe the landing, aren’t felt as sharp edges and one doesn’t have to fear they over do support as “rails’” in some support/stability training shoes do for me. Basically the wings are true guide rails and not overt pronation control.

Moving to the midfoot the plate is broad and full covering the width of the skinny 60mm midfoot platform with midsole foam closer to the ground in the gap narrowing further.  

Despite the plate’s width at midfoot and in combination with the narrow midsole there with the plate’s flex there is no sense of getting “hung up” at midfoot as can be the case in some super shoes, an example for me of this is the Puma FAST-R,  if one lands a bit too far back or as pace slows yet at the same time the narrow gap is also stable. 

The front part of the plate is essentially a loop instead of a full central surface, rods, or forked. The plate sits low in the shoe but with a layer of foam below so the front is quiet and I  have not  felt any plate harshness so far. 

Left: Front of shoe Right: Rear of shoe

The plate’s loop allows the center of forefoot to remain foam for cushion and as it sits a bit inbound of the edges there is compression of foam at the sides for toe drop in to toe off although one less dramatic than in some shoes such as the very rigid Endorphin Pro 1 /2 or Adios Pro 2 /3. Compared to the Vaporfly with its fuller more rigid plate located closer to the outsole the toe off is less explosive/snappy and is more flexible and cushioned, thus more marathon focused for me while the VF leans more shorter races in the comparison.

The midsole combination of foam and plate delivers a soft well cushioned landing, an easier than usual transition through midfoot (even at somewhat slower paces), then a sense of dropping down onto the lowest part of the plate at the ball of the foot. Finally, there is  a high feeling of a flexible front spring effect from the plate  that is easy to activate given the plate is flexible and the geometry is a loop instead of a full rigid front plate. 

This is not an aggressive elite focused midsole design and feel but in my view is an ideal one for the 2:30-4:00 marathoners Xtep is focused on with the model and it is also my sense leaning more towards the 3 hour plus runners than the way sub 3 ones.  Really smooth and easy to move along with a forgiving feel that is less about snappy, abrupt, or anywhere “disconnected” along the length of the stride and more about a smooth flow, consistency and comfort. 

Jeremy: Sam perfectly described the technical aspects of the midsole build. 

What struck me most was the flex of the shoe from the midfoot to the forefoot. Amongst my staple of carbon plated shoes, it is by far the most flexible. Even the Adios Pro 2 with its energy rods, that one could think they would have more flex, is way more rigid. 

The foam is a nice compromise between density and rebound. It clearly has more ” life ” to it than the FF Turbo found in the MetaSpeed Edge+, more bounce. It may be a bit softer than the Adios Pro 2 but I find it reacts quite closely, with the same feel of energy return. Not overly exaggerated, but it’s clearly felt. 

In contrast to some other plated shoes, the hole in the plate upfront front allows for a big stack of foam between the ground and the central part of the foot, without any firmness added by the plate: I think that it emphasizes on the foam quality for forefoot strikers, yet still getting benefits from the plate guidance and propulsion. 

Outsole

Xtep says: The wear resistance of the CPU outsole remains effective for a mileage of 2,000 km, 3 times higher than the ordinary rubber sole, and the weight is 60% lighter. We’ll see about that but what I can say so far, with only dry road run, is that the outsole has outstanding grip not only from its unique model name raised surfaces but from its notably tacky material. 

The outsole is made of CPU, not sure what that is yet but it is relatively soft and plays well with the rest of the shoe as it is nearly full coverage except for the deep decoupling groove and mid foot cut out. 

Jeremy: During my almost 70km in the shoes, I’ve never managed to trick the outsole. Even on wet paved roads, or marble-like stone near the beach, the Xtep sticks to the ground. 

It’s funny to see how the lugs shape doesn’t play a big role in grip for road shoes seeing as the 160X 3.0 lugs are just the name of the shoe. Yet the shoe grips like the best PumaGrip equipped shoe or Adidas’ renowned Continental soles. 

Despite some hard, abrasive, rocky ground, the outsole shows no signs of wear, which is a good sign for durability, even though I’ll probably stay far from Xtep claims of 2000kms!

Considering the behavior of the foam, I’m not sure that the outsole plays a big role in stabilizing the midsole, and it also stays quite flexible, not changing much the character of the foam/plate combination. 

Ride

Sam: The 160X 3.0 has a friendly yet serious ride. By that I mean it is stable, linearly well directed and has pleasing rebound. Its flexible carbon plate doesn’t over dictate how to run them be it stride pattern or pace. They are not great to run slow (slower than 10:15/ mile for me as they get a bit wobbly but strangely and unlike many are easy to walk in. As the  pace picks up they get smoother and smoother. I found my approximate marathon pace of about 8:30 mile quite truly nearly effortless. At faster paces down in the 7’s I had to focus more on forward drive to really activate the plate and front rebound from the foam to get the extra speed given my old guy low knee lift. That’s OK.  

I find them far easier to run and maintain (with a smile) my relatively pedestrian paces with a consistently easier to find flow than shoes such as the Metaspeed Edge +, Adios Pro 3, and Puma Fast-R.  Xtep marketing says the model is focused on marathoners between 2:30 and 4 hours and I would be at the high end of that scale.  I think the ride is just right for that group.   

They are maybe not quite as snappy fast as my Vaporfly Next % 2, my favorite racer and  especially the OG baby blue. I liked the original as it has an easy to find and maintain groove. The 160 does too but it is more mellow and less abrupt in nature with a longer roll from its flexible plate.  Truly a superb riding super shoe that is friendly and forgiving enough without over dictating how to strike and thus is not a rough, awkward or just plain wrong for my stride type chore to run.  Yet, at the same time, and clearly due to its low weight, high stack, great foam, and effective carbon plate design the 160X 3.0 is all fast business. 

Jeremy: Sometimes, when you put a new shoe on, you feel that things seem to flow all together. The step-in is comfortable, your toes have adequate room, you easily find the right tension in the right places with the laces, and this continues during the first run: even during the first kilometers, the shoe just flow with your stride, naturally, helping with a nice rebound and efficient plate, but not forcing you to push the pace, nor being over directive. 

This is exactly what happened to me with the Xtep. 

I was expecting yet another rigid, inflexible carbon plated shoe, probably efficient, but what I’ve found is something way more subtle. 

I won’t talk too much about the heel part as I’m not really a heel striker, but from the few heel strikes I have forced, it seems just a tad more stable than my Vaporfly or Adios2. Not as stable as the Scott Speed Carbon RC though, but those have a way less responsive foam and a broader platform. 

But for the midfoot striker I naturally am, the Xtep 160 just smoothly flows with my stride.

The transition from midfoot to toe off is slightly directed by the very flexible plate, adding a nice touch of stability in the process, and in combination with the dense but bouncy foam makes for a very efficient if not explosive toe off. 

I’ve gone through all my paces (from 5k to easy) with the sweet spot for me being somewhere between a bit faster than HM pace and a tad slower than Marathon pace (let say between 3´50/km and 4´30/km). In this zone, I got the bounce of the foam (less bouncy than Endorphin pro 3 for instance, more serious dare I say), the snap of the plate and all the flexibility I’d like from a versatile shoe. It really does not feel like a super shoe that can be too directed, too explosive, or too bouncy. It  definitely feels more like a supercharged tempo shoe that feels natural. 

The smooth rolling character is really appreciated on longer runs where they clearly help to maintain a tempo pace. 

This is achieved with a perfectly adequate foot hold that appears less snug on the run than it can feel when putting the shoes on. I think the slightly elastic laces play a big role in this. 

  

Conclusions and Recommendations

Sam: Xtep is eager to prove their X series performance running shoes are world class and should be considered outside of China where the brand is very well known and respected. 

With the 160X 3.0 they are for sure on their way to doing so with a unique plate design and excellent foam and geometry that instead of just focusing on the needs of top elites seeks to address the needs of more mainstream serious racers, even slower older ones such as me.

The upper is light, very secure and particularly appreciated is the nice solid if a bit high and rigid heel counter. I have no qualms with the upper beyond the tongue could have more sides structure to keep flatter and be easier to get right before the run.The fit may be a half size small (low volume and a bit narrow ) for some as I am happy at half size up whereas in other super shoes I have always been true to size. The styling is bright and cheerful.

Xtep succeeds here with a friendly high performance racer that “ticks” the boxes of max stack height at low weight via supercritical foam and carbon plate. But they go further. The unique carbon plate design allows not only the use of the forgiving (but not crazy soft and mushy) foam but sufficient rear stability for us more heel striking runners, an easy flow forward through midfoot, and a smooth more flowing and for sure more flexible toe off than I have experienced to date in a carbon plated road shoe, reminding more of some of the new more flexible carbon trail shoes.  

At about $194 delivered to the US it is a very solid value in a carbon plated high stack and light racer. 

Never awkward, friendly, fast and comfortable they deliver a notably pleasing well cushioned, stable half to marathon ride for me, maybe lacking in aggressive snap for shorter races in comparison to some but for sheer versatility without being overly “strict” in how they need to run they are top shelf.

Sam’s Score: 9.57 / 10

Ride: 9.65 Fit: 9.4 Value: 9.7 Style: 9.3

😊😊😊😊 ½ 

 

Jeremy: Xtep wants to step out of China and prove to the running world they’re serious, and the160x 3.0 couldn’t do a better job at this. This is a very subtle, civilized carbon plated shoe that works at many paces, so for many runners. They might not be as explosive as some of the ” big ones “, and I think particularly of the VF as it’s, for me, its closest cousin, still staying at the top, but Xtep has delivered this very natural feel that will fit many. 

Natural feeling, secure, grippy, apparently durable, efficient foam and plate design, top notch upper…there’s not much to dislike in the 160X 3.0! An excellent surprise for me!

Jeremy’s score: 9.6/10

Ride: 9.7 Fit: 9.4 value: 9.7 Style:9

😊😊😊😊 ½ 

Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Left to Right: Alphafly 2, Endorphin Pro 3, Xtep 160X 3.0, Metaspeed Edge+, Vaporfly Next% 2

Nike Vaporfly Next % 2 

Sam: What Xtep was clearly aiming for… Do they hit the target? The Nike is about 10g lighter mainly coming from its 10mm narrower heel platform, the forefoots being the same width. Zoom X still has a silkier more consistent rebound but.. X-Dyanmic gets close and delivers a slightly softer and more bouncy feel. I would say, at least so far, they are equally as leg friendly. Xtep’s plate and geometry delivers a more easy going flow it has some flex with than the more abrupt long rolling to toe off Nike and its fas (and proven so many times) ride. The 3.0 is clearly more stable at the heel being wider and having its carbon wings. I am true to size in the more open knit like and pliable upper of the VF with the denser Xtep upper at a half size up lower volume overall but equally if not more secure. Not ready to call a winner yet as I have not raced the 3.0 yet but my sense in this match up is that I would stay VF for races below a half and depending on course I would pick the 160 for a hillier half due to its stability and the VF for a flatter course. Over a half in this match up, I would lean towards the Xtep which is saying a lot again for its stability and its especially its easier flexing front as my pace drops off to around 9 minutes miles towards the end. 

Jeremy: I concur with Sam here. The VF is still clearly more dynamic, aggressive and efficient especially for shorter distances. I still ” fly ” more easily in the VF at tempo paces and to marathon pace. But the Xtep has its softer, more flexible character that I find more relaxing, more easy going if not racing. I’d almost put it as a perfect training partner to the VF actually, especially considering their greater stability. 

ASICS Metaspeed Edge + (RTR Review)

Sam: I had high hopes for the Edge+, a shoe much like the 3.0 focused on a rolling motion as opposed to a more vertical high knee lift drive (Sky+, Alphafly 1). The ride is more monolithic than the Xtep, firmer/denser, and with a sharp response but not much sensed rebound. A couple grams lighter the Edge+ is yet more stable than the Xtep and while not “pleasant” handles slow paces a bit better. Edge+’s upper is broader and almost as secure and more marathon easy on the foot than Xtep. It was also clearly true to size whereas 3.0 runs a half to quarter size small. No question the easier flowing, more flexible carbon up front, and softer but not overly soft foam of the Xtep has it an easy winner.

Jeremy: the Edge+ was a bit of a disappointment to me. I did not run the previous MetaSpeed, but really thought I’d get a winner here. But I found the shoe ” meh “. Light, supple upper but with heel hold issue for me. Laces that don’t stay tied. And the ride, if very stable, had nothing special. No bounce, little sense of energy return, and despite the facilitated quick rolling transition to toes, it wasn’t really helping on keeping the pace up. No question here that the Xtep with its far more secure upper, soft bouncy foam, flexible plate is head and shoulder above. 

 

Adidas Adizero Adios Pro 3 (RTR Review)

Sam: Nearly as soft but far more rigid and prescriptive the Adios Pro 3 is a more resolutely elite focused shoe requiring a consistent mid foot landing and more knee lift to be effective. Its foam is less energetic and forgiving in feel. It is more disjointed in feel overall with in particular a final toe off focused on dropping forward fast and hard while the 3.0 has an easier flow for slower paced marathoners.  No question while somewhat lower volume the Xtep upper, apart from the tongue is superior with the real heel counter, Pro 3 has none as elites aren’t back there much, appreciated. Easy win for the Xtep here.

Saucony Endorphin Pro 1 and 2 (RTR Review)

Sam: The Endorphin Pro 1 and 2 is considerably firmer in feel and its carbon much more rigid. It relies on an abrupt final toe off spring that is not easy to maintain at anything other than my 10K paces. The Xtep is softer and more energetic in its rebound with its plate action actually closer in flex to the Endorphin Speed 2’s nylon plate although obviously stiffer and springier.

Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 (RTR Review)

Sam: The Endorphin Pro 3 is softer than its version 1 and 2 and for me softer and bouncier than the Xtep. They actually have a similar forefoot feel with Pro a bit softer and bouncier but the 160’s heel is clearly not only more stable and supported but easier to transition off of for me.

Jeremy: I find the Pro 3 so fun to run with its soft, bouncy foam, yet still very stable up front. Not an easy one for me here. The Xtep is far more flexible than the Pro 3 but I find Saucony’s Speedroll geometry to be very efficient in masking the shoe’s rigidity. They work very for me at many paces and feel lighter on foot. I’d choose them over the Xtep if I don’t need the 160X more stable ride.

New Balance RC Elite v1 (RTR Review)

Sam: The Xtep is actually somewhat closer in feel to the RC Elite 1 than the very soft v2. Think of the RC Elite 1 with more stack, a bit softer overall with a more flexible plate and you get to the 160.

Puma FAST-R Nitro Elite (RTR Review)

Sam: Similar uppers here and a similar very carved out midfoot. Both have very stable heels with the Puma with its light EVA yet more stable. I find the very rigid FAST-R plate quite hard to get past at mid foot  with my heel striking unless at very fast paces for me, say 10K pace or below.  Once past the mid foot,  the softer bouncier Nitro up front is fantastic in its energy return but..you have to get there consistently which I find awkward. Clear nod to the Xtep for me here.

Jeremy: this is the shoe that came to my mind when opening the Xtep box. Same kind of midfoot design, if far less extreme in the Xtep, same kind of upper, fit…

Despite the very stable heel, the Puma is clearly not made for heel strikers. The transition is kinda cut off  in the middle of the shoe. But with a midfoot strike..oh my, those are fast shoes that work incredibly well for me. The Nitro foam under the forefoot is both soft and bouncy and has tons of energy return. You just need a little engagement to activate the plate. If you’re in shape and aiming for fast times, the Fast-R takes the lead. Otherwise, the easier Xtep will get more use.

Nike ZoomX Alphafly 2 (RTR Review)

Sam: Far broader at the heel, incredibly stable with a blend of air pod vertical rebound and some new found roll up front this is a tough match up. The AF is far more mechanical in feel, less pleasant but highly protective and energetic while the 160 has much more soul, more front flex and a smoother, more “natural” and pleasing flow. The AF can also more easily double as a training shoe for me as it also handles slower paces better than the 160.  If I had a marathon tomorrow I would lace up the Alphafly 2. For races shorter to be determined but would lean 160 for a 10K and AF for a half at this point  I was true to size and just fine in the AF, half size up and equally fine in the lower volume Xtep.

Altra Vanish Carbon (RTR Review)

Sam: The Vanish Carbon has a similarly pleasing rebounding foam and a flexible carbon plate. It weighs just 0.25 oz more with less heel stack and maybe a few millimeters more forefoot stack as a zero drop 33mm stack.  It lags the Xtep for me in being zero drop which even with the flexible carbon is not in my view the way to go in a fully plated shoe as it runs flatter and harder to transition. While its upper is clearly higher volume all around it does not have the solid heel counter and hold of the Xtep.

Scott Speed Carbon RC (RTR Review)

Sam: The only other super shoe other than the Altra Vanish Carbon with a flexible plate. The Scott is yet more stable, heavier and has a non-supercritical and firmer foam. It might be called the step up in time and stability shoe for slightly slower marathoners than those for whom the 160X is best suited.

Tester Profiles

Jeremy MARIE, French, 40y/o. Running since 2013 and quickly transitioned to trails, focused on ultras since 2015 : TDS, Maxi-Race, “100 miles du Sud”, 90kms du Mt Blanc, GRP 120kms, Some shorter mellow races (Saintelyon 45kms, Ecotrail Paris 45kms…) with always in the mix road and flat running, but not many road races. Recovery/easy runs ~4’45/km – 4’30/km. He has an un-official marathon PR of  2h54 (solo)  and 10K of  36’25. He does few timed road races and focuses more on triathlon now (HIM and aiming at IM). 

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 65 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2022 will be Sam’s 50th year of running. He has a decades old 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range if he is lucky,  training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs, if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.

Available now Xtep Global Store HERE $193.68 (delivered US)

Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes by Xtep. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors’

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