Topo Athletic Phantom 2 Review | Cushioned + Low Drop
The Phantom 2 is the latest update to the Topo Athletic range of running shoes. It is a well cushioned neutral shoe designed for putting in the everyday miles and the longer runs.
All Topo shoes are designed to allow the feet to function inside the shoes. This allows them to get stronger and gives you better balance and agility. To achieve this all Topo shoes have a broad rounded toe box so that your feet can spread on impact and the cushioning underfoot isn’t too soft. If you are running on pillows then your feet don’t know they have touched the floor so they don’t spread on impact. This means that they don’t get stronger the more you run as they are a passenger in the shoes. You also loose the balance and agility that you get from your feet functioning. That said there is a range of cushioning firmness’s within the Topo range of shoes and shoes designed for everyday running and longer runs like the Phantom 2 or Ultrafly 3 have cushioning that is far from hard. In fact it is quite soft but without the deep compression that you get with other soft shoes. This gives the shoes a very smooth transition to toe off.
The width and volume inside Topo shoes also varies. The Phantom 2 is wider and has more volume in the toe box than the original Phantom. If you haven’t used shoes with a broad rounded toe box before then they will feel big as you will be used to feeling the sides of the shoes with your toes. This discourages the feet from spreading on impact and in a lot of cases once your feet have the space to function it can take a few months before they remember how to do it. What is amazing is that once your feet have got used to spreading in your shoes and you go back to shoes with a more pointed toe box that you previously found comfortable. You will find them narrow and restrictive.
The upper is now an engineered mesh. This is thinner and more flexible than the previous upper and even without any increase in width would make the shoes feel more roomy.
The Topo Phantom 2 has the greatest stack height of all of their road shoes. The Phantom 2 is 33mm at the heel and 28 mm in the forefoot. Giving the shoe a heel to forefoot drop of 5mm. The low drop is designed to encourage you to not over stride and land more on your midfoot. This loads the foot and allows it to cushion. Rather than landing on your heel bone. However, if you do land heel first then there is plenty of cushioning under the heel and the 5mm drop gives enough of a roll to get your onto your forefoot. So, the Phantom 2 is suitable for both heel and midfoot strikers.
The midsole is made up of a firm EVA frame with a flexfoam core. The flex foam gives the cushioning the softer feel while the EVA keeps the integrity and adds stability. Which helps the shoe guide you to toe off. The Phantom 2 is slightly broader through the midfoot than the original Phantom. It also has an external heel counter. These two assets give a bit more stability. Which gives the Phantom 2 a very stable ride. Ideal for those long runs when your body is getting tired and your posture isn’t quite as good as it was at the start of your run.
Although the toe box is broad and roomy the fit at the heel and through the midfoot is snug. There is an internal microfiber belt that the laces slot through. This pulls the upper into your foot. The soft material inside the heel cup gives the shoes and immediately comfortable feel.
To increase the durability of the outsole Topo have increased the rubber coverage on the outsole of the Phantom 2 compared to the Phantom. This and the increased stack height have increased the weight fractionally. However, the Phantom 2 still weighs in at only 295 gram/235grtam for the Men’s and Women’s samples sizes (UK8 and UK 5). For a shoe designed for the daily grind and longer runs this is light.
My first impression of the Phantom 2 was how soft and comfortable the upper felt. The shoes hugs the foot at the heel but, then opens out in the toe box to give my toes the room to spread and function.
Although the cushioning isn’t soft and bouncy it does feel very cushioned. I wouldn’t describe it as offering a feel for the floor even though I can feel my feet function in the shoes and I am aware that I have touched the floor which isn’t the case in very soft shoes.
When I first got the Phantom 2 I ran in them every day sometimes twice a day for a few weeks. So, I did every type of run in them. The easy morning strolls, the long Sunday runs, tempo/steady runs and a few intervals too. I would say that the Phantom is set up for the slower runs. I found that I quickly forgot the shoes where on my feet and enjoyed my run. At quicker paces they aren’t quite as smooth. They are still comfortable but, I felt I had to work a little harder as the amount of cushioning underfoot reduces the feedback that you get from the shoes. This is the same with all shoes of this type. If you want a really cushioned, plush feeling shoe like the Phantom 2 then you have to except that it’s not going to be versatile enough for Tuesdays track session or Thursday’s tempo run. The reverse is also true. The quicker shoes are nowhere near as comfortable and plush as your everyday training shoes.
Charlie @ Northern Runner Newcastle
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