Saturday, September 10, 2016

Topo Athletic ST-2 Review

Earlier this year I reviewed the Topo Athletic Tribute. I hailed the shoe as being about as perfect of a running shoe as is on the market today. In classic running shoe brand style…it got axed…well, sort of.

Enter the ST-2.


The ST-2 is billed as the update to the original ST (speed trainer) from 2 years ago. The update however is more of a Tribute 2 than an ST-2 but naming convention isn't too important here unless you're hoping for the identical twin of the original. The ST-2 is more of a workover of the Tribute than anything else. They kept everything that worked in the Tribute and enhanced those parts that most of us who loved the shoe didn't even know needed improving. So what works and what doesn't? Read on and find out!

I'll refer back to the original review throughout this one so if you haven't read it, go back in time and check it out here.               .

Disclaimer: Topo Athletic is awesome. They were gracious enough to provide the new ST-2 free of charge in order to facilitate this review. Free stuff of course doesn't impact the review but a bunch of lawyers somewhere get all bent out of shape unless you know that.

Upper


We'll kick this off with the most drastic and welcome change in the ST-2. Topo scrapped the old upper and started over from scratch here. The old upper wasn't bad by any means either. It was still one of the best on the market but the new upper is even beyond that. The new upper isn't quite as breathable as the Tribute upper (no other shoe is) but the materials feel so much more comfortable. Internal feel sockless is like lacing up butter. The materials are plenty flexible to move with the contours of the foot without pressing in at all. The stiff and protective toe bumper from the Tribute has been softened just a hair. This doesn't impact ride or fit but its worth noting. The midfoot fit is spot on. Not too snug and not loose at all. The tongue in the update does feel a bit longer and more padded. A lot of reviewers of the Tribute thought the tongue was just a hair short – the ST-2 takes care of that.

The best part of the new upper though is the flexibility. The redesign has no heel counter. When Topo first filled me in on what was being changed I was a little apprehensive as heel counter-less shoes tend to be a bit iffy when it comes to fit but Topo nailed it. The heel fit has a very elastic feel to it (think Nike Flyknit but smoother and less constricting) that hugs every curve of the heel and doesn't slide at all. The flexibility in the upper allows the shoe to be flatted to essentially just the thickness of the midsole making it well suited as your go-to travel/vacation running shoe.


It is safe to say that every player in the running shoe game needs to take note of the upper on the ST-2. Simple materials and an accommodating fit. It’s a shame that design like this is such a rarity in the industry.

Midsole


Upon spec inspection prior to receiving the ST-2 I was left wanting to pound my head against a wall asking, "Why Topo? Why?" The ST-2 is thicker than the Tribute by 3 mm of increased midsole stack. Still zero-drop, just 3 mm thicker. Usually when a brand increases stack height I wave goodbye but not in this case. My current Tributes are beaten to death but when I put the two on side by side, I didn't notice a difference. The ST-2 honestly felt like a new pair of Tributes. I can't confirm if Topo messed with the durometer of the EVA but it feels like they may have firmed up the foam just a touch to balance out the increased stack height. The midsole still feels plush enough for a ton of miles yet snappy enough for a good marathon tempo run. I'd still be happy to slip on the ST-2 for anything from the 10K-ultra distance. I'd go something thinner for a 5K but that's me. The midsole works for track workouts as well but just like the 5K and under race distance, there's a little something lost in the midsole. Not a deal breaker by any means but it would mean that if you're used to something more minimal, you'll have to entertain something thinner and lighter for your fastest days (maybe a reboot of the old RT, Topo?).


The midsole still makes the ST-2 one of the most if not the most versatile trainer/racer on the market. I can't think of another shoe out there that can handle as much as the ST-2 can.

Outsole

I'm going to have to punt here. The outsole is the exact same as the Tribute. Nothing has changed and it still just as great as it was before. Considering my original Tributes still have some of the original nubby tread from when they were new after 400+ miles, I would expect the same life out of the ST-2.


Overall

The ST-2 continues Topo Athletic's line of outstandingly simple footwear. There's nothing really flashy here in the ST-2. I had the same reaction of boredom as I did with the Tribute until the 1st run. At least this time I was as anxious as could be for the 1st run. The ST-2 is just superb. The zero-drop midsole and just wide enough forefoot make a more natural landing so easy. There's nothing to get in the way and there's never anything there you wish wasn't. There's nothing I would add and nothing I would take away (not even the 3 mm midsole foam). Its easy to see why Topo's founder, Tony Post, continually tells runners that the Tribute/ST-2 is one of his favorite models in their entire lineup.

The ST-2 was tested for 100+ miles on a variety of surfaces. Road, trail, grass, gravel, and track at paces varying from 6:00/mile to 9:00/mile.

And one last thing. Want to know the best way to top the update off? Topo LOWERED the price from the Tribute ($100) to the ST-2 ($90). Topo proves yet again why they're different than any other brand in the running footwear industry. Topo has some exciting things going on and I can't wait to see what they have coming up.

Have any questions about the Tribute or ST-2, just let me know in the comments below. As always, thank for reading and check back soon for another Topo review and a couple more huarache reviews including the much anticipated Bedrock Cairn!

1 comment: