This summer I ran a 50 miler all on road. Why you may ask? Well, there is no real good answer, but in trying to find a pair of minimal shoes I liked to race in, I ended up finding the Topo Athletic ST-2s.
I went on a hunt for zero drop, minimal shoes for this race. I always run trails in my zero drop Carson Footwear shoes, so I figured why wouldn’t I also run roads in the same shoe fit.
The search for me started by first trying to find a straight lasted female shoe. I’m not sure why there are so few straight lasted shoes, but I went through all the big box shoes, Adidas, Nike, New Balance, almost all had curved lasts. I look for a shoe that is shaped the way my foot is, and my foot sure isn’t curved! It came down to Topo Athletic shoes, and Skora shoes(but these seemed a bit more curved..) and a few others.
I saw the Topo Athletic Fli-lyte road shoe on sale online so I ordered them just to see what they were like. After a few long runs I didn’t love them and decided they were “too much shoe for me.” Meaning what, meaning that I am used to an upper with very minimal overlay, a soft heel cup, and flexible sole. The shoe was just too, sturdy, if you will.
I could see a heavier footstriker wearing these, but since I am 105lbs these shoes were just too stiff. The heel cup was too structured and felt odd, I was looking for something a little more free and flexible, giving me the ability to move in a way that is natural to my gait cycle.
Someone saw my review of the Fli-lyte and suggested I try Topo Athletic’s newest shoe the ST-2. So I did, unfortunately I got them a day before my 50 miler so I didn’t wear them for it. I like to stick to the rule of no new things right before a race.
This shoe was totally different than the Fli-lyte and much more in line with what I look for in a shoe. Zero drop, good toe off, minimal breathable upper, even the heel cup is constructed more like a tri shoe. Very flexible-not to mention light too! I really am enjoying this shoe immensely!
For those who think that minimal shoes are too firm and not comfortable, these have 5mm of foot bed, plus 16mm of total stack height, which still allows for ground feel and flexibility while still soft under foot-though not squishy. A bonus, for me anyway, is that the sock liner or foot bed can be removed. I sometimes want a firmer feel under foot and like to take the sock liner out, or put in a different one. In the Fli-lite it was glued in, so a removable sock liner in the ST-2 makes me happy.
I got them in July, its now October, and have put several 100s of miles on them with little to no wear to the upper, the white part of the sole (seen above) is the only thing that has worn. Its a softer material that allows for the natural foot motion. I think its a good compromise of flexibility and softness for how long it lasts though. Originally I thought the minimal upper construction would wear out first, but they have stood the test of time, as well as a lot of travel all over the west/southwest during the month of September. (Not just on roads but some trail also, which I think accounts for some of the wear on the white part of the shoe.)
At the beginning of September I ran a 100 mile trail race and used them both before and after the race running around on the road. Their soft upper was great for post race sore feet, as was the comfortable toe box. After the race I took them with me on a month long trip around the west (Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and back to Colorado) as my road running shoe, and sometimes non technical trail shoe. Another plus I discovered while traveling is that with its flexibility its able to pack down really well into my already overstuffed luggage.
So let’s get into the details of this shoe;
- A size 7 Women’s shoe (I wear 6.5) weighs 5.6 OZ
- Its a zero drop shoe, with an anatomical toe box (read real room for your toes to naturally spread when you push off.)
- 4 mm of rubber outsole-which was nice and grippy on wet pavement.
- 7mm of footbed
- 5mm of footbed, totaling 16mm of stack height-which is sort of in my sweet spot for a shoe. Anywhere between 15-22 mm stack height seems to give a nice low ride of control. Too much stack height and I feel like I’m tottering around, and worry about ankle twisting.
- The uppers are a breathable knit fabric that give it a second skin feel, and the printed upper pattern eliminates seams to rub on, and also reduces weight.
Who these shoes are for; Because I am already very comfortable running hundreds of miles in zero drop shoes I would, and have worn them for all sorts of road runs, tempo, hill workouts, and long runs. If you are someone who usually wears a shoe with elevation in the heel-like any other zero drop shoe -I would caution that you to test them out and get used to the zero drop before taking them on a high mileage spin. Going from a shoe with a high heel to toe drop, it can make your calfs sore at first. I asked Topo Athletic who they saw using this shoe and they responded that the ST stands for Speed Trainer and that it would be used for track workouts or as a racing shoe. They also said that for people who are used to minimal shoes they have gotten feedback that many love them for marathon racing.
Even if you aren’t planning on going 100% into the minimal shoe thing, I would still recommend these as a shoe to throw into your shoe rotation as a foot strengthening shoe. I am a big proponent of injury free training and racing, and I think an important part of that is making sure you are keeping your feet and the smaller muscles in your lower leg strong, as well as the larger gluteal muscles that we work out with hill repeats, lungs, squats, etc.
All around I like these shoes quite a bit, I can’t find any negatives actually. Their low stack height also makes them good shoes for weightlifting at the gym, nice and stable. Truth be told I don’t wear shoes for their appearance, but I would say these shoes are pretty cute and go well with jeans casually around town, they also come in black with raspberry trim.