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Monday, November 29, 2021

Topo Magnifly 4 Review: A Tremendous Zero Drop Trainer

Topo Magnifly 4 Review: A Tremendous Zero Drop Trainer
By Senior Contributors David Salas, Nathan Brown, and Contributor Andrea Myers

Usually when people look at the 0mm drop category most of the shoes tend to lean more on the minimalist end of the spectrum. For a while it seemed like the Altra Paradigm was the only option in the maximum cushion category for the 0mm drop lovers. The Magnifly from Topo however provides a pseudo maximalist-like ride with a little bit less stack and weight than other maximum cushioning competitors. The shoe runs a normal width last through the heel and midfoot with a wider toe box, a normal design for Topo. The Magnifly 4 is a very well balanced 0mm drop daily training option with ample cushioning and responsiveness through toe off. 

Men's pair of the Topo Magnify 4

Topo Athletic Magnifly 4
Price: $130 at Running Warehouse
Weight: 8.9 oz, 253 g, Men's Size 9
Stack Height: 25 mm
Drop: 0 m
Classification: Daily Trainer

Women's pair of the Magnify 4

RUNNING SHOE SUMMARY

David:
The Topo Magnifly 4 is a daily trainer in the 0mm drop category that provides moderate to maximum cushioning for your daily efforts. The shoe utilizes a 25mm platform that is even from heel to the forefoot. The midsole utilized is Zipfoam which provides plenty of protection and a touch of responsiveness up front which is fun for a daily trainer in this category. The Magnifly 4 is a high cushion neutral training shoe for those that like lower drop options and wide toe boxes. 

Nathan: The Topo Magnifly 4 is a surprising 0mm drop option. It has a very lightweight feel with a 25mm platform of Zipfoam and is topped with one of the best (if not the best) uppers of the year. The construction makes the Magnifly a solid option for someone wanting to dip into the 0mm drop world for the first time given the protection from the foam, lightweight feel, and strategically flexible forefoot.

Andrea: The Topo Magnifly 4 is a neutral, moderately cushioned 0mm drop road shoe. Like many Topo models, it has a significant toe spring that aids push off and promotes turnover. The wide toe box allows for toe splay without creating forefoot instability. The mesh upper is lightweight and breathable, but does not stretch, contributing to secure foot lockdown. The dual density midsole provides responsive cushioning that makes this shoe a great choice for easy runs, uptempo intervals, and long runs.





FIT

David:
Topo lasts have always seemed to work really well for me. Similar to other Topo's the Magnifly is normal width through the heel and midfoot with a wider toe box. The length is very dialed in and the shoe is true to size. The mesh upper is very comfortable and fits very sock like throughout with minimal overlays. It has mild thickness to it but is not overly thick or warm in any way. There are some mild overlays on the medial and lateral aspect of the midfoot which do seem to help provide a little bit of reinforcement. The lacing system is integrated really well and does have an eyelet that sits a little more posterior at the dorsal aspect of the shoe. The tongue is lightly padded and is not overly thin or thick. The lacing system does have an elastic component to it with some loops about 2/3 of the way up the dorsum of the foot that really locks the foot down onto the platform of the shoe. Because of everything above mentioned I also had no heel slippage when running in this shoe. Overall I am really happy with the upper and feel it accomplishes all of the goals that should be asked of a daily trainer. Even the mesh is comfortable and breathable, but still reinforced just enough to not allow for any excessive translation either medially or laterally. 

Nathan: I'm going to start by saying that the Magnifly 4 upper is my favorite of 2021. The heel security and comfort is the best I've had, as it takes minimal to no effort to achieve a complete heel lock with no slippage (with a traditional lacing technique). The midfoot is also very dialed in, and the tongue utilizes two small loops to secure it to the top of the foot. The tongue also has strategically placed padding that hits the sweet spot of thin and cushioned. From the heel to the midfoot, you get a very secure upper that forms to your foot perfectly. Moving to the toe box is where it gets some of its traditional Topo flare. The toe box is very wide and has plenty of volume above the foot. Despite having a narrow foot, I had no issues with forefoot slippage thanks to the extremely secure midfoot. The mesh is very lightweight, comfortable, and breathable, but is thick enough for durability for daily milage. 

Andrea: The Magnifly 4 fits true to size in my usual women’s 9.5. The toe box is wide without being sloppy. The midfoot and rearfoot are normal width and help secure the foot without any pressure points or irritation. The engineered mesh upper is soft and breathable. This is one of the most comfortable shoes I have tested since joining DOR; the overall fit and construction of the shoe really works for me. There is a cushioned internal heel counter and a rigid external heel counter that secures the lower half of the calcaneus. The heel counter helps to center the calcaneus without restricting motion. The tongue is thin, lightly padded, and is not gusseted. The tongue is held in place by two tongue loops situated close to the ankle. I did not experience any tongue slippage when running and overall did not notice the tongue. Runners who prefer to run sockless would likely not have any issues with this shoe. The laces are flat, do not stretch, and provide secure lockdown. The OrthoLite footbed is thin with mild padding. The midsole provides mild medial longitudinal arch support without being intrusive. There is a full length rubber outsole that provides excellent traction on wet roads and shows little signs of wear after 40 miles.



PERFORMANCE

David: The Topo Magnifly 4 performed really well as a daily trainer for me. The geometry of the shoe is done well enough that it is not super noticeable that it is a 0mm drop trainer. There is a nicely done posterior lateral heel bevel that is not overly done. There is also a slight toe spring through the forefoot giving this shoe some rocker like qualities without it feeling too much like you were rolling through. The shoe feels like it gives your foot the opportunity to run the way it wants to. The platform itself is semi-rigid through the heel and forefoot and more flexible up front through the forefoot. The feeling underfoot translates to a very natural transitioning shoe from heel to toe off. The midsole is very forgiving underfoot but I still wouldn't quite call it plush. It definitely is a nice balance right in between plush and firm. The foam also has a pretty good amount of responsiveness for the purpose of the shoe. In many high cushion trainers I don't get much of a bouncing sensation through the forefoot, but with Zipfoam and the flexible forefoot it almost feels like I load the forefoot and bounce forward off of it. The Magnifly 4 provides a fun ride for the daily training category, but still doesn't quite do enough to be considered for workouts or uptempo work. However this is an immediate competitor for the low drop training shoe category.

So far durability is holding up great as well and does appear that it will have workhorse-like qualities down the road. 

Nathan: The Magnifly 4 feels very light on foot and functions well at daily mileage paces. Although it does feel like a true 0mm drop to me (unlike David's experience), it does have very smooth transitions and doesn't feel aggressive. What's really nice is that it doesn't feel like a negative drop, which can happen if the geometry doesn't help you transition quickly/smoothly. The Magnifly has an effective bevel to help roll you through heel striking to the midfoot and then the forefoot has nice flex grooves that allow a relatively fun toe off. The Zipfoam midsole is cushioned but not plush, and combined with the geometry and flexibility gives a bit of pop during transition from midfoot to toe off. In terms of speed, it functions best at daily and steady mileage, and despite the "pop" at toe off isn't the most responsive for workouts or faster tempo work. The upper and outsole have held up really well so far, and craftsmanship of this shoe seems of high quality.

Andrea: The Magnifly 4 has quickly become one of my favorite daily trainers due to its fit and performance. I used it for easy runs, strides, and a 12 mile hilly run that included some dirt roads. I prefer lower drop and wide toe box shoes (have put many miles on the Altra Escalante and Escalante Racer in the past) and the Magnifly 4 really shines as a 0 drop shoe that provides responsive cushioning and encourages turnover. The dual density midsole feels soft at initial contact and firms up at toe-off. At easier paces, the toe spring feels comfortable and natural. During strides, the toe spring feels like it helps to propel me forward without feeling like the forefoot disappears. This shoe wouldn’t be my first choice for longer intervals because of the cushioning, but might work well for those who prefer a softer midsole for faster workouts. The full length rubber outsole provides excellent traction on wet roads and on dirt. I did not experience any heel or forefoot slippage and found the laces to lock my foot down without needing mid-run adjustment.

A comparison note for those who have run in the Escalante: I stopped using it as my weekly mileage increased past 25-30 because I felt I needed more cushioning, underfoot protection, and upper stability. The Magnifly 4 provides this added protection and stability as well as the wide toe box and 0 drop that I liked with the Escalante.




STABILITY

David: The Magnifly 4 is not a stability shoe but does a good job of providing some inherent stability through the shoe's geometry and components. The relatively wide platform gives plenty of cross sectional area for a nice stable feeling underfoot. The upper locks down incredibly well and keeps the foot on the platform and doesn't allow the foot to have excessive translation in unstable conditions. The midsole has some small sidewalls that feel like they may help a tad. Overall the shoe is still a neutral shoe though and for those that have problems with controlling eversion through midstance might need something a little bit more fortified. Overall stability on the Magnifly 4 is good though. 

Nathan: The Magnifly 4 is a neutral shoe, but the full contact outsole and moderate cushioned allows for decent stability underfoot. Additionally, the wider toe box and contact allows for a very stable forefoot experience. Finally, the upper is so well locked in that it locks the foot securely on the platform. All that said, for those needing some stability in the heel or midfoot, you'll likely need to look elsewhere. This isn't necessarily a stability element that we typically think of (since this isn't related to pronation), but it is always wise to thoughtfully consider how to transition into a 0mm drop shoe, because the demands on the body to control saggital plane movement (forward/backward) are higher at the ankle with 0mm drop shoes. I gave some thoughts on a conservative transition plan in my DPT section of the Altra Paradigm 6 review that you can check out if you want more thoughts on that.

Andrea: The Topo Magnifly 4 is a neutral shoe with some non-traditional stability features. The wide base helps stabilize the foot at initial contact and the toe spring helps guide the foot from initial contact to toe off. The midsole provides mild medial arch support and the heel counter centers the calcaneus in the shoe without preventing motion. The outsole is rigid in the rear- and mid-foot but does have some flexibility in the forefoot to promote pushoff. There is also significant sole flare at the rearfoot and mild sole flare at the midfoot and forefoot.

Lower drop shoes place greater strength and stability demands on the body, specifically the gastrocsoleus, Achilles, foot intrinsics, talocrural (ankle) joint, and MTPs. For those new to 0 drop shoes, it is important to progress mileage, intensity, and elevation gain slowly and to ensure that you have sufficient strength and ankle and foot joint mobility to safely run in a shoe like the Magnifly 4. Shoes are tools, but the body has to be prepared to use the tool that you have selected.



THOUGHTS AS A DPT / FOOTWEAR SCIENCE

The Right Fit, by David Salas
For the DPT section today I wanted to talk about upper and platform integration and why it is important for the ride and experience of a shoe. Topo does upper integration very well in this model from heel to toe. The width of the heel and midfoot is near perfect with normal width and the toe box is wide but not overly so. The volume of the shoe is done well and rides right over the dorsum of the foot without having too much space. The tongue and lacing system does a great job of locking the foot down to the platform. The default for the shoe is to use the posterior eyelet to further lock the heel into the shoe. About 2/3 of the way up the dorsum of the foot is an elastic loop that lies over the tongue and when laced tightly further locks the foot down through the midfoot. This provides a very stable and secure feel on the platform of the shoe and allows you to run in the shoe the way it was meant to be run in. When you don't have to worry about slippage or translation of the foot when running, the experience can feel much more pure.

The Importance of Room for Foot Splay, by Andrea Myers
Many scientific articles have been written regarding the effect of 0 drop shoes on various injuries. Less has been written regarding a common feature of 0 drop shoes, which is a wide, “foot-shaped” toe box. Besides the obvious (your shoe should be shaped like your foot, not squeeze your toes together), what does the scientific literature say about the benefits of a wide toe box?

Researchers at Brigham Young University evaluated the effect of passive hallux adduction (pushing the big toe outwards, towards the other toes) on blood flow in the lateral plantar artery. They hypothesized that this positioning would result in decreased blood flow in the artery, which supplies the plantar fascia. They proposed that the abductor hallucis muscle may play a role in this arterial compression. The abductor hallucis runs along the medial aspect of the foot and moves the big toe away from the second toe. Putting the abductor hallucis in a lengthened position may compress the posterior tibial artery, which feeds the lateral plantar artery. Evidence is emerging that the persistent nature of plantar fasciitis may be a result of decreased blood flow to the plantar fascia, which slows healing. Poor fitting running shoes that are too narrow across the forefoot could cause passive hallux adduction and could be a contributing factor to the development and persistence of plantar fasciitis.

The researchers used ultrasound to quantify blood flow and vessel diameter in the lateral plantar artery with the foot in a resting position and with the big toe pushed towards the other toes (hallux adduction). They found a statistically significant decrease in blood flow and artery diameter during passive hallux adduction. They also found that the decrease in blood flow was greatest in subjects with pes planus (low arch), which they theorized was due to lengthening of the abductor hallucis muscle in flat footed individuals. The role of reduced blood flow in the development of plantar fasciitis needs further research, but the preliminary evidence suggests that narrow footwear could reduce blood flow in the lateral plantar artery.

The take home message here is that regardless of drop, shoes should be wide enough at the toe box to allow for normal toe splay. A simple way for runners to test if their shoes are too narrow is to remove the shoe insert and stand on them. If the foot is wider than the insert, the shoes may be too narrow.

Reference:

Jacobs, J.L., Ridge, S.T., Bruening, D.A. et al. Passive hallux adduction decreases lateral plantar artery blood flow: a preliminary study of the potential influence of narrow toe box shoes. J Foot Ankle Res 12, 50 (2019).


RECOMMENDATIONS

David: I don't have many recommendations for the Magnifly 4. In the 0mm drop category this is actually my favorite shoe. I do think they could play with sole flaring a tad through the midfoot. The ortholite insole provides a small amount of stability through medial part of the midfoot but flaring the sole a tad could give a nice stable sensation through the region without posting the shoe or adding "stability" elements. 

Nathan: I agree with David, there is a lot going well with the Magnifly 4 that makes it a great option for a 0 mm drop daily trainer. My main recommendation is that they don't play around too much with this upper -- it works really well.

Andrea: The Magnifly 4 is the most comfortable 0 drop, wide toe box shoe I have run in. From my perspective, I wouldn’t change a thing. If Topo wanted to make this shoe more accessible to more runners, I would recommend making it a 4mm drop shoe, which would fit well with its existing responsive cushioning and toe spring. This would make it similar to the Ultrafly 3, but without the medial posting.

WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR

David: The Topo Magnifly 4 is a neutral daily training shoe in the 0mm drop category. Cushioning lies between moderate and maximal while still providing a good amount of responsiveness for a daily trainer. The shoe is normal width through the heel and midfoot with a wider toe box and a very well done upper that locks the foot down well. There is a slight rocker geometry to the shoe, though not so prominent that it alters the natural stride of the runner. All in all a really good training option for daily mileage at 0mm. 

Nathan: The Topo Magnifly 4 is a shoe for someone wanting a 0 drop moderately cushioned trainer. It is not quite in the maximalist category and will still give runners some ground feel and the feelings of natural movement while also feeling some protection from the Zipfoam midsole. It's a great option for those who prefer a wider, anatomically structured toe box and value upper fit and quality to lock you down on the platform. Again, this may be one of the most positively surprising shoes of 2021 for me.

Andrea: The Topo Magnifly 4 is a 0 drop, moderately cushioned, neutral road shoe. Runners who are interested in this shoe need to have sufficient calf and foot intrinsic strength as well as ankle and MTP mobility to avoid injury. The Magnifly 4 is best as a daily trainer, but could be an interval shoe for those who prefer more cushioning. Runners who like 0 drop shoes but want more underfoot protection than traditional minimalist shoes will do well with the Magnifly 4.


GRADING

David
Fit: (Very comfortable upper throughout, locks down great while still remaining sock like and almost non existent feeling)
Performance: 
B+ (Really good for daily mileage, fun responsive toe off, weight and overall responsiveness of shoe still keeps it from much else)
Stability: B+ (Stable platform, great upper, traction is good, the midfoot could be improved slightly with perhaps sidewall or sole flaring modification)
DPT/Footwear Science: A- (I love seeing companies playing with upper construction and how that effects the ride of the shoe and the experience. Seeing the eyelet defaulted to the posterior loop and the elastic loop in the lacing system do a great job locking the foot down. )
Personal:  A (For me this is the best 0mm drop shoe I have run in this year, solid workhorse for daily mileage)
Overall: A- (A really solid option for those looking for mod-max cushion in the 0mm drop category. Fun responsive feeling through the forefoot while still having natural transitions.)

Nathan

Fit: A+ (I don't give out A+'s for this category, but this was certainly the best for me this year with the heel lock down and comfort)
Performance: A
 (Really enjoyable ride for a daily trainer, feels really light on foot and has a great balance between cushion and ground feel)
Stability: B+ (People will need to be able to control forward motion required from 0mm drop experience and no formal structure to the midfoot, but overall stable neutral shoe, again people will need to consider demands for 0mm drop)
DPT/Footwear Science: A (Geometry for a smooth 0mm drop option, wide toe box all integrated with a fantastic upper)
Personal:  A (I never thought I'd enjoy a 0mm drop shoe as much as this one. Felt natural, not negative drop feeling, lightweight, and so comfortable)
Overall: A

Andrea
Fit: A (wide toe box, neutral heel counter, and great upper lockdown)
Performance: A- (great for easy runs, strides, and long runs, but too cushioned for me for intervals)
Stability: A- (non traditional stability features in a neutral shoe: sole flare, arch support, mild heel counter. Runners need to have sufficient strength and stability to run in a 0 drop shoe, so this shoe isn’t for everyone)
DPT/Footwear Science: A (wide toe box allow for normal toe splay, reducing risk of decreased blood flow in lateral plantar artery)
Personal: A (new favorite daily trainer)
Overall: A- (great 0 drop shoe with responsive cushioning and smooth toe off, A- because it is not a shoe for everyone due to increased strength and stability needs)
 

SHOP | SUPPORT DOR

Find the Topo Magnifly 4 at Running Warehouse here. Using the link to purchase helps support Doctors of Running. Thanks so much!

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FURTHER READING

Compare Zero Drop Shoes
Topo ST-4 -
An even more minimal offering from Topo for those who want to dig back into low stack shoes
Altra Paradigm 6 - A cushioned 0 drop trainer that has unique methods for stability

Recently at Doctors of Running
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A super durable trail trainer for long distances.
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Thanks for reading!

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TESTER PROFILES:


David Salas PT DPT CSCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

Dr. David Salas is a 135 lb male with notable PRs ranging from 3:54 in the 1500m to 1:08:36 for half marathon. He typically runs 60 to 70 miles per week and trains from about 7:30 recovery runs to fast shorter efforts at 4:30 pace. He normally prefers neutral shoes with a firmer ride, but is completely open to other types of shoes.  He is a footwear enthusiast at heart and will always appreciate a high quality shoe when it comes around. For updates on training or testing,

Nathan Brown PT DPT OCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy 
Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Movement Performance Institute Certified in Advanced Functional Biomechanics 

Dr. Brown is a 155 lb male with notable PRs of 18:18 5K, 39:25 10K, 1:29:01 half marathon, and 3:54 marathon. He typically runs between 20-50 miles per week at a variety of paces from 8:00-9:00 min/mile for recovery runs to 6:45-7:15 min/mile for tempo runs. He typically prefers shoes that provide some cushioning underfoot but still maintain a more firm and responsive feel.

Andrea Myers, PT, DPT, OCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Founder of BiciVita LLC Sports Performance and Bike Fitting at Class Cycles in Southbury, CT 


Dr. Andrea Myers is a 5’7”, 130 pound female with PRs of 3:04:48 for the marathon and 18:41 for the 5k. She typically runs 35-60 miles per week with recovery runs at 8:00-8:30/mi pace and 5:30/mi pace for shorter efforts. She prefers firmer, neutral shoes with 4-8mm of drop and high volume toe boxes.

Editor's Note: As always, the views presented on this website belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts. This website should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking medical care. If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your local running physical therapist. If you are in the Los Angeles area, I am currently taking clients for running evaluations.

***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the  people at Topo Athletic for sending us a pair.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We systematically put each type of shoe through certain runs prior to review. For trainers and performance trainers, we take them on daily runs, workouts, recovery runs and a long run prior to review (often accumulating anywhere from 20-50 miles in the process). For racing flats we ensure that we have completed intervals, a tempo or steady state run run as well as a warm up and cool down in each pair prior to review. This systematic process is to ensure that we have experience with each shoe in a large variety of conditions to provide expansive and thorough reviews for the public and for companies. Our views are based on our extensive history in the footwear industry and years testing and developing footwear. If you are a footwear rep looking for footwear reviews or consultations on development, we are currently looking to partner with companies to assist, discuss and promote footwear models. Partnership will not affect the honesty of our reviews.

Please feel free to reach out, comment and ask questions!
Contact us at doctorsofrunning@gmail.com

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Best Daily Trainer of 2021, DPT Approved