Topo Athletic ST-3
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91% say it's true to size.
Overview of this review
Just when I thought Topo Athletic couldn’t possibly get any better, they released another line of shoes that keeps me coming back for more!
I’d to introduce to you the brand new ST-3 road running shoe that doubles as both a running shoe and everyday trainer. Without further ado, let’s check out this awesome kicks!
From the moment I put these shoes on my feet, I was very pleased with the ST-3! This isn’t my first rodeo with Topo Athletic, as this will be my fourth pair of Topo shoes.
I am in awe how they continually get better and better with each new model released!
Like many, I wasn’t made privy as to how phenomenal these shoes actually were until I gave them a spin for myself.
I have friends who unquestionably swear by Topo Athletic. But because I did not know much about the brand at first, I was hesitant to try. Nonetheless, I am so glad that I did!
They have become a staple in my shoe arsenal and have helped me to turn the tempo up exponentially and even PR (personal record) in races this season!
Truth be told, I did not realize how uncomfortable my previous running trainers were until I started running in Topo Athletic shoes. Naturally, the idea of trying a new shoe brand can be terrifying.
This is especially if you’re cautious and have zero time for injuries, like me. Choosing the right shoes can quite frankly make or break your training!
Fortunately for me, my husband is a physical therapist. He helps to analyze my gait to ensure that the shoes that I am running in complement my individual biomechanics and gait appropriately.
I picked a good one, huh? Haha!
Initial unboxing: Aesthetics
Functionality is, and always will be, my main focus, yet Topo Athletics hit the nail directly on the head in the aesthetics department for the ST-3 road running shoes. I'm certainly a fan of its design.
Perhaps I am a bit basic, but I love the solid color scheme. The ST-3 is very stylish and pleasing to the eye.
The ST-3 road running shoes appear to be quite simplistic and straightforward, with a no-nonsense approach. I dig ‘em!
Here is a quick break down of the ST-3 road running shoe specifications:
|Shoe Type||Lightweight Road Running|
Through my previous experience with Topo Athletics and sizing, I had an inkling that these shoes would require a half-size increase for the ideal fit. I typically wear a 9, but the 9.5 fits phenomenally.
With at being said, I recommend ordering a half-size up.
Here are various shoe brands that I run in and my size chart to be used as a comparison in choosing the right size for yourself:
Uppers & shoe shape
I love the new knit uppers of the ST-3! Other models of Topo Athletic shoes are constructed with no-sew mesh, but the ST-3 has an updated knit upper mesh pattern with far fewer printed overlays.
Just because it has less overlays does not mean that the shoes do not lock down correctly. In fact, I found it locked down on my midfoot with a comfortably snug fit better than the Fli-Lyte 2 did!
ST-3 has a signature roomy toe box allowing adequate toe splay. Though “roomier” than a traditional running shoe, I found them to be a bit narrower than other Topo models I’ve tested previously.
Furthermore, a unique aspect of the ST-3 is the unconstructed heel. The collapsible heel of the ST-3 was quite comfortable. Moreover, I had zero issues with blistering or slipping.
I feel as though the collapsible heel contributes to the overall light weight of the shoes. Initially, I was skeptical of the unconstructed heel.
However, the ST-3 continued to check off all the right boxes for me, and I remained very satisfied with the shoes.
Midsole and outsole
The midsole is comprised of a light weight exposed EVA foam cushioning. If you look at the outsole of the shoe, it is mostly comprised of EVA with rubber outsole pods.
These rubber outsole pods are strategically placed where one would need traction. This helps to drastically reduce the overall weight of the shoes, which keeps it so unbelievably light in weight.
I like these rubber pods, and I believe they’re best suited for midfoot/forefoot strikers. As a midfoot striker, I would have liked to see the rubber pods cover just a tad more under the metatarsals.
I had early signs of wear on the foam just beneath my first metatarsals on each foot as early as mile 10!
Performance & comfort
Holy Mack, prepare to PR on your next run if you’ve got the ST-3 shoes on your feet! These feather-weighted shoes helped me quite literally to fly during my normal runs.
On my “slower” runs, I found myself accidentally at race pace! The ST-3 felt so awesome to run in that my body naturally just turned the tempo way up!
They make really great gym shoes as well—I found myself wearing them for my cross-training sessions at the gym.
I am always interested to see how long of a break-in period is required for different running shoes. To my surprise, unlike the Fli-Lyte 2, the ST-3 shoes required no break-in period whatsoever.
My first run was intended to be a short 5K to see what the shoes were made of. But, I ended up doubling the distance because I felt as though I had wings!
I thought it might have been the copious amounts of carbohydrates I ate. But, that wasn’t the case because the shoes felt comfortable time and time again with each run.
The ST-3 is astoundingly responsive on the treadmill, the road, and light packed gravel. I have trained in these shoes at various distances.
But, I believe they are best suited for shorter tempo runs due to how light they are. At longer distances, the firmness of the shoe becomes pretty apparent.
Hence, I was wishing just for a little more forefoot cushioning. Otherwise, in my opinion, the ST-3 is a great shoe for speed work and would even make a fantastic 5K-10K road race shoe.
As far as comfort, I have found that the ST-3 was far more comfortable than the Fli-Lyte 2 in regards to the new knit upper and minimal overlays.
I had a tiny bit of irritation on my 5th metatarsal right where the overlay is which bothered me when wearing the ST-3 shoes for prolonged periods.
The cushioning is very minimal, so if you’re an individual who desires more cushioning, you might find these shoes to be too firm for your individual desired level of cushioning.
Where I live is incredibly flat, so unless I drive a few hours to the mountains, I utilize the treadmill for incline training. The ST-3 performed like a champ during my hill runs on the treadmill.
I loved how light they felt on my feet as I really felt as though I could turn my legs over much quicker without my shoes weighing me down.
I wasn’t sure how the collapsible heel would perform during hill training, but I had zero issues with hot spots or blisters while training in these shoes. I am exceptionally pleased with the ST-3!
Just like the Fli-Lyte 2 and 3, the ST-3 is outfitted with flat laces. I’m a fan of the flat laces because this certainly distributes pressure more evenly across the top of the foot.
Thus, it makes the shoe far more comfortable. Moreover, in the past, I’ve found Topo laces tend to be on the longer side.
However, the ST-3 lace length was perfect, and I never had any issues with untied shoes during any of my runs.
- Incredibly lightweight
- Shoe locks down really well
- Responsive ride on both road and treadmill
- Love the specific type of knit upper
- Just a tad pricey
- Very minimal cushioning—best for short runs or perhaps cross-training at the gym
- More firm than I would have preferred for longer distances
- Not ideal for all distances
- Best for shorter distances or everyday/gym wear
- Premature wearing of outsole under 1st metatarsal
- Needs just a touch more rubber under the metatarsals
- Wide toe box, but not as wide as other Topo Models
- Some irritation with the overlay on lateral aspects of my feet
- Runs small, so order at least a half size up
It is easy to fall in love with shoes that feel amazing directly out of the box. I love the ST-3 shoes so much that, in addition to my runs,
I found myself wearing them to the gym, to work, and even out-and-about. Topo Athletics certainly listens to the feedback from their predecessors and creates newer models with amazing updates.
Topo Athletic may be a newer shoe company, but their shoes sure are mighty!
The ST-3 is a phenomenal running shoe, and I highly recommend that you try them for yourself. In my opinion, Topo Athletic is heading in the right direction with the ST-3 shoes.
I absolutely applaud the ST-3’s for their comfortability and responsiveness for any speed work and tempo training.
If you’re looking to dial up the pace with a responsive ride, the ST-3 should be your next go-to shoe!
With the Spring racing season fast approaching (pardoning the pun), I was excited at the opportunity to test out a shoe made for flexibility and speed (as the abbreviation of the shoe “ST” or “Speed Trainer” implies).
While most of the updates to the shoe come in the form of an overhaul in the upper and the heel, being new to the shoe, I was interested in the feel underfoot when used as a race-day offering as well as its potential versatility as a gym shoe for cross-training.
What I found was definitely a shoe with a great and relatively untapped niche within the Topo brands offering and one at large: a go-fast shoe that has an even platform without sacrificing ground shock attenuation or roominess up front.
Upper & fit
Having previously run in the Hydroventure 2, the sizing for the ST-3 was pretty straightforward. I usually measure on a size 10 and take a 10.5 for extra room in the toe box.
The ST-3 has a great fit and is true to the sizing principles outlined by Tony himself: a hug at the midfoot, narrow heel, and a wide base to allow for natural toe splay throughout the gait cycle.
The heel is where the best feel in terms of fit resides, due to the neoprene-like flexible material that has a lasting hold on the ankle, without feeling restrictive or tight (anecdotally, it also helps greatly with moisture management on longer runs in the shoe, such as my 8-mile up-tempo run during last week’s lovely rain showers over the Midwest).
In addition to enhancing the fit of the shoe, it also enhances its portability, is designed to fold down in luggage during travel for athletes on the go.
The ST-3 also made a shift from its predecessors with a brand new upper construction, featuring a woven material versus traditional or engineered mesh. Only two overlays exist on the shoe to assist with locking in the midfoot and arch and less than half of the overlay has any stitching to speak of.
Overall, this design lends the shoe a feel to the barefoot reminiscent of the ever-popular Altra Escalante, in that it breathes well on hot and wet days, while also feeling warm when the weather turns cooler. Where the two uppers diverge, however, is in the odor control management.
Particularly when the shoe was used for gym workouts, I noticed that despite my relatively thorough regimen for cleaning my footwear (usage of shoe shampoo on the outer and aerosol/powder mix for the inner layers) the overall scent of the shoe after only 3 weeks of use was less than pleasant.
For most runners, especially those veterans who are used to the heavy perspiration that comes with mileage building, this will be nothing new.
For those newer to training, Merrell’s Bare Access and several offerings from Keen now feature anti-microbial technology with their woven fabric-style shoes to evade this objection, which would be great to see in future models.
In addition, though the shoe felt excellent sockless on shorter runs, during runs of longer than 10 miles, the area around the stitching at the forefoot did produce a hotspot and mild blistering at the medial edge of both feet near the base of the big toe.
This might be from excessive moisture build-up underneath the insole or simply from the extra flexibility, it had in general that will be discussed later in the review.
On a more innovative note, something that Topo did with the ST-3 at the front of the toe box was very refreshing.
At the toe cap, while some manufacturers have eschewed the rubber toe cap over the upper and increased the flexibility of the far edge of the toe, this particular shoe toes a middle ground:
There is a minimal overlap/continuation of the outsole above the forefoot of the shoe and also a modicum of structure provided underneath the woven fabric to enhance the aesthetics of the shoe but also to enhance durability to prevent the type of gaps from friction over the fabric that I have experienced with such selections as the Pure Flow from Brooks and the Escalante from Altra.
Insole & midsole cushioning systems
From the outset of donning the ST-3, one thing becomes apparent: the shoe was designed to be light and springy. The total stack height for the shoe comes in at a slim 16mm which, for a trainer, is on the sleeker end.
However, with its nod to versatility and usage as a gym or court shoe, this is not surprising and very welcome in terms of ground feel and feedback when performing CrossFit activities, Beach Body workouts, and exercises in the Physical Therapy gym with patients.
In addition, with a zero heel to toe drop, there is little to impede your natural mechanics if you are attempting to transition to a more neutral stride and cadence level.
For those who have had issues with their Achilles acutely or are prone to medial arch pain, this may be a shoe that you consult with your therapist or sports physician prior to adding it to your rotation.
The insole feels very cushioned for such a light shoe and (with a height of 4mm) is quite girthy when compared with a racing flat or comparable lightweight trainers.
The drainage ports (see below) on the medial end of the ball of the foot, though, are a very nice touch and do lend some good drainage to the shoe along where the lining meets the midsole.
One drawback, however, is the mobility of the heel end of the midsole during rotational activities at the gym and racing while taking sharp corners.
I have noticed that only 60 miles into the shoe that the insole has a bias to the left and right edges of the heel cup, respectively, leaving me with the potential risk to, “run out of” the insole as was the case with one of my old Asics Hyper speeds.
As mentioned in greater detail below, this may also have led to some friction/durability issues in the fabric of the heel over time that might be best solved by more aggressively adhering the insole to the strobel of the shoe, in the same vein as offerings from Merrell’s Trail and Vapor Glove series as well as certain models from Asics and New Balance which secure the insole with adhesives to avoid breakdown issues.
Overall, the midsole performed admirably when used for sprint workouts at the track as well as during longer runs on the road and treadmill. At such a low stack height, it held up just as well as offerings with far superior cushioning mass without the trade-off of excess weight.
In terms of firm versus float, I would say that it trends toward the “float” range, easily masking my form breakdowns of heel-striking and the occasional toe pulls with increased fatigue at the end of a hard workout or on race day.
If one is looking for protection off-road, a better option for a go-to up-tempo shoe might best lie in the newly-minted MTN Racer.
Outsole & durability
Given the intended purpose of the shoe (for intense gym and speed workouts) the outsole strikes just the right balance of grip and minimalism.
While small rubber pods exist on the heel and forefoot, the EVA midsole is left exposed at the midfoot and over portions of the toe box, as well.
The layout feels reminiscent of the Hoka One One Clifton or Hupana in that there are extra traction and durability where it is needed and none where it isn’t. Even after three weeks of Yoga, P90X3, and 60 miles on varied terrain, even the dye on the topo logo underneath the midfoot is relatively unscathed.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the heel cup on the left shoe as seen in the picture below.
For some reason, (possibly friction from the movement of the insole or perhaps just pressure at the stitching site for the inner layer of fabric) the heel material has started to come away from the strobel of the shoe.
While at the moment, this is purely cosmetic and hidden by the insole. Such an early breakdown in the shoe suggests some tweaking is needed in future models to avoid wear spots and discomfort in latter stages of the ST’s life cycle.
With an MSRP of $100, a certain level of longevity is likely expected, especially for those using the ST-3 as a race day shoe built to last for a season or two).
Overall, the outsole is perfectly attuned to the needs of the shoe wearer, but the overall wearability may be cut short by a few small flaws that can easily be ironed out (or stitched in as the case may be) in future offerings.
In all, nonetheless, as such a light shoe (7.3 oz. for a Men's size 9), there certainly is always a trade-off between the integrity of the shoe and its level of performance for those looking to fly down the road and track.
Much like its cousin, the Hydroventure 2, the ST-3 does a masterful job of providing form and function for a natural look and fit. The heathered pattern to the upper flows vertically which helps to downplay the look of the wide toe box.
In addition, the inclusion of the understated TPU midfoot logo is a nice departure from previous models where the logo is placed in the heel which gave the shoe a much more generic look.
The color scheme is outstanding in terms of the flow, and also comes in black, which is great for those looking for footwear that can hop from the gym to the workplace (or, in my case in the Physical Therapy world, from one gym to the next).
One thing that could be improved is the tongue, which over time seems to tilt to the side, crimping some of the padding on the lateral edge. Perhaps decreasing the girth of the tongue padding or designing a more bootie-like attachment such as those seen in the older school Brooks Pure series might address this issue.
Nonetheless, from a purely aesthetic point of view, this model scores high marks on the, “wow” factor without being too far on the fringe (see the Mosaic patterned Kinsei of old). As usual, it would be nice to see a non-white midsole option for longevity of the new shoe look. Other than these minor quibbles, high marks all around.
- Knit upper and neoprene heel counter comfy, non-restrictive and relatively wearable even sockless
- Moderately lightweight in-class
- Well apportioned cushioning for a zero drop, low stack height midsole
- Drainage ports under the ball of the foot in the insole is a plus
- Sporty and colorful design with an understated and streamlined, yet ample toe box
- Mildly heavier due to excess moisture retention when soaked or on longer runs
- Padded tongue would do well with trim and tuck to clean up the look and excess material
- Fabric on the heel counter could use reinforcement in the stitching to enhance durability
- Insole occasionally slides excessively with speed and lateral movements, especially when damp
The ST-3, while still in the early stages of development, is a great option for entry-level gym enthusiasts and as a race day option for the mid to front of the pack runner. However, with a few minor tweaks, it could be a speed demon for the elite crossfitter or race day stud.
Disclosure: For the purpose of review, I’d like to thank Topo Athletic for providing me with a pair of ST-3 shoes. No additional compensation was provided and the review process objective over the course of a normal life cycle of my daily training shoes.
The ST-3 is a versatile, zero-drop running shoe designed to let users go fast. By utilizing a knit-like upper material, the ST-3 is able to achieve a low weight while enabling a flexible fit for different foot shapes.
Those who are looking for a running shoe that can be used for both speed work and regular training should consider the ST-3. Those who prefer minimalist running may also find pleasure in these shoes.
Fit & Comfort
Having relatively wide feet, I tend to go with EE width shoes in order to get the most comfortable fit.
However, seeing that the ST-3 deployed a knit-like upper (here I refer to knit shoes as those that resemble the feel of a sock, more so than a conventional shoe).
I figured there might be a chance that a pair in D-width (the only width offered) would still fit my foot. The elastic band that encircles the ankle region of the shoe made it easy for me to slip my foot into the shoe.
The midsection of the shoe immediately felt very snug (although not painful), meanwhile, I felt like there was plenty of room in the toe box to splay.
At first, the snugness around the middle of my foot felt a bit uncomfortable, but after a few runs, the shoes soon broke in and began to fit and stretch better around my feet.
Because of the smooth texture of the knit upper, the inside material felt comfortable against the top of my toes and sides of my feet. The shoes also make use of a plush tongue and sit cozily on the top of the foot.
I typically wouldn’t dedicate an entire section to shoelaces, but with the ST-3 I feel that it’s necessary. This is because I believe the default lacing system was the poorest feature of the shoe.
I felt the replacement was necessary because the ST-3’s laces are both short and stiff. This led to the shoes frequently becoming untied during runs, and in addition, because the laces were too short, I wasn’t able to double-knot them.
If by the end of this review you consider a pair of ST-3 for its other benefits (there are many!), then I strongly recommend you be prepared with different shoelaces or lock laces.
One of my favorite features of the ST-3 was that it felt incredibly easy to pick up the pace in them.
They are extremely lightweight and the zero-drop (heel is stacked at the same height as the toe) feature of the shoe promotes quick turnover combined with efficient midfoot or toe landings.
I found that the ST-3 has worked exceptionally for 5K-10K distances and speed work on the track (sprinting included).
Despite being a zero-drop lightweight shoe, the ST-3 is still offered moderate cushion and support to comfortably hit the road for long runs as well, making it a good multipurpose shoe.
However, I believe the cushioning is still not ideal for those who have a tendency to strike with the heel, as it is thin enough such that I was able to feel aching in my heel on some landings.
On that note, wearers could also use the ST-3 as a way to help move away from heel striking and toward midfoot and toe striking!
True to its lightweight and minimalist nature, the ST-3 seem to use as little material as possible (the shoe’s upper is actually very thin throughout).
This is especially true for the outsole. In addition, the rubber of the outsole felt softer to me than the outsoles of most other running shoes.
Because of this, I found that the ST-3 began to wear down pretty quickly.
The photo shown below was taken at around 30 miles of running in the shoes, but you can already see the fraying rubber, although the outsoles’ black treads still seemed mostly intact.
Fans of lightweight shoes and minimalist running will find joy in these shoes. The knit-like design helps the shoe be comfortable, lightweight, and breathable while offering a flexible fit even for wider feet.
The shoe works well for speed work and longer road runs, but the zero-drop specifically favors those with midfoot or toe strike landings.
The lacing system is a shortcoming of the shoe and I advise wearers to be prepared to replace the laces to save themselves from the inconvenience of worrying about untied laces.
The ST-3 is a really fun shoe to wear, but because they have soft rubber outsoles and show proneness to wear and tear, I would recommend wearers include the ST-3 as part of a set of shoes they can cycle through in order to prolong the useful life of the shoes. Those looking for a good 5K or 10K race and training shoe should consider the ST-3.
I’ve worn these shoes for about 50-60 miles on a combination of roads, paved paths, and the dreaded treadmill. I would like to mention that these are also a great gym shoe and have worn them for many HIIT and boot camp classes (20+) as well as lifting.
I have only two minor complaints about the shoes which are over shined by the positives.
The shoe weighs 7.1 ounces, size 8.5 these are by far one of the lightest shoes I have worn,
The pair of ST-3 I have are blue and black with a white midsole with a very minimal black outsole. The white midsole that is exposed on the bottom "surprisingly" stayed white.
I was skeptical that such a lightweight shoe could have the cushion that an older runner like me needs. Was I wrong, the cushioning in these shoes is phenomenal and did not break down over time they feel the same as the day they were new.
This shoe has a 0 midsole drop. This is the first shoe I have run in with a midsole drop of less than 8 mm, being 49, I was a little worried about how the drop would affect my feet and legs.
I will admit it was a bit of getting used to, but I will say they are VERY comfortable to run in and won’t be going back to a larger drop any time soon. The 0 drop felt like a more natural running position for me.
First, the overall fit of these shoes was perfect. I normally have an issue where my toes would fall asleep after a mile or two and would have to fool around with shoe. I would tie the shoes to eliminate this problem, but not with the ST-3. These were perfect right out of the box!
These shoes run a little long on the length. I normally wear an 8.5 but could have gotten by with an 8.
I have a slightly wider than average feet, and these shoes fit great they fit nicely from the heel to the arch. The toe box is wider on these shoes, and it was perfect - it felt like my toes could breathe and were not all jammed together.
Absolutely love this shoe - the weight, the wider toe box, and the construction. It also has a good grip when pushing/pulling a sled at the gym.
I have two very minor cons on this shoe. One is the laces if not double knotted would frequently come undone.
The other is if running on the road, you will feel any rock larger than a ½ inch. This won’t be a problem most places, but in New England where we use a lot of sand on the roads in the winter.
Overall, this shoe is a great running shoe, but it is equally as good in the gym. I definitely liked these shoes and will purchase them again.
There are numerous reasons why I would purchase these again. From the overall construction to the 0 drop (now a huge fan) to the roomy toe box.
This is a perfect shoe for a runner who spends time in the gym.
Updates to Topo Athletic ST-3
- Designed for short and uptempo runs, the Topo Athletic ST-3 features several updates in the upper section. One major enhancement is the use of the knit mesh material, replacing the woven mesh found in the older version. The knit mesh aims to provide the foot a flexible and breathable coverage.
- The newest version also comes with lesser overlays. These printed overlays are strategically placed in the upper for a more secure foot lockdown.
- The collapsible heel is another notable update of the Topo Athletic ST-3. This collapsible heel comes in handy when traveling since the shoe can easily be packed for convenience.
Size and fit
Based on the standard running shoe length, this running shoe runs true to size. The heel and the forefoot sections have medium measurements. And due to the shoe’s anatomical toe-box, the toes are allowed to spread comfortably whenever necessary.
The ST-3 is available in men’s and women’s versions and it is available in a medium width option for both version.
In the outsole of the Topo Athletic ST-3 is the exposed EVA foam. But there are rubber pods strategically placed in the forefoot and heel sections for durability. The rubber pods provide protection to high-wear areas while delivering grip for road running.
This zero-drop running shoe makes use of a lightweight EVA foam. It extends from the heel to forefoot for durable cushioning. The EVA foam delivers responsiveness and bounce without compromising ground feel.
In the upper of the Topo Athletic ST-3 is the new knit mesh material that is designed to provide the foot a breathable coverage. This knit mesh is slightly flexible and adapts to the natural shape of the foot.
It also comes with minimal overlays printed specifically within the midfoot area. These overlays aim to provide midfoot security while increasing structural integrity.
In the heel is the stretch lycra construction that is specifically designed to facilitate the easy entry and removal of the foot.
Lastly, the ST-3 running shoe has a collapsible heel. It is designed to help runners pack the shoe easily when traveling. The collapsible heel made the shoe a truly versatile shoe for travel.