Every once in awhile, you encounter something genuinely unique in functional design, and the new Deckers X Lab K-ST 21 Hypersneaker is one of those designs. If you are not familiar with Deckers, which you probably aren't unless you are in the shoe business, they are a Santa Barbara-based company that runs Hoka, Teva, Sanuk, and UGG. Their newest division, Deckers X Lab, led by Jean-Luc Diard, the co-founder of the ever-innovative HOKA and former CEO of Salomon, is focused on innovation in sneakers. We got a pair of the new K-ST 21s to take on a test drive, here is what we thought.
Aesthetic - So, at first glance, this sneaker is something that looks more akin to a movie prop for a sci-fi movie rather than a practical sneaker for the average biped. In short, if you wear these kicks out in public, you are going to get some looks and a lot of questions. So if you can tolerate the attention, this sneaker has a lot to offer from a purely functional perspective, which we will get to shortly. Yeah, it's crazy looking and a thing of beauty if you change your lens and think of it as something like an airplane wing. The first thing you will notice is the relatively sizeable protruding heal that forms what looks like a forked tongue or swallowtail, along with a hole in the shoe's sole, which makes room for a carbon fiber spring of sorts. In layman's terms, the premise is working with human locomotion to help create a smoother and more stable stride. The extended heal provides a more stabilizing heel strike, while the carbon fiber support absorbs the impact and propels you up, creating a more fluid stride - which feels a bit like gliding compared to standard running shoes.
Function - At first glance, you might think the K-ST 21 is a running shoe; it is not. The shoe was designed for power walking, the gym, and even Parkour, a somewhat fringe sport that most is a bit out of reach but does make for a sexy marketing campaign. When sliding on the shoes for the first time, you will notice the pure comfort and added height they give you; you start to walk and wow. If you are a morning walker or biped commuter, you have just found your new best friend. At first, the feeling is subtle, but once you get moving, you can start to feel the glide in your stride, making for a more stable and confident stroll. An excellent way to feel the difference is to replace one of the shoes with a standard running shoe to contrast. Do we expect people to wear these as everyday sneakers, maybe a few daring soles, but most will use them for walking and gym workouts.
Should you buy them? - If you are someone who puts on a lot of miles walking or looking for some more stability in the gym, the K-ST 21 is definitely worth your time. At $199 MSRP, this shoe is not for the meek or weekend warrior types; this is a sneaker for those committed to movement and upping their game with the latest tech. It will be interesting to see how this design evolves into more of an everyday sneaker, as it's too extreme for daily casual wear.
Some of the onboard tech and inspirations
The K-ST 21's new Carbon Bow Technology is stationed to meet the foot's arch, converting your downward energy into that flowing feeling. The SwallowTail heel design establishes ground contact earlier to propel you forward into the Carbon Bow suspension. It's almost like regenerative breaking in an electric car; your own energy gets redistributed and helps push you forward more effectively.
The team at Deckers X Lab used many of their core DNA in performance and inspirations from marathon footwear, skis, and even F1 race cars.
Is this the beginning of a revolution in design and suspension systems in footwear? Sure feels like it.
- Extremely breathable upper with a mesh on the sides. The materials include CORDURA Ballistic nylon and Matryx fabric.
- Comfort is hard to beat, with extra detail given to heel cushioning and room at the front.
- Improves your overall locomotion in both stride fluidity, comfort, and performance.
- The design may be too extreme for the average sneaker-wearing biped, but hey, it wasn't designed for you anyway.
- Probably too expensive for the average power walker.
For more information on the design and its creator, check out the Deckers site HERE.