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Topo Athletic ST-5: Minimal, Yet Familiar
By Matthew Klein and Bach Pham

While a small number of companies have continued to provide zero-drop shoes to the market, many of them have continued to gain weight and stack height. Finding a low stack height, lightweight, zero drop shoe is actually somewhat difficult, especially if you don't want it to be absolutely bare bones against the ground. The ST-5 is one of the few shoes that maintains a lighter weight while having enough cushioning to keep the edge off the road. Functioning either as a minimally cushioned extremely light trainer or potentially as a traditionally cushioned, wide-toe boxed racing flat, the Topo Athletic ST-5 maintains its unique place in the market. 

Topo Athletic ST-5
Price: $115 at Topo Athletic
Weight: 6.6 oz, 187 g (men's size 9), Women's Weights Not Provided
Stack Height: 14 mm / 14 mm
Drop: 0 mm
Classification: Minimal, Zero Drop Road Running Shoe


Matt: The Topo ST-5 is a zero drop, minimally cushioned, flexible road shoe that can handle running, gym work and even racing if you can. A wide-toe box with a comfortable upper sits up top, providing a comfortable and somewhat low fit. A zero drop, 14mm stack height of Zipfoam provides a surprising amount of cushioning for how low to the ground this shoe is for easy miles. The lighter weight and lower-to-the-ground feel allow for some faster work if your body can handle it. The ST-5 refines what Topo has ben working on, continuing to provide a consistent, light, low-riding protect that is becoming more rare with changes in footwear trends. 

Bach: Minimalist fans have far fewer options than ever before in today's maximal marketplace, but Topo has remained committed to keeping the tradition - one that owner Tony Post help start in a past life with his work at Vibram Five Fingers - through the Topo ST-5. Despite being a flat 14mm, the shoe feels modestly cushioned for cruising through easy training miles and has a bit of flexibility in the forefoot for some light uptempo work. While not overly exciting, it checks the boxes for what I want in a minimal trainer with a hint of stable mechanics inherently built-in.

: Altra Escalante Racer (kinda, not as responsive of a midsole)


Matt: The Topo ST-5 fits me true to size if slightly long in my normal men's US size 10. The toe box is anatomically wide with a little extra volume. The midfoot fits normally with a thinner non-gusseted tongue. I did have to tighten the laces to get a secure fit but did not have to lace lock the heel. The heel also fits normally with a low riding, thinner heel collar and no heel counter. Once I tightened down the laces, I did not have major security issues unless I tried to pivot and turn quickly. That did cause a tiny bit of sliding but was not a major issue. The slightly longer fit did make this shoe better with socks but the inner liner is plenty comfortable without them. Overall this is a fairly simple upper that doesn't require much thinking about. 

Bach: The Topo ST-5 fits true to size for me. There's ample room in the toe box and the midfoot and heel do a nice job of securing the foot. The volume in the midfoot leans a bit more snug which does help contribute to a good lockdown. It is a flexible material though and feels comfortable on foot. The heel has limited padding and there is no heel counter. The upper is fairly minimal and very breathable. There is a little bit more length in the ST-5, but it was never an issue for me. I felt comfortably locked in with both thin and thick socks which is always a plus. The shaping of the shoe is very triangular, with the heel being a bit more narrow and focused on security and the shoe widening all the way up to the toes. This is generally a no-frills upper that gets the job done and has a great Topo toe box that fits well. Topo offers sizes up to Size 14 Men and 12 for Women.


Matt: The Topo ST-5 is a minimally cushioned shoe for shorter miles and potentially as a faster shoe for those who want a more traditional racing style shoe. The midsole is made of full-length Zipfoam, which finally feels like it provides some minimal cushioning (compared to the normally firm ride I associate with this foam). The ride is extremely light and feels even lower than its 6.6 oz listed weight. This is partially due to the lower-riding midsole and reminds me of the feel of older racing flats. The ST-5 is zero drop and it definitely feels like that. This feels fine while walking but really becomes apparent while running. Those not used to zero drop shoes will need to slowly transition into running in this.

The ST-5 is fairly flexible, although the majority of the flexibility is centered appropriately at the forefoot. The heel features a mild posterior lateral bevel, which combined with the lower sole provides a surprisingly smooth heel transition. The forefoot flexes easily, making this a shoe that responds well to picking up the pace. Purpose-wise, the ST-5 is best for easier efforts, some gym work that does not involve too much side to side motion and some faster/uptempo efforts if you are used to running in zero drop/minimal shoes. The lower weight and mild cushioning make it easy to pick up the pace if you have the strength to do so. Most people will find this works as a great foot strengthening/training tool for shorter mileage. I accumulated 20 miles with short 2-3 mile runs and found that in my current form I would not run much more than that in these. Those with more minimal experience/preference may have a different experience. Over those 20 miles, I was impressed that the outsole remained intact and had no wear. So those looking for both some durability on top of the lighter weight, mildly cushioned sole may be interested in the ST-5.

I was fairly certain that I was going to feel somewhat limited in what the ST-5 could do for me, but found the Zipfoam to be pleasantly comfortable despite how minimal the shoe is and the ride to be fluid and fun. The transition has zero clunkiness from front-to-back. The shoe handles daily training miles well and I was able to take it comfortably up to an hour by the end of my testing with the shoe with very little fatigue. The shoe felt best at slow, easy paces. It is a great shoe for slow running in general as it is very light and easy to turnover. This is also a great shoe for easy runs with strides. The ST-5's flexible forefoot offers the ability to take things a bit faster when needed, though I couldn't take it for very long distances due to how minimal the shoe is. There is unsurprisingly a high level of ground contact feel in the ST-5, but the Zipfoam does soften the blow a touch so it doesn't feel overly harsh. If you are someone who really pounds the pavements on runs though, you will no doubt have a firm experience here.

The outsole so far has been surprisingly durable with no wear after 20 miles. It also has done a great job on a variety of surfaces I tested on, including dirt, grass, road, and wet pavement. You will feel rocks underneath the shoe, so I wouldn't take it too far offroad, but I was really pleased with how I could tackle a few surfaces in the shoe. If you have a lot of well-groomed, runnable dirt road and interested in minimal shoes, this could be a fun one to consider.


Matt: The Topo ST-5 is a flexible, neutral, minimal shoe without any traditional stability elements. There are no sidewalls, however, the wider shape and filled-in midfoot still provide a mildly stable platform. The lower stack height also adds to an improved ground feel, while the high level of flexibility lets your foot do pretty much whatever it wants. This is not an unstable platform but it is definitely not stable either. Those with stability needs should ease into this shoe and consider it potentially as a training tool while those without stability needs will find this shoe to not be obtrusive.

Bach: The Topo ST-5 is a neutral shoe, particularly due to its minimal nature. It does sit on the more stable side of minimal footwear though, for those interested in owning this type of footwear. I typically need some mild stability in the design to be runnable. I found the shoe's three quarters stiffness from the rear into the beginning of the forefoot helped provide just enough rigidity to be runnable for me compared to overly flexible minimal shoes like Xero or slightly higher stacked shoes like the Puma Liberate. The medial side does narrow just slightly, causing a little bit of pinching feeling into my arch that does not hurt, but is sometimes present. There is a bit more width to the shoe than expected which does help in general with a more confident landing forward, and the amount of high ground feel helps with finding where you need to land. I do recommend runners to slowly incorporate this shoe, and new runners to consider slightly higher stacked options first before taking the plunge as you do need some foot strength to put good miles in the shoe.

Culture Corner: One Way Brands Could Make Shoe Shopping an Easier Place to Navigate
By Bach Pham

We have the unique position at Doctors of Running to test a broad range of shoes annually. This unusual position allows us to really delve into what our own preferences and needs. The large majority of runners in the world, however, rarely get the opportunity to learn about themselves in this capacity. This is why we really encourage runners to think about the elements of shoes they like during their running journey and catalog elements that have worked well for them, so when you use tools like reviewer sites while shopping online or when you shop in person and are able to try a wide range of shoes, you have a better feel for knowing if the shoe matches characteristics you typically enjoy.

When receiving the Topo ST-5, just out of the box I knew that this would be a shoe I would be able to at least get along with just from some inherent characteristics in hand and on foot. Despite being minimal, knowing when I bent the shoe and found just a bit of stiffness in the back three quarters of the shoe that there was a good chance this was a runnable shoe for me. Its stiffness and ground feel shares a lot of overlap to the New Balance Tempo v2, a shoe on paper wouldn't seem like it would work with my mild stability needs but ended up being a 2022 favorite for me.

For me, in general a very streamlined shoe with little frills and a wider base or good ground feel that helps reduce instability has been a go-to for my flat feet needs - the biggest characteristic I have to work around as a runner. For other people, your needs may be different. Maybe you are a neutral runner with some lateral tendencies, and a shoe that pushes you laterally by design like the Adidas Adios Pro 2 is a detriment to your running while a net positive for a runner who tends to have more medial issues. Maybe fit is your biggest need, whether you need more width for bunions or a softer or nonexistent heel counter to manage Haglunds deformity. Maybe you have a combination of issues that requires an even more specific shoe. Unfortunately for some, especially the more singular the market becomes in the kind of shoe they make, there might be runners who have an extremely hard time finding the perfect fit for their needs in the moment.

At the very least, having an understanding of what has and does work for you and what doesn't work can help narrow the decision down and push runners in the right place. Shopping can be hugely frustrating, especially due to the changing nature of the running shoe market. Very rarely will you be able to find a shoe that you like and stick with it for life without at least mild changes to the products two years later.

This is a place where I feel running brands can make some big advances moving forward. By supplying more information to runners about the characteristics of shoes, it might be a great way for runners to better find the shoe they are looking for. Information like fit, how wide or narrow the shoe model is through each part of the shoe (something that Inov-8 somewhat does using a scale), flexibility of heel counters, and volume details would help runners be able to narrow down choices much easier and potentially save on things like shipping costs for both consumers and businesses. It does mean companies having to be a bit more upfront about the realities of their shoe, but this would be a big benefit to runners to be able to go to a site for a brand and filter these details. It would be great to see something like here are three people with very different feet testing the shoe and providing what they would buy based on their feet, whether it's a wide model or if they are comfortable in the standard model, or even switching gender models. Businesses want to sell shoes, consumers want to buy the shoes that best fit their feet. These are two things that can go hand-in-hand and forward the marketplace.


Matt: I have really enjoyed the ST-5 both as a shorter distance foot strengthening tool and for all day wear. The all-black has been great for clinic/teaching while maintaining a wider toe box. My two major suggestions are to modify the fit and improve the midfoot security. The slightly long fit was a little awkward at first but I did get used to it. This would obviously feel better if it fit true to size but the flexibility of the midsole prevents any major transition issue with this. The other major thing I would like to suggest is gusseting the tongue and adding additional midfoot security. While the shoe was decently secure, any side to side motion did have some sliding. For versatility sake during gym work (although I know this is a running shoe) and turning improved midfoot security would be great. 

Bach: Topo has done an excellent job delivering a minimalist shoe that feels very comfortable and mildly versatile. The market is so saturated with maximalist options right now. It feels refreshing to be able to have a shoe or two like this to recommend to runners who don't excel so much in the maximal territory. Not so much a recommendation, but I would be really interested in Topo looking to make a slightly higher stacked, 5mm drop version of this shoe for runners who really want a good ground feel shoe without being zero drop. There are few options in the market as is for low stacked shoes, and even fewer for low stacked, low drop shoes that aren't zero drop. I think there would be a market for a shoe that's roughly 18-20mm in the heel and 14-15mm in the forefoot.


Matt: The Topo ST-5 returns even lighter than its predecessor while maintaining the wider toe box and essence of this shoe. It is best for those who want a wide-toe box, zero drop minimal shoe for either easier miles or uptempo work. I keep coming back to the fact that the ride reminds me of older racing flats, particularly being in the mid-6 oz range (men's size 9). Although some might argue that $115 is expensive for how little there is, this is a decent price for how expensive shoes are getting and the excellent durability this shoe brings. This type of shoe is now incredibly rare. A zero drop, minimal shoe that still has a little bit of cushioning sits in the middle of the zero-drop extremely minimal shoes and the now zero drop high stack height shoes. This is a niche shoe that will continue to fill a gap that some people may still be looking for. 

Bach: The Topo ST-5 continues the minimalist tradition and stands as one of the very few lower stacked shoes in the major market today. Off top of mind, Xero shoes, most Newton shoes, Brooks Launch, and Puma Liberate 2 are the few lower stacked, high ground contact daily training shoes that are available in the market for daily training today. Some shoes that sit in the middle of the spectrum like the On Cloudsurfer and Nike Pegasus along with some racing flats like the Saucony Sinister and Adidas Adios 8. This makes the ST-5 a very welcome addition and to me serves as one of the top ground contact shoes available right now - and perhaps best minimalist as well.


Fit: B+/A- (Comfortable wide toe box with no heel counter. Midfoot secures some securing but is fine as long as you stay in the sagittal plane)
B+ (Surprisingly cushioned for how low stack this shoe is. Best for easier efforts, use as a training tool, walking and some uptempo work if you can handle it. )
Stability: B [Neutral] (Not really applicable as this is a minimal shoe, but has a wider platform)
DPT/Footwear Science: B+ (Solid drop in weight from its predecessor. Flexibility is in the right place with a little more stiffness throughout heel and midfoot)
Personal: A-/B+ (Comfortable fit for walking and shorter miles. )
Overall: B+ 

Fit: A- (In general, fits true to size for those with standard feet. May be a touch larger for narrow feet. Good lockdown and fit throughout)
Performance: B+
(A really pleasant ride for a minimal shoe that helps reduce what could be a very harsh feeling)
Stability: B (Neutral, but the slight stiffness in the rear to midfoot might work for more runners)
DPT/Footwear Science: B+ (A pleasant design that stands out among minimal shoes)
Personal: A- (I will definitely be reaching for this between testing when I want to really connect to the road)
Overall: B+


Topo Athletic ST-5
Price: $115 at Topo Athletic, Coming Soon

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ASICS Gel-Cumulus 25 - A big update to this daily trainer makes it the softness, most cushioned yet
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Brooks Launch 10 - Huge value training for everyday runners
Brooks Revel 6 - At $100, a simple, but effective neutral trainer that fits well
Hoka Clifton 9 [Stable Neutral Trainer] - A change to the midsole shapes the change to this classic maximal trainer
Mizuno Wave Rider 27 - Retooled to feel a little lighter underfoot and with a greatly improved fit
New Balanace FuelCell Propel v4 - Version 4 adds a forefoot plate to this budget trainer
New Balance Fresh Foam X 880 v13 - A new update to this versatile "wogger" shoe
Nike Pegasus 40 - A light upper update makes this the most comfortable Pegasus to slip on yet
On Cloudsurfer - The softest On yet ushers in a new redesign for the future of On
On Cloudswift 3 - A versatile run/everyday activity trainer with classic On elements
Puma ForeverRun Nitro - A new "stability" entry in the lineup that provides a cushioned ride
Reebok Floatride Energy 5 - Major changes to the popular training series, including a torsion system
Salomon Aero Blaze - A new lightweight trainer from Salomon
Salomon Aero Volt - An old-school flat that's light and versatile
Saucony Echelon 9 [Stable Neutral Trainer] - A wide-fitting, high cushion shoe that also fits orthotics perfectly well
Saucony Kinvara 14 - Higher stacked than ever, and lighter as well
Saucony Ride 16 - A light update that refines the daily trainer to its very best yet
Skechers GO RUN Ride 11 - New HYPERBURST ICE makes for an incredibly soft new entry
Topo Phantom 3 [Stable Neutral] - A daily training shoe with a fantastic upper and simple, functional ride
Tracksmith Eliot Runner - All-new trainer from the apparel brand, featuring a peba midsole
Xero HFS II - An update to one of the few minimalist shoes remaining today

Find all Shoe Reviews at Doctors of Running here.

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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, Santa Barbara, Danbury and Stevens Point areas, we 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 pairs.  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 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.

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