Barefoot Shoes

Topo Athletic ST and MT Ditch Tabi, Go Traditional

Have you heard? Topo Athletic, the company Tony Post (“Topo”) founded after leaving Vibram USA, is launching two new models in the coming months ? the Topo Athletic ST (hitting imminently and just now available for pre-order) and the Topo Athletic MT.…

Have you heard? Topo Athletic, the company Tony Post (“Topo”) founded after leaving Vibram USA, is launching two new models in the coming months ? the Topo Athletic ST (hitting imminently and just now available for pre-order) and the Topo Athletic MT. Notably, neither of these new models has the “split-toe” Tabi design of the original three Topo Athletic shoes (See the RR review here and an overview of the original Topo models here). The split-toe, being so distinctive, really set the originals apart from other running shoes. So where did it go? What does it mean? To find out, I talked to Tony about the launch. You can read more (and see the split-toe-less … er … traditional-toe-boxed shoes) after the jump!

What does it mean?

A photo of the Topo Athletic ST.  Note the fabric bar on the top of the instep -- that's where the split is for the original Topos.
A photo of the Topo Athletic ST. Note the fabric bar on the top of the instep — that’s where the split is for the original Topos.
Well, not at lot, really. Hold that thought. Perhaps even more than five-toed shoes (FiveFingers), the Tabi, split-toe design the first three Topos featured was at least a little odd-looking. I know how strange that must be to read on a site about “barefoot shoes” that take “odd-looking” footwear to new heights, but well, it is what it is (do you disagree?). So while Topo got kudos (and attention!) for taking a bold approach to their new shoes, I imagine the sales on round 1 (all 3 of the first shoes being split-toe) were slim. That’s my guess, anyway. I had the chance to chat with the great Tony Post about losing the split-toe for the new ST and MT launch and Tony made note that the split-toe models aren’t going away; the ST and MT are simply being launched for those customers who want all the other aspects of Topo shoes — but would prefer shoes with a traditional toe box. And really, simply focusing on the split-toe of Topos ignores other aspects of the shoes. Remember: Tony launched Topo after heading up Vibram to FiveFingers “barefoot shoe” glory. And there are a lot of qualities to minimalist shoes beyond toe articulation. Of note, Topo Athletic shoes push an anatomically correct last, a “zero drop” platform (level/flat from heel to toe), and a lightweight package overall. These are really important aspects of healthy footwear. Now with the ST and MT, you can get these attributes without the cleft. Frankly, getting all the above without the split-toe is a win in my book as the split-toe look has never sat right in my eye. What’s your take? Since Topo shoes tend to be on the thicker side in total stack height (12- 19mm) as compared to most shoes in the minimalist footwear (4 – 10mm), Topo isn’t pushing their shoes as “minimalist” or “barefoot” per se. Regardless, if you’re after shoes that don’t elevate your heels, cramp your toes, or weigh your feet down, the Topos (split-toe or no) are worth consideration. We’ve yet to review either of these new models, so you’ll have to stay tuned for that. However, for now, you can take a spin around the shoes and learn more about them in the press release and galleries below. You can even pre-order the ST over at Topo’s website (the MT will launch exclusively with REI in 2014). Curious what your take is on all this, so please comment below! The Topo Athletic press release is below!

Topo Athletic Laces Up for Speed and Rugged Trails

New ST and MT footwear models are extraordinarily lightweight and versatile Newton, Mass. ? November 19, 2013 ? Innovative footwear brand Topo Athletic announced today the addition of two new models to its expanding shoe portfolio: the Speed Trainer (ST) and Mountain Trainer (MT). The ST and MT models feature a traditional toe box, providing consumers with a wider selection of style and fit. It is an interesting design twist from a CEO known for marketing some of the most distinctive looking shoes in the business, including Topo Athletic?s debut line that launched in July with a split-toe design. ?Athletes train in both urban and natural environments so it?s important for us to offer lightweight versatile footwear that is rugged enough to be worn on the trail and the road,? said Tony Post, CEO of Topo Athletic. ?Although we are encouraged by the positive reception our split-toe line received, we look forward to launching shoes like the ST and MT while still delivering on our core product values in shape, platform and lightweight construction.? The split-toed ?R series? continues to be Topo Athletic?s deepest expression of amplified natural movement, but for those that prefer a more traditional look and feel, the ST and MT incorporate the trademark features of the original line that make Topo Athletic?s shoes unique:
  • The ?Y? shape fit: follows the natural shape of the foot ? fitting snug and secure through the mid-foot and heel, but roomier in the toe box so the toes can spread and splay
  • Neutral drop and near neutral drop platforms: keep the feet on a level plane, which encourages a more natural body posture during exercise, and a mid-foot strike while running
  • Medium stack height (12-19 mm): provides more protection and shock absorption underfoot than what is found in a typical minimal shoe (4-10 mm), while still allowing the foot to gather feedback from the environment, and move more naturally
  • Weight: lightweight, breathable materials combined with high frequency welding for a seamless interior finish (to minimize chafing and blisters); 3-D printed upper patterns make the shoes light (between 5-8 oz), flexible, and soft on the foot
Features specific to the new ST and MT models include: Speed Trainer (ST, MSRP $90): Specifically designed for speed training, tempo runs and racing:
  • Breathable mesh upper with 3-D polyurethane print detailing for flexibility and weight relief
  • Detachable 3 mm EVA antimicrobial footbed
  • Co-molded 3 mm rubber outsole / 7 mm EVA midsole (13 mm total stack height)
  • 4.9 oz (size W7) / 5.8 oz (size M8)
Mountain Trainer (MT, MSRP $100): Incredibly versatile, the lightweight MT is designed for trail running and light hiking:
  • Rugged high-traction outsole provides stability and multi-directional traction over a variety of surfaces
  • A 2 density EVA midsole keeps athletes insulated from sharp rocks and roots without losing the necessary feedback and ground feel that is so important to balance and agility
  • A detachable 5 mm 2 density EVA footbed works in combination with the 2 density EVA midsole to deliver protection and comfort in a mid-stack 19 / 17 mm platform
  • Breathable mesh and 3-D polyurethane printed detailing for flexibility and weight relief
  • Variable width lacing closure delivers optimal fit for different instep heights
The Speed Trainer (ST) will be available online for preorder starting Tuesday, Nov. 19 ? available for shipping and purchase in select retail stores on Dec. 1. The Mountain Trainer (MT) will launch exclusively with REI January (2014) and then to a wider retail distribution starting Feb. 1. To learn more about the new models or request a holiday ?13 / spring ?14 catalogue, please contact: Linda Battaglia at [email protected]. About Topo Athletic Topo Athletic is an athletic gear company created for and by athletes. Topo products are built with humble innovation, an acknowledgement that the most impressive thing that will ever go into our products is the athlete. We are committed to the ongoing study of physiology, environments and emerging technologies that enable athletes to constantly improve their performance. Topo Athletic was founded in 2012, and is based in Newton, Mass. For more information, please visit

Topo Athletic ST

Topo Athletic MT

Note the MT launches exclusively with REI in 2014! It’s not yet available for pre-sale.

By Justin

Justin Owings is a deadlifting dad of three, working from Atlanta. When he's not chasing his three kids around, you'll find him trying to understand systems, risk, and human behavior.

9 replies on “Topo Athletic ST and MT Ditch Tabi, Go Traditional”

I just don’t see why you would buy these now that it doesn’t have the split toe aspect…

Altra , New Balance Minimus in 2E/4E, Merrell Bare access , etc. already fill that niche

Hey look, conventional running shoes on


Not that the split-toe Topoes were really even minimalist either.

If Topo is truly interested in minimalist shoes, they should offer something comparable to Altra’s no-longer-available Adam shoe.


Topo *isn’t* “truly interested in minimalist shoes” — they aren’t holding their shoes out as minimalist (not now and haven’t before).

That said, they are putting out shoes that aren’t “conventional” in the sense that zero-drop running shoes are still very much in the minority.

I specifically went looking for a split toe shoe after several years in VFFs, for ease in fitting and putting on, while retaining most of the value of mobilizing the forefoot of the 5 toe and huarache approach. I tried on the Topos, but was put off by the stack height and overly constructed soles. These are indeed not minimal, nor I suppose do they pretend to be. That’s fine, but I’m not sure why split toe Topos or the new ones really merit attention on “birthdayshoes”.com. (I ended up with a pair of Ninja toe Zems , which I love and which I do think are somewhat less odd and conspicuous than the VFFs.)


I think they merit attention mostly because at least a few folks on this site want to know about them — even if they aren’t minimalist.

If anything, some might think Topo are minimalist, so it’s helpful to have posts like this to say, “nope, they aren’t.”

I was extremely excited about getting a pair of the originals when they came out, thinking Post truly had taken what he learned at Vibram into his new line of shoes. I’m sure they fit many people’s feet just fine, but I had major issues that many people with flatter feet will be disappointed to find. And, I’m glad Justin pointed out that they aren’t technically marketed as minimal.

Upon trying on the shoes, I immediately noticed what felt like a massive arch in the shoe and there’s no way I could even consider buying them. Coming from wearing only truly flat shoes like Vibrams and Vivobarefoots, this was a huge shock. I was immediately uncomfortable just standing in them. I also noticed they were a bit narrow and snug around my foot. I was initially worried when I saw the cutout in the sole between the heel and midfoot. You can only get away with cutouts like that in thicker soled shoes (look at the gaps in traditional running shoes). It may have a wide shaped toe box, but it’s not as wide as other brands and it just feels like it’s taken a step back in shoe making (like it was designed by the same old ‘traditional’ running shoe designers trying to change their ways with a new minimal shoe design).

I know they supposedly aren’t targeting minimalists with the shoes, but they should be more clear telling people that (and I’m glad Justin is telling everyone that). I’m still looking for the perfect slightly thicker running shoe with all the flatness and wideness I want in a barefoot or minimal shoe. Thought these would be good at 13-15mm, but they aren’t even close. Here’s hoping they figure it out on round two, but looking at the soles I highly doubt it.

The hype around Tony Post got my hopes up, but it was a trap. Maybe I need to revisit these, because as of now I just don’t think they belong anywhere near this category.

Well I was going to leave a comment about the lack of
“minimalist” in this “minimalist” shoe , but Justin pointing out that it’s not marketed as minimal cleans that up. But then why is this shoe featured on a BAREFOOT/MINIMALIST shoe website?! I understand that it’s zero drop and it come from the former CEO of Vibram, and……? Sorry to be opinionated on this topic. I really love the news and reviews of minimalist and barefoot shoes that you do. So thank you for that.

First off, thanks to Justin for posting information about our new MT and ST shoes. I understand that they may not appeal to everyone, but we really appreciate all of the comments. Good or bad, we always like the feedback. And I hope some of you will try the shoes and give us your comments after wearing.

To answer some of your questions:

Our original shoes featured a split toe design. The split toe is an old idea, the Japanese have been making/wearing them for over 100 years. Shigeki Tanaka won the 1951 Boston Marathon in a pair. I always loved the concept/fit/feel, and wanted to explore that on a low profile EVA platform (not necessarily minimal). The idea behind the split toe was to allow articulation of the big toe, and connect the shoe to the body by pocketing the big toe inside a roomy toebox.

While the split toe was what drew some folks to the shoe (some like it, some don?t). We built our brand around 3 core product values:

  1. Shape: snug in the midfoot and heel, roomy in the toes. We disguise some of that in our designs, but that should be the sensation most folks feel. We want your toes to spread and splay naturally, but the fit in the waist and heel make the shoe feel like a part of your body.
  2. Platform: 2 points here:
    • We make level or near level platforms (no more than 3mm drop) because we think that encourages better posture and a mid-foot strike during running. No offense to anyone, but I was talking about this long before ALTRA was born, 😉
    • Low profile/mid-stack heights. Currently, all of our stack heights vary from 12 ? 19mm. Why? I still wear minimal shoes sometimes, but there are many days I want a little more underfoot protection. While that may not appeal to everyone, I was looking for a little more underfoot protection and comfort. I didn?t want anything close to a regular running sole, I wanted something thinner that could move and flex with my foot, with a little more protection than offered in a minimal shoe.
  3. Weight: we use lightweight materials, constructions, and design methods. Our shoes are almost always lighter than regular running or training shoes, often lighter than some minimal shoes.

We launched our new ST and MT with the same benefits above, but without a split toe. This came after many hours of direct consumer interaction in stores, gyms, and on the roads and trails. While we are still fans of the split toe, we wanted to offer folks alternatives with our same core product values. And don?t worry, for those who like the split toe (like me), we have no intention of giving up that concept. The new offering is simply available in addition to the split toe shoes we make.

Phillip, to your comment about feeling the arch ? some of our shoes are lightly posted on the media side of the heel, perhaps that?s what you felt. There is no arch support in the shoe, it?s simply an EVA midsole contoured to follow the natural shape of the foot. The light medial post may not be felt by everyone (noticed more by those with lower arches or flat feet), it doesn?t prevent you from using the muscles in your feet or arch during running or standing, in fact some find it a gentle reminder to do so.

Thanks again to everyone for your comments. Again, we appreciate the feedback, and are happy to answer any additional questions you may have.

Hi Tony,

Thanks for your response and insights into the shoes.

For me, it’s not arch support in the traditional sense of a molded arch, but posting the medial side of the shoe (thickening the shoe under the arch) is support. Traditionally, it seems shoe manufacturers have done this as support for “overpronation.” Almost every barefoot/minimalist shoe fan doesn’t want this in a shoe, and personally I think it’s funny to tout benefits of a wide toe box and low heel elevation when you are putting in support for overpronation. I would love to see you make a model that was completely flat across the base (that wouldn’t force any arch type, flat or high, to conform). You mentioned “some” of them have posting. They all look like the same soles/lasts, so I’m curious which

I agree (and even mentioned) that non-flat foot people will probably have no problem with the posting from a pain/uncomfort standpoint. I have flat feet and the models I tried had way too much posting. To say I “noticed” it is an understatement. You say it doesn’t prevent me from using my muscles, but what it does do is prevent my foot from existing how it is.

I get the idea of contouring the natural shape of the foot, and other shoes have done that. Some of the huarache rubbers are molded up along the foot shape. LEMs does that with theirs and people even complained about the pictures showing “arch support.” The difference is that their sole while hugging your foot shape off the ground, did nothing to your foot shape when weight bearing. It completely flattens out under the foot because of it’s thin and flexible material (same with huarache). By creating a thicker sole you’ve prevented that ability, so for my feet, you’ve basically made an arch “support.” And the entire reason I went to minimal shoes was that they don’t force my foot to exist a certain way (wide toes, no heel, no arch, no posting).

I get that these aren’t technically minimal. And, I get that I won’t be able to wear every type of shoe. I’m fine with that. It’s just when it shows up on a site that promotes certain aspects of minimal/barefoot shoe types, I want flat footers out there to be aware that there’s some “posting” in these. I had really hoped that you were creating a slightly thicker version of a shoe that didn’t force any foot type to conform away from the way it would be naturally. Like a thicker Vivobarefoot or thinner Altra. Let the foot be itself, just on a thicker platform.

Dissapointed I can’t wear the shoes, but hope everyone that can enjoys them. Good luck!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *