Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Topo Athletic Phantom Multi Tester Review: Maximal, Soft Cushioned, Easy Miles Cruiser

Article by Jeff Beck, Hope Wilkes, and Michael Ellenberger

Topo Athletic Phantom ($130)


Introduction
Jeff: Topo Athletic’s latest release, the Phantom, is their most cushioned road shoe to date. Introducing a new midsole material, Zipfoam, that is supposed to be lighter weight and have a springier ride than standard EVA. The Phantom has a very breathable engineered mesh upper with a number of flexible and non-obtrusive printed overlays to give the shoe some extra structure before getting into the firm heel counter.
Hope: The first pair of Topos I ever ran in was the OG Magnifly back in 2015. I thought of them as “Altras for the rest of us” -- foot-shaped toe box, confidently styled as NOT for athleisure, and surprisingly lightweight, but a little bit of heel-toe offset to save our calves. The OG Magnifly is a sneaky fast shoe, so fast and forgiving that when I was coming back from yet another ankle injury a couple of years ago, I raced close to my half marathon PR pain-free and almost effortlessly.


Fast forward to 2019 and Topo’s offerings are even more refined. The Phantom is built for performance, comfort, and good looks.

Michael: There are two ways to introduce the 2019 Topo Phantom. I could begin by saying that the Phantom isn’t the prettiest, the lightest, nor the most versatile shoe to come across my desk/feet in the first few months of the year. But I could also begin by introducing the Phantom as an exciting offering that somehow blends strong performances in all of these classifications without taking the top spot in any. It looks fine, it feels reasonably light on-foot, and, with the stripped-back upper and springier midsole, can handle a variety of paces. Jack of all trades, master of none, perhaps? The Phantom ultimately has me somewhere in the middle - uninspired, but not unimpressed.


Pros:
Jeff: Soft & supple upper that holds the foot well, Topo shape gives tons of room up front without a sloppy fit elsewhere, plenty of rubber & durable foam outsole, eats up easy miles
Hope: incredibly flexible midsole, especially at that stack height, forgiving ride, comfort, classy good looks
Michael: Supportive upper on a bouncy midsole; surprisingly light on-foot for the weight


Cons:
Jeff: Midsole was too soft for long runs or faster paces
Hope: too heavy (upper in particular is overbuilt), midsole feels ponderous at times
Michael: As with the Fli-Lyte 3, I had trouble getting sufficient lockdown; still a chunky trainer; styling makes it look like a walking shoe.
Sam's Initial Run Video Review


Tester Profiles
Michael is his 20’s and is a 1:07 half marathoner. He runs 50-60 miles per week, generally in lightweight trainers or racing flats at around 6:00-6:30 minutes/mile.
Hope is in her 20’s and after several ultras is now more on the road. She has a marathon PR of 3:47. She trains about 50 miles per week with many of her runs in the (broad) 8:00-10:00/mile range. She is happy to hit 7:30 miles on tempo days.
Jeff Beck is the token slow runner of the RTR lineup as such his viewpoints on shoe and gear can differ from those who routinely finish marathons in three hours or less.  Jeff runs 30 miles per week, both roads and desert trails in North Phoenix, Arizona. He has a PR's of 4:07 marathon and 5K at 23:39 both he is working to demolish with help from his coach and fellow RTR tester Dave Ames.


Stats
Estimated Weight: men’s US 9: 10.7 oz
Sample men’s US 8: 10.3 oz / 292 g
Sample men’s US 8.5 :10.4 oz   / 295 g
Sample men’s US 10.5:  11.2 oz / 317 g
Total Stack Height: 30mm heel / 25 mm forefoot, 5mm drop (includes 5mm Ortholite footbed)
Available May 2019. $130


First Impressions and Fit

Jeff: While the Phantom is the first of its name, it isn’t hard to see the major DNA shared with the Topo Athletic UltraFly 2, their previous highest cushioned road shoe. The shoe has been improved in nearly every way, but the Topo didn’t lose their way. The wide toebox that doesn’t have a sloppy midfoot paired with plenty of cushioning and good traction/durability outsole is their calling card - and the Phantom is all of those things. Fitwise the Phantom is true to size, maybe just a hair short on length (I have a full thumb’s width in front of the big toe in the UltraFly 2 and only ⅔ of a thumb’s width in front of the big toe in the Phantom), but I wouldn’t suggest sizing up.

Hope: Topo sent me the men’s 8 I’d been hoping for (when shoe companies stop the ridiculous tradition of “shrink and pink,” I’ll stop buying men’s sizes) and man, this Halloween-ready colorway is sweet. Right off the bat I notice the extreme puffiness of the tongue and heel. The Phantom is built for comfort, with little regard to weight.
Fit is good -- I have a thumb’s width of room between my big toe and the front of the shoe. Of note to previous Topo fans: the toe overlay is far less thick than that of the OG Magnifly, so no need to fear catching toenails on it! True to size is safe.


Michael: This was my second go at Topo, having tested the Fli-Lyte 3 in March and April. I came away impressed with the FL3, so was excited to try the Phantom. And, as with the Fli-Lyte, the first impressions here were good - the upper is wide and comfortable, especially in the toe-box, and provides ample support despite minimal overlays. The shoe looks understated and clean. I had seen the specs before trying the Phantom but I had to say I was pleasantly surprised - I would have guessed the shoe was in the 9-9.5 ounce range, rather than nearly 10.5 in my 8.5. Something about the weight distribution just made it feel a little lighter underfoot - always a pleasant surprise.  

Upper

Jeff: Topo kept the formula the same from the Ultrafly 2, with a lightweight and breathable engineered mesh upper criss-crossed by a number of printed overlays. And while that worked in the UF2, the Phantom’s mesh is softer and more breathable, the overlays are less noticeable, and the heel counter is much more beefed up. Put together, it results in a very comfortable upper that doesn’t get hot, and while it doesn’t need to deathgrip your foot for the easy road miles it was designed for, it holds your foot well enough to take these out on non-technical trails. Topo kept going with some extra pods around the heel collar to further keep a grip on the foot, but they aren’t as in your face as the pods in the New Balance Fresh Foam More, which may have overdone the pods. 
The tongue is relatively thick, enough so that you won’t feel individual laces strain against the top of your foot. There have been a handful of great uppers on big mileage daily trainers over the last few months (Brooks Glycerin 17 and Saucony Triumph ISO 5 both come to mind) and while I wouldn’t put this upper quite that high, it is still very comfortable for a shoe that matches up favorably with both of those. 
And yes, this toebox is everything you could ever want it to be. Very large, with lots of room horizontally and decent room vertically, but has a very nice, form fitting silhouette. Altra toeboxes may be a bit bigger, but I prefer Topo designs for dialing it in just right.

Hope: Basically I agree with Jeff. This is a VERY comfortable shoe. I might prefer less padding in the heel and tongue (we’ve seen that solid heel grip and zero top-down lace pressure can be achieved with a lot less), but this works as intended.
It’s a recovery miles shoe. Recovery runs can be “Type 2 fun,” meaning the sort of thing that’s brutal as it happens, but fun in retrospect. A recent medium-long run I did in the Phantom was Type 2 fun and I was grateful for the shoe’s comfort features then, but I’d be fuming over the excesses if this were my daily trainer. It looks heavy and it feels heavy!

Michael: Pleasantly surprised here, though not overjoyed. Like the Fli-Lyte 3, Topo has trimmed the overlays besides in the heel, where there is a well-padded and reasonably thick portion of fabric (note where it’s orange, as well as the heel collar). As others have noted, the tongue and heel are extremely well-padded, and it’s undoubtedly comfortable to wear. My primary concern here - as was the case on the Fli-Lyte 3 - was lockdown. With the upper as wide and plush as it is, I just had trouble cinching the shoe down sufficiently for my medium- (D-) width feet. As before, thicker socks helped, but as we transition to summer months (finally!), it’s frustrating that the lace eyelets seem so impossibly far apart.

Midsole

Jeff: While the upper took the Ultrafly 2 design and made it better, I’m not sure the new Zipfoam midsole is a step forward from the EVA midsole Topo has been using. If you’ve read other reviews of mine then you probably know that I appreciate a nice plush ride for big mileage daily trainers, and this should seem like a shoe tailor made for me. I thought so as well, which is why my second run in the Phantom was an easy 18 mile run meandering through a few nearby neighborhoods. By mile 7 my legs wanted to be done, and by mile 13 they were screaming obscenities at me. The Phantom’s soft and springy midsole ultimately was way too soft for me for that many miles, a phenomenon I haven’t experienced since the Hoka One One Bondi B in 2011. What do you do with a shoe that’s too soft for long runs? It turns out the Phantom is the ideal shoe for the day after a particularly hard/fast/long run - the stretch your legs/shake your legs out run that can help you bounce back a day or two faster. The soft, but not mushy, squish of the midsole felt great on beat up feet and legs for slow-paced four to six mile runs, and will long be a part of my rotation in that capacity.


It is worth considering that being a 200 pound runner means I land harder than my slimmer colleagues, and lighter weight runners may find the Phantom to be everything they want in a long run trainer. On paper they should be, so just because they didn’t mesh with me didn’t mean they won’t for you.


Hope: Again I agree with Jeff. Zipfoam doesn’t have any obvious wow factor. It doesn’t feel particularly springy underfoot. In fact, it feels a touch too mushy. The shoe gets in the way a lot and running fast feels impossible. But there’s magic happening there that you can’t see. After recovery runs in the Phantom, my legs felt, well, recovered! No sore feet, hips, or lower back. I think Zipfoam took the beating so my body didn’t have to. Since this isn’t a go-fast model, it’s like adding a limiter to your gas pedal: without the ability to go to fast, your body can work out the soreness from recent harder efforts without going too fast or taking more punishment. The name Zipfoam evokes speed which doesn’t feel correct, but this is a nice foam.


Also, it’s surprisingly flexible for a maximal shoe. This too isn’t felt so much as a positive as it is a lack of negative: less foot fatigue than you might get from a stiffer shoe.

Michael: After several runs in the Phantom, I came to the conclusion that Zipfoam is… basically, like any other. Does this sound like a broken record? The cushion is undoubtedly there (I went to the Phantom several times after harder efforts for recovery), but it’s not impossibly light or springy - it’s just a well-cushioned maximalist shoe. What you see here is what you get!


As with Hope, I felt the name was a little misleading (to the extent it matters). “Zipfoam” calls to mind something like Skecher’s impressive “Hyperburst” technology, but the performance just isn’t there in the Phantom. That said, for the amount of cushion there is - we had a 30mm stack height in the heel - the shoe doesn't’ feel bottom-heavy or unevenly balanced. To the contrary, I found the pickup pretty reasonable in the Phantom. Though the poor lockdown and clunky weight kept me from wanting to do anything too fast, I do feel as though the Phantom does outperform what you might expect, based on appearance and specs alone.  

Outsole

Jeff: The outsole is about a 50/50 split between rubber coverage and exposed midsole, with the middle of the shoe being completely exposed. While that much exposure could lead some shoes to a premature death, I don’t see that being an issue here.The exposed midsole of my pair shoes virtually zero wear ~40 miles in, and is built up in a way that when it does wear down some it will still be a very runnable shoe. There is quite a bit less rubber in the outsole than the UltraFly 2, but reducing the rubber helps keep the shoe from getting too heavy; the Phantom is only .3 ounces heavier than its brother even though it has substantially more cushioning. The outsole has plenty of grip, even in the wet, and like the UltraFly 2 can be used for some trail use, as long as they aren’t too technical. The rubber reduction also helps the shoe have a surprising amount of flex, especially when you consider the stack height.

Hope: Grip has been good over slick roads and patches of leaves/debris. I haven’t noticed any durability issues either, so I’m happy.


Michael: As a nearly-pure road runner for the vast majority of my runs (with the exception of some gravel and rocky terrain on one specific route), I always have trouble finding things to say about a trainer’s outsole unless it’s noticeably bad. Not so here. On wet and dry days, I found the Phantom more than adequate.

Ride
Jeff: Smooth and squishy. This shoe has plenty of both. Not quite Hoka Bondi or Altra Paradigm levels of squish, but close. The Zipfoam definitely has a different feel than the standard EVA that Topo has been using, and while they claim it to be “springier”, ostensibly for faster speeds, it didn’t feel great as I got up to a 10K pace. Again, this shoe works wonders to gobble up slow, easy miles, and while that might sound like a knock against the shoe, not every car gets to be a Veyron and not every shoe gets to be a Vaporfly - and that’s okay.


Hope: I had to work hard to try and go a bit faster in the Phantom. It shines as a recovery workhorse, so that’s how I’ll use it. I don’t understand its pretensions to zippiness, but lighter and more efficient runners than yours truly might be able to make this shoe really zoom.


Michael: Squishy, not springy. I like the Phantom enough for recovery days, but wouldn’t even recommend it for one-shoe runners, as I found it difficult to work into my technical or speedier runs. For pure recovery, the Phantom is plenty amenable, and I think heavier runners or heel strikers in particular will enjoy the ride.

Conclusions and Recommendations
Jeff: This should be the shoe that puts Topo on a lot of runner’s radar. They’ve refined their already good upper design to be great, with a good solid lockdown paired with perhaps the best design (tons of room up front without too much anywhere), and a well-cushioned midsole that eats up easy miles. Some runners may find this the perfect trainer for marathon miles, while others might just want it for easy days, but the Phantom could find a place in nearly any runner’s bag of tricks.
Jeff's Score 9/10 - Ride: 8 Fit: 10 Value: 10 Style: 8
The ride was too soft for my long days, but ideal for easy shorter runs. Fit is as good as it gets, and value is off the charts with $130 for a shoe that is going to last a very long time. Style is fine, but nothing exciting.

Hope: I really like the Phantom as a recovery cruiser, but I don’t enjoy it for tempo/faster work. If you’re looking for a “do-it-all” shoe, this isn’t it. But if you’re seeking a uni-tasker for soaking up easy miles, the Phantom is a great choice.
Hope's Score: 9.5 /10
-.2 for weight -- the upper is more plush than it needs to be
-.2 for too much midsole OR too much heel-to-toe offset -- the heel got in the way a bit
-.1 for price -- it does only one thing as far as I’m concerned, although it does it well.

Michael: The more I ran in the Phantom - and the more I put together this review - I kept coming back to the Phantom as a “medium” shoe. Price, aesthetics, weight, performance - none of them stand out, and none of them fall flat. Consider the last shoe I had in for review - the Skechers Go Run 7 Hyper. I, and nearly all our reviewers, found it’s midsole amazing and it’s upper horrid. It was a polarizing shoe, but one that at least elicited some pure emotion. Not so with the Phantom. It’s not great, it’s not bad - but ultimately, that’s a little disappointing.
Michael's Score: 8.5/ 10
-.75 for weight  -- hard to justify a shoe over 10 ounces in an 8.5
-.25 for poor lockdown -- if the weight didn’t signal it wasn’t for faster days, the lockdown will
-.50 for the “other stuff” - $130 can buy you a lot of (better looking) shoe, and the heel portion and collar could stand to lose a little of that cushion!


Comparisons
Topo Athletic Phantom vs adidas Solar Glide (RTR Review)
Jeff: Phantom is only .2 ounces heavier, and substantially more shoe. Solar Glide is better at faster paces, Phantom is more comfortable always. Solar Glide is a great shoe that I’ve recommended a number of times, and I’d say probably worth the extra $10 unless you are looking for a dedicated recovery run shoe.


Topo Athletic Phantom vs adidas Ultra Boost 19 (RTR Review)
Jeff: For an extra ounce (and an extra $50) you get a bouncier ride in the UltraBoost 19, and while the upper has a more premium feel, it’s hard to beat the soft upper and super roomy toebox of the Phantom. Save your money, take the Phantom.


Topo Athletic Phantom vs ASCIS Nimbus 21 (RTR Review)
Jeff: On paper these shoes line up almost exactly, but head to head on opposite feet the ASICS feels much more substantial underfoot. Unfortunately, substantial and smooth riding aren’t the same thing, so I’d recommend save $20 and choose the Phantom for a softer midsole, bigger toe box, and more comfortable ride.
Hope: The Nimbus 21 felt waaay faster to me, with much more “do-it-all” potential. I really appreciated how the Phantom felt for recovery miles, but prefer the versatility of the Nimbus 21.


Topo Athletic Phantom vs Brooks Glycerin 17 (RTR Review)
Jeff: Glycerin doesn’t have quite as much room up front, but its upper is more comfortable, its outsole is likely even more durable, and its ride is better at all paces. I like the Phantom a lot, but would recommend most runners lean toward spending the little extra money on the half ounce heavier Glycerin. Or if you want a little less bulk, wait another month, and check out the Ghost.
Hope: The Glycerin 17 is the frontrunner for Shoe of the Year for me. I didn’t think of myself as a big fan of traditional trainers and the model has blown me away with its fit, comfort, bouncy midsole, and overall quality. It feels lighter on foot to me than the Phantom because of its more responsive midsole compound. If you value the wider toebox get the Phantom, otherwise the
Glycerin 17 is the vastly superior shoe.


Topo Athletic Phantom vs Brooks Levitate 2 (RTR Review)
Jeff: The Levitate 2 is $20 more for an extra ounce and half of heft, with a toebox that doesn’t fit as well, an upper that doesn’t hold the foot as well, and a midsole that doesn’t run as smoothly. Don’t overthink this one, go Phantom.


Topo Athletic Phantom vs Hoka One One Carbon X (RTR Review)
Jeff: Perhaps an unlikely comparison, but they have similar stack heights and both can be throw into the daily trainer category. And while there is a $50 disparity, I’d recommend spending the money. While the Hoka doesn’t have quite the same level of squish, it works better at all speeds than the Phantom. If you’re looking for a dedicated easy shoe, go Phantom, otherwise, go Carbon X.
Hope: I have just one run in the Carbon X, so I don’t have enough data to make a 100% solid comparison. That said, the Carbon X blew my hair back right out of the gate. I have been critical of a couple of recent Hoka models, but the Carbon X feels like a serious contender in the carbon plate shoe wars. The philosophy of use for the Phantom is radically different -- it’s not a pure racer like the Carbon X, but it is maximal, so the comparison makes (some) sense. If you want to fly and feel like you’re running with the champions who just set records in the Carbon X, choose that model. I’m no speed demon and it still felt great to me. The Phantom might do recovery miles better, but I can’t say for sure.
Michael: Also very inexperienced in the Carbon X, but my (very) early impression is that the Carbon X is what Topo wanted the Phantom to be. It’s bouncy, responsive, and soft - doesn’t feel squishy on the fast end, nor stiff on the slow end. We’ll see how that develops over time.
Michael: Also very inexperienced in the Carbon X, but my (very) early impression is that the Carbon X is what Topo wanted the Phantom to be. It’s bouncy, responsive, and soft - doesn’t feel squishy on the fast end, nor stiff on the slow end. We’ll see how that develops over time.


Topo Athletic Phantom vs Hoka One One Rincon (RTR Review)
Jeff: Save the $15 and take the Rincon. It’s lighter, it’s more fun to run in, and while the toebox isn’t as good, it’s plenty fine. The Rincon is a monster at all speeds, even easy recovery runs.


Topo Athletic Phantom vs New Balance 1080v9 (RTR Review)
Jeff: If you can excuse a little heel slippage in the New Balance, it’s a near flawless shoe. While the upper isn’t as comfortable and the toebox isn’t as accommodating, the 1080v9 runs smoother than the Phantom at easy or faster speeds. I’d lean toward spending the extra $20 on the 1080v9.
Hope: I agree with Jeff. Don’t sleep on the 1080v9 because of NB’s dad shoe roots. Nike makes the Monarch and we all ran out and bought the 4% didn’t we? Use heel lock lacing and you’ll love how smooth and responsive the 1080v9 is. The Phantom is fairly smooth too, but its ride isn’t nearly as inspiring.


Topo Athletic Phantom vs New Balance Beacon (RTR Review)
Jeff: I know, they aren’t in the same category, except, they kind of are. The Beacon is three ounces lighter, but underfoot they feel very comparable. Beacon doesn’t have nearly the outsole durability or the toebox of the Phantom, Phantom doesn’t have the energetic ride of the Beacon. As much as I like the Beacon, I’d lean slightly toward the much more substantial Phantom.
Hope: I’m starting to wonder about Jeff with this comparison! I’m kidding, but in my mind these are VERY different shoes! I can see racing a marathon in the Beacon because of its lighter weight and snappier ride. The Phantom is a pure cruiser. I think the Beacon is more versatile and thus holds appeal for more runners.


Topo Athletic Phantom vs New Balance Fresh Foam More (RTR Review)
Jeff: There’s always a bigger fish, and while the Phantom has a lot of midsole underneath the foot, the FFM has even more. But in this case, I don’t think it works nearly as well. Even though I like the Fresh Foam More better at both 10K pace or longer mileage, I’d favor the Phantom for most runners, but worth trying on head to head.
Hope: The FFM is another sneaky fast shoe -- a lot sneakier than the 1080v9 given its massive stack height! It’s firmer than the Phantom, so might not please everybody, but I like it a lot more.


Topo Athletic Phantom vs Nike Pegasus Turbo (RTR Review)
Jeff: Peg Turbo is lighter, $50 more, and somehow, even softer. It also has a tight toebox and an otherwise unremarkable upper. Give me the Phantom all day long.
Hope: The Peg Turbo has been growing on me, but it doesn’t deliver on its promise of speed because it’s so, so soft and the upper is a bit too roomy. In terms of doing one thing really well, I’d pick the Phantom for its excellent performance as a recovery shoe. Otherwise I’d choose the Peg Turbo which is not quite perfect, but can handle tempo pace and faster much more capably.
Michael: As with Hope, the Peg Turbo is a shoe I loved, then hated, and am now coming back around on. It’s soft - it’s squishy! - but it’s quite a nice ride, and somehow manages to be adaptable even for track work. Pick Nike here, unless your foot is wide enough to necessitate the Topo.


Topo Athletic Phantom vs On CloudSwift (RTR Review)
Jeff: The On wins the upper contest, while the Phantom is a much smoother ride. While the Phantom shines as a recovery shoe for me, I can see it having mainstream appeal, and the On is very much a niche shoe. Take the Phantom.
Michael: I’ll disagree with Jeff here; the Phantom does land a little (or even a lot) softer, but I enjoyed the CloudSwift at a much broader range of paces than the Phantom. The On’s upper is also isn’t just better, it’s in the next echelon. Plus, if my time working running shoe specialty retail is any indication, the On is a much better looking shoe (based on how many we sold to non-runners). Go with the On - it’ll treat you right even after the miles are over.


Topo Athletic Phantom vs Salomon Predict RA (RTR Review)
Jeff: Hard to call, the Salomon is $30 more, an ounce lighter, just as cushioned (but more firm) with a really good upper and really good toebox. The Topo is less money, heavier, softer ride, with a nearly as good upper with a much better toebox. How much does $30 matter to you, or do you prefer a firmer ride? If $30 is stretching it, go Phantom and don’t feel like you’ve taken the lesser shoe, or if you like a little firmer, but still plenty of cushioning, take the Predict. Both great.
Hope: The Predict never really wowed me. I still think it’s more versatile than the Phantom, but I’ll choose the Phantom for feeling just a bit more special.


Topo Athletic Phantom vs Salomon Sonic RA Max 2 (RTR Review coming soon)
Jeff: Remember the comic Goofus and Gallant about two boys, one who does everything wrong and the other who does everything right? That’s these two shoes and their upper/toeboxes. Their profile is not that different, but the Salomon caused blisters on at least one foot during every single run, and the Topo might not cause toe blisters if you wore them to the Barkley. While the Phantom isn’t perfect, it is the easy call here.


Topo Athletic Phantom vs Saucony Triumph ISO 5 (RTR Review)
Jeff: Saucony has an even more comfortable upper (but not quite as much room up front), and even more cushioning underneath the shoe. It also costs an extra $30 and weighs almost 2 full ounces more. Both high mileage bruisers, and for the cost and weight differential (not to mention the smoother ride), I’d take the Phantom.
Hope: I think the T5’s bouncy sole makes up for its weight (but those extra ounces will be felt on long efforts). It’s more fun to run in for me, so it’s my pick.


Topo Athletic Phantom vs Skechers Performance GoRun Ride 7 (RTR Review)
Jeff: One of the few shoes that beats the Phantom on price, the GRR7 has plenty of cushioning underneath, but it’s upper gets very hot, and the toebox is adequate. The Phantom runs smoother too. Spend the little extra money on the Topo.


Topo Athletic Phantom vs Skechers Performance GoRun 7 Hyper (RTR Review)
Jeff: If you could Frankenstein these two together you might have the best shoe ever made. The Phantom upper is vastly superior, while the G7H underfoot is as good as anything that doesn’t rhyme with PaperWhy, while the Phantom midsole is too soft and the G7H upper is too giving around the midfoot and too tight up front. This one comes down to foot preference, if you need toe space, take the Phantom, if you don’t, go Skechers Performance.
Hope: The GR7 can really haul. I’d love to see the Frankensteined version, but as it is (even with the disappointingly loosey-goosey upper, the GR7 is the better shoe to me. Freaky light, freaky bouncy, lots of material underfoot to protect you from the road yet still super flexible. The Phantom can only match it in terms of midsole height, not midsole might.
Michael: GR7H is a better choice for all but your most lackadaisical runs, if you can get past the upper. Since I finished the Skechers review, the knit material has somehow gotten worse after a wet run that matted it out of shape. I’m co-signing the frankenshoe and gladly offering my pair of one or both to science for someone with the know-how.


Topo Athletic Phantom vs Topo Athletic UltraFly 2
Jeff: Two very close shoes, to no surprise. The Phantom has a better upper, made from more premium materials (even the laces feel like a massive step forward), and only adds a fraction of an ounce even with the much more substantial midsole. If you like your daily trainers plush, go Phantom, if you like it just a touch firm, go UltraFly.


Topo Athletic Phantom vs Topo Athletic Fli-Lyte 3 (RTR Review)
Michael: I wasn’t over-the-moon with the Fli-Lyte 3, but recognized it as a solid, well-constructed, all-around trainer. I think it excels in a lot of places the Phantom does not, and is an overall superior choice for most runners - but take heed! I had a fair bit of trouble with the drop in the FL3, even coming from lower drop trainers. That’s not an issue in the Phantom, and those who just want a lace-up-and-go trainer may have better luck in the 5mm drop on the new Phantom.


Topo Athletic Phantom vs Topo Athletic UltraVenture (RTR Review)
Jeff: Another similar matchup with a big twist. The Phantom is a road shoe that’s just fine on many trails, and the UltraVenture is a trail shoe that’s just fine on the road. Phantom has more of a midsole, and a better upper, both have award winning toeboxes. If you want one shoe that does everything both can fit the bill, but if you favor the road stay with the Phantom, if you are primary on trails with occasional road runs, go UltraVenture.

Read reviewers' full run bios here
The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are the authors'.
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