“Better is not an accident, Stronger is not a gift, Faster is not a coincidence. It’s a choice.” - Topo Athletic.
Although they may be reasonably unheard of, Topo Athletic can certainly talk the talk, the question is can they walk the walk?
The first pair of trainers by Topo I’m lacing up are the women’s ‘Speed Trainer', designed for intervals and speed work.
Design and Comfort
Aesthetically these look very similar to my Vivo barefoot trainers and they are equally lightweight, but once my foot is slipped in there’s substantial difference in support. Although the Topo's padding is minimal, it felt far more cushioned than my other barefoot shoes. Topo’s designer To-ny Po-st helped launch the Vibram (otherwise known as the trainer with the toes), so it’s no surprise elements of the five-fingered shoe are reflected in his trainers.
The Topo original design separated the larger toe, to encourage the user to make more agile use of all of their foot. However after runners tested the style they preferred a more familiar closed front.Although the design pattern on the front of the trainer still mimics its ancestor, all five of my toes sit comfortably together in the large toe box. I’m relieved not to have them separated like a camel. Bullet dodged.
The First Run
I’ll be the first to admit I'm not the fastest of runners, typically for a warm up I'll average about 6.5-7 mph. A pace I know I'm comfortable with which prepares my heart rate for the bulk of my weight-based workouts. When I jumped onto the treadmill in the Topo ST’s, I seemed to be running with ease, so I cranked up to 8mph.The lack of heel-to-toe drop is designed to encourage a better running posture and it did feel like I was running with better technique. My first impression of these trainers was good, although they don’t call them ‘Speed Runner’ for nothing. Sprinting is definitely going to be where these trainers earn their stripes.
This may seem like an odd thing to review, but let me explain. I’ve spent the last few years working in gyms, therefore, I’m used to listening to the hum of a treadmill, when members pound the belt you can hear they are running with poor form without even looking. For myself, I know when my trainers are affecting my running style when my giant over ear headphones can't drown out the sound of my feet pounding on the belt. So when I leapt on the treadmill in my Topo’s and could enjoy my warm up tracks disruption-free, I realised these shoes are a winner. They were almost silent. I could feel myself holding my head higher and running with more of a barefoot style, the ball of my foot was definitely hitting the treadmill first, even if I couldn't hear it.
The Sprint Test
After a gentle warm up, I opted for 30-second sprints varying from 11.5 - 12 mph. The light weight of the trainer could leave you forgetting you're even wearing them if it wasn’t for the cushioning. The foam padding around the ball of the foot and wide toe box was perfect for driving off as fast as possible and left me supported and yet totally in control of every stride.
I was really impressed with these trainers, you can tell that they are designed with purpose and perform with ease. The style is also well - suited to gym based activity as it’s low platform allows you to drive off the whole of the foot for larger compound lifts. The Topo ST's also gathered a fair amount of attention whilst I was wearing them; which not only channeled my inner narcissist, but gave me a great opportunity to explain the benefits of a minimalist running shoe and encourage others to try a barefoot running style.