Deckers’ “Hypersneaker” Redefines Performance Footwear Design

Deckers X Lab sneaker product shot

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Brand: Deckers X Lab

Model: K-ST 21

Key Features: The core of the K-ST 21 is a suspension system the brand refers to as “Carbon Bow Technology.” Between insole and outsole lies a foot-length carbon plate. That plate is curved like a longbow, supporting the arch of your foot (and leaving a gap between itself and the midsole). With every step, the vertical impact of foot to ground “draws” the carbon bow, cushioning body load while building energy that is loosed the second you start moving.

Unlike other carbon shoes (Nike’s NEXT%; HOKA’s Carbon X), the K-ST 21 is not designed to roll your momentum into a maximally-efficient stride. It is both cushion and catapult: an energy maximizer whenever and however it’s deployed.

Release Date: September 1

Price: $199

Buy: Online at deckersxlab.com/pages/k-st

Editor’s Notes: Nike has the Innovation Kitchen. Lockheed has Skunkworks. Now Deckers Brands (the parent of brands such as Ugg and HOKA) is getting in on the moonshot game with its own brand of experimentalism. The Deckers X Lab K-ST 21 is a high-concept “hypersneaker” designed by Jean-Luc Diard, co-founder of HOKA ONE ONE (and since 2016, Deckers’ global VP of innovation).

From sole to laces, every inch of the K-ST is designed to correct what Diard and team see as a historical fault.

“Your foot was originally more meant for climbing. It’s narrow and triangular. If we were to design a foot for running from scratch, we’d make it symmetrical,” explains Diard, who spoke with Highsnobiety. “That’s the idea that drove us into the K-ST 21. Our foot is not perfect.”

Starting at the stern, the K-ST’s massive SwallowTail heel pumps up width and balance in exchange for an absolute caboose. It’s an unconventional shape that seems to fight the very direction of shoe travel. And yet, the feature doesn’t impede the day-to-day.

Diard: “The notion of shape in shoes has not been pushed to the degree that it has in skis, snowboards, bikes, and cars. Geometry is super important, and it has been underestimated in footwear since people historically looked at the shape of the foot as if it was ideal.”

In the middle, there’s that Carbon Bow suspension bridge, turning each step into more spring. But why leave the span open instead of casing it in foam?

“That void [between arch and midsole] is there so if you land on rocks or edges, the lower edge can deform itself to ‘wrap’ the hazard while still providing some resistance,” explains Diard. “This gives gradual cushioning without a more brutal instant compression.”

Ironically enough, the K-ST’s upper is where things get a little more grounded. A thin, elasticized tongue is wrapped with stretch panels, Cordura ballistic nylon, and Kevlar-imbued Matryx fabric, essentially lacing the foot into an abrasion-resistant ballet flat. From the co-founder of Hoka, it’s surprisingly scant. It’s also…low to the ground.

“We wanted to start with a lower profile to show that the [Carbow Bow] system can work,” says Diard. “It’s obvious that putting more foam around would mean more cushioning. Think of this as Version 1.”

Style-wise, think of it as a Rick Owens Tech Runner with the tech turned to 11. The K-ST’s wild shape and unabashed function make it legitimately difficult to work into everyday fits. But hey. People used to say that about the 990v3.

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