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Topo Athletic ST-5 Review | Good Alternative to Altra?

  • Jake Boly 

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Topo Athletic ST 5 Article Review

The Topo Athletic ST-5 is a running and training shoe designed to walk the middle ground between traditional shoes and barefoot shoes. This model features a minimalist-style platform with a bit more cushion.

As an athlete who regularly rotates between traditional training shoes and barefoot shoes, I love exploring shoes that can serve as bridges between the two like the Topo Athletic ST-5.

If you’ve been looking for a shoe to train in that feels minimalist but gives you a little protection and cushion, then hopefully my Topo Athletic ST-5 review will help you decide.

Report Card: Get the Quick Facts

Topo Athletic ST-5

Topo Athletic ST-5 Pros and Cons
  • Price: $115
  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Stack Height: 14mm
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • Sizing: True to Size
  • Width: Wide
  • Most Comparable ToLems Primal 2

Topo Athletic Performance Assessment

  • Lifting: 3.7/5 (max lifts: 225 lb squat, 315 lb deadlift)
  • Cross-Training: 3.9/5
  • Running: 4.3/5
  • Walking: 4.5/5

Pros

  1. These can be great shoes for anyone wanting to transition into barefoot shoes or wanting a break from traditional minimalist shoes for training.
  2. The lightweight upper construction gives this shoe a high degree of breathability which is great all-day wear and hotter climates.
  3. This shoe is incredibly lightweight and feels like nothing on the feet. If this is an ask you typically have with shoes then you’ll appreciate this.

Cons

  1. The exposed foam on the outsole of this shoe could be problematic for runs in inclement weather when you’re hitting damp and muddy surfaces.
  2. If you like more ankle support and structure in your shoes then you may not resonate with this model’s low-profile boot construction. This model also has a little arch support so flat feet be warned.
  3. This shoe’s performance in the gym can be a little limited by its midsole stability and outsole grip. It works for casual cross-training but may fall short with serious sessions.

Who Should Buy the Topo Athletic ST-5?

The Topo Athletic ST-5 is an interesting shoe. It took me a few weeks of tough workouts and daily wear to nail down where I think this shoe makes the most sense.

1. You’re a Barefoot Shoe Beginner

If you’re new to barefoot shoes then I see the Topo Athletic ST-5 as a strong pick for your line-up. This model is great because it’s somewhat of a bridge training shoe for traditional and true barefoot shoes.

I see it as a good pick for helping you to acclimate to 0mm heel-to-toe drop shoes with a little more cushion. The ST-5 reminds me of the Altra Solstice XT 2 and what that model has to offer.

Topo Athletic ST 5 Shoe Review

Topo Athletic ST-5 Shoe Review

If you’ve worn shoes with higher heel-to-toe drops your whole life and you’re changing to 0mm heel-to-toe drop shoes, then you’ll want to make sure you acclimate slowly to adjust to the changes in biomechanics that come with zero-drop shoes.

Having an option like the Topo Athletic ST-5 with a bit more cushion can be great for helping you feel out this type of drop without as much ground impact which you can get from super thin-soled barefoot shoes.

2. You Want Wide Shoes With Some Cushion for Training

The state of training shoes is interesting because we’re starting to see models made a little wider, but it’s still pretty limited at times. This leaves individuals with wider feet stuck in a dilemma of often opting for barefoot shoes or uncomfortable shoes.

The Topo Athletic ST-5 can be a great pick for those with feet who want some cushion when lifting and cross-training. The 14mm thick stack height is enough to give you a little ground feel without the demands of being truly barefoot.

Topo Athletic ST 5 for Training

I have an E-width foot and have plenty of room in the ST-5 and think it should work for most foot widths. Its upper construction is lightweight and has a nice amount of stretch and volume.

This model will work best for cross-training and light to moderate lifting. The midsole was stable enough to deadlift up to 365 lbs and it accommodated my 315 lb Hatfield squats well.

3. You Love Lightweight and Breathable Shoes

If your main asks in your shoe revolve around its weight and breathability then you’ll enjoy the Topo Athletic ST-5. This model is one of the lighter training shoes I’ve used over the last year.

Testing the Topo Athletic ST 5 Flexibility

The ZipFoam midsole flexes and articulates well and it has a medium-density. This gives this model a nice blend of versatility and stability without feeling clunky or too dense taking away from the shoe’s comfort.

The mesh upper is also super lightweight and breathable so if you’re training in hot settings or wearing this model in warmer seasons I don’t think you’ll have issues with the feet running too warm.

Topo Athletic ST-5

Topo Athletic ST-5 Product Image
4.1
Stability
4.0
Versatility
4.2
Durability
3.9
Quality
3.9

Best For

  • Light to Moderate Lifting
  • Cross-Training
  • Short Runs
  • Barefoot Shoe Beginners
  • Wider Feet

Falls Short

  • For Heavy Lifting
  • For CrossFit
  • For Flatter Arches

Who Shouldn’t Buy the Topo Athletic ST-5?

I think there’s a lot of utility to the Topo Athletic ST-5, but it’s not a training shoe that I think will work for every context.

1. You Want a Shoe for Heavy Lifting and Hard Cross-Training

In the gym, the Topo Athletic ST-5 will have some limitations as you get more niche and serious with your training asks. For example, if you’re squatting well over 315 lbs and deadlifting 500 lbs and more then you’ll want to pass on this model.

I think you’ll start to notice the ZipFoam midsole compressing a bit under these thresholds. This is why I suggest sticking to light to moderate strength work in the ST-5 to ensure you’re not exceeding its stability capabilities.

Topo Athletic ST 5 Outsole

When it comes to cross-training, the exposed foam on the outsole of this shoe is what hinders this shoe’s performance in some verticals. On turf, I did have some slip issues when working with heavy sleds.

On top of this, you’ll want to be conscious of the forefoot and how much friction you’re putting on the toe box. The thinner outsole lip doesn’t do the best job of protecting the upper around the toe box when doing things like burpees.

2. You Don’t Like Any Arch Support

If you’re looking into the ST-5 because you’re hopeful it will be completely flat, then you may want to tread lightly. This shoe does have a little built-in arch support.

This can give this shoe a fairly uncomfortable fit for those who want an absolutely flat shoe, especially through the midfoot. If you’re on the fence about this fit feature then I’d suggest trying on this model indoors in the event you need to return them.

Topo Athletic ST 5

To add some context here, I have a normal arch and I notice this shoe’s arch a bit. This is why I think if you’re really keen on not wanting any arch whatsoever then you’ll not love how this model fits.

Is the Topo Athletic ST-5 Good for Lifting?

  • Works Best For: Strength training under 315 lbs.
  • Falls Short For: For heavy barbell and machine sessions.

If you want to do light to moderate strength work on a weekly basis then the Topo Athletic ST-5 can be a decent shoe. For example, this model will work best for runners who like to blend some strength training into their workout programs.

If you’re doing things like kettlebell circuits, dumbbell split squats and lunges, and even some barbell work under 315 lbs, then you’ll be fine in this shoe.

Testing the Topo Athletic ST 5 for Strength Training

Regarding lifting thresholds, I noticed this shoe’s ZipFoam midsole started to compress above 315 lbs with deadlifts and squats. If you’re capping your lifting to below this amount then you’ll be plenty fine in this model, in my opinion.

Outside of weight caps, another concern to think about with this shoe when it comes to lifting is its grip when doing machine work. Since this model lacks a full rubber outsole I’d be conscious of doing heavy leg presses and hack squats in this model.

Is the Topo Athletic ST-5 Good for Versatile Training?

  • Works Best For: HIIT workouts, casual cross-training, and circuit-style sessions.
  • Falls Short For: For outdoor cross-training sessions and heavy sled work.

In the context of versatile training, the Topo Athletic ST-5 does a pretty good job. I pushed these shoes hard doing HIIT workouts and they held up well to most of the exercises I programmed in this context.

For example, the ZipFoam midsole has a nice bounce for box jumps, jump rope, and get-up style work, and for these exercises, the outsole has enough grip to give you decent traction. Any exercise where you’re on your forefoot, I wouldn’t stress.

Using the Topo Athletic ST 5 for Cross Training

I also appreciate the lightweight construction of this model and how well the sole flexes and articulates. With the ST-5’s wider toe box, you get a lot of surface area to stabilize and grip the floor with when doing explosive exercises and single-leg work.

My only concern with this shoe for versatile training is its long-term upper durability on concrete and its grip for heavy sled workouts on turf. For these asks, you’ll want to explore training shoes with more robust outsole and upper constructions.

Is the Topo Athletic ST-5 Good for Running and Walking?

  • Works Best For: Short runs, long walks, and all-day wear.
  • Falls Short For: Runs in inclement weather.

For running, I’ve used this shoe for a variety of interval running days and have put up to 3 miles into them in a singular training session. I have not pushed this shoe past that mileage threshold so please keep that in mind as you read further.

In the context of my short runs, this model felt pretty good overall. The tread gives you enough grip for both indoor and outdoor runs and the ZipFoam midsole is responsive enough to give you a nice blend of bounce and stability.

I would probably pass on wearing this shoe for rainy and muddy runs due to its exposed foam, but for dry runs, I’m not too concerned with this shoe’s durability. For runners transitioning to barefoot shoes, I think these can be a good pick.

Assessing the Topo Athletic ST 5 for Comfort

For day-to-day wear, the Topo Athletics ST-5 has proven to be a nice lightweight, breathable, and comfortable pick. This shoe is easy to wear all day and I have yet to have issues with their feeling or comfort on feet.

I also like that you can wear this shoe with or without socks and their comfort is consistent. I’m someone who enjoys going barefoot in their daily wear shoes (I know, some folks think it’s gross) and this is an awesome model for doing that.

Beefing up your barefoot shoe roster? Check out some of my favorite barefoot shoes for a wide range of contexts. Whether you’re working out or hiking, this list has you covered.

Topo Athletic ST-5 Sizing and Fit

  • Sizing Thoughts: True to Size for Most.

I think most individuals should be safe going true to size in the Topo Athletic ST-5. I found this model’s length to fit true and they have a nice wider last for accommodating different foot widths.

I have an E-width foot and have plenty of room in this shoe’s toe box whether I’m barefoot or wearing socks. In addition, you also get a nice amount of upper volume in this model’s toe box.

ST 5 Sizing and Fit

This shoe does have a little built-in arch support, and as mentioned above, you’ll want to keep that in mind if you tend to despise having any form of arch in your training shoes.

Does the Topo Athletic ST-5 Work for Wide Feet?

If you have feet that are wider than an E-width and you’re concerned about this model’s width, then I think you should be okay. Comparing barefoot shoe widths, the ST-5 feels on par with barefoot shoes from Vivobarefoot and Xero Shoes.

It also feels similar to most Altra models when it comes to forefoot width. However, the main difference between this shoe and Altra models is its arch support whereas I find most Altra shoes tend to run pretty flat in the midfoot.

ST 5 Width

Construction Details

  • Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
  • Weight: 9 oz (for my size 10 model)
  • Removable Insole: Yes
  • ZipFoam Midsole
  • Mesh and Textile Upper
  • Internal Toe Guard
  • Rubber Forefoot and Heel Tread
  • 5 Core Eyelets With a 6th for Lace-Lock

If you have additional construction-related questions about the Topo Athletic ST-5, drop a comment below and I can help out accordingly.

Topo Athletic ST-5

Topo Athletic ST-5 Product Image
4.1
Stability
4.0
Versatility
4.2
Durability
3.9
Quality
3.9

Best For

  • Light to Moderate Lifting
  • Cross-Training
  • Short Runs
  • Barefoot Shoe Beginners
  • Wider Feet

Falls Short

  • For Heavy Lifting
  • For CrossFit
  • For Flatter Arches

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q:
Can you lift in the Topo Athletic ST-5?

A:
The Topo Athletic ST-5 can be a good zero-drop training shoe for light to moderate strength training. This shoe will work best for recreational lifting sessions where you're keeping loads below 315 lbs.

Q:
Is the Topo Athletic ST-5 Good for Wide Feet?

A:
Most foot widths should be fine in the Topo Athletic ST-5. This model accommodates my E-width foot with relative ease and they have a good upper volume through the forefoot.

Takeaway Thoughts

If you want a zero-drop shoe that walks that middle ground between being a traditional training/running shoe and barefoot shoe then the Topo Athletic ST-5 is a great option to explore.

This model will be best for runners who want a “do-it-all” zero-drop shoe that delivers a little bit of cushion. Additionally, this shoe should be a hit for those who love extremely lightweight and breathable shoes for working out.

If you have additional questions about this model, drop a comment below or reach out via Instagram (@jake_boly or @that_fit_friend).

Jake Boly

Jake Boly

Jake Boly is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of That Fit Friend. He's often regarded to as a go-to resource in various performance shoe communities. He’s been formally reviewing shoes and training gear for over 7 years and has hand-tested over 400 pairs of shoes. Jake is known on the internet and YouTube for blending his review process with his educational, strength sports, and personal training background.

Jake has a Masters in Sports Science, a Bachelors in Exercise Science, a CSCS, and he's been personal training for over 10 years helping hundreds of clients get stronger, lose weight, and accomplish their goals. He uses his exercise science brain and personal training background to make curated and thoughtful review content on the fitness gear he's testing.

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