Sunday, December 05, 2021

Topo Magnifly 4 Multi Tester Review: Zero Drop with a Superb Upper and Versatile Easy Ride

Article by Beto Hughes, Peter Stuart, Joost de Raeymaeker, Jana Herzgova and Michael Postaski

Topo Athletic Magnifly 4 ($125)


Introduction


Joost: This is the fourth pair of Topo shoes I’ve reviewed over the period of a year and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed them all, albeit some for different reasons than others. The Cyclone was an instant hit with my feet and even though the Fli-Lyte 4 didn’t fill all the running shoe boxes for me, it is still a great all-round workout shoe and looks great too. Both of those had a 3mm drop. Then I received the more minimalist ST-4, a 0 drop, 16mm stack height road running shoe which I liked a lot. So, I was looking forward to receiving another 0 drop shoe from Topo, this time a more traditionally cushioned one.


Before reviewing the Magnifly 4, I think it’s important to distinguish 0 drop from minimalism or shoes to supposedly make you run with a more “natural” running form. The Magnifly is a perfect example of this. It is in no way a minimalist or more natural running form inducing shoe. It is a fairly traditionally cushioned medium stack height running shoe which happens to have 0 drop. Too much has been made of the high vs low drop issue. Drop is a matter of personal preference and less won’t make you run faster or become less injury-prone. You also won’t miraculously develop a stride that would make Cheptegei jealous. I always raise my eyebrows when I hear someone say they simply can’t run in anything with more than 4mm drop or others in less than 8mm.

The one thing I’ve enjoyed the most in all the Topo shoes I’ve reviewed is the wide forefoot, foot hold and mild arch support. Let’s see if the Magnifly 4 ticks all my Topo boxes.


Pros:

Beto, Peter, Jana, Joost: Soft and bouncy with great response for a 0mm drop shoe and very stable platform.

Beto, Peter, Mike P, Jana, Joost: Great lock down on midfoot with plenty of space on the front.

Beto, Peter, Mike P: The heel counter locks the heel securely and midfoot lockdown works great together when picking up the pace.

Beto, Peter, Mike P, Jana: Zipfoam midsole’s response is great at different paces moderate or easy, with a very comfortable ride.

Mike P, Joost: Surprising flexibility, especially up front for its stack height at 0 drop



Cons:

Beto, Jana, Joost: No cons for the Magnifly 4, considering this shoe is designed also for newcomers to the sport.

Mike P: Agree with Beto, so reaching here- but possibly too much room up front?

Peter: Not as bouncy as I’d like

Peter: Zero drop kind of bums my calves out.

Tester Profiles


Beto Hughes Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico 

31 yrs old, Height: 5’10,, Weight: 195lbs

I started running in 2016 and training to lose weight. I used to weigh 295 lbs and between running and Crossfit began my love for the fitness life and for running. I am now aiming to be a Boston Qualifier.

Weekly mileage: 60 - 75 miles on Road 

Favorite distance: Marathon and Half Marathon also Ultra Marathon.

You can follow me on Instagram @betohughes  https://www.instagram.com/betohughes/


Mike Postaski Born and raised in New Jersey, recently moved to Boise, ID in 2019, mainly to have better and easier access to outdoor adventure.  I have no formal running training, have never run on a team at any level, and can count the times I've run on a track on one hand.  I actually grew up inline speed skating - both indoor short track as well as roads.  Picking up running in my early 30s, starting on roads, progressing to marathons (PR 2:40, Boise 2019), eventually I discovered trails. I love going fast and running all distances, but I especially love long mountain ultras.  My three 100 milers so far have all been in the 25k vert range. I also enjoy the challenge of looped/timed trail races, and even the backyard ultra format. I am definitely a gear junkie - I have gone through more running vests than I can remember, and my trail running shoe collection currently sits at 38 pairs (all tracked via spreadsheet)!  My wife does not appreciate this. 


Peter lives in Austin, Texas and has been a sub 3 hour marathoner as well as a 1:25 half marathoner in recent years


Joost is a Belgian in his 50s living in Luanda, Angola, Africa, where he faces the heat, humidity and general chaos to run anything between 60-100 miles per week. He’s on a mission to win in his age group in the 6 marathon majors and has completed half of his project, with a 2:26:10 PB in Berlin in 2019 at 51. He ran in primary school, but then thought it would be a lot cooler to be a guitar player in a hard rock band, only picking up running again in 2012, gradually improving his results.


Jana Herzgova took up running in 2016, after a back injury. Prior to that she was a speed skater, but due to back pain and doctor's recommendation, she transitioned into running. Since then, starting with shorter ultra distance races she quickly evolved into an avid long distance and unsupported mountain runner. She also loves to take on challenges/races in arctic and subarctic climates, mainly in unsupported and semi-self supported style. She runs about 100 miles per week: 40 miles on road and 60 miles trail mostly at high elevations. She currently lives in Utah/Wyoming.


Stats

Official Weight: men's 8.7 oz  / 247g (US9)  /  women's 7.1 oz / 206g (US7)

Samples: men’s 11.2 oz / 319 grams (US12.5), 9.3 oz / 264 grams (US 9.5)

                women's 9.8oz / 278 grams (US W10.5)

Stack Height: 25mm/25mm - 0mm Drop

Available Dec. 2021. $125. As of Jan 1st $130.

  

First Impressions and Fit

Beto: The Magnifly 4 felt super comfortable on foot with great lockdown on the upper and perfect space for the toes in the anatomical toe box. The heel counter is well padded and secures my heel. The shoe feels like a traditional daily trainer in a 0mm drop platform for a more natural feeling. The midsole feels really soft for walking and running.

Peter: The step in is really comfortable. It’s a good looking shoe that holds the foot well. I haven’t run a Topo shoe in a minute and here I feel like they’ve really stepped up their material and style game. 


Mike P: Agree with everything Beto says - super comfortable on foot, I’d go so far as to even call it “plush”. I recently reviewed the new ST-4 (also zero-drop) - I immediately noticed more volume in the toebox of the Magnifly 4 - there is definitely more height, and the width also seems a touch wider.  

The overall feel is more plush with the upper material being a bit thicker and softer.  The midfoot lockdown is again classic Topo, perfect and secure, nothing lacking.  


Sizing is true to my normal Topo size (US 9.5), but again, it does have more of a roomy, comfort feel. I also had the previous Magnifly 2, which I did not like at all.  The midsole felt firm and harsh, with a stiff and uninspiring ride.  With the 4th version at the same 25mm stack height, I’m anxious to see what improvements have been made.

Jana: I agree with what Beto mentioned above. A soft and comfortable daily training shoe in the light stability category. It delivers a secure fit from the midfoot to heel, and a more spacious feel in the forefoot. A great option for beginner runners seeking more cushioning and a wider toebox.


Joost: A familiar feeling on step in. Great comfort, good midfoot and heel lockdown and ample space in the toe box, with just that little Topo arch support. The forefoot of the Magnifly 4 feels extra roomy after the ST-4, as Mike mentioned. Upon walking around in the shoe and running the first steps, the 25mm of Zipfoam feels soft and cushioned. It fits true to size for me.



Upper


Beto: The upper uses an engineered mesh made with recycled plastics--3 water bottles for each pair so that is commendable. Now let’s talk about how it performs. The upper breaths well in hot temperatures here in Mexico. I didn’t have any issues there, especially on very humid days. The heel counter is very well padded and has structure to keep the heel in place with a comfortable fit inside. The  midfoot fit works like a charm keeping the foot in place without feeling loose on longer runs and gives good support. The tongue is well padded for those faster runs when you want to tighten the laces a bit more so no pressure points with the anatomical toe box perfect in sizing for me with enough room for the toes to feel free but not too much to be sloppy and loose.

Peter: Not too much to add here. The ankle collar is perfectly padded, tongue is nice and the foot is held very well. The mesh is breathable and feels good as well. The sustainability aspect of the shoe is a nice touch. 

Mike P: Agree with my fellow reviewers on the very comfortable upper. As Beto mentions, the tongue has nice padded sections, which,  in conjunction with the overall soft and thicker upper material, allows you to snug down the laces without any pressure. I do like to snug up my laces pretty far, so this is great for me. 


The tongue also features two lace loops on both sides which the laces thread through - there are no issues with the tongue moving at all.  


As I touched on above, there seems to be more toebox volume than other Topo’s I have run.  I find that this does not affect performance or security at all, as Topo’s midfoot lockdown keeps everything secure. I do think that this overall fit with front room could be a great feature to possibly convert some Altra runners - if you appreciate a wider toe box, but find a bit too much space in some Altras, you should definitely consider the Magnifly 4.


Jana: I don't have much to add to what is mentioned above. This being my first Topo road shoe and with wide toeboxes not being my preference, I was surprised how comfortable the padded tongue and heel collar made me feel after lacing them up more tightly. My feet never overheated, I could feel the air at times on my feet, keeping them nicely cool.

Joost: The Magnifly 4 has one of the better uppers I’ve tried all year. It’s well padded in all the right places and sufficiently breathable for warmer weather, without the risk of getting cold feet in colder climates.

In the front, there’s a little bit of an internal toe bumper that creates volume around your toes, coupled with the denser mesh in that area. The top panel over the toes is well perforated and less dense to aid breathability. My pair developed a little bit of a crease across the top in this area after a couple of runs, but it doesn’t look like there will be a problem with durability or with any  hotspots because of it.

The sides have smaller, more densely packed perforations and a zig-zag overlay to help with midfoot lockdown. Towards the heel, the mesh is more compact and there’s an interior heel cup that goes up to the collar. 

The collar itself is well padded and soft, while providing enough structure to secure the heel. The padding tapers down gradually and includes the top two eyelets (and the heel lock eyelet, which you probably won’t need to use at all).


The eyestay of the shoe is reinforced with a synthetic overlay that’s also sewn. No worries there. 

The tongue is “ribbed” with cushioning and while it’s not gusseted, the two little loops on top of the tongue where the laces pass through make sure it doesn’t slip. It’s well padded and won’t create hotspots. The laces are pretty standard ribbed ones. No complaints in that area at all.



Midsole


Beto:Th midsole is now made out of Topo’s Zipfoam, a soft and responsive durable material. The midsole feels really comfortable on foot and gives a natural ride with that 0mm drop. The Magnify has a wide platform upront and gives a very stable ride at any pace from heel to toe, the Zipfoam feels soft and energetic with a bit of bounce making easy runs at 8:45 a mile pace very enjoyable and it responds well when picking up the pace between 7:30 - 8min mile pace. Definitely this shoe is perfect for those runners who seek a 0mm drop or want to try a zero drop. It will not disappoint. 


Peter: I wish the ZipFoam had just a little more bounce to it.. but that said it’s a really nice, stable ride that feels incredibly comfortable at most paces. I don’t feel a ton of difference between the Zipfoam and the EVA in other Topo shoes. It’s not a “super-foam”, but it’s very comfortable. 


Mike P: As Peter mentioned, I don’t notice too much difference between the EVA in the ST-4 and the Zipfoam of the Magnifly  in terms of responsiveness.  There’s more stack in the Magnifly and that additional stack definitely provides more cushion from the road. I believe I used the term “dampening” in my ST-4 review, and this also applies here - the Zipfoam does not give the sensation of bounce or “energy return” but it does the job very well of dampening road harshness so you can focus on your running form. When I use the term “dampening”, I want to clarify that the feel of the cushioning lies somewhere between dense and cushy.  You get protection from the road, without it feeling firm nor overly squishy.  Back to comparing Topo’s two foams - perhaps Zipfoam has greater durability? 


I also want to mention that Topo’s new Ortholite insole, which uses recycled materials, is really good. I’m normally not a fan of OL insoles, but this version is a bit thinner and contoured to the foot, rather than being a single uniform slab of OL foam.  For me, those single slab, thicker OL insoles seem to mute any ground feel.  Topo’s OL insole also has subtle grooves on the underside, which seems to allow it to flex better. It’s a good match to the feel of the midsole. The same insole is used in the ST-4, so you get a nice, consistent feel across the shoes.


Jana: For those seeking a substantial energy return, this shoe falls a little flat. It is not designed for speed, but other features still make it feel nimble. That being said, I still find the Magnifly 4 quite responsive, with a little bit of bounce. It may not be the fastest shoe on the market, but it still delivers plenty of fun.


Joost: I think the others nailed it. Zipfoam is soft, but not very bouncy. It does feel like a traditional EVA foam with a little extra “zip”, but not very much. If you’re used to current supercritical foams and supershoes, it might feel a little flat, but if you’re used to a more minimal 0 drop shoe, it will feel very cushioned. It feels like it’s also very good at vibration reduction. Mike calls it “dampening”. It’s great for long and easy runs, but not that well suited for up-tempo work. I ran some strides and 200s in them and it was obvious the Magnifly is made for easier paces. 


Outsole


Beto: The Magnifly 4 outsole has plenty of rubber at  the front with flex grooves to deliver a natural and stable ride with enough grip on any surface even with the midfoot exposed Zipfoam. At the heel it has just enough rubber where you need it for traction and durability. I didn’t have any issues with wet road traction. The flex grooves really help the ride at toe-off, making it feel natural and responsive on transition. Durability is amazing. This shoe really can hold up for a lot of miles, especially on roads.


Peter: Rubber in all the right places, no signs of early wear, grip on the road feels good.


Mike P: What Peter said.  Similar pattern to the ST-4, a pattern which works really well. Topo rubber has been proven to be highly durable.  They have taken consumer feedback into account and actually reduced the rubber thickness to save weight, since the durability was so good.  The outsole is segmented into six different sections - it seems like Topo has really dialed in this design over the versions.  The rubber sections beneath the forefoot are also segmented by flex grooves in the midsole which really help the shoe flex up front and enhance the ride.


Jana: So far, I have logged about 80 miles on these shoes (entirely on road), and have yet to see any real wear of the outsole rubber. 

Plenty of grip due to flex grooves, on wet or dry surface. I have no concerns about the outsole durability, and am expecting them to last for many miles.

Joost: The typical Topo outsole pattern, with durable rubber in the right places and good grip. I’m with Peter. The grooves are also in all the right places to keep your foot moving well through the gait cycle.


Ride


Beto: The Magnifly 4 is a daily trainer with enough cushion to go the distance. The  0mm drop gives a very natural feeling and works great with the midsole (Zipfoam). This shoe feels soft and bouncy but has a nice toe off when picking up the pace.  At easy paces  (8:45 mile) it is very enjoyable and comfortable. It really keeps my foot in place and fits me like a glove. The wide toe box felt secure and my toes felt free with a natural flex thanks to the cutouts in the outsole. On longer runs the shoe felt nice and especially on easy long runs and as it is well balanced, They can also do tempo paces with no problems. The midsole really responds well and protects the foot given the  25mm front and back stack height. It is for sure a very versatile ride.


Peter: I like the ride of the Magnifly 4. I don’t love it though. It’s very stable, feels like it works really well with my body to naturally step through the gait cycle. I feel a nice rhythm and cadence is supported by the shoe. For some reason, though, the 0 drop in this particular shoe nags at my calves. I had to put them away for a while after they aggravated a calf injury. I took them back out and got sore again. I’m actually having to be careful about how often I run in them. 


Mike P: Coming on the heels of reviewing the ST-4, the greater cushioning of the Magnifly 4 is noticeable, and appreciated for longer runs, or runs where you just want your feet to be a bit more comfortable.  Those two shoes are really great companion zero-drop trainers.  If you like one, you will probably also like the other.  It’s a good rotation to keep, and even if the ST-4 is a bit thin for your taste, I would still recommend it as a companion for casual use, or for getting accustomed to zero-drop. 


Back to the Magnifly 4 - the ride is so smooth for a zero-drop shoe. Everything seems so well integrated - like they matched the comfort of the upper to the ride of the shoe. Right now it’s my go-to for all of my easy/aerobic road runs (anywhere from 8:00 to 8:45/mi, typically in the 1 hour to 1:30 range).  I like the ST-4’s for less than 1 hour, or for when I feel like running a bit quicker (say 7:30 - 8:00/mi). The flex grooves under the forefoot/toebox area are the standout feature for me - they really allow the shoe to roll forward smoothly, which definitely was not the case with my Magnifly 2’s. 


It also feels like the shoe has a good range of “gears” as far as daily trainers go. In contrast, a shoe like Saucony’s Endorphin Shift seems to have only one gear which works, and if you try to push beyond that, it just feels inefficient. I have no such problems with the Magnifly 4 - it feels great throughout my easy/aerobic pace range, as well as slightly quicker paces.

Jana: Designed rather as a shoe for beginner runners and not races, I find the Magnifly 4 very pleasing. Ultra smooth ride, with ample cushioning, they have become one of my go to shoe for recovery and long runs. They feel comfortable and breathable, keeping my feet cool for the entirety of the run.


Joost: Depending on where you come from in terms of running shoes, the ride will differ for you. It’s not springy or conducive to picking up the pace, but it rolls through gently for all those easy or long runs. The foam reduces vibration sufficiently to save your legs just a little more. 


Mind you, it’s a 0 drop shoe with 25mm stack height and a relatively traditional feeling midsole, so don’t expect anything from the shoe that it isn’t set out to provide. You have to put in the work yourself to keep your feet moving, which is a good thing in my opinion. Too many runners rely solely on plated superfoam shoes for all their running and I think at some point, they will pay the price for weakening the muscles in their feet. 


Conclusions and Recommendations

Beto: I recommend the Magnify to people who want to start running in 0mm drop shoes or want to move to a more natural type of running, The Magnify has great protection, great support from the upper, a very comfortable heel and toe box and a responsive but soft Zipfoam midsole.


It reminded me of the Kinvara, a natural running shoe that can do almost any type of run but the Magnify 4 has a softer midsole and more durability thanks to the rubber outsole.  That combo really responds well during speed sessions maybe not as good as the Kinvara as it’s more flexible but still with a somewhat similar sensation.

Beto’s Score: 9.6 /10

Ride 9.5 (40%), Fit 9.5 (30%), Value 10 (20%), Style 9.5 (10%)


Peter: I like the Magnifly, and enjoy my runs in it. The ride is solid and stable without being terribly exciting. My big beef is with the 0 drop. I think if this shoe had a 5 mm drop i would LOVE it. That said, if you can tolerate zero drop and want a great fitting shoe that’s good for most runs, get yourself into a Magnifly!

Peter’s Score 8/10. Solid.


Mike P: The Magnifly 4 is a great zero-drop daily trainer.  If you’re already into zero-drop, you will like it.  If you are curious about zero-drop - you should try it.  It is definitely a keeper in my rotation. 

Mike P’s score (9.58/10)

Ride: 9.5 Fit: 10.0 Value: 9.5 Style: 8.0

The exact same score I gave to the ST-4.. couldn’t really find anything to change. They really are great companion shoes with similar DNA. You just get a little “more” with the Magnifly 4.


Jana: As I mentioned above, Magnifly 4 has become a part of my rotation for recovery/long runs. Offering plenty of cushioning, with a soft and comfortable feel, it is a shoe I would definitely recommend to beginner runners. 

Jana's score: 9/10


Joost: The Magnifly 4 is perfect for 0 drop runners looking for a shoe that can take them on long and easy runs. Also, if you’re looking to get into 0 drop running, but are afraid of massacring your feet with the more minimalist options, this is the shoe for you. Everything in the Magnifly 4 feels right, and I’d be hard pressed to come up with areas of improvement for the purpose it was designed for.

Joost’s score: 9.65/10

Ride 9.5 (50%), Fit 10.0 (30%), Value 9.5 (15%), Style 9.5 (5%)


Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Topo Magnifly 2  (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5) A shoe I did not like from the very first run. Very stiff as well as firm, and therefore a bit slappy for me on ground contact. I tried to work it into rotation for a while, but it never really loosened up for me. I swapped an Ortholite insole into it and still use it for strength training and step-ups, but no running.  The Magnifly 4 is an improvement over V2 in all areas - aside from the same stack height, a totally different (and better) feeling shoe. It’s great to see Topo’s designs evolve and improve over the versions.


Topo ST-4  (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5) Another one of Topo’s latest offerings that I really love. Sizing is similar, but there’s less volume in the ST-4 all around, which I feel matches the intended usage of each shoe. I took the ST-4s on a 10 day RV trip through Utah and Arizona - used them for road runs, trail runs, hiking, and casual use.  As far as specific usage differences - I like the Magnifly for mid-longer road runs.  The ST-4 for shorter runs, light trail run/hikes, and casual use. ST-4 is also a great gym shoe.  Both shoes are very active in my rotation now.


Joost (9,5 in both): Both shoes compliment each other perfectly if you’re into 0 drop running. The ST-4 will be perfect for speed work and even light trail work, while the Magnifly will carry you on your long and easy runs or when you want to give your feet a little more rest.


Altra Torin 4 Plush (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5) “Super plush” is more like it - the Altra foam is much, much softer and there’s also a very soft footbed on top of it. The AT4P toebox is much wider, and the knit upper is harder to get a secure fit. It would work better for those with very wide feet. I don’t run in these anymore as the extreme squishiness really works my feet and Achilles. I do like them for casual use, especially after races when my feet are sore and swollen. Magnifly 4 is much better for running, unless you prefer that super soft cushion.


Saucony Endorphin Shift  (RTR Review)

Mike P (10.0) I picked up V1 on discount after V2 came out, but seems like they are mostly the same shoe. As mentioned earlier - I find that the Shift works for me only in one “gear” - at the slower range of my easy/aerobic pace zone.  If I try to push it harder, it feels like I really have to work to move it, even with the Speedroll, since the midsole is so thick. It does have more cushion than the Magnifly, but for me (at ~135 lbs), probably more than I need. For me - the Magnifly is so much more enjoyable to run in, the upper is so much better as well.


Skechers GO Run Ride 8  (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5) I haven’t tried newer versions but my V8 still featured a full Hyperburst midsole. It is more responsive for sure - I had a hard time running easy paces in it.  At easy paces, I found the midsole hard to flex - I think it could have been much improved by implementing Topo’s flex grooves towards the front. The Skechers was also less supportive underfoot - with the Topo you get nice, subtle arch support. I much prefer the new Magnifly.


The Magnifly 4 will be available December 2021

Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes others. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content

The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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