Xtep 160X 3.0 PRO (1299 Yuan, approx. $190)
Editor’s Note: Our review will feature the experiences of a wide pace range of marathoners and half marathoners from 2:18 (Matt), 2:39 (Derek), 1:23 half (Bryan) to 1:40 half (Sam, if he is lucky.). The samples were provided at no cost with no other compensation by Xtep and this review is not sponsored content.
Derek: I probably have the most experience with Xtep shoes in the group. I own the Xtep 160x 1.0, 260x (also known as RC260 in the international market), the 160x Pro, and now in this test the 160x 3.0 Pro. By far my favorite long run shoe of the past year has been the 160x Pro and it has been absolutely bombproof in terms of cushioning and durability for me, powering me to multiple runs over 20 miles for my last marathon build, so naturally, I was very excited to get to try the new version.
Sam: The 160X 3.0 Pro is a new pinnacle marathon racer from Xtep.
It features a max cushion 4mm drop midsole of expanded pellet supercritical foam, a multi dimensional carbon plate with rear stability wings, a CPU outsole, and a mono mesh upper. At a 41.5mm heel -37.5mm forefoot stack, as measured by Derek it has a slightly lower heel stack and higher forefoot stack than Nike’s Alphafly 2 measured in the same way and weighs a competitive (given big forefoot stack) 8.4 oz / 238g US9 (sample)
Xtep is a Chinese brand started in 2007 and is 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 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.
The new 3.0 Pro differs from the 160 X 3.0 (RTR Review) the 160 X 2.0 and the 160 X Pro, and this is funny to say, in being the most “traditional” of the brand’s super shoes. By traditional I mean the others have varying degrees of flexibility starting at midfoot, while the 3.0 Pro has a broad full spoon shaped front to its T700 carbon plate and is a traditional rigid rocker super shoe. All the Xtep share rear carbon stabilizing wings as part of their plate designs and all plates are more sophisticated in design geometries than any I have tested.
Matt: I have seen and heard bits of information of the XTEP range and especially the 160X line, the most interesting bit for me was seeing the number of Chinese and Japanese Elite Marathon runners racing in them, as well as Nazret Weldu’s 4th place in Eugene.
Being a running store owner and being unable to stock Nike due to their direct to consumer approach here in the UK the last couple years as I’ve moved up to the marathon distances I’ve been determined to get out of the Nike Alphafly and Vaporfly and into something I at least have the option to stock. So when the chance came in my London 2022 marathon build-up to test the XTEP 160 X 3.0 Pro I was very excited.
Bryan: Xtep is the second largest running shoe brand in China, behind Li Ning, and ahead of 361. The Xtep is my second pair of Chinese carbon-plated shoes after 361’s Flame, which was a sensational racer. I mention the Flame as the midsole foam resembles that in the Xtep 160 X 3.0 Pro in that it is pelletized, but diverges in the compound used. The Flame utilizes polyurethane (PU) and the Xtep an undisclosed compound said to be made with the first “PISA supercritical foaming technology” with a claimed rebound resilience 85% higher than that of PU. Xtep’s representatives did write RTR saying: “.”PISA supercritical foaming technology the same as HDI+TPU supercritical foaming material and ETPSIU material.”
As Sam mentioned, the Xtep employs a T700 (T stands for Torayca, which is made by Toray Composite Materials America Inc.) carbon plate. Surprisingly, my Italian road bike (Basso Diamante) is made from a blend of Torayca carbon fiber.
There are several variants of Torayca carbon. The T700 used here is known for its use in the drone industry. No surprises that the T700 was chosen, as it offers a fine balance of lightweightness, flex and price. All this tech and science has gotten me excited! Read on to find out what we think of the shoe.
Nils: I don’t have any experiences in any of the Chinese brands mentioned above. The one you may stumble upon in some run specialties here in Germany is 361°. But I haven’t put my feet in any of their models. Therefore I’m very pleased that Xtep was so generous to send samples of their new top end marathon racer over to Europe. I’m very curious about what is happening in the massive Chinese market. I believe there are some brands there who have the R&D resources of the likes of Nike or adidas and it’s very exciting to see myself if they can compete with what the big western brands can offer.
Jeff: Like Nils, this is my first Chinese shoe, and while I’m a bigger and slower runner than any of my colleagues, I’ve run in a wide variety of super shoes from other brands. While Xtep is a smaller company than many of the more common Western names, this shoe brings something special to the table from the very first step. Don’t be scared by the recommended mile times listed for the shoe, if I can make it work, you probably can as well.
Max cushion, soft and very springy – Derek/Sam/ Matt/Bryan/Nils/Jeff
Great for long runs and longer marathon-pace workouts – Derek/Sam/Matt/Nils/Jeff
Excellent “super trainer” adept at a variety of paces: Sam/Matt/Bryan/Nils/Jeff
Broad front of plate and rear wings play very well with soft cushion at landings & toe offs Sam/Jeff
Excellent outsole durability – Derek/Matt/Jeff
Very well and forgivingly cushioned, especially at the forefoot (about 36-37mm) without losing much if at all of the carbon impulse: Sam/Matt/Nils/Jeff
Non prescriptive as to stride type or pace: No mid foot “hang up” even at slower paces, easy transition, smooth flowing, with an energetic mellower toe offs for a carbon shoe: Sam/Matt/Jeff
Stable (if soft) heel on the flats (less so on downhills) due to carbon wings: Sam/Nils
Superb upper hold and comfort if more on the snug and non stretch side: Sam/Nils/Jeff
Incredibly bulbous forefoot, encouraging forefoot striking: Bryan/Nils
Very strong value at sub $190 for a state of the art marathon racer: Sam/Matt//Jeff
Heel stability is not great – Derek/Bryan/Jeff
Weight still slightly on heavier side (despite being lighter than the Xtep 160x Pro) – Derek/Sam/Nils
Lowish over the big toe due to non stretch mesh: Sam/Bryan/Nils
Wish it had 6-8mm drop instead of 4mm to allow heel strikers to more quickly activate the plate after midfoot:: Sam
Front of plate could be more flexible, less extensive as in other Xtep to allow a smoother roll to toe off: Sam
Rocker design, got me to drive through my hips more, increasing my efficiency, but leaving my hips tired and sore after: Matt
Unstable on tight bends or track work: Matt
Fit issues (not true to size): Bryan
Left my calves a bit sore the day after a 30k long run – probably because of the rigid plate: Nils
Weight: 8.4 oz / 238g US9 (sample)
Samples: men’s 8.8oz / 249g US9.5, 8.4 oz / 238g US9, 8.1 oz / g US8, 8.04 oz / 236g US8
Measured stack 41.5-37.5 (vs Alphafly at 42/38); vs Xtep 160x Pro at 40/34)
Pricing delivered no charge from China to US: 1299 Yuan ( approximately $190 USD)
First Impressions, Fit and Upper
Derek: Xtep has historically used ripstop type mono mesh uppers for almost all their models, and I feel like with each new model, their grasp of the right fit for runners has improved a little. I remember their very first 160x model (reviewed on RTR) fit very long and somewhat on the narrower side. With each new model, the fit has gotten a little more true to size. Their most recent trainer, the RC260 (aka 260x in the Chinese domestic market) was a near perfect fit for me in terms of width and length.
Now the 160x 3.0 Pro builds a little bit more on that with a slightly more rounded toe box that I think will appeal to a wider global audience (I’ve noticed Chinese brands as a whole tend to have toe boxes on the narrower and pointier side).
The colours are quite flashy, which is typical of Chinese preferences, and here, Xtep went with asymmetric colours for the left and right shoes. They really stand out in a crowd for me.
Fit for me is true to size here, with medium thickness socks. The immediate step in feeling is great. The ripstop material is soft and flexible, and once you lace up, the upper wraps your foot quite well. The underfoot feel is very soft and pillowy, and really reminded me a lot of the Nike Alphafly v1 in this regard.
A word on the extra sockliners that come with the shoes. It seems to be a thing with their “Pro” models. One set of sockliners is made of the beaded PEBA foam (15.5g), while another set appears to be conventional EVA (17.5g). I remember some instructions included in the box of my original 160x Pro recommending to train with the EVA sockliners and swap out to the PEBA sockliners for a little more rebound in races. Here, the 160x 3.0 Pro has the PEBA sockliners in the shoes while the EVA sockliners are included separately in a case as shown above.
In another interesting twist one sockliner is blue and it goes in the shoe with the coral red tongue and laces while the coral red sockiner goes in the shoe with the blue tongue and laces.
Off foot the translucent upper allows the sockliners to show through & provide the front colors.
Beyond the base ripstop upper, there is a relatively soft internal laminate up front that serves as a toe bumper.
The height of the toebox is sort of on the lower side but the material is soft enough that it does not feel uncomfortable. Compared to say a Nike VF Next% v1, the toebox is noticeably higher here.
The tongue itself is perforated mesh at the center with suede at the lace up and along the edges. They have used suede tongues for many of their models and it’s never been an issue for me so I don’t expect any issues here. Fully expect the tongue to stay put here.
Instead of a stretch gusset design, they opted to have two slots in the tongue for the laces to run through. One on the medial side closer to the toes, and one on the lateral side closer to the ankles. I think this approach probably saves weight though I guess you might lose out on potential extra midfoot hold that could be afforded by using gussets.
Around the ankle collar, they didn’t stinge on the padded cushions and I think this is the best execution of this design I have worn so far. Zero heel slippage. Very well done. There is also some rigidity in the heel cup afforded by stiffer plastic around the heel. Overall I think heel structure and hold are very well done and there’s nothing I would change here.
Matt: First Impressions, when the postman first handed me the box and knowing what was inside I thought wow these shoes must be heavy, that or someone had swapped them out with a brick, after unwrapping the box and getting the shoes out of it,
I found it was the box that was creating so much weight, with the XTEP 160X 3.0 Pro arrived in a solid draw style box, with some great marketing material on the XTEP range which was nice to view, and with the bonus of spare laces and spare insoles (SHOEpad) was great, adding to the premium feel of this top end race shoe.
The shoe itself, as mentioned by Derek, comes in a flashy asymmetric design helping to stand out on the start line, which is definitely my style!
Fit wise I found the Pro to fit true to size for my UK10. The upper has a perfectly breathable and structured design with a really nice stable heel cup which had my ankle feeling thankful. I completely agree with Derek that its initial step-in feel had a soft, pillowy and bouncy feeling reminiscent of the Alphafly 1. Having received my purchased pair of Alphafly 2 the same day as the XTEP, I could already be pretty certain of which shoe I preferred straight off initial step-in, and it wasn’t the Nike, but more on that comparison later.
Bryan: I’ve never seen a shoe come with so much collateral (as in the images above, and more). The shoe comes in an exquisite drawer style box, which on its side makes a statement that 38 marathon champions have won 207 marathons wearing, presumably, Xtep shoes generally, as opposed to the 160 X 3.0 Pro in particular but we must recall this is a new model.
Upon opening the box, we are presented with a spare pair of insoles – a nice touch indeed, and [pardon my translation skills]:
A bookmark-like leaflet found inside the shoe that looks like a warning sign. It says:
1. to wear darker socks due to fading of the dyes used.
2. not to over bend the shoe (assuming to not crack the plate)
3. avoid skin contact if the shoe is damaged (that’s alarming!)
In addition, the silver tags state:
1. 38 runners have won this to win 207 marathons (as on the box)
2. it is 85% more bouncy than other running shoes shoes
3. the outsole will last 2000km, 3x more durable than conventional shoes, and is 60% lighter than regular outsole rubber
4. Amongst other aspects already covered the utilization of Xtep Ace foam and a T700 carbon plate.
The shoe box also provides a shoe sizing chart, which caused some fear (which was later confirmed) with fit, as it stated that my US9 was the equivalent of a EU42, Most major manufacturers convert US9 to a EU42.5 or EU42 ⅔, The fit was indeed very snug, especially in the forefoot. It felt about half a size too small. Bummer!
Lockdown was fantastic notwithstanding the sizing issue, but I am generally not a fan of the ripstop construct of the upper. Perhaps exacerbated by the sizing issue, I found there to be no real give, and whilst flexible, it is not as soft and comfortable as the transparent mesh used in the Metaspeed Sky+ or Celermesh in the current Adizero lineup.
As mentioned by Matt and Derek, the step-in feeling is phenomenal. It was akin to wearing the Vaporfly 4% for the first time, except that now I’ve already worn the Vaporfly! It has a very bulbous forefoot, and almost tips you backwards as if it has a negative drop on it. The forefoot feel is extremely bouncy and pillowy, and more so than the Alphafly Next% and any other plated super shoe I’ve worn.
Design wise, I am personally not a fan, as the aesthetics are quite flashy and don’t seem to combine well together. Colourway wise, the asymmetric colors used reminds me of folks who ran wearing the Vaporfly Next% in electric green on one foot, and orange on the other.
Sam: The others have covered the aesthetics well as well the collateral materials. Wow, the box is substantial and not really in keeping with the thinner, lighter, less painted boxes now coming into vogue focused recycling and sustainability throughout all the production and packaging. Yet the Alphafly 2 and Endoprhin Pro 2 came in almost as substantial white boxes..
The dual colors are striking and fun if a bit over done but let’s focus on the upper and fit. My pair is a US8 half size down from my usual US8.5 and fits almost perfectly with thin socks for sub marathon uses with a bit short, low and pointy toe box.
The foot hold is precise, seamless, and snug- in a good way. I think my regular true to size would have allowed medium socks and would have been overall better.
And recall that second sockliner? It is thicker if a bit heavier so if thicker socks are in order or one is between sizes it can fill some volume. I did not use it at my half size down with thin socks as things would have been too snug.
The thin mesh and leatherette tongue is the best such thin tongue I can recall. Very similar to the 160X 3.0 that tongue’s tendency to fold is eliminated I think due to the use of a second medial lace holder patch. Lace up is super easy and secure. The fairly thin laces with ridges don’t bite and there is no need to overtighten and no need for a gusset as the mono mesh wraps the foot very securely.
The mesh itself is a very tight yet translucent materai with many subtle thin printed overlays.
So translucent that you can see the “R” on my sock above as clear as day! Breathability is good and there is no moisture absorption into the mesh.
It is pliable and not an open rigid grid as the Alphafly 2 has or an open pliable large holed material as say the Endorphin Pro 3 has.
We have a substantial heel counter that does not rise very high with black flexible rear overlays to help stabilize to the relatively narrow underfoot platform.
All laced up the feeling is one of snug comfortable security front to back. This is not a roomy comfort upper be it in a race shoe or otherwise, but a high performance execution designed to lock the foot to the high and relatively narrow platform. It succeeds
Nils: I just can echo the others here. I’ve never had a shoe delivered in a package this heavy! The premium feeling box gets complimented by all the additional info- and marketing material as well as the spare shoe laces and a second set of insoles. As I don’t speak Chinese it took me a while to learn that the insoles actually differ. EVA for training vs. PEBA for racing. That’s another great touch and together with the outsole-lifetime-estimation of 2000km it underlines the fact that you have a shoe in hand, which is substantial enough to handle not just two races before it’s worn out. I’m here for it!
In terms of fit the Xtep fits true to size for me. The toebox is wide enough to be comfortable, but unfortunately a little low. The lockdown around heel and midfoot is perfect thanks to an upper / padding which is a little more than usual for a racing shoe. This makes the 160xPro3 also very, very comfortable. The substantial upper together with the very high stack and squishy midsole reminded me of the Alphafly 2 – a shoe I’ve never run in, but tried on in a store..
Jeff: Not to rehash too much, but multiple materials if insoles is a really cool touch, though I didn’t find a big difference in wearing them Left/Right at the same time. A big reason why this is my first Xtep shoe is from what Derek had said – in the past their toeboxes had been pretty long and narrow, and while no one will confuse this with an Altra, this toebox is plenty wide. As others mentioned I wouldn’t hate a little more vertical space, but I’ve certainly had worse.
My pair fits just short of true-to-size at 10.5 or 44. There’s about a half-thumb’s width in front of my big toe, so I might not want to take them for a full marathon, but I could go 10-13 miles without footswell becoming a problem.
Like the others, initial step-in is something special. It felt like a flashback to the very first carbon plated shoe I wore (Vaporfly 4%, just like Bryan above), and what a leap forward in technology it felt compared to everything else. The big difference is now I’ve got the better part of a dozen carbon-plated or carbon-rod ultra light super cushioned race shoes, and this feels like a quantum leap forward from those – and that’s before even getting out on the road.
Sam: The 3.0 Pro midsole combines an expanded bead foam with a Toray T 700 carbon fiber plate with an elaborate geometry. The midsole tech is described below by Xtep. Based on some emails with Xtep’s representatives it may be a supercritical expanded pellet TPU. And it does feel in many ways like a lighter much less dense Boost foam, also a TPU pellet foam but non supercritical.
I did A/B test runs of 2 miles each at moderate daily training paces of the 3.0 Pro on one foot and Nike Alphafly 2 and Vaporfly Next % 2, Endorphin Pro 3, New Balance FuelCell SC Trainer on the other foot that I discuss in Comparisons.
The foam feel is springy (and also bouncy) and is relatively soft compared to the original PWRRUN PB in the Endorphin Pro 1 and 2 but firmer and less soft and bouncy but more energetic than the newer PWRRUN PB in the Endorphin Pro 3. Note: Xtep’s background information tells us they have a relationship in China and Asia with Wolverine, parent company of Saucony.
The foam is not as silky smooth as ZoomX from Nike and is slightly firmer with a sharper quicker feeling rebound and a bit less vibration reduction.
The foam here is clearly softer than FF Turbo from ASICS and somewhat softer than Lightstrike Pro from adidas but one must remember that geometry and plate design plays a big role in the feel of a super shoe.
Xtep, to say the least, has highly sophisticated carbon plate designs that go way beyond the usual “spoon”. Again in Comparisons I will compare their other super shoes in more detail but here they went with a broader than usual (certainly for them and also as far as I can tell for others) front plate located with about 10mm of foam and outsole between the plate and the ground. It is a relatively aggressive geometry, compared to the Alphafly 2 but less aggressive than the adidas or ASICS offerings. Unlike the other Xtep, it is a rigid rocker but there is a touch more flex than the adidas, ASICS, Saucony and Nike Vaporfly felt through the stack.
At a 4mm drop, I was surprised it did not feel “low” at slower paces as say the Alphafly 1 and ASICS Metaspeed Sky 1, and adidas Adios Pro 2 felt to me, these last two on similar narrower heel landing platforms.
I think this is due in part to the inclusion in all Xtep plates of rear carbon stabilizing wings in the plate and here also overlays on both sides of the heel counter and potentially also some flex to the plate internal to the stack.
The result of all this tech is a very reasonable blend of stable heel landings, midfoot plate activation and a smooth if not abrupt final roll to toe off. I do wish in like fashion to the non Pro 160X 3.0 and especially 160X 2.0 with their 8mm drops and notably more flexible forked plates, we had more of the same here, more drop and a less extensive and rigid front plate to help the less than elite a touch more with transition through midfoot to toe off.
This said compared to the super aggressive geometries of the ASICS and adidas in particular we have a much more approachable carbon plated super shoe with plenty of resilient cushion and plate impulse that can handle a wide range of paces and also put the hammer down Only Alphafly 2 with its giant stable rear platform and combo air pod and plate upfront is friendlier yet still effective.
Shoes such as the Endorphin Pro 3 and RC Elite 2 are softer and might go a bit too far, lacking punch. So Xtep has threaded the needle very carefully here to deliver a midsole that is race ready for sure for many distances and pace types as both Matt cranking out 20 miles near 5 minute pace and Sam cranking out 6 or 8 miles at just below 9 can benefit and enjoy this platform.
Matt: I’ve tested the Xtep 160X 3.0 Pro over several different runs, and will discuss them more later in the Ride section, but the midsole is the key to that ride and is the standout feature of the Xtep which is already pretty impressive regarding its other features. As I mentioned earlier, it’s initial step in feeling gives that soft and bouncy underfoot feeling with that sensation of ‘I can go fast in these’ which I hadn’t felt in a new shoe, since first putting on the Vaporfly 4% and then the Alphafly V1.
With a considerable amount of XTEP ACE foam under both the forefoot and heel, the midsole gives ample spring and cushion and very much puts it on par with other max cushion marathon racing shoes, and in my opinion possibly better than them.
Although we’re not 100% certain on the full spec details of XTEP ACE its appearance seems to be of a blown pellet et foam which has then had some grooves and structures molded to it to possibly help stabilize the foam further than the addition of the plate.
The T700 Carbon Fiber plate is then the next key component of the midsole, stated to have a forefoot propulsive efficiency of 78.3%, it does offer more flexibility than some alternative racing shoe plates such as those in the Vaporfly or Alphafly, which may make the shoe slightly more versatile for racing and training compared to those shoes, and along with its side wings and curvature, the Xtep T700 Carbon Plate, feels like it offers some added stability,
The documentation says its design is to help reduce the dorsiflexion of the metatarsophalangeal joint and reducing muscle exertion and hence muscle fatigue, which in a marathon racer would be certainly good to have.
Bryan: I’ve got to say the midsole is the standout aspect of the shoe. Whilst we do not know what compound Xtep Ace is made from, we do know it has been developed by PISA (Productos de Instrumentación S.A., who “seek the best technical and economical solutions in the field of instrumentation” in materials and engineering). Technicalities aside, whatever this foam may be, it is absolutely brilliant.
One of my earlier runs in the shoe was a track session in heavy rain. Despite the slightly boggy track surface (runoff soil from the field inside has leached onto the track), I felt like I was running on the dry in the Vaporfly, Adios Pro, Takumi Sen, Metaspeed, Endorphin Pro.
The superior rebound of the Xtep shone through the conditions. Even in the conditions, it felt easy to hold low 3:00-3:15/km. I also took the shoes out on a 22 mile / 35km long run with a 3.1 mile / 5km effort at the end. Aside from the fit issue, where my big toe was not faring too well by the end of the run, I have not felt this fresh after a long run of this distance, and at the end of back to back 65+ miles / 105+km weeks. Unlike Matt, I found no issues with stability around corners and cannot find any fault in the midsole and its construction.
A disclaimer however. On my first run (within the first 2km) in these shoes, I fell quite badly over uneven pavement. I’ve never had any such issues prior, but if you recall earlier in this review I mentioned that this shoe presents a negative drop feel due to the sheer volume of the forefoot relative to the rear and the 4mm drop. This takes some time to get used to.
Derek: The Xtep Ace foam that Xtep uses appears to be tunable in terms of softness as with the original Xtep 160x Pro, the foam was firmer, almost Lightstrike Pro- like. With the 260x that is a 37/27 8.7oz trainer, the foam is a lot softer but with little less energy return as a consequence. It turns out that with the 160x 3.0 Pro, they managed to get a similar softness to the 260x but get the same sort of energy return as the 160x Pro, so best of both worlds basically.
The foam is very soft and feels quite unstable walking around. Having honed my craft with lots of training runs in the 160x Pro, Nike Alphafly v1 and Adidas Prime X, I felt quite at home navigating the softness of the 160x 3.0 Pro here. It is soft and springy and is nowhere close to bottoming out. Cornering is not great, but this is a common issue with many super shoes as they inch closer to that 40mm stack height ceiling. I think knowing when to start feathering the brakes entering the corners really helps.
I also like that the toespring starts earlier, closer to the midfoot now, compared to the original Pro. At fast paces, it does not matter so much, but as moderate paces say 20-30s/mile slower than marathon pace, the earlier rocker makes the transition noticeably smoother for me and really ups the versatility factor.
Jeff: To piggyback on everything said above, most of which I agree with, the forefoot of the midsole feels absolutely enormous.
As a midfoot striker I didn’t notice the ultra soft heel during the run, but during my walk cooldown I could certainly feel it. Definitely not a shoe to be walked in due to how unstable it can be in that fashion – but I don’t think anyone is going to confuse it with a walking shoe.
The midsole width is good, but not great for my slightly-wider-than-D-width foot. It’s more accommodating than its overall midfoot width would suggest though. I’ve found a number of the various super shoes tend to dig into my foot around the arch from a too narrow midfoot, but that hasn’t shown up here. I measured the widest part of the forefoot at 111m, the narrowest part of the midfoot at 63mm, and the widest part of the heel at 83mm. That makes it virtually identical to the adidas Adios Pro 2 (111, 66, 77) and close to the Saucony Endorphin Pro 1 (111, 74m 84) or Nike Alphafly 1 (114, 65, 94), but the Xtep has a much more accommodating fit than the Nike or even the adidas. Truly wide footed runners might be out of luck, but for those of us who have standard to every so slightly wide feet, this shoe can work.
Nils: Given the immense amount of detail in which my fellow contributors covered the midsole section there’s really not much to add here. The Ace Foam is for sure really, really good. Not as “smooth” as Nikes Zooms X, but it is so springy that you really don’t miss the Airpods under the forefoot compared to the AF as my go-to. As a mid- to forefoot striker the amount of cushioning under the forefoot is just insane and makes for so much fun. It’s very leg saving as well, making me recover from a 30k longrun much quicker than expected. The winged carbon plate together with the outsole coverage does a good job stabilizing all the soft foam, which makes for a relatively stable ride as well. I even ran on some buffed out single track for a stretch of that 30k and never had any fear of rolling an ankle.
Bryan: Xtep claims the CPU outsole rubber coverage will last 2000km. If so, it will certainly outlast the remainder of the shoe. Notwithstanding the loud and non-cohesive visual design of the shoe (this is subjective of course), I quite liked the translucent compound used that reveals the “XTEP” branding beneath it. I also like its ample coverage. As with the midsole, I can’t seem to fault the outsole used, as my performance output and overall agility were not compromised even when running in the (very) wet.
Matt: The CPU outsole is both cool in design as Bryan highlights and after around 60 miles in the Xtep so far there seems to be no sign of wear, which is to be expected especially with the 2000km life span claim. On wet surfaces the outsole has gripped well, my only sign of any weakness in its grip was on a 15 miler with various paced efforts between 5:15-4:30 paces where on a newly laid road where there was some sand and concrete dust on the surface I found the shoe slipped at those speeds on the surface but that is not an everyday run occurrence.
Derek: The CPU outsole is really good. They use it in all their models, and I really like that it is very resilient without being rigid. Like carbon-injected rubber with the malleability of blown rubber. It actually deforms very smoothly with the deformation of the foam under your foot. Overall grip is fair. For me, the gold standards are Puma and Adidas but the Xtep outsole comes really close. Durability-wise, I really have no reason to doubt their 2000km claim. I have a pair of 160x Pros with over 600km on them and the nubs on the CPU outsole are still all there. No complaints here.
Nils: Nothing to complain about here. Traction was fine on all my training runs (in dry conditions). I can’t see any signs of wear so far so maybe the 2000km lifespan-claim might be true.
Jeff: Everyone’s wrong, the durability is tra- nope. Couldn’t even get the joke out in written form. Among the most durable, and grippy, rubber I’ve ever run on. The various tire company branded rubbers have been really good, Puma Grip and Vibram are consistently awesome, but this seems like a step above them in performance for both durability and grip. I’m almost curious how long it would take a belt sander to get through it, that’s how durable it is. Any chance they got some Graphene from Inov-8 and used it in the rubber? That’s how impressive it is.
Sam: The soft high rebounding foam and broad front of plate with rear wings deliver a very forgiving energetic ride with no “sharp edges”. The heel is stable enough if narrower than say Alphafly 2’s, the midfoot is easy to transition through (not over rigid if not landing forefoot) and the front propulsion does not dictate either a high knee lift “stride type” to bounce the plate or quick cadence style of running.
They are as easy to turn over at slower paces more back on the heels as fast and this even with the “low” for most current super shoes 4mm drop. Well balanced, Xtep clearly prioritized the front cushioning for marathon racing given the approximate 36mm stack upfront by broadening the front of the plate more than usual but with a less aggressive toe spring and plate angle felt. I found them very smooth and pleasing at all paces. This said if you want more feel, agility and flex in your super shoe the Xtep 160 3.0 and 2.0 and particularly the 160X 2.0 are more shorter distance suitable for me.
Matt: As mentioned earlier I have taken the Xtep out on a couple different types of run since getting them, which has give me a great feel for the overall ride and performance. The first day they arrived I had an easy 8 mile to do after a busy weekend of racing and training (2x5km races in 14:50 & 14:44 Saturday AM & PM, and a hilly 23 mile averaging 6:19 per mile) but I was rather excited to see how they felt, it did feel like a sin taking a race shoe out for an easy run and after a mile I immediately regretted it, as they felt great, but I felt like I was wasting the lifespan of them on easy miles rather than race day efforts. My legs didn’t half thank me though for wearing them that day. The next day I took them on to the track for 15x1km with 200m jog recoveries, again my legs were still feeling a little fatigued from the weekend and again the foam had my legs feeling effortless and I was hitting 3:05 per km and feeling like I was jogging, the carbon plate helping me to hit the speeds, due to it’s spring like effect.
The main downside, and why I swapped out of them for the final 5 efforts where I dropped the pace to 2:55 per km, was due to Derek’s measured approximate 41mm heel and 37 mm front stack height they were really unstable on the bends of the track and on about effort seven I nearly rolled my ankle quite badly. For those interested, I swapped to Takumi Sen 8 for those final 5 efforts which was a very odd feeling swapping from the Xtep due to the stack and foam softness differences. Three days later I took the Xtep out for 24 miles, (2 warm up, 10 miles at 6:10, 10 miles at 5:10 and 2 cool down).
It was at 5:10 pace miles that the Xtep 160X 3.0 Pro showed it is a marathon race shoe. Picking up the pace from the 6:10 miles which had felt okay but slightly strained at times, the 5:10 pace felt effortless, I seemed to be able to increase my stride length from the hips much more easily and the 5:10 miles just cruised by. I would say this activtaing of my hips more than usual did make me feel a little sore and stiff after which is reminiscent of how I felt the very first time I started racing in the Vaporfly V1.
My next outing for the Xtep was a local 10km road race, I’d had an invite to race for my county (equivalent to a US state, but on a smaller scale). Here the Xtep again felt great, allowing me my usual fast start to get away from the field and relax into a comfortable rhythm for the rest of the race. It had been a big two weeks of marathon training so my legs felt quite fatigued during the race, but the soft cushion of the Xtep along with its bounce and rocker design allowed me to keep moving at an efficient and race winning pace.
My only slight question mark came at the end of the race, where in the Alphafly V1 I seem to be really able to push down hard on the airpods to really get some bounce and propulsion out of my tired legs, but I didn’t feel this was the case with the Xtep, though a study of my Strava data suggests I finished the last 200m very quickly, so maybe the uncomfortable lack of stability that the Alphafly give me when making that finish line push, and what I was missing in the Xtep was settled due to the curvature of the plate and the more stable feeling overall of the shoe.
Derek: This shoe really rides like a Alphafly 1. The key difference is the heel being slightly firmer underfoot, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I think the slightly firmer heel helps prevent that negative drop feeling when you land on the heel and keeps the shoe rolling through a little better.
I have done a few 20km runs at moderate paces, one 35km run with 15km at uptempo paces approaching half marathon effort, as well as a longer 38km moderate pace run in the shoes. The cushioning is really good and the ride is very smooth at moderate paces, but the ride gets really special at fast paces.
As I lean more forward into the shoe, there is a very noticeable compression and string rebound with the combination of foam and plate snapping back into shape at toe-off. The weight of the shoe becomes noticeable as you approach marathon pace and faster, and I struggled to reach the sort of 5-10k effort in the shoe. However, anything threshold or slower was just ticking off the miles really easily.
I did notice toward the end of the long runs that I was getting some hotspots on the inside of my left foot along the big toe and first met head, but only with thin socks. I put this down to excessive forefoot pronation as my form changed due to fatigue. With thicker socks, this issue didn’t surface.
Cornering stability I think is something to be aware of. It’s not the best with the high stack and soft foam, and I liken stability to that of the Alphafly v1 again. I would not recommend using the shoe for hard efforts if there are a lot of turns to navigate. For long straights, this shoe would absolutely kill it.
Bryan: My experience with the shoe resonates with Sam’s opening sentence in this section of the review. The ride is high energy, bouncy, forgiving and refined. I found it very easy to run at most paces, being a midfoot striker. However, I think the shoe may not be as suitable for heel strikers or running at slower paces due to its emphasis on forefoot cushioning, which as mentioned before, creates an almost negative drop sensation, contrary to Derek’s experience. My running in the shoes ranged from 2:55 /km (4:40 /mile) to 4:45 /km (7:37 /mile). I wouldn’t run any slower in them.
In terms of stability, the shoe performs well for a max stacked shoe, and far better than say the Alphafly, which as Derek mentions, rides similarly to the Xtep. What this shoe lacks, and as a racing flat enthusiast, also which comes as no surprise, is ground feel. Transitions are smooth, and toe-offs are fantastic, with a popping sensation. The combination of the T700 plate and Xtep Ace foam work well together in providing a smooth, energetic ride.
Nils: I’m a little late to the testing party, as the shoes waited several weeks for me to come back from vacation. Nonetheless I managed to get some solid miles into the shoe, including a 30k longrun with an acceleration into marathon pace for the last 13k. As the others mention, the ride of the Xtep 360 X3 Pro is very special and the closest thing to an Alphafly (which is my preferred marathon racer) I’ve experienced so far. I’m a for- to midfoot striker with a relatively high knee drive which make shoes with a lot of forefoot bounce like AF or Metaspeed Sky a better choice for me compared to more rolling racers like a Vaporfly. And as the Xtep has a very similar forefoot focus with its massive 37mm stack it obviously fits the bill for me. The Ace Foam is something else and lets you forget the missing Airpods in a heartbeat.
The paces for my HR-efforts were very low in the Xtep and looked like the shoe is working for me even at the slower end of the spectrum. E.g. my first run was an 8k recovery session. And while I stuck to the desired HR, I ended up almost at the pace of a steady effort.
The more substantial upper, and controlled but very springy ride make the 360 X3 Pro sit somewhere between Alphafly 1 and 2 for me. It lacks a little of the unpredictable fun of AF1 which is a good and a bad thing at the same time.
Jeff: This shoe is bouncy, yet controlled, in a way that I could see it ruining other shoes for me going forward. The soft heel doesn’t really factor into my gait, but that toe off is something truly special. It’s far from the most stable shoe, so if you haven’t logged some miles in a super shoe I’m not sure I’d start with this one – even though this one might be the most impressive thing I’ve ever put on my foot.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Road Scoring Rubric
😊😊😊😊😊(copy paste as many smiles as you need)
Bryan: I’m not sure how Xtep did it, but they have done a phenomenal job of developing the 160 X3.0 Pro. It takes a worthy spot in a plethora of high stacked carbon plated super shoes offered by its Western competitors. If I were to judge it by its ride alone, I would quite comfortably say that the 160 X3.0 Pro comes out as my favorite, over ZoomX, Lightstrike Pro, PWRRUN PB, FF Turbo and FuelCell offerings. The Xtep Ace foam is something else.
However, and ultimately, I have reservations wearing this shoe on race day due to fit issues. On other aspects, and if fit was not an issue, I could overlook the slightly thick and clumsy ripstop upper for want of the performance edge provided by the midsole foam and plate combination. Noting its retail price of around $280 AUD / $190 USD after conversion, this is a super shoe that is priced well below its counterparts and presents as a strong racing option if it were made available in more places worldwide.
Technical Score 9.05/10
Ride: 10 (50%) Fit: 7.5 (30%) Value: 10 (15%) Style: 6 (5%)
Noting I gave a compromised score of 7.5 for fit where there is a possibility of an improved fit going up half a size. Otherwise lockdown etc. was fine.
Smiles Score 😊😊😊😊😊
Matt: For me the Xtep 160X 3.0 Pro is one of only two shoes I’d choose to race a marathon, the other being the Nike Alphafly V1.
The Xtep’s high stack, super soft and yet responsive midsole along with the T700 carbon Plate provide a fast, and efficient shoe for marathon pace making it do exactly what Xtep promises it can. Having tried a host of other race shoes in the hopes of finding something other than Nike that I could race in, and that I could possibly stock in my store, the Xtep is the only contender for me.
I do think other runners may find the Xtep just a little too bulky as people find the Alphafly, and as I know Sam lists below in the comparisons may prefer the Xtep 160X 2.0. The Pro hist all bases for me with a fantastic ride, and outsole, funky design and great upper fit. My only one complaint is that the high stack height can make cornering a little tougher, but then for half and full marathon uses this shouldn’t be much of an issue.
Technical Score: 10/10
Ride: 10 (50%) Fit: 10 (30%) Value: 10 (15%) Style: 10 (5%)
Smiles Score: 😊😊😊😊😊
Sam: Xtep clearly put every effort into creating a world class long racer (and trainer) that can easily toe the line for many of us. It very easily and successfully competes with better known brands’ super shoe offerings.
Sticking to a 4mm drop to get the most forefoot cushion and rebound from their excellent foam and state of the art plate while maxing out the heel height, they did not neglect rear stability with a stout heel counter and carbon wings..as not all of us are “true” and all the way to the finish forefoot/midfoot strikers.
Balanced in ride, smooth, highly cushioned and dynamic at a wide range of paces, it may weigh a touch more than some competitors but doesn’t compromise anywhere: cushion, stability, upper, and that great outsole.
Personally, I might trade a bit less front stack for more drop or give the shoe a slightly more flexible carbon plate as some of their other racers have. At about $190, they are not only a superb and leading value in terms of cost but also for expected durability and versatility.
Sam’s Score: 9.66 /10
Ride: 9.7 (50%) Fit: 9.6 (30%) Value: 9.9 (15%) Style: 9 (5%)
Smiles Score: 😊😊😊😊
Derek: Most of the heavy hitters have already shown their hand in terms of super shoes ahead of the Oregon World Championships. I think only the New Balance FuelCell SuperComp Elite 3 has yet to be released to complete the lineup of 2022 super shoes.
In terms of shoes released this year, I can confidently say that the Xtep 160x 3.0 Pro is the overall shoe of the year for me so far.
My current go-to marathon racer is the Nike Alphafly v1, and the main reason I don’t use that shoe for every single run is because I don’t want to be overly reliant on it, and it costs a bomb, $90 more than the Xtep.
Enter the 160x 3.0 Pro. At this price point, and with the super shoe updates from the different brands not really outperforming their 2021 counterparts for me (see comparisons below), I definitely plan on using the 160x 3.0 Pro as my go to marathon training shoe, with a key focus on moderate to race pace long runs. I’m tempted to get a pair a half size down to see if I can get away with it in thin socks and maybe if it’s light enough, try it for some races.
Derek’s Score: 9.95/10
Ride: 10 (50%) Fit: 10 (30%) Value: 10 (15%) Style: 9 (5%)
Smiles Score: 😊😊😊😊😊
Nils: Similar to Matt I’ve tried every single super shoe that has been released this year with the hope to find something that can compete with and replace the Alphafly 1 as my Marathon racer. But here I am – with a fresh Nike box for the Berlin Marathon on my desk. This new offering from Xtep is the closest thing to an AF1 I’ve ran in so far and through its more controlled style it might even be better (for some). I’m still missing some runs at the faster end of the pace scale to have a complete picture of what the 160X 3 Pro is capable of.
The only gripes I have is the slightly low toebox and the higher weight (20 grams) compared to my AF1. But my early impressions after roughly 60k are very, very good – on a subjective level (this shoe feels GREAT!) as well as on a more objective basis (HR levels etc.). Some more workouts in the last 3 weeks before Berlin will tell, but suddenly the Alphafly became a competitor. I think there’s no higher praise I can give to a marathon racer.
Nils’ Score: 9.89/10
Ride: 10 (50%) Fit: 9.8 (30%) Value: 10 (15%) Style: 9 (5%)
Smiles Score: 😊😊😊😊😊
Jeff: I was genuinely concerned this shoe wasn’t going to work for me, being so slow. Some of the early verbiage talked about recommended paces for the shoe, and while I can hit that pace, I can’t sustain it for more than a few minutes. And yet, every run I had in the Xtep was impressive. It seems like every brand is bringing some new race day goodness to market, and each version seems to be a solid iteration forward as they learn what works and what doesn’t, but the 160x 3.0 Pro is on a different level. I don’t have any races on the docket any time soon, but if I did, this is the shoe I’d be running in. The fact that it comes in $40-85 less than the competition but with extra insoles makes it easy to say with a straight face that they’re a bargain. A little more vertical toe space and they’d be a perfect 10 shoe for me.
Jeff’s Score: 9.85/10
Ride: 10 Fit: 9.5 Value: 10 Style: 10
Smiles Score: 😊😊😊😊😊
Index to all RTR reviews: HERE
Xtep 160X Pro
Derek: I am true to size in both shoes, but bear in mind I like to have a thumb space in front of my toes especially for a training shoe. I didn’t review Pro 1 but along the way, I found it to be my most heavily used trainer over the past 12 months, even more than my previous favorite, the Nike Tempo Next%. The Pro1 is about 10g lighter in the same size for me, and slightly lower measured stack at 40/34 vs 41.5/37.5 including sockliner. The Pro1 has a firmer, more stable underfoot feel but it is also a narrower silhouette. In particular, the heel of the Pro1 is similar to say Tempo Next% in firmness, but noticeably softer and springier through the forefoot, similar to say Adidas Adios Pro 1, slightly firmer than say ASICS Metaspeed Sky v1.
Overall the 3.0 Pro is more forgiving and cushioned and just more fun with a softer and bouncier ride. It has a less stable heel than Pro 1 but to me this is a minor trade-off and well worth it for a trampoline heel. It is more versatile in terms of accommodating almost any pace. No question the 3.0 is the better overall shoe for me.
Sam: Diverging from Derek here, the Pro 1 taken on a A/B run with the 3.0 is clearly somewhat softer and more stable at the heel due to its prominent rear midsole outrigger.
Unlike the 3.0, it has some slight flex making slower paces easier and flow smoother. It has a more mellow “training” feel in comparison with a less aggressive front plate feel and a softer ride, but not by much. My Pro 1 is a US9, the 3.0 Pro as US8. The Pro 1 fit is close to true to size with more volume with thin socks while the 3.0 Pro with the same thin socks had a near perfect more race fit for 10K to half anyways with for the marathon a half size up likely being in order, so at my true to size. Both shoes have impeccable easy lace up and lace hold with the Pro 1 tongue slightly more padded. Bottom line: The Pro 1 is a fantastic long trainer with race capabilities for marathoners 4 hours and up while 3.0 Pro is a full on half to marathon racer you can also easily train in.
Xtep 160X 3.0 (RTR Review)
Sam: A step down in stack height at about 37mm at the heel and a step up in drop to 8mm and 29mm at the forefoot, the 3.0 has a somewhat flexible carbon plate making it more agile and snappier than the 3.0 Pro. They have very similar fitting and design uppers with the 3.0 having a less substantial toe bumper and a similar tongue which seems to fold over unlike the 3.0 Pro’s.
Somewhat less aggressive in front plate geometry the 3.0 is targeted by Xtep at marathoners between 2:30-4:00 with the Pro for faster marathoners. I don’t think the distinction is quite correct. I would say the 160X 3.0 is more appropriate for any marathoner seeking a non-totally rigid racer. Note on sample sizing the 3.0 is as the 3.0 Pro a half size down from my normal which is correct with thin socks for a half or less but for a marathon I would size up a half.
Xtep 160X 2.0 (RTR Review soon)
Sam: The most fun of the Xtep shoes, the 2.0 is the most flexible full carbon plated shoe I have ever run. Unlike the Pro 3.0 and despite its near super shoe grade rear stack of the same foam but firmer especially at the forefoot it sits lower by 5 mm or so at the heel at 35mm and as an 8mm drop shoe with 28mm at the forefoot so considerably lower stack than the Pro . It reminds a lot of the original Vaporfly 4% with more flexibility. Think of race flat type agile, flexible quick ride in a super shoe and you get the 2.0. It’s a shoe that sits right in between the very flexible and soft Nike Streakfly and the rigid and firmer adidas Takumi Sen 8. It won 4th in the recent World Athletics Marathon but for me it will be my 5-10K shoe with the 3.0 Pro more suited to half and above although there is no question the 2.0 can handle a half for me and I might just try it. The fit is similar.
Alphafly Next % 2 (RTR Review)
Sam: The AF2 has a comparable cushion to the 3.0 Pro and also, as the Xtep is for me, is easier than most super shoes to run slower paces in and yet easier than the Pro. Nike ZoomX is slightly softer and more silky in feel while the Ace cushion of the Pro is springier and denser. AF 2 has a wider, more stable heel but due to the wide rear platform is somewhat less agile off the heel. They are very close to the same weight.
In terms of fit, Alphafly 2 is spot on true to size with more front and midfoot volume and even with its broader rear base and high collars it does not quite have the secure upper hold of the Pro even if more stable due to its platform. Bottom line marathon upper for Alpahfly 2 with the Pro leaning more secure and locked down as well as lower volume so in direct comparison a shorter distances focus than the Alpahfly’s upper for me.
The AF2 has not quite as an all of a piece ride as the Pro with areas of the shoe having different construction and focus. We have not only that broad heel and front combo of plate and pod but due to its new 8mm drop (It used to be 4mm as the Pro has), and reconfigured front it has some easier roll to toe off for those of us without an explosive stride and high knee lift. The 3.0 Pro gets to the same place in a bit smoother if more aggressive fashion as its broad plate and lower drop favor a somewhat more midfoot strike than my slower (marathon pace) tendency to heel strike. I would likely still lace up the AF2 for a marathon, particularly on a hilly course for its stability but for a half or shorter would lean the Xtep in this match up.
Matt: I got the Alphafly 2 the same week as the Xtep and as I mentioned earlier the Xtep won me over straight away from its initial on the foot feeling, just like the Alphafly V1 had done. V2 on the other hand left me nearly in tears, wondering what Nike done to my favourite race shoe. Its initial feel on the foot felt heavy, flat and lacking in pace and fun. This experience didn’t change when I tested them out on a couple runs, and they have since been sold on as secondhand, and the money used to grab a couple pairs of Alphafly V1 to keep stored for races if the Xtep isn’t available or competition legal, as we are still waiting on confirmation for that.
Derek: I am a half size down in both AF1 and AF2 and TTS in the Pro 3. Count me among those who feel that AF1 is better than AF2. AF2 is good, better than VF N% for me, but the ride just feels kind of less “wow” than I expected. I much prefer the Pro 3 for its better cushioning and liveliness and dynamism of the ride. I can see AF2 being better for technical courses as Nike really worked to improve the cornering stability of the shoe, to the point it is indistinguishable from the Vaporfly in this regard. For other courses and especially for hilly courses and maybe larger runners who don’t mind the 8.8oz weight in my size US9.5 so much, the 160x 3.0 Pro would blow the AF2 away.
Alphafly Next %
Matt: The Xtep 160X 3.0 Pro is as good if not a better shoe in my opinion than the version 1 of the Alphafly. How my last couple week build-up and race at the London Marathon goes will decide this 100% for me, but it has the bounce, speed, and impact reduction of the Alphafly all things that has kept me racing in them for the last couple years. The bounce in the forefoot in the Xtep being created by the foam, carbon plate and stack height, rather than the riskier option of the AirPods gives me a little bit of confidence heading towards raceday, with the Alphafly always leaving me a little nervous that a pod might go on me mid marathon.
Bryan: The Alphafly Next% is the shoe that most reminds me of the Xtep 160X 3.0 Pro. I think the latter is the superior shoe, bar its upper. The Alphafly’s upper is one of the best around, and it looks so good. As Matt mentions, if an AirPod goes during race day, it would negatively affect your race performance and experience. The bounce that the Xtep generates is far superior to that in the Alphafly, and I would pick the Xtep over the Alphafly for just about any race and distance.
Derek: As Matt and Bryan have said, the 160x 3.0 Pro is so much like the Alphafly 1. The main drawback is that the upper is a little less effective in terms of “race” fit, and it is almost 2 oz heavier (AF1 in US9.0 vs Pro3 in US9.5). I note that Matt and I both love the AF1 for marathon A races and I think it just works really well for certain stride patterns. For me the Pro 3 is actually smoother underfoot because there’s no airpod to disrupt the continuity of the underfoot resistance. I would love to see how Xtep can work to bring down the weight to the point that it would be an AF1 killer. In terms of durability, just going by the resilience of the Xtep foam and their CPU outsole in other models, I have no doubt the 160x 30. Pro is going to be the more durable shoe. At least now I know that if Nike discontinues the AF1, I have a backup racer handy. AF1 is still my top choice as a racer. Pro3 is no question my top choice if I need to also use it as a trainer.
Jeff: The only super shoe I have that’s even remotely in the same ballpark as the 3.0 Pro, the Alphafly’s extremely narrow midfoot made it hard for me to love, even as impressive as its ride was. Months after I’d all but retired it I’d read that if you remove the glued in insole and used a different one that helped with the somewhat common problem digging into the arch – and it’s true. Worn A/B against the 3.0 Pro the spring forward is similar, with the Xtep barely having an advantage, and runs much quieter with no horse like clop clop the Alphafly brings. I do appreciate the extra vertical toe space of the Alphafly though, and if I was considering a full marathon, that might give it the advantage over the slightly more limited 3.0 Pro.
Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 (RTR Review)
Derek: I am true to size in both models. The EndoPro3 has the better upper for me in terms of support, and it is also more stable especially at the heel. However, the Xtep is a lot softer, more cushioned and bouncier and just seems to return energy better. I think EndoPro3 is a better option for 10k and shorter, but the superior cushioning of the Xtep would make it a better racer for HM/FM for me. (EndoPro3 would do perfectly fine for long races, but the Xtep is just a little more special.)
Sam: Unusually Derek and I don’t see eye to eye here. I raced a 10K in Endo Pro 3, fine if soft and not as well held (mid to rear) due to its tongue, more open mesh, and comparatively minimal heel counter. Their toe box fits were very similar, the most similar of any of the comparatives for me.
I A/B tested one on each foot 3.0 Pro and Endo Pro 3 for 2 miles. The Endo Pro 3 has softer and bouncier foam while the Xtep’s is denser, springier and more dynamic in feel if still soft. There is more cushion depth and feel at the forefoot in the Xtep while the somewhat thinner stack Endo Pro’s cushion is more forgiving and the plate less present as it is narrower. At slower paces the SpeedRoll was easier to find due to the 8mm drop and its plate and at faster paces, up on its forefoot and plate the Xtep was more dynamic and explosive.
New Balance SC Trainer (RTR Review)
Derek: I am true to size in both shoes. The SC Trainer has a more traditional type of heel to toe drop by feel and a more stable overall ride, but it is noticeably heavier and less bouncy than the Xtep 3.0 Pro. I actually feel more beat up in the SC Trainer than in the Xtep (both versions of the Xtep Pro’s for that matter). SC trainer is a good steady state cruiser and I think works very well for people who want a more stable maximalist trainer. If stability is not a major concern, there is no reason not to go with the Xtep. I’m confident the Xtep is going to be more durable.
Sam: Trainer in the name, trainer it is, but a very special one the SC Trainer. It has a roomier upper all around, at least 5mm more heel stack with a 8mm drop and in the translation about the same forefoot stack so a more friendly ramp down to toe off. Softer yes and not as energetic and smooth it rolls easier at slower paces.
New Balance RC Elite 2 (RTR Review)
Derek: I am true to size in both shoes. RCE2 is quite similar to the Saucony Endorphin Pro 3 for me, just with a more aggressive rocker. RCE2 has a slightly more stable heel than the Xtep but again, the cushioning is noticeably better in the Xtep. The Xtep also feels softer with less of a bottoming out feel for me. I would go with the Xtep for anything except maybe short workouts and shorter races.
Sam: Differing with Derek, I find the RC Elite 2 overly soft, almost mushy and agreeing with Derek the Xtep is considerably more versatile and a better value if heavier.
Jeff: The NB has a wider midfoot and can definitely accommodate a wider foot, it’s also softer and not nearly as energetic. The 3.0 Pro’s existence made the RC2 a fast trainer for me.
Saucony Endorphin Pro 1/2 (RTR Review)
Derek: I am true to size in the Endo Pro1; didn’t test Pro2. The Xtep truly makes the Endo Pro1 feel like a regular racing flat here. The difference in bounce and cushioning is quite stark, and the Xtep has immensely better outsole grip especially on wet surfaces. Endo Pro1 is still one of my favourites for short intervals up to maybe 800m reps, but for longer mile repeats and longer runs, the Xtep is definitely better for me.
Sam: Firm and rigid with that over pronounced SpeedRol, the Endo Pro 1 is only for short and fast and even then I have never reached for them after reviewing..
Jeff: I kind of agree with both Derek and Sam. After all of the other advances, the EPro1 really does feel a bit like a standard racing flat from 5 years ago, and in part because of how firm it is. I hate to dunk on it, because it did move the bar forward, but definitely showing its age.
Nils: I usually like my shoes to be a little firmer and also pronounced rockers are my cup of tea. But like Derek the EP1/2 are limited to shorter workouts and / or races for me while the Xtep is the superior shoe in almost all cases.
Nike Vaporfly Next % (RTR Review)
Bryan: This might be an unpopular opinion but the Vaporfly Next% was a shoe that did not work for me. The Xtep is in my opinion the better shoe when it comes to stability, rebound, protection and overall performance, but I would love it if I could plonk the Vaporweaveupper onto it, as it is far lighter, flexible and breathable than the upper on the Xtep.
Matt: I am another with Bryan who just didn’t get on with the Vaporfly Next% again preferring in its place the Alphafly and now I would definitely say the Xtep. The Vaporfly is a lower stack and firmer feeling which makes it more versatile for road races as low as mile all the way to marathon for most, while the Xtep definitely sits in the half and above category.
Derek: Ok this is going to look really bad that we have 3 reviewers who hate one of the most successful racing shoes of the last 3 years. I am true to size in both shoes. The VF Next% is ok but not better than the original 4% for me. I’ve just never quite had a great run in the shoe, and even in training they underperform. I have 3 pairs of VF Next% and all of them are confined to training use, to the extent that I didn’t bother buying a single pair of v2. I think the Vaporfly Next% is good for short workouts and shorter thresholds up to 30-40mins of duration, but doesn’t seem to give me much assistance for longer races or workouts. I prefer the Xtep for the more dynamic and cushioned and fun ride.
Sam: The original baby blue 4% is still one of my top 5 shoes of all time. Subsequent 4% were firmer, more rigid and had over snug uppers.
My pair of Next % 2…Considerably lighter, more agile, with a not quite as secure upper as the Xtep but one oh so light and comfortable is still my pick for below a half in this match up, unless that is, if I pick the flexible carbon Xtep 160X 2.0 . Over a half, the superior front cushion of the 3.0 Pro and its rear stability will have me leaning its way.
Nike Tempo Next % (RTR Review)
Derek: I am true to size in both shoes. The Tempo Next% was my shoe of the year for 2020. It got to a point I didn’t want to use it too much for being overly reliant on the excellent rocker of the shoe. Now with the Xtep 160 3.0 Pro, you have a shoe that is lighter, has a softer, bouncier and smoother underfoot feel with an assisted ride that is actually even better than the Tempo Next%. There is no doubt for me that the Xtep is the better shoe.
Sam: Tempo Next was also one of my faves of 2020 for its super stable heel and explosive front. I find the two here quite different as the Tempo Next has a far more mechanical or even zoned feel (heel stable, forefoot rebound) than the smoother flowing Xtep. As a long fast run trainer the heavier Tempo Next may still be better but the lighter Xtep ends up more versatile and pleasing.
Adidas Prime X (RTR Review)
Derek: I went a half size down in the Prime X and am true to size in the Xtep 160 3.0 Pro. Despite the Prime X having more stack, I find the degree of leg savings to be quite similar between the 2 shoes. In fact the Xtep may be a little better. The Xtep is the overall better shoe because it is lighter, has a much much much better upper in terms of lockdown and fit, and it is actually bouncier than the Prime X. Neither shoe is particularly stable, but none of the cool shoes are.
Adidas Adios Pro 3 and 2 (RTR Review)
Bryan: I really love the Adios Pro 2. It has a sensational ride, but lacks a little stability, and has a brilliant Celermesh upper. As you might already know from my countless mentions prior, I really am not a fan of the Xtep upper. But with regards to ride and performance, the Xtep Ace midsole is a step up from Lightstrike Pro in terms of rebound.
Derek: I am true to size in all the models. Adios Pro2 has the most aggressive transition for me, while the Adios Pro3 somehow became a little too stable and the new configuration also made the ride a little less bouncy than Adios Pro 2. Adios Pro3 hence is now a little less bounce and a little less rockered than its predecessor which is a bit of a shame because the upper is improved over v2. The Xtep is a better long distance shoe for me than all of the above because it has much better cushioning and it’s also much more bouncy and fun to run in. I think the Adios’es are better for shorter races and track workouts and definitely have better cornering stability (especially Adios Pro 3). Overall I think the Xtep is the best shoe of the bunch.
Sam: Agreeing with Derek on all points. Matching its angular visual design the Pro 3 is all sharper angles from a stiffer transition to a more abrupt final toe off. Mechanical and highly elite focused vs. elegant riding is how I would compare the two.
Puma FAST-R Nitro Elite (RTR Review)
Derek: I am true to size in both shoes. The Fast-R really takes some getting used to. I think the heel firmness contrasts just a little bit too much with the springiness of the forefoot. Everything else about the shoe is excellent, from fit to stability and grip. The shoe really feels like the geometry works best for a heel to mid foot strike pattern for me but the firmness of the heel is a bit jarring at this running style and I ended up more mid-forefoot striking, which to be fair is what Puma advocates. I think for long races and long runs, the Xtep is the more leg-saving shoe and the ride is also more lively. People who don’t like unstable heels would prefer the Fast-R.
Sam: I appreciated the stability of the heel and great upper but had a hard time transitioning past the stiff midfoot to get to the delightfully bouncy and yet more pleasing forefoot of the Xtep. The smoother riding more of a piece, more any pace or distance versatile 3.0 Pro is a clear pick as a result.
Puma Deviate Elite Nitro (RTR Review)
Derek: I am true to size in both shoes, though the Elite is noticeably more snug across the board. The Puma reminds me of the 4% more with a lower stack profile and more nimble ride that can handle all sorts of pace variations. Xtep focuses more on cushioning and long distance efficiency. For long races and workouts, the Xtep is the better shoe for me. For shorter races and workouts, I think the Puma feels faster and more efficient.
Sam: The Deviate Elite is an 8mm drop has no rear carbon wings and with softer foam, considerably lower feeling at the heel unless I am going all out, whereas the Xtep handles all paces equally well but as Derek says due to its higher stack is less nimble. Short distances only shoe for me with the Xtep considerably more versatile.
ASICS Glideride 3 (RTR Review)
Bryan: I don’t think it’s a fair comparison of the two, where the Glideride 3 is a fantastic training shoe, and the Xtep a fantastic racing shoe. The FFBlast+ in the GR3 is bouncy, but not as bouncy as the Xtep Ace, and is also far softer and more protective, which is appreciated on training runs. The GR3 is far more stable and has a traditional cushioned upper that is so pleasant to run in.
Derek is in his 30’s and trains 70-80 miles per week at 7 to 8 minute pace in mostly tropical conditions in Singapore. He has a 2:39 marathon PR from the 2022 Zurich Marathon.
Matt is the owner of Made to Run an independent running store based between Manchester and Liverpool in the UK, which he runs alongside his mother Susan who competed in the 1987 Rome World Championships 10,000m and 1988 Seoul Olympic Marathon for Great Britain. So with running in the family, Matt has high goals of replicating what his mother did and having raced at the national level over in the UK for the last 15 years, Matt made a further step towards his goal on his 30th birthday when he won the 2021 Manchester Marathon in 2:18.23, followed two weeks later by winning the Liverpool Rock N Roll Marathon. Matt also has PR’s for the 5km -14:18, 10km – 30:11 and HM – 65:14. Matt’s next goal will be to try and run the 2022 Commonwealth Games Qualifying standard in the marathon over at the Seville Marathon in February. Matt is also the author of The Art of Running, a graphic novel about legendary runner Steve Prefontaine.
Bryan is a road and trail runner living in Melbourne, Australia. He is a consistent sub 1:23 half marathoner and is presently chasing a sub 3-hour marathon. He is 176cm tall and weighs about 63kg / 140lbs.
Nils: 30 years old. Heilbronn, Germany.. My young running career just started 5 years ago with a company run which I joined with some colleagues. I ran roughly 1000km in my first year, doubled and then tripled that number in 2018 and 2019. I’ve run 6 marathons to date with a PR of 2:52 for the marathon. My other PRs are 17:32 for 5k, 36:15 for 10k and 1:19 for the half.
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.