Topo Athletic ST-2 Review Facts
The Topo Athletic ST-2 is more of what the minimalist running experience should have been like from the get-go. It’s minimalist at its core but it’s still an “actual” shoe. Other brands mimic the barefoot running experience too accurately— in fact, so accurately that it can be jarring for a runner who is not used to having such an intimate relationship with the ground. I particularly enjoy low profile lightweight shoes. At the same time, I still want to feel safe, secure, and protected. I find that Topo’s ST-2 reaches a happy medium between providing a minimalist running experience in its entirety without having to sacrifice too much of the bare essentials. Topo Athletic reaches this compromise in a variety of ways.
In general, the entire shoe is low to the ground. This includes the outsole, midsole, and upper. The outsole is thin but not so thin that you’ll feel any rocks or fragments against the soles of your feet. There’s still enough space between the bottom of your foot and the ground that you’ll have an adequate barrier as protection. The carbon rubber material also delivers some cushioning on its own and delivers traction control. There’s a fairly sophisticated tread pattern in place in order to retain a firm grip against the floor and maintain versatility. The outsole is also highly flexible like the rest of the shoe.
The midsole is only 7 mm thick. This is clearly not the shoe if you desire cloud-like cushioning
. The midsole offers a minimal amount of support, but enough to carry you through your run. This can be contrasting for a runner who is not used to running in a low profile shoe. However, for someone acclimated to minimalist shoes, the midsole offers just enough cushioning and support to keep you comfortable.
The upper takes up the majority of the volume on this shoe. It incorporates a breathable mesh material that is stretchy and malleable. Most reviewers, myself included, find the roomy interior to be one of the key highlights on the ST-2. Specifically, the toe box in the front gives your feet ample room
and helps with your overall running movement. It gives you plenty of freedom with how you move and how fast you move as well.
The men’s version weighs 6.8 oz and the women’s version weighs in at 5.6 oz. These are some of the lightest running shoes that I have ever worn, and it’s one of the first things that one will notice when first trying them on. The ST-2’s feather-like weight means that they will be the perfect pair of shoes for speed work. With its nimble construction, there is very little to hinder anyone who is interested in picking up speed or sprinting
. I normally dislike giving credit to a shoe for any changes in speed that I notice during my runs as I feel speed mostly depends on one's own physical capabilities. However, the ST-2’s ultra lightweight dynamic helps with achieving faster and more efficient runs.
During the testing period, I usually wore low-cut running socks
. However, I felt they were comfortable and roomy enough where going sock-less would be suitable. Needless to say, the shoe’s ability to capture and circulate outside air through the interior is impressive. It’s especially noticeable if you go without socks. But regardless, socks or no socks, you can still feel a nice gentle breeze penetrating the interior of the shoe.
What is amazing about the ST-2 is that Topo
manages to produce a minimalist
shoe without a laundry list of “comfort features”. Nevertheless, they get it right! In fact, comfort was one of the first things I noticed about the ST-2. Immediately after putting them on, I was amazed by the roomy toe box and the shoe’s general ability to conform to the shape of my foot. The fit is secure, roomy, and natural but without feeling loose.
It’s highly unlikely that the ST-2 will win any awards or celebrity endorsements for its style appeal. The colors and the shoe’s architecture are in line with its minimalist concept. Everything about the shoe is minimalist in the truest sense. The color options available on the Topo
website are grey/black and navy/black. There is one big exception for color though, and that is with the yellow/orange color combo available on Amazon. If you want to compete with other flashy brands like Asics
or Nike, then this could be your cup of tea.
During my testing period, which lasted a little over 2 weeks and roughly over 70 miles in total, I did begin to notice visible signs of wear and tear on the outsole. Most of my running took place on the road but a good chunk of those miles were on my gym’s treadmill. So despite the fact that most of the running occurred over flat and relatively harmless terrain, the outsole showed signs of trauma early on. The midsole also showed some signs of wear and tear but not as bad as the outsole. The upper has remained intact and the mesh material has held up pretty well.
Based on first impressions, I was not expecting a shoe that was overprotective. Fortunately, I was proven wrong and found that the shoe’s construction was protective in the most subtle way possible. Unlike a traditional stability/support shoe that carries high amounts of cushioning and/or higher platforms to keep your foot secure and locked in place, the ST-2’s natural ability to conform to a runner’s foot serves as protection in it of itself. In other words, your feet will move in a more natural and graceful way as nature intended without the need for exterior protective elements.
I found the responsiveness on the ST-2 to be average. The midsole’s thin platform makes it difficult to implement any type of foam material that’s going to provide any significant bounce. However, it's not all bad news. The shoe does have enough cushion to provide a minimal amount of responsiveness to keep you afloat during your runs.
This is another one of those categories where your foot’s natural position will do the work and not the shoe itself. The purpose of minimalist shoes is to guide your feet into achieving their inherent motion as nature intended. This includes your naked foot’s ability to remain stable and supported through its very own structure. For me, this was one of those striking things that I realized after several days of running in the ST-2’s — the fact that any dependence on a shoe’s structure to provide support became null.
This shoe is designed for the road and track. As mentioned earlier, I found the outsole’s durability to be questionable and wished that the rubber materials would be more resilient after prolonged use. I would definitely not recommend trail running
in these shoes or even any rough and uneven roads. The most ideal conditions for this shoe would be the track and treadmill, or any environment where you can take advantage of doing speed work.
The average price range of the ST-2 is just under $100. Amazon offers a wider price range, between the low $70’s and high $90s. A lot will depend on color and size. They are appropriately priced considering the shoe’s comfort and fit, which are the key highlights. On the other hand, the shoe’s durability has the potential to make the ST-2 a one-hit wonder. You’ll love it in the beginning but after noticing its quicker than anticipated wear and tear, one may want to consider other options that will hold up for long.
Despite the outsole’s lack of durability, it surprisingly did offer a good amount of traction control. I find that the combination of the rubber compounds and the tread pattern is able to grip the surface very well. This is especially true out on the open road. It also delivers adequate traction over wet surfaces.
With flexibility, we arrive at the ST-2’s strongest characteristic. In fact, reflecting back on my first run with the ST-2’s, the shoe’s amazing flexibility caught my attention, and it has not left my mind ever since. Every time I run in these shoes, I’m astounded by the shoe’s malleability that allows my foot to move freely and openly. And when you add the roomy toe box, it sums up the entire comfort experience of the ST-2.
Just like support, the shoe’s stability is embedded in the shoe’s minimalistic qualities in that it is there to serve as a guide to induce your foot’s unique and natural architecture to keep you supported and stable. The shoe’s low drop and low profile mean you will be using your foot’s natural motion to guide during toe-offs and landings. There won’t be any dependence on a shoe’s structural components to provide this for you.
The stack height on the ST-2 measures 16mm. The drop measurement for both the men’s and women’s version is 0mm. This shoe is remarkably low to the ground and as close to minimal as you can get without actually going barefoot. The key difference, however, between this shoe and other minimalist footwear goes back to what was stated at the beginning of this review — that is that the ST-2 provides the minimalist structure while still having actual shoes on your feet and not a pair of gloves. A 0 drop offset means that you will have safe, natural, and neutral landings with little risk of injury from heavy heel striking.
• 16 MM Platform
• 0 MM Drop Offset
• Optimal foot flexibility
• Stretch Mesh Upper
• Compact and Versatile
• Highly efficient and suitable for speed work
Speaking for myself, the first time I laid eyes upon these shoes, I was concerned whether I would be suffering from achy joints and legs after running in them. Would my calf muscles be sore and would my feet take a beating like they never have before? Even after several long runs
in the ST-2’s, my legs always felt fresh and ready to go the following morning. It’s easy to associate high profile shoes that are loaded with protective features as the only medicine against achy joints and muscles. And it’s not that this is untrue, it’s just that the ST-2 just proves that the other side of the spectrum can provide just as much benefit for your running health than a high profile cushioned shoe.
Despite a few shortcomings, the ST—2 still manages to capture the attention of runners who embrace the concept of optimal comfort and minimalism. It’s not always possible to combine the two but Topo certainly succeeds at doing so. The shoe’s flexibility and low drop provide a unique and unrestricted running experience that is not just enjoyable but healthy as well.