Sunday, August 30, 2015

Topo Athletic Magnifly-Refined Blend of Lessons Learned: Maximal, Natural, Lighter Weights, and Mid Foot Running

By Peter Stuart and Sam Winebaum
Editor's Note: This is a joint review as we both had a chance to run the Magnifly: Peter in Los Angeles on roads and trails, Sam in UT primarily on trails and bike paths and then in NH on flatter roads.  Each of us formed our impressions and wrote independently.

The Topo Athletic Magnifly is an 8.8oz/249g M, 7.7oz/218g W lightweight neutral trainer with a wide on road footprint, roomy wide toe box, and a secure shoe waist and heel. It has an overall stack of 25mm heel/20mm forefoot, 5mm drop with an outsole thickness of 4.5mm. Retail price $110.  Its 20mm forefoot stack and wide heel and forefoot contact  approaches our definition of a maximalist shoe (more than 22mm forefoot stack) while its low drop and wide toe box gives it a more natural stance yet a the same time it is a shoe not quite at the extremes of these trends.

Sam: The above combination is what makes the Magnifly such as refined blend of decent cushion, overall stability, upper hold, and decent responsiveness, especially as speeds increase and the runner gets off their heels. We have run them at various speeds on terrain from road to trail. Might they work for you? Read on and make your own judgement.
Topo Athletic Magnifly
One way to describe the Magnify is by comparison. Consider the Magnifly if you like but don't need the whole boatload of...
  • Hoka's wide stance and cushion but find them a bit stiff and over soft. disconnected from the road yet you are looking for a road trail hybrid similar to the Huaka
  • Altra's Zero Drop heel to toe works for you, but not all the time and at all speeds. Their Foot Shaped toe box is super comfy walking around but is a bit to loose and unconstructed when the pace picks up.
  • Newton's lug system and the feedback they provide to encourage a mid foot strike is useful but sometimes you find the lugs "in the way"
  • you're like the modern seamless uppers on many shoes but what's under the foot doesn't always mesh with what's above and some of the light uppers just don't provide enough support for forays onto trails or at speed.
Never heard of Topo Athletic? Well they were started a few years launching with minimal cushion shoes with a strange split toe design.  Topo is now really hitting its stride with the Magnifly and their other more "conventional" yet careful blends of the latest innovations. Their shoe designing experience really shows in the Magnifly.

Peter: There’s something great going on here. I’ve really been enjoying my runs in the Topo Magnifly —it’s a great mix of a lot of different elements I like in other shoes combined together in one. It sort of pulls off a magic trick in the ride department, but more on that later.

Upper and Fit
Peter: Don’t know about you Sam, but for me these are a lace ‘em up and forget ‘em shoe. The fit is just right. The mid-foot and heel are nice and snug and there’s room up front for my toes to stretch out. They are a ‘natural foot shape’ without turning into a clown/bowling shoe when I’m looking down at them. The upper is super comfortable and looks good. They look a little bit like a trail shoe to me (and I’ve really liked them on trails).
I have a little concern about quality and durability of certain sections of the upper. I’m about 75 miles into my pair and there are a couple of areas (around the top eyelets) where there is some fraying. Nothing serious, but I’m on the lookout—especially as my first pair had a seam that was not sewn. More below, but Topo have been AMAZINGLY responsive in terms of customer service and communication.
I’ve had no hotspots, blisters or other indignities. They may run a HAIR short…I wouldn’t size up, but I can occasionally feel my toe near the front on downhills—which may have more to do with the wider toe box.

Topo Athletic Magnifly

Sam: The upper is a single layer of thin soft mesh with no lining. The upper is considerably less stiff than for example Clifton 2 but certainly more constructed than the Nike Lunar Tempo and thus I think, when combined with the narrow heel collar and effective overlays and lacing, the foot always feels well held but never constricted. An exceptional last and execution of the upper. The upper has considerable coverage of thin seamless overlays. Most significantly for the overall support and stability where upper and midsole meet there is a 1/2" overlay around the entire lower border between the midsole and upper.

Topo Athletic Magnifly

Topo Athletic Magnify
The toe bumper overlay is substantial with a wear layer, like a trail shoe and very firm yet not tapered down. It is high and well rounded not pointy, so roomy. The bumper top was occasionally noticeable when not running, especially when the shoe was new and the insole not packed down as often happens in my experience. Don't be discouraged by this as the bumper disappeared for me when running.  
The toe box is roomy and high, not quite as roomy wide as Altra's but higher and never sloppy with my narrower feet well held  with no rotation at speed or on trails. The upper toe width is comparable to the stretchier Nike Lunar Tempo but is far less pointy upfront and by and large more supportive and structured.  The heel counter does not extend beyond the orange side logos. It is not particularly firm yet our heel was always well held as the back heel collar is narrow, well padded and extends quite far forward. The mid foot waist of the shoe is not constricting as for example the New Balance Zante's is for me. When  combined with the 6 hole lacing ( plus lace lock hole), the narrow heel collar, decently padded tongue and connection of laces to overlays we were always very well held, even on rougher trails. The sock liner while appearing standard is actually glued in. This likely also contributing to a secure foot hold.
The picture below, all size 8.5, illustrates a comparison of the heel collars and overall length of 4 shoes I have run in recently. Most interestingl,y look how narrow and wrapped the achilles hold is on the Topo and how "long" off the back the Clifton 2 is. Is this why I often feel Clifton 2 are too soft in the heel ? My heel strike sinking back instead of moving me forward?
Left to Right: Altra Impulse, Hoka Clifton 2, Topo Magnifly, Nike Lunar Tempo

The Magnifly fit me true to size equally well with thin or thicker socks, a tribute to how well the upper wraps and the roomy yet well stabilized toe box.  The combination of elements described above makes the upper outstanding. One of the best of any shoe road or trail I have run this year. And as an upper for either a road or trail shoe understanding the lighter materials may have a durability issue if trails are rough and rocky, although the full overlay between midsole and rest of upper all the way around sure will go a long way to protecting the shoe..

Midsole Outsole Platform
Peter: The midsole is nice and firm. It’s not harsh by any means, but it’s not soft. The ride is super, super smooth. The image that keeps coming to me is that of a car tire just rolling down the road—no resistance, easy transition, rolls right through the gait cycle. I’ve put a few 8-10 milers and a couple of long runs into these and they’ve felt good all along. 
As for the outsole, there’s plenty of rubber on the bottom of the shoe. I’m not seeing any appreciable wear on the sole after 75 miles. I was a little concerned about going long in these due to the firmness, but they settle into a nice easy ride. Traction is great and the outsole performs well on road and on dirt. They are a nice hybrid shoe for me.

Topo Magnify left, Altra Impulse Right

Sam: The overall on the ground platform is very wide. As wide as Altra or Hoka. It is a well curved last suitable for neutral runners.

Left to Right: Hoka Clifton 2, Topo Magnifly, Altra Impulse, Nike Lunar Tempo
Left to Right: New Balance Vazee Pace, Topo Magnifly, Newton Fate
The width inspires confidence as this is one stable shoe on all surfaces while being very flexible for its considerable 20mm forefoot stack height. The wide high yet well held toe box is not a compromise on top of the wide platform. I could really feel my toes splay without worrying where my foot and stride was going to end up.
Topo Athletic Magnify
The outsole has 2 densities of rubber with the red and blue material firmer than the black. The red and blue seems by measuring and feel slightly softer than say Saucony Triumph or even the Clifton2, closer to the firmness of adidas Adios and Energy Boost but it is relatively thick.  The heel is decoupled and has a bevel. The black outsole material up front is comparable in firmness to most other 2015 road shoes.  Grip has been good on road and dry trails. There has been no visible wear to date (30 miles) on the outsole.
The midsole is a relatively simple two layer EVA construction, a touch softer than the Altra Impulse and firmer overall than the Nike Lunar Tempo and Hoka Huaka and certainly the Clifton 2. It has decent rebound and is flexible up front but this is not adidas Boost.

Peter: I really like the ride of this shoe. I keep putting it on and being surprised by it. I like it better than I think I will each time. As I said above, it’s a smooth transition, feels like a tire rolling down the road. Turnover is quick and it feels, dare I say, “natural”. I know this is an iffy thing to say, but there’s something really organic about the feel and ride of the Magnifly. It feels very much aligned with the natural motion of my foot. The best way I can put it is that I feel as relaxed as some other people look when they run. Does that make sense? I feel like my body is nicely aligned and I’m able to run efficiently in these shoes in a way that some other shoes don’t allow. That said, I like them better if I’m going out for a brisk run than I do for a recovery run. They do really nicely at tempo. They’re nice and light.

Sam: The ride is in most cases outstanding.  They are well cushioned especially in the forefoot, decently responsive. Returning to the Newton comparison, I find that this is a shoe that feels better at speed more on the mid foot than slow back on the heel. While it has a 5mm drop, at slow speeds the heel seems "missing"and I am reminded of the feel of an Altra. Not sure if this is due to the softness of the midsole, not particularly soft really, or more likely the combination of low drop and wide forefoot and the blue mid foot material providing a touch to much support slowing my foot motion when landing back on the heel. You can feel your way forward to the sweet spot as pace picks up and it is kind of fun and quite sensory. With focus on a landing further forward I am reminded of the Newton lugs, you know when you are there, but in the case of the Magnifly you can ease on or off the midfoot without any abruptness but with awareness. On trails, and I ran Utah smoother single tracks, the Magnify as a joy both climbing and descending. The wide platform combined with the upper hold and low drop inspired confidence on all terrains.

Magnifly vs. Newton Fate:
In my head, these are the two most similar shoes in my closet. On the road, not so much. They are not dissimilar, but the Magnifly feels smoother through the transition to me. Sort of like a Lugless Newton. Dont get me wrong, I love Newtons and have put plenty of miles on the Fate, but comparing them side-to-side I find the Magnifly to be preferable. Its a similar weight and firmness, but the Topo seems to roll off the ground a little better.

Magnifly vs. GoRun 4
 These are hard to Compare because they feel so different. The GoRun are so light and soft in comparison. For longer miles (over 15) I might go for the Magnifly because it feels like it gives a little more energy back from the road. The GoRun are much softer. I like running in both of them.

Magnifly vs. Pegasus 32 and Brooks Launch
 Again, different beasts. The Magnifly is a lighter and less cushioned shoe than either of these. Its more suited to tempo runs and runs with strides in it than the Launch and the Peg. I like to use the Launch and Peg on recovery days or for long easy miles when I want cushion and comfort. If I want the pace to be a little more assertive Id go Magniflythey are super comfortable, but not cushy.

Magnifly vs. Vazee Pace and Zante.
This is where it gets interesting. While the Zante is softer than the Magnifly, the Vazee pace may be the most similar shoe out there. The Vazee is a little bit lighter, but the Magnifly has a similarly quick and fluid ride.

The Magnifly is an excellent choice as an everyday trainer and long racer for those seeking low weight, some well held up front room in a roomy high toe box, decent cushion- especially in the forefoot, and a lower drop. The Magnifly is certainly a good alternative for those with wider feet.  Its outstanding upper, wide on the ground platform, and light weight inspires confidence on just about any terrain. Relatively responsive for its cushion it succeeds in being a truly modern blend of near maximal cushioning, wide toe box, support, flexibility, and light weight from a new company that deserves a closer look and try.

Sam's Score 4.8 out of 5
-0.2 for "missing the heel" slight difficulty transitioning at slower speeds back on the heels

The Topo Magnifly is available for MSRP $110 from Topo directly or fine running stores at this link

The Topo Athletic Magnifly was provided to RoadTrailRun at no charge. The opinions herein are entirely our own. 

See a fine review of the Magnifly over at Gearist here 
Peter Stuart's Running Bio
My running career got off to a slow start…in high school I was told I ran like a race walker and was thus relegated to race walking on the track team. I got back into running about 15 years ago and then into triathlon. Triathlon really rekindled my love for running, so about two years ago I hired a coach and really focused on the half and full marathons.  I broke a bad habit of putting in tons of moderately hard miles (and no easy or hard ones) and after plateauing at 3:25 (with some disastrous marathons in there), this past year I brought my marathon under 3:00 and my half under 1:25. Along the way I’ve developed a bit of a shoe problem.

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Harold said...

Sam that was a great write-up on a pair of shoes that I really want to try out. Have a feeling that I will be placing an order to Topo pretty to get a pair. :-)

Anonymous said...

Nice about a quick comparison to Adidas Boston Boost? What about trail use?

Sam Winebaum said...

Superb on trails due to upper, low drop, and width of platform on the ground. Decent traction. Boston Boost been a while since I ran mine. Quite similar with Boost a bit softer and less responsive forefoot. With another 3-4 mm heel Magnifly would be ideal for me.