Wednesday, April 27, 2016

adidas Terrex X King - Taking Traction and Innovation to a Whole New Level

 Article by Jeff Valliere

adidas Terrex X King 11oz US Men’s size 9, 6mm drop, $160, available now.

adidas Terrex X-King

Initial impressions:
Since I typically prefer steep, technical terrain (often off trail) and am a sucker for luggy, sticky rubber shoes with a precise fit and good protection, I was quite intrigued with the X King upon first learning of them.  
adidas Terrex X-King
With an innovative removable midsole and Continental outsole fused to the upper “for lightweight and low to the ground feel”, I was eager to give the X King a thorough test and had high hopes after recently testing the adidas Agravic Boost GTX (review here). 
adidas Terrex X-King
Even before taking the shoes out of the box, it is evident that these shoes are unique if only judging on the box, complete with cut out to display the gnarly tread of the shoe.  The box, shoes, paper and associated packaging feel quite heavy, but once I got the shoes unpackaged, they felt quite reasonable and even lighter on the foot.
adidas Terrex X-King
My first impression wearing the shoe was not particularly favorable, as they felt a little awkward with the removable midsole, feeling strangely platform like (not the normal sinking into a rounded and comforting insole) with noticeable seams under my arch.  I had a moment of regret, thinking that I had committed myself to running in a shoe that I may have misjudged, but was still eager to get out on the trail for the final verdict.

adidas Terrex X-King

Though hard to mention any one aspect of the shoe without including another in the same sentence, I’ll start with the outsole, since it is the most glaringly obvious highlight of the shoe.  Made out of Continental rubber, it is essentially a mountain bike tire for your foot.  The lugs are deep, well positioned and shaped effectively for great traction in mud, snow and dirt.
adidas Terrex X-King
Best of all, this rubber compound is STICKY!  I was able to test this shoe in a very wide range of conditions and I was continually amazed at how well it stuck in just about any circumstance.
adidas Terrex X-King
It actually took me a bit of getting used to this sort of traction, as there were many occasions where I would traverse frozen, icy sections of trail, wet rock, gritty/grimy steep slabs of sandstone, polished rock, steep snow, slush, mud and knew that with most other shoes, I would likely slip, but the X King stuck every time. I depended on them doing so.  Temperature was hardly an issue and though I never ran in temps much below freezing, the rubber stuck about as well as it did when it was warm (over 80 degrees)
adidas Terrex X-King
Trail feel and torsional flexibility is excellent.  The X King contours very well over the terrain and I always felt in touch, but not too much, as protection is excellent.

It is the midsole that gives the shoe it’s structure, so the outsole without the midsole is extremely flexible.  So much so, you can roll it up into a ball and easily fit it in you pocket!
adidas Terrex X-King
After around 40 miles of testing, I did start to notice the lugs starting to wear some, especially in the forefoot, but it was not excessive.  With rubber this sticky though, I suspect wear will be a bit quicker than shoes with a harder compound.

adidas Terrex X-King

The removable midsole/insole is a one piece EVA insert, intended to be interchangeable with different inserts for different uses, racing, training, etc… (though at the time of testing, there were no other midsole options that I know of).
adidas Terrex X-King
The included midsole/insole is titled “Speed” and features a 6mm drop.  For the X King in its current form, I never felt the need, even if options did exist, to change to various level midsoles, as the one supplied felt appropriate for this specific shoe.  Cushioning is firm and responsive when pushed and overall the X King felt good at just about any speed.
adidas Terrex X-King
Also integrated in the forefoot of the midsole is a flexible stone guard.  Combined with the EVA cushion and the generous lugs, I found that rock protection is amazing without compromising ground feel and flexibility.

adidas Terrex X-King

Fused with the Continental rubber outsole, the upper integrates very nicely and provides a precise, true to size and somewhat snug fit.  Room in the forefoot is just enough for a little swelling, but I found it to not allow for much splay (which for a high performing, all mountain shoe best suited for steep terrain, I am OK with).
adidas Terrex X-King

Overlays are minimal, utilizing the signature adidas side stripe logo act as very effective supports.  The upper is quite breathable, yet does a good job keeping out dirt and debris (though any bit of moisture easily penetrates).
adidas Terrex X-King

The X King has a very solid (yet unnoticeable from the inside) wrap around toe bumper which is quite durable, bulletproof and integrates well.  It is a toe bumper that will protect from the hardest and clumsiest of kicks.
adidas Terrex X-King
The heel counter and collar is semi flexible and on the minimal side in both thickness and padding, but does an effective job holding the heel in place without any discomfort or rubbing.
adidas Terrex X-King

The tongue, though mostly adequate, in my opinion is a bit too thin and a bit too short, as I can feel the laces on the top of my foot a bit more than I would like when the laces are cinched tight.  Though I am aware of the pressure, it has not yet been problematic.
adidas Terrex X-King

The X King has quick pull laces and I had a bit of difficulty with them at first, but once I cut the laces down (being very careful, as it is easy to cut off too much) and after I had broke the shoe in a bit, I have made peace with them.  Though I eventually got to a point where I could cinch them with one pull, with enough tension to lock my foot down for an entire run, I would much prefer traditional laces (sausage link please).  Normal laces would be a huge improvement for this shoe.

All in all though, the upper with quick pull laces ultimately provide a very locked in, precise feel with great control and stability.

Overall performance and suggested use:
adidas Terrex X-King
Though not the lightest shoe of it’s kind in my quiver (12 ¼ oz for my size 10), I find the added weight to be worthwhile when I consider the overall confidence inspiring traction, fit, control, performance and protection.
I really appreciate how confidence inspiring this shoe is in the roughest, most varied conditions and how well my foot is locked into the shoe.  It is almost like an extension of my foot.  Though I would not recommend this shoe for most ultras, I am confident that it would certainly provide ample protection/cushion/comfort for long days in the mountains.
I’ll keep this shoe at the front of my rotation and pick it for days when I know I’ll be on steep, rough terrain, wet terrain, mud, off trail or snow (when I am not really worried about getting my feet wet).

TNF Ultra MT - Similar traction, weight and overall feel.  Ultra MT has a better fitting upper, but the traction advantage goes to the X King.  A toss up.
Salomon S Lab Wings SG - Salomon has a superior upper and they have mastered the quick lace, but again, the traction and grip of the X King in just about all conditions probably seals the deal for me.

Jeff's Score - 4.7 out 5

-0.1for laces
-0.1 for weight
-0.1 for tread wear

All Photos Credit: Jeff Valliere

The Terrex X King were provided at no charge to Road Trail Run. The opinions herein are entirely the author's. 
Reviewer Bio

Jeff Valliere is a former pro cyclist who now runs and climbs the mountains of Colorado. He has been top 5 Masters, top 25 overall, at the Pike's Peak Marathon several times, finishing 3d Masters this year. Jeff loves vertical accumulating more than 500,000 vertical feet per year, has climbed all the 14's and 200 of the 13's and has held FKT on several.  He often runs and climbs at night. Passionate about the sport but also the gear he has reviewed hundred of shoes for various magazines and sites and participated in product testing for many brands.  Formerly a bike mechanic he now works in Satellite Imagery. He has twin 5 year old daughters who keep him ever busier yet.

Interested in other 2016 shoes? Road Trail Run has reviewed 30 different models in the last 6 months! Click here for our summary page with links to all the reviews.

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The X King is available from adidas Outdoor at the link below. Sales help support Road Trail Run


John said...

Have you run in the Adidas Agravic? I ma wondering how they compare?

Jeff Valliere said...

Hi John, thanks for reading. Here is a link to my review of the Agravic:

I found the Agravic and the X King to be quite different. The X King is much more performance oriented, lighter, more responsive, a more precise fitting upper, better traction, better stability, more agile, etc...

The Agravic is still a great shoe, but more suited to slower, less performance oriented running/hiking. Traction is still excellent, durability and longevity of the outsole is better than the X King and it comes in a Gore Tex version which is a nice option (though adds a bit of weight). I also found that despite having Boost, the ride was a bit harsh due to the harder rubber compound used for the outsole.

Hope this helps, Jeff.

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