Topo ST-2 Review

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Topo have impressed me as the only shoe company that is producing consistently good running shoes. Their design philosophy is to produce simple shoes that are designed for the human foot. This is so simple and obvious it's hard to believe no one else is doing it. Altra come close, but their shape is a little exaggerated, and their toe box doesn't allow room for your toes to move naturally. The ST-2 is both a little lighter and a little better cushioned than their Fli-Lyte, itself a pretty good shoe. The ST-2 is not perfect, but the flaws are fairly minor, and the advantages are significant. It provides more than enough cushioning to get the benefits for Running Economy, it's close to zero drop, it's reasonably comfortable, and did I mention it's designed to fit the human foot? This means that there's room for your toes to splay naturally during toe off, and there is no attempt to manipulate your running stride with things like medial posts. It's one of the very few shoes where I've never even considered cutting the toe box open. I struggled with my rating of the ST-2, and it's come close to a "Best of the Best" rating, but in the end, it didn't quite make it. My final rating is "Highly Recommended," as I think the Nike Zoom Streak LT is a better shoe. (I use The Science of Running Shoes as the basis of how I test running shoes and what you should look for in a running shoe.)

Topo ST-2 top
Topo ST-2 outside
Topo ST-2 bottom
Topo ST-2 inside

1 Characteristics

  • Cushioning . The ST-2 is reasonably well cushioned for its weight. While its cushioning-to-weight ratio is not up there with the greats, such as the Hoka Clifton or the New Balance RC5000v2, it does well for itself. The insole of the ST-2 is thicker than many shoes, which means it provides a greater portioning of the cushioning, with relatively less provided by the midsole. I found this made the ST-2 a little non-linear; the initial landing is softer, but later in the foot strike it seems to firm up. I'm not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing, and I had no troubles running in the ST-2. I found it to be comfortable and otherwise quite smooth and even. I have some concerns with the longevity of the insole, especially as it's providing so much of the cushioning, and you may need to consider Replacement Insoles to extend its lifespan.
  • Drop. Most shoes have heels that are higher than the forefoot (drop), but the ST-2 has the forefoot slightly thicker than the rear. This "negative drop" is a little unusual, but I find I adapt to it pretty quickly. It's only about a millimeter so it's not a big deal.
  • Structure. The ST-2 does not interfere with your Running Form with medial posts or the like. I had no problem with the midsole bulging up under my arch or irritating my planter facia.
  • Flexibility. The thin midsole means the ST-2 is very flexible and moves naturally with your foot when running. It's possible a bit more stiffness and spring in the forefoot would improve Running Economy, but I like the natural feel of the ST-2.
  • Outsole. There's hard rubber outsole over move of the contact areas of the sole, with just a few patches of exposed midsole foam. After 100 miles (!60Km) I found no abrasion on the rubber patches, but there was some wear on the exposed midsole foam just behind the forefoot. This seems to be minor, and even if it wore away more I don't think it would be noticeable.
  • Shape. Topo shoes have the best shape of any of the shoes I've tested. The ST-2 has a roomy toe box that doesn't constrain my toes at all, allowing them to both splay out at toe off, and bend slightly during the flight phase. The Topo shoes are the nearest I've found to allowing my toes to more as they would barefoot. They're even better for me than the Vibram FiveFingers. (The founder of the company apparently worked for Vibram and was involved in their FiveFingers range of shoes.) The Topo's shoe shape is quite a bit better than Altra, whose toe boxes are overly stylized and exaggerated, as well as not having quite enough headroom or quite enough room on the side of the smallest toes. I sometimes find the tops of my toes can be irritated in Altra shoes, but not in the Topo.
  • Upper. The ST-2 doesn't have many seams, but it does have some thick overlays that reinforce the upper. These overlays are both inside and outside the main upper, which makes them more likely to rub. I didn't have a problem, but it's something to watch out for. I run with three layers of socks (a double layer Wright sock over a thin Injinji) so I'm less likely to suffer problems. If you want to run sockless, the overlays could well cause you an issue. There's also a seam where the tongue is sown in just behind the toe box that's rather more prominent than I'd like. Again, I didn't have an issue, but I can see it being a problem for some runners. There's almost no padding in the upper, not even around the ankle opening. This reduces the weight, but reduces comfort a little. The upper is mostly open mesh, so except for the overlays it's nicely breathable.
  • Tongue. The ST-2 has a traditional tongue that is has a tab to attach it to the laces. The tongue is nicely padded, which is odd considering even the ankle opening is bare. Personally, I'd rather have a bit more padding around the ankle opening and less in the tongue.
  • Lacing. The ST-2 has flat laces, but they are rather slick and I had a couple of times when they came undone mid-run.
  • Heel Counter. There's no heal counter on the ST-2, just a small tab of rubberized reinforcement to keep the shoe's shape when it's not being worn.
helping-hand.jpg

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2 A Comparison with other Recommended Shoes

For a more detailed comparison of these shoes see the Recommendations for Best Running Shoes. This table lists the key attributes of What to Look for in Running Shoes. For more detailed information, on the shoes see detailed shoe comparison.

Full Review Name Rating Recommended
price
Benefit Weight
(oz)
Penalty
(sec/mile)
Forefoot
Thickness
Heel
Thickness
Loaded Drop
mm
Cushioning Flexibility
Asics 33-DFA Review 33-DFA Worth considering $90 5.7 10.6 16.5 27 27 0 6.1 5
Saucony Type A6 Review A6 Highly Recommended $100 8.2 6.1 9.5 17 21 4 5.0 7
Adidas Adios Boost 2 Review Adios Worth considering $140 4.7 8.6 13.4 17 27 11 4.0 6
Merrell Bare Access Bare Access Review Pending $95 5.0 7.2 17.8 15 12 -2 3.6 7
Hoka Bondi 5 Review Bondi Recommended $150 6.1 11.6 18.1 38 42 5 7.1 2
Hoka Clayton Review Clayton Best of the Best $150 8.8 8.3 12.9 26 30 3 7.3 4
Hoka Clifton 3 Review Clifton3 Best of the Best $130 9.1 9.8 15.3 34 38 3 8.9 5
On Cloudracer Review Cloudracer Worth considering $130 5.7 8.2 12.8 19 27 5 4.7 7
Hoka Conquest Review Conquest Worth considering $170 5.0 11.9 18.5 28 34 5 6.0 2
Saucony Cortana 4 Review Cortana Worth considering $150 4.4 9.9 18.7 22 28 5 4.3 4
Mizuno Wave Cruise Review Cruise Worth considering $120 6.6 5.9 12.5 17 20 7 3.9 6
Newton Distance IV Review Distance Worth considering $155 7.5 9.1 14.2 26 31 3 6.8 5
Asics Gel DS Racer 10 Review DS Racer Worth considering $110 8.2 7.0 10.9 21 26 6 5.8 5
Mizuno Wave Ekiden 8 Review Ekiden Worth considering $115 5.7 5.7 14.6 13 18 6 3.2 8
Saucony Endorphin 2 Review Endorphin 2 Review Pending $115 7.4 5.5 10.2 15 13 -1 4.1 8
Adidas Energy Boost Review Energy Worth considering $160 7.2 10.0 15.6 20 30 7 7.2 5
Altra Escalante Review Escalante Best of the Best $130 9.1 8.7 13.5 28 25 -1 7.9 6
Puma Faas 100 R Review Faas 100 Highly Recommended $90 8.4 6.1 9.4 15 20 1 5.1 8
Saucony Fastwitch Review Fastwitch Highly Recommended $90 9.5 7.1 11.1 20 22 4 6.8 7
Topo Fli-Lyte Review Fli-Lyte Highly Recommended $100 6.0 9.4 14.6 23 24 4 5.6 5
Nike Free 4.0 Review Free Recommended $120 5.3 8.2 13.6 24 30 6 4.4 5
Saucony Freedom Review Freedom Recommended $160 5.4 10.7 16.6 25 29 3 5.8 6
Asics Gel Lyte 33 3 Review Gel Lyte Not recommended $90 8.0 7.3 11.4 17 24 4 5.8 9
Skechers GOmeb Speed 3 Review GOmeb 3 Worth considering $120 6.9 8.1 12.6 20 24 4 5.5 8
Skechers GORun 4 Review GORun Not recommended $100 6.1 7.5 11.7 15 23 3 4.5 7
Skechers GOrun Ultra 2 Review GRU Worth considering $90 7.5 10.0 15.6 28 34 8 7.5 4
Skechers GOrun Ultra Road Review GRU-R Worth considering $105 6.5 11.3 17.6 30 40 6 7.4 6
Asics GT 2000 Review GT 2000 Not recommended $120 4.8 11.2 17.4 28 35 5 5.4 2
New Balance Hanzo S Hanzo Review Pending $110 7.6 6.9 10.7 21 19 2 5.2 5
Hoka Hupana Review Hupana Recommended $115 6.1 8.9 13.9 31 36 7 5.4 4
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 7 Review Hyper Speed Highly Recommended $75 10.9 6.3 9.8 22 26 5 6.8 6
Altra Instinct 3.5 3.5 Review Instinct 3.5 Recommended $115 4.9 9.3 15.2 24 23 0 4.5 5
Altra Instinct 4.0 Review Instinct 4.0 Worth considering $120 6.0 9.8 15.3 29 25 -1 5.9 5
Asics Tarther Kainos 3 Review Kainos Worth considering $130 10.0 6.9 10.7 17 27 9 6.8 6
Saucony Kinvara 8 Review Kinvara 8 Review Pending $110 9.3 8.6 13.4 26 31 3 8.0 5
Nike LunaRacer 4 Review LunaRacer Recommended $90 9.9 7.0 10.9 22 30 7 6.9 5
Nike LunarSpider R5 Review LunarSpider Recommended $125 6.9 6.7 10.4 17 21 3 4.6 6
Hoka Mafate Speed Review Mafate Best of the Best $170 7.6 11.9 18.5 39 40 4 9.0 1
Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 v2 Review N0 Highly Recommended $100 7.9 6.5 10.1 14 20 4 5.2 8
Saucony Nomad Review Nomad Review Pending $110 4.3 10.5 17.2 25 27 2 4.5 4
Hoka Odyssey Review Odyssey Highly Recommended $130 8.5 9.4 14.6 37 45 5 8.0 3
Altra Olympus Review Olympus Highly Recommended $130 5.4 11.8 18.4 27 27 3 6.4 3
Altra One 2.5 Review One Highly Recommended $100 8.5 7.1 11.1 22 25 2 6.0 7
Altra Paradigm Review Paradigm Highly Recommended $130 6.4 9.9 15.4 25 25 1 6.4 2
Asics Piranha SP 5 Review Piranha Recommended $100 10.1 4.2 6.5 11 15 3 4.2 9
Brooks PureFlow 5 Review PureFlow Worth considering $110 6.0 9.7 15.1 26 29 5 5.8 8
Salming Race Review Race Worth considering $130 6.9 6.5 10.1 16 19 4 4.5 6
New Balance RC1600 v2 Review RC1600 Highly Recommended $110 8.8 5.6 8.7 15 21 5 4.9 8
New Balance RC5000 Review RC5000 Best of the Best $125 12.2 3.4 5.3 13 17 3 4.2 8
New Balance RC5000v2 Review RC5000v2 Best of the Best $125 14.2 4.0 6.2 13 21 6 5.7 7
Skechers GoRun Ride 3 Review Ride Worth considering $85 5.9 8.5 13.2 18 28 6 5.0 8
Inov-8 RoadXTreme 220 Review RXT-220 Worth considering $120 5.2 8.0 18.2 14 17 3 4.2 8
Topo ST-2 Review ST-2 Highly Recommended $90 8.2 7.3 11.4 20 18 0 6.0 7
Hoka Stinson Lite Review Stinson Highly Recommended $160 7.3 11.6 18.1 35 40 6 8.5 0
Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 Review Streak LT Best of the Best $80 8.8 5.4 8.4 16 21 4 4.8 5
Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Review Takumi Sen 3 Highly Recommended $160 7.7 6.6 10.2 17 21 4 5.1 5
Altra Torin 2.0 Review Torin Worth considering $125 5.8 9.6 14.9 28 25 -1 5.5 4
Hoka Tracer Review Tracer Recommended $130 7.2 7.4 11.5 21 24 2 5.3 5
Merrell Trail Glove 3 Review Trail Glove Best of the Best $100 2.9 6.9 24.7 11 11 0 2.0 8
Topo Tribute Review Tribute Recommended $100 5.9 7.3 11.4 20 18 -1 4.3 6
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 Review Universe Highly Recommended $125 10.7 3.1 10.6 9 12 1 3.3 9
Merrell Vapor Glove 2 Review Vapor Glove Highly Recommended $85 2.1 6.1 27.6 6 5 0 1.3 10
New Balance Vazee Pace Review Vazee Pace Worth considering $110 6.0 8.6 13.4 18 24 6 5.2 5
Asics TartherZeal 3 Review Zeal Worth considering $140 10.9 6.3 9.8 17 27 9 6.8 6

It's not a running shoe, but I love the Hoka Tor Ultra hiking boot and I've tested the Altra Lone Peak Boot.
Older shoe reviews: Saucony Hattori Review, Mizuno Cursoris Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, Hoka Clifton Review, Saucony Virrata 2 Review, Brooks PureCadence 3 Review, Brooks PureConnect 3 Review, Brooks PureFlow 3 Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, New Balance 980 Review, Brooks Transcend 2 Review.
Reviews of shoes that are not worth including on the table: Hoka Huaka Review, Patagonia EVERlong Review.