Topo Athletic ST Review
Topo Athletic (“ToPo” is short for Tony Post, the founder of the company and former Vibram CEO and former Vice President of Product and Marketing at Rockport) first launched their brand about two years ago with a Tabi-informed, split-toe design built on a lightweight, minimalist-minded platform (See the Topo M-RR review).
Fast forward a bit and Topo iterated on their design, releasing new models that dropped the split-toe while keeping other tenets of the Topo vision—things like lightweight materials and an anatomically-minded last. One of those models was the Topo ST, and that's what I'll be reviewing today. Read on!
The Topo ST is the lightest shoe in the Topo Athletics running line. It has a very airy and breathable upper, a zero-drop sole that is quite similar to a traditional running shoe but with a little extra flexibility, and a wide toe box.
It is an fantastic shoe for those looking to transition into more minimalist running gear and prefer the security and familiarity of old-fashioned laces versus Vibram’s LS bungees, Topo’s own BOA system, or non-secured shoes like the Vibram EL-X, or ZEMGEAR’s 360 (Ninja) series of shoes.
Here's what Topo Athletic says about the Topo ST:
The ST is our lightest and most responsive running shoe. Light, airy mesh and printed uppers keep weight down and eliminate seams. A neutral platform and anatomic shape allow the foot to move and work naturally through the gait cycle or during fitness activities. ...
The Topo ST has a weight of 6 oz (size 9 US/41 Euro) and a total stack height of 13mm (3mm outsole + 7mm EVA insole + 3mm removable Aegis footbed).
- One of the best uppers of any running shoe!
- Middle-weight for new runners(6 oz)
- Wide toebox
- Comfortable upper material (please go sockless!)
- Sole is not very flexible
- Total stack height is pretty tall at 13mm (10 after removing the glued footbed)
- Diminished groundfeel for experienced barefoot runners
Barefoot Scale — 10-13mm. Excellent for transitioning runners and new long-distance runners.
Testing Background — This review was written about running about 100 miles in the Topo ST in the mountains of Colorado, trails of Vermont, and bike paths around Boston.
Take a spin around the shoes via these photos of the Topo ST:
The Topo ST has a sole that should appeal to those who are interested in transitioning to minimalist running from traditional running shoes. It’s not too thin as to be jarring for newbies, but not quite as thick as most running shoes. It hits a sweet spot between security, comfort, and familiarity, making for a nice introduction to minimalist and barefoot running.
The shoes feature a zero drop design – there is no difference in height between the heel of the shoe and the forefoot with a total stack height of 13mm via a 3mm outsole, 7mm insole, and a removable 3mm foot bed that is actually glued into the shoe but can be taken in and out at will after you (somewhat uncomfortably) rip it out of the shoe.
Without the aegis treated insole, the total stack height is about 10mm, which puts the ST into standard minimalist running thickness. Aegis footbeds are popular in running shoes for their anti-microbial properties, which should provide plenty of odor control.
The sole is pretty flexible in the middle of the shoe, both in terms of upflex, downflex and twist, but the forefoot and heel are quite a bit stiffer (They should soften up over time). The sole is by no means going to emulate barefoot running, but it will bring you closer to the ground than your traditional running shoes.
For experienced minimalist runners, it’s probably too inflexible and thick—these are not Vibram KSO EVOs—but for newcomers, they will experience a huge improvement in flexibility, and ground feel over their traditional shoes.
Fit and Materials
The Topo ST has one of the best uppers I have tested with a transitioning shoe. They are not quite as soft as the fabric uppers in the KSO EVO, ZEMGEAR shoes, or comparable shoes that are quite a bit lighter than the Topo ST, but they are very comfortable and actually a great deal MORE breathable than any of the aforementioned shoes. Topo really nailed it with the uppers in terms of construction, breathability, and durability.
I foresee these uppers lasting longer than your typical Vibram uppers, despite the extreme breathability. They can definitely handle a stray tree branch snag without batting an eye. Other shoe companies can learn a thing or two from Topo in terms of upper construction and materials.
With such breathable uppers, you need not worry about foot stank, even when running barefoot and with these shoes you’ll WANT to run barefoot. That’s how comfortable they are!
The toebox is pretty wide, but the majority of the shoe is average in terms of width, so duck footed individuals need not apply. However, even with my especially wide feet, I found the Topo ST to be very comfortable, especially with its airy uppers.
The ankle has a bit of padding to keep the ST on your feet and provide a sliver of comfort and there is a bit of stiffer material around the heel that provides a bit of structure.
Some people will like this extra structure; some will not. It decreases a bit of lateral flexibility around the ankle, but not by so much. I believe that transitioning runners will appreciate it, which is the primary market for these shoes.
The laces are reinforced with painted on bracers, which add increased durability to the uppers. They do not take away from the comfort of the uppers, unlike other painting on support systems, like in the Vibram EL-X.
I actually really like Vibram Lace Systems and Topo’s BOA cable laces which are available on some Topo models, but if you are looking for traditional laces, the ones in the ST are fantastic. They are the flattened kind, which can tie tighter and more securely than fully rounded laces.
The Topo ST has very well-designed materials and I expect them to last a very long time. After about 100 miles in varied conditions, they show little-to-no wear and the uppers are still as comfortable and airy as the first time I tried them on.
The flexibility of the sole has increased a bit as I ran in them a little more, but do not expect them to become as flexible as a true minimalist or barefoot shoe.
Because other uppers are so breathable, these shoes are not recommended for rainy runs. Things will start getting squishy REAL quick if you decide to go out in a rain storm or running along a river.
The Topo ST is the lightest shoe in the Topo lineup and it is easily their best shoe. It is a fantastic shoe for new minimalist runners and experienced runners looking to go long distances. The uppers are easily one of the best I have ever experienced and the shoe is very comfortable to wear barefoot.
I wish that Topo would release a more “hardcore” barefoot shoe with the same materials and half the stack height. With such a shoe, they could definitely compete with the Vibram KSO EVO and other lighter shoes.
Overall, I am very pleased with the Topo ST and plan on recommending it for many of my friends and colleagues. For anyone at a level below “experienced barefooter”, they are excellent. And if you look around, you can find them on sale (e.g. at REI!). Or you can hop over to TopoAthletic.com!
A huge thanks goes to Topo Athletics for sending me the ST for review. We are looking forward to seeing what else is in the pipeline!