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Topo Athletic Shoes: Inside-Out Performance

August 12, 2015

  • by
  • Peter Reese

We love sunshine, muddy trails and wind in our face.  Topo Athletic’s persistence in producing training shoes has challenged our thinking about the efficacy of dedicated, indoor footwear.

Over a six-month period, Active Junky tested two models, working out on the hardwood with the Halsa and plying Rocky Mountain rim rock in the Oterro.  Three observations pull these polar opposites, and our findings, together.

Observation #1:  Training Shoes Are Worth The Money.

While Active Junky started the evaluation process favoring worn-down running shoes for strength, agility and speed training, we ended up recycling our high-mileage kicks. Topo’s asymmetric last (foot shape), mid-foot strap and secure lacing were among the features that separated Halsa from general-purpose athletic shoes.  

The Findings

Easy on and off for pre-job or between-errands sessions.  Stability on Concept Rower foot pads, spinner pedals and plyometric boxes.  Reasonable support for moderate lifting and bar work. 

Breathability without feeling underbuilt for the task. Little accumulation of sweat and attendant stink.  Floors unmarred by shedding or scuffing outsoles No tracking in mud, rocks and small creatures in the deep lugs of dedicated trail shoes. 

Our Conclusion

Make the buy, even if you’re wearing tee shirts preserved from your college years.  Safer, cleaner and more dedicated training performance gets – and keeps – you in the game.  Without making promises, expect fewer injuries and greater flexibility in the process.

Observation #2:  Lightweight Trail Shoes Are Legitimate.

Instead of going from featherweight training shoes to tank-like plodders, the move to a lightweight trail style felt good.  After building up posture, power and agility inside, testers found less need for armored footwear on moderately-technical trails. The Oterro (still available and the inspiration for newer models), is constructed for the real world; Topo’s engineering vision doesn’t stop at the front door.

The Findings

Zero-drop design to flow while moving swiftly.  A wrapped toe-to-heel outsole for positive trail contact during climbing and descending. Minimalist armored toe rand that promotes impact protection.

Fatigue- and rock-fighting midsoles. An interior buffered with upgraded, removable Aegis Microbe Shield insoles.  Quick lacing backed by sensible cord locks.  Breathability for long-distance comfort while carrying only 9oz/pair.

Our Conclusion

Topo’s Oterro is part of the fast-and-light movement.  Unless you have foot, ankle or knee problems, this shoe’s design is well-suited for travel with low to moderate pack weights on most terrain. 

Observation #3:  Creating Your Own System Is Wise.

There’s merit in varying shoe brands and styles to avoid injury and balance foot-ankle-leg strength.  Combining the two Topo styles created concern for testers acclimatized to a grab-bag approach to shoe “programs” (meaning, varying manufacturers and models almost continually).  With our minds now changed, Active Junky recommends everyone find a footwear line-up that works for them.

The Findings

Consistent lasts (foot forms) promote dependable fit.  Production standards remain fairly stabile including insole and lacing systems.  Sizing avoids the need to rethink measurements before ordering.

Warranties are consistent.  New models merit serious consideration.  User feedback to the company carries more credibility.

Our Conclusion

Offering both Men’s and Women’s models for gym and trail, Topo Athletic stands apart from general purpose active footwear.  The wisdom of purpose-specific styles now is part of the equation at Active Junky.

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