Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Topo Athletic Magnifly 3 Review

Article by Hope Wilkes and Michael Ellenberger

Topo Magnifly 3 ($120)
Hope: I tend to think of Topo as the maker of zero drop shoes for “the rest of us.” Their current line features classy, sporty good looks -- a far cry from some more hardcore “we don’t care how they look, so long as they’re zero drop and high-performing” models. You could dash to the grocery store in a pair of Topos and nobody would bat an eye.

My initial experience with the brand came in the OG Magnifly. Impossibly light and decently forgiving for a no-ramp shoe, I raced to a fast (for me) half marathon coming off of an injury. A lot has changed since then, with Topo beefing up the M3’s upper and midsole while softening the somewhat aggressive toe cap from the OG.

I won’t be coy: this is going to be a just-short-of-glowing review. With about 100 miles on the M3, I’ve happily made myself in expert in what makes this shoe a winner.

Michael: I’ve run in a number of enjoyable from zero-drop purveyor Topo Athletic in the past year - the sporty Fli-Lyte 3, and the “cruiser” Phantom among them. In general, I’ve been happy with how they perform - especially coming from someone who does not gravitate to low-drop trainers (and in fact, has been impressed by some high-drop options, like the Nike Zoom Fly). 

The Magnify 3 slots somewhere between the Fli-Lyte 3 and Phantom in platform and profile; it’s a little sportier than the Phantom, to be sure, but not quite as aggressive in feel as the Fli-Lyte 3. Unfortunately, the “medium” profile of the Magnify is also its downfall - while it’s a perfectly acceptable trainer, and presented no issues in my 50 miles covered, I found it relatively unexciting to run in, and an inferior option to its fellow Topos.

Hope: fast for this weight, resilient midsole foam, fit, comfort
Michael: Comfortable upper on a durable outsole; better lockdown than my previous Topos

Hope: could be lighter, runs a bit short (this is a known issue: Topo went me a US M8.5 which fits like a US M8, my preferred size)
Michael: A decent shoe with two better options from Topo; heavier and clunkier than the Fli-Lyte but not as mileage-friendly as the Phantom; awkward sizing (mine, too, was short)

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.

Official Weight:: men's 10 oz  / 285 g (US9) /  women's 8.3 oz / 235 g (US8)   
US M8.5: 9.59 oz / 272 g (left); 9.81 oz / 278 g (right) 
Stack Height: 25mm heel / 25 mm forefoot, 0 drop
Available November 2019

Hope: In a world full of knits, Topo gave us mesh. I’m so glad they did. Practically overlay-free (do I have to count the eyestays?) and plush, yet breathable, the M3 upper is sublime. The toe box height is perfect for me: roomy, but not cavernous. I’m still marveling at the smooth and soft toe cap they achieved with a rubbery internal counter. 
The tongue and heel cup approach skate shoe levels of padding, but offer excellent lockdown. I felt no lace pressure whatsoever. 
Would like to see some reflective elements for low-light running and less padding to save weight, but otherwise the M3’s upper is one of the best I’ve run in this year.
Michael: Unlike Hope, I’d have been perfectly happy with a knit here - but that’s not to say I was unimpressed. The Magnify 3 has a really nicely constructed upper, with subtle design elements that provide increased lockdown (and some visual interest). While I liked the added yellow “pop” of the Fli-Lyte 3, the cosmetics of the M3 are more than fine, and the cleaned-up design of the upper is striking. 
The tongue is thicker than many current offerings (looking at you, Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2!) but wasn’t obtrusive, and the heel cup and rear one-third of the shoe are ample for providing lockdown. On the Fli-Lyte 3, the width of the lacebox (and the shoe in general) prevented me from getting adequate lockdown at faster paces - I eventually remedied this, at least largely, with a switch in lacing - but the same issue wasn’t present here. Instead, I found the Magnify 3 to be one of the better-designed uppers for downright comfort and fit.

Hope: The Phantom walked so the M3 could run. With a thinner, more flexible layer of their resilient ZipFoam, the M3 delivers the protective yet propulsive ride that the Phantom was aiming for. With about 100 miles on my pair there is no evidence of midsole creasing. This is unheard of with traditional EVA and many other “super foams” on the market. Having two layers of foam (the softer layer is on top) keeps things adequately soft while getting the most out of the firmer, bouncier foam placed closest to the ground.

Michael: Unlike Hope, I liked the ride of the Phantom more than the Magnify 3. When it comes to ZipFoam, more is better, and while the M3 is not uncomfortable underfoot, I could have done with a little more cushion. Of course, this comes partially down to what I wanted this shoe to do - if I were to run exclusively in Topos, I’d want the Fli-Lyte 3 for faster days and workouts, the Phantom for recovery days, and the Magnify 3 for go-to, everyday runs. Unfortunately, I think Topo has tipped the midsole too close to the Fli-Lyte in this offering; sacrificing “soft” for “spring.” It’s not a perfect analysis - as Hope notes, the M3 is a pleasant offering, to be sure - but I just think that, in view of its two siblings, it misses the mark. I would have liked a softer, more recovery-oriented ride here.

Hope: Nothing wild and crazy to report here. Wear seems to be average or below average for this point in the shoe’s life. Grip is excellent. I appreciate the strategic placement of rubber which keeps the M3’s weight down. I’m happy.
Michael: As per usual, I tried to cover, well… road and trail, so I found some asphalt, concrete, dirt, mud, grass, and even a little sand. My review? Not much of note to report. At about 50 miles, the outsole is not showing much (if any) wear, and I imagine the durability here will be aligned with that of the other Topo offerings.

Hope: The M3 is nice and smooth, but I think the real selling point is that it’s fast for a ~10 oz trainer! When I’m paying attention, I can feel the distinct load and spring back, load and spring back of the ZipFoam upon footstrike. The M3 can really haul when I stomp on the gas! Fast yet forgiving, the foam setup means my legs feel less beat up during long runs. Plus, the zero drop construction encourages a more efficient (for me at least, your mileage may vary) mid- or forefoot strike. 

Michael: I found some slight “clunk” in the Magnify 3 ride, but I can’t quite place where it comes from, despite my best efforts. The ZipFoam does absolutely provide some, well, “zip,” and I thought the M3 matched my efforts when the pace picked up. But on easy days - those non-slog, non-workout runs when you want to adapt the pace up or down depending on your feel - were a bit muddled in this shoe. It’s not bad - it has all the right components, to be sure - but it’s just off the mark.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Hope: If you’re curious about zero drop (or already an avid fan), you’ll find a lot to love about the M3. It features a long-haul foam on a platform that encourages fast, efficient mechanics. The plush upper manages the trifecta: it feels good, it breathes, and it looks snazzy. This is a near-perfect trainer.
Hope’s Score: 9.7/10
-0.1 for weight
-0.1 for lack of reflectivity
-0.1 for sizing issues

Michael: In putting my thoughts onto paper, I have to acknowledge some very strong elements about the Magnify 3: the upper is comfortable (if not terrific), the lacing and fit are much improved, and the durability looks to be promising. But creeping into that picture are the negatives: the uninspiring ride, and (perhaps most relevantly) the fact that Topo Athletic makes two shoes that I think are better shoes in the same lineup. 
Michael’s Score: 8.8/10
-0.8 for midsole ineffectiveness
-0.2 for weight 
-0.2 for sizing issues

Comparisons Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Altra Escalante 2 (RTR Review)
Hope (US M8 and US W9.5, true to size): The Escalante 2 moved away from its bouncy, flexible roots. Although the E2 is lighter and I am a sucker for a lightweight trainer, I prefer the M3.

Brooks Ghost 12 (RTR Review)
Hope (US W9.5, true to size): These two could face off for Best Upper of 2019. But what’s going on underfoot in the blocky, harsh Ghost 12 isn’t nearly as inspiring as the smooth and zippy M3.

Brooks Glycerin 17 (RTR Review)
Hope (US W9.5, true to size): Another close matchup in terms of comfort. The G17 is softer and maybe a touch friendlier over the long haul since it feels lighter, so it edges out the M3 by a hair.

Mizuno Wave Sky Waveknit 3 (RTR Review)
Hope (US W9.5, true to size): Mega plush vs. regular plush. The Mizuno is sneaky fast for a ~11 oz shoe and feels smooth and bouncy like the M3, but given that weight and its wallet-wounding $160 price point, I’d lean towards the M3.

New Balance 1080v9 (RTR Review)
Hope (US W9.5, true to size): In the middle of testing I did a run in the 1080v9 to make sure I’m still in love with it. I am. I think it compares well to the M3 in terms of comfort, speed, and forefoot fit (you might recall that I have to use a runner’s loop to achieve heel lockdown in the 1080v9). This one might come down to personal preference (zero drop vs. “traditional” drop). I’ll give the slight edge to the 1080v9 because I think its less plush upper means it’s making better, more efficient use out of each ounce of material.

New Balance FuelCell Propel (RTR Review)
Hope (US W9.5, true to size): I found the Propel to be a bit mushy, but it has a great upper. The update will be a monster and I’m looking forward to it. As things stand now, easy win for the heavier, yet faster M3.
Michael (M8.5; true to size): I much prefer the Propel here; New Balance struck a fine balance with a class-leading upper and excellent midsole composition. Those wanting zero-drop will give the Magnify 3 a look, of course, but for the rest of us, the New Balance is a superior trainer.

Topo Phantom (RTR Review)
Hope (US M8, true to size): The Phantom does recovery shuffles well, but is overbuilt and too inflexible for my tastes when it comes to anything else. The lighter, livelier M3 easily outclasses it.
Michael (M8.5; true to size): In my Phantom review, I called the Phantom a “medium shoe,” saying that in “price, aesthetics, weight, performance - none of them stand out, and none of them fall flat.” Somehow, the Magnify is even more medium. Anyone who wants a shoe that can handle some faster running will likely prefer the Magnifly, but those seeking a road cruiser and go-to easy day shoe should seek the Phantom.
Magnifly 3 is coming November 2019
Read reviewers' full run bios here
The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are the authors'.
Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

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Curt said...

Any thoughts on how this compares to the Torin 4?

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Anonymous said...

Hi, bad that there is no comparison to Magnifly 2, which I found the least comforatable running shoe ever! I'm using zero-drop shoes, minimal and Altra, so I've got some experience in "natural running".
TM2 was very, very stiff - in zero-drop shoes it triggers large force on Achilles. Plus badly profiled footbed. I couldn't use them even for walking!