Sunday, January 01, 2023

Topo Athletic Cyclone 2 Multi Tester Review: Fun! Fun! Fun! 6 Comparisons

Article by Peter Stuart and Sam Winebaum

Topo Cyclone 2 ($150)

Introduction

Sam: The Cyclone 2 ushers in a new era for Topo with a super light, PEBAX supercritical foam powered, flexible trainer/racer that checks in at 6.9 oz / 196 gram with a substantial 28mm heel / 23mm forefoot stack height. 


It keeps Topo’s anatomical toe box in a thin single layer mesh upper and dumps the Cyclone 1’s firmer less energetic Zip Foam (RTR Review) while retaining the same stack height and dropping a full ounce in weight.


Will get to it in the review, but Cyclone 2 immediately brings back memories of low drop plateless more flexible speedsters such as the early Skechers Razors and more recently the higher stack Nike ZoomX Streakfly, all with supercritical foams. 


Pros:

The new natural running! PEBAX powered rebounding cushion, super light, very flexible, and agile Sam, Peter

Despite the soft foam no heel bottoming out, it’s stable, has smooth transitions, and a lively broad flexible toe offs Sam, Peter

Impossibly light upper with a broad anatomical toe box with great lockdown and comfort: Sam/Peter

Remarkably good grip given the smooth feeling outsole, excellent on sand over pavement and on crushed fine granite paths(Sam):  Peter/Sam

Cons:

May run a ½ to ¼ size large for narrower lower volume feet. I am half size down from normal and fine: Sam/Peter 


It lurks on the edge of bottoming out (but doesn’t) and I’m a little worried about wear on the exposed PEBAX. But about 50 miles though and they’re holding up fine Peter/Sam


Stats

Official Weight: men's 6.9 oz  / 196g (US9)    

  Samples: men’s 6.3 oz  / 179 g US8, , men’s 11 7.18 oz

Stack Height: men’s 28 mm heel / 23 mm forefoot 

Available Late Feb. $150


First Impressions, Fit and Upper


Sam: The upper is a simple very thin densely woven yet pliable engineered mesh with woven in support fibers in a 3D pattern. As always with Topo there is no gusset tongue but in a smart move the tongue is thicker than one might expect for such a light upper and it works well to assure a solid lockdown and no lace bite even when laced tight for my narrower feet. As with many recent Topo we have the clever high dual cord lace loops on the center top of the tongue to keep it from shifting. Lace up is super easy and never has required adjustments on the go despite the quite minimal upper here.


The Ortholite sockliner has quite high medial side walls and I think this is a smart move as I feel well supported at the arch ( I have high arches) and I suspect a flatter sockliner would not have provided nearly the support in this minimal upper.


The heel counter is there and appears to be made up of denser mesh more than any plastic with the rear vertical sewn on strip also providing rear hold and support. The top of the achilles collar is quite deeply padded and very comfortable but surprisingly stiff, again a smart move to ensure great lockdown at the rear. 

The toe box is of course anatomical, quite unstructured but again as with the heel reinforced by thicker mesh and a substantial somewhat pliable toe bumper.  

There is plenty of toe box room and hold to go with the rest of the fine secure and comfortable fit here. Topo only had a half size down from my usual US8.5 to send and I am glad they did. A touch short but I think given the upper and shoe flexibility I might have been swimming around some at true to size with my narrower lower volume feet.


Peter: The upper is a nice, soft, pliable mesh. First thing that pops out is how impossibly light they are. I thought I might have gotten an empty box at first. So light. 

Editor’s Note: Topo always sends shoes box in a plastic shipper and as far as we know the  bag is now compostable with upper 30% recycled polyester or the equivalent ot three 16 oz plastic bottles,


They’re good looking and I could tell right away that these weren’t the Topo Athletic of old. These are way more flexible. 


Topo did a nice thing with the tongue on the Cyclone i2.  


There are two little loops that the laces run through to hold the tongue in place. What makes these a little different is that the loops are up at the top of the tongue. So there is no movement of the tongue at all. 


I agree with Sam that they are potentially a ½ size large. I’m torn on it though. My feet have plenty of room and they don’t FEEL sloppy at all in my usual size. I do notice a creasing of fabric and what feels like just slightly too much shoe on the upper outside part of the toes. Again, I haven’t found it to get in the way at all on any of my runs, but it would be nice if they could tighten that up just a hair. 


The Ortholite insoles are great,  supportive with the heel padding is just right for me. I feel locked down and solid in the Cyclone 2. Did I mention how light they are? 


Midsole

Peter: I mean, it’s a slab of pebbly PEBAX. Relatively soft to the touch and oh so light. It’s hard to say much more about it, but if you like the soft and bouncy ride of Pebax but don’t want a plate in there, this is your shoe. 

Sam: The midsole is all “genuine” PEBAX expanded pellets, no plates, no dual densities of dual materials just pure unadulterated supercritical processed foam in a soft and resilient form. So soft, with no plate and lots of flexibilty and with a 5mm drop  that I worried that for this often heel striker would bottom out at the heel as I often felt in say the Razor 3. No such worries!


The 28mm heel 23mm forefoot stack and with a geometry and outsole similar to the Specter keeps things well cushioned and flowing forward even at relatively slow paces where the softness might lead to that bottoming out or instability. Even the forefoot is stable and oh so energetic in rebound.


I really enjoy plateless (or mostly plateless) supercritical foam midsoles such as in the Nike Streakfly and Craft Pro Endur (it has a similar PEBA beaded foam) for their energy and fun. Yet sometimes they can go too far and get wobbly such as in the higher stack Nike ZoomX Invincible.  

Here, Topo really threads the needle beautifully with the rear rocker geometry and the foam outrigger which I think is functional  and also I think critically as it is the case with such shoes with the outsole and its role in stabilizing the soft foam (given no plate). 


Here, Topo tells us they made a final change from even the sample we were shown at TRE for production, increasing the rear coverage of rubber across a wider area of the heel. Very smart and very effective in keeping the heel from bottoming out and me moving forward.


Outsole

Peter The Cyclone 2 has a deceptively simple looking outsole. There’s a pretty thin layer of nicely tacky rubber on the front half the foot and another similar slab under the heel. Each of these slabs of rubber have oval cutouts with exposed PEBAX showing through. The rubber looks and feels smooth to the touch, but I got out in some wet conditions and felt great grip around corners and when I picked up speed. My only real concern about the Cyclone 2 is durability. It will be interesting to see how long the PEBAX feels fresh and how much the exposed PEBAX wears over time. The exposed PEBAX got dirty on the first run, but it’s held up remarkably well so far. Fingers Crossed–I’ll report back. 

Sam: The 2mm thick rubber “smooth” outsole has great grip! During my light sand over concrete on the beach sidewalks it had about the best grip of any shoe I can recall. It appears to be the same rubber as on Topo Specter which had excellent durability in our testing. 



Ride


Peter: Fun. Fun, fun, fun, fun, fun!. My first run in the Cyclone 2 turned into a progression run because I was having so much fun running in them. I just wanted to go faster and faster–and they handled it well. The combination of the extremely resilient PEBAX and the incredibly light shoe make the Cyclone a no-brainer for tempo runs. I’ve done easy runs, progression runs, track workouts and recovery runs in the Cyclone and it’s adapted and performed beautifully in each environment. It’s rare to find a shoe that I can do repeats on a track in one day and then pound out recovery miles the next. 


The only knock I have on the ride is this: The Cyclone 2 sometimes feels like it is perilously close to bottoming out. It never has, and I find that if I adjust my gait slightly they start to float again. I only say this because I wonder a couple of things: A. Will they start to bottom out when the PEBAX wears down a bit? And B. Are these going to hold up well for heavier runners? My experience is that they’ve been great. I find them plenty snappy without a plate and I don’t feel beat up at all running in them. 

Sam: A joy to run fast and even moderately fast, something that I struggled to do at slower paces in the Rebel v2 and Razors with there was a more distinct sensation of bottoming out. Here we have soft maybe even softer foam but the outsole rubber and geometry had me moving off the heel “quick” enough with the low weight and distinct and powerful energy return of the plateless PEBAX foam clearly felt and with big smiles!  While a more minimal, less supportive ride so not what I would choose as an all around daily trainer,  the Cyclone 2 has proven surprisingly versatile and always light and quick moving. As a heel striker at moderate paces, I  do wish it had a higher drop to extend its range in distances and to slower paces for me.  


Topo’s current hashtag is #movebetter and here that is spot on. The shoe has a smooth flow, you feel your feet and the road in the game and it is surprisingly not a punishing ride at all. 


With so many plated rigid yet higher stacked shoes these days, it is important to mix it up and work the feet differently and here, without the old school punishing minimalism of similar shoes or even the weight, and for sure this applies to many of Topo’s earlier models, you can do so! And I would for sure race them for a 5K or 10K due to their light weight, rebound, and broad and quite stable toe off platform. 


Conclusions and Recommendations

Sam: Delightful! A fun light energetic and bouncy speedster the Cyclone 2 takes full advantage of what we now know is the real power of the “super shoes” the foam and their energy “return”, here with full on genuine PEBAX. And does so without compromising practicality, being stable enough and not bottoming out significantly to bother at slower paces. 


The upper is also a delight. Topo yet again manages a broad anatomical toe box, plenty of hold and great comfort here with a super light mesh and with no gusset tongue. Every brand can take lessons from Topo in the upper department!


The ride is surprisingly versatile for such a light shoe with so little “visible” structure to either the upper or the midsole/outsole. Not enough shoe as a daily trainer for me primarily due to the 5mm drop ( I would prefer 8mm here)  and soft foam, and that is OK. Topo also has the similar riding geometry Specter with its PEBAX core and more supportive outer EVA carrier. What a fine pairing for any runner who wants their shoes light and lively with an anatomical toe box. For those wishing for a more natural riding softer option with totally state of the art materials, for example Rebel v2 and older Razor fans with a more foot friendly fit it is top choice among current offerings.


Value is decent at $150 for a shoe with state of the art foam and one  that can take you through your faster shorter runs and shorter racing if you want to race “plateless”. As Topo's first true race grade and super light trainer I would call it a resounding success and one true to the brand’s DNA of more natural running focused offerings.  

Sam’s Score: 9.47 /10 

Ride: 9.4 I only wish for a few mm more drop

Fit: 9.7 near perfect for such a comfortable upper

Value: 9.1 decent for the fun and versatility but $150

Style: 9.3 nice blend of serious and fun

😊😊😊😊 


Peter: Shoe of the year (so far)! The Cyclone 2 is a light, fast, bouncy and fun shoe from Topo Athletic. A great candidate for a shoe if you can only bring one shoe with you on vacation. I’ve worn them pretty much every run since I got them (which doesn’t happen a lot). I’d say this is the most fun I’ve had in a shoe since the NB Rebel V2 and  the Skechers Razor 3 before that. Special call out for the shoe geeks out there–the other shoe they remind me of is the Brooks Green Silence. Remember the Green Silence? Loved those. These have some of that magic! Go Get ‘em!

Peter: 9.5/10 for this jack of all trade tempo trainer/racer! I’d like a little more underfoot protection (to avoid the ‘am i gonna bottom out question). I’m also curious about how well they’ll do over time. Will report back on that. 

Smiles Score 😊😊😊😊😊 Just a joy to run in. 


5 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE


Topo Athletic Cyclone 2 vs. Topo Cyclone 1 (RTR Review)

Sam: The Cyclone 1 was about 1 oz heavier with the same 28/23 stack height. It had a center core of Topo’s not particularly energetic Zip Foam in a carrier of firmer EVA, so it was not only firmer but stiffer than v2. Its upper was comparatively heavier and not as smooth fitting.  No contest, Cyclone 2 unless you like a firmer somewhat more stable ride and less fun! Of  note v1 was $30 less so we do pay for the excellent PEBAX ride and superior upper. 


Topo Athletic Cyclone 2 vs. Topo Specter (RTR Review)

Sam: Sharing the same rocker geometry the Specter is higher stack at 35mm heel / 30mm forefoot. It has the same PEBAX foam as a central core with a carrier of EVA. Both share a similar outsole and  ride flow feel with the Cyclone more energetic, more flexible, and with a lower feeling heel. The Specter is more stable and heavier at a still fine 8.2 oz. Think of the Specter as the daily trainer and the Cyclone the uptempo/fun shoe. A great pairing.

 

Topo Athletic Cyclone 2 vs. New Balance FuelCell Rebel V2 (RTR Review)

Peter: These two shoes have a lot in common. They’re both light (Cyclone a bit lighter), they’re both super fun and bouncy, and they can both do a variety of different runs well. The Rebel V2 (aside from being replaced by the less fun (IMO) v3 (RTR Review). are a little bit more unstable, but feel less like they might bottom out. My vote here is for the Cyclone.


Topo Athletic Cyclone 2 vs. Hoka Mach 5 (RTR Review)

Peter: You might think of the Cyclone 2 as the Mach 5's slightly wilder, freeform hippie of a younger brother. The Cyclone has a little less structure than the Hoka and feels just a little more exciting, but the Mach 5 still wins out for me on long run. The forefoot cushioning feels pretty similar with the Mach 5 having just a hair more cushion than the Cyclone. Ground feel is remarkably similar. I'm a big fan of both. 


Topo Athletic Cyclone 2 vs. Skechers Razor 3 (RTR Review)

Peter: The Skechers Razor 3 was a simple joy. It was a soft and bouncy ride in a nice package that could handle any workout. Cyclone 2 checks all the same boxes for me. The Razor is a bit more of a race fit, and the Cyclone has a wider toebox. I’m excited about the Cyclone, but I still love the old Razor 3. But…grab the Cyclone if you liked the Razor 3


Topo Athletic Cyclone 2 vs. Nike ZoomX Streakfly (RTR Review)

Sam: Here is where the Cyclone 2 meets its match.. Almost 1 oz / 29 g  lighter with a 32mm heel, 26mm forefoot, so 4 mm more at the heel and 3mm more at the forefoot, the Nike also throws in a small mid foot plate for a touch of stability,  Called out as a “5K to 10K” racer by Nike for me, don't totally buy that. It is really the lightest “practical” trainer on the planet and one I have happily raced a 10K in. Nod to the Nike here.


Topo Athletic Cyclone 2 vs. Saucony Freedom (RTR Review)
Sam: There are for sure some earlier Saucony Freedom vibes here but not to the latest the 5 which is firmer and this despite a PWRRUN PB superficial foam midsole, stiffer, with a gym worthy snug upper and big gum rubber type outsole. Those missing the earlier Freedoms' fun rides should look at the Cyclone 2.

Tester Profiles


Peter lives in Austin, Texas and has been a sub 3 hour marathoner as well as a 1:21 half marathoner in recent years.


Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 65 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2022 will be Sam’s 50th year of running. He has a decades old 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range if he is very lucky, training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs, if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.


Topo Cyclone 2 Video Review (15:54)



The Topo Cyclone will release February 2023


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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

How does the midfoot room on the Cyclone 2 compare with the specter? I loved everything about the specter except I found the midfoot a bit too snug. TIA.

Anonymous said...

Any chance for a comparison with the Hoka Mach 5? Seems a similar use case. Thanks!

Peter S. said...

Great call. The Topo Athletic Cyclone 2 vs. the HOKA Mach 5.
You might think of the Cyclone 2 as the Mach 5's slightly wilder, freeform hippie of a younger brother. The Cyclone has a little less structure than the Hoka and feels just a little more exciting, but the Mach 5 still wins out for me on long run. The forefoot cushioning feels pretty similar with the Mach 5 having just a hair more cushion than the Cyclone. Ground feel is remarkably similar. I'm a big fan of both.