Topo Athletic Phantom 3 Review

The Topo Athletic Phantom 3 is Topo Athletic’s everyday neutral training shoe. It is versatile enough to be used for everything from those easy morning recovery miles, your first few miles as a new runner, through to Sunday’s long run. That even includes some faster running. If you just want one shoe for all of your road running then the Topo Phantom 3 would be well worth considering. If you need a bit of pronation support then we would suggest considering the Topo Athletic Ultrafly 3, which has similar features with some anti-pronation support.

Topo-Athletic-Phantom-3-Review-Image1Topo Athletic running shoes are designed to allow your feet to function. Working with your feet, rather than trying to replace them. They have a spacious rounded toe box to give your feet the room to spread on impact. This allows your feet to absorb the impact shock, stabilise and spring you into your next stride. It allows you to easily land on your midfoot and load the foot correctly. Topo Athletic shoes have a low or zero heel to forefoot drop. This varies in their range of shoes from 0mm to 5mm. The Phantom 3 has a 5mm heel to forefoot drop. The stack height is 33mm in the heel and 28mm in the forefoot. The 5mm height difference between the heel and the forefoot is lost through the midfoot. This puts a bit of pressure behind the toe joints which encourages them to spread on impact. This isn’t something that most runners are aware of. All runners seem to notice is the ‘spring’ in the shoes and how easy it is to land on your midfoot, with a nice upright posture. The ‘spring’ is from your feet being loaded properly, which stretches out the plantar-fascia on the bottom of the runners foot. This is like a big elastic band that recoils to spring you into your next step. The spring from the foot also encourages the runner to lift their heel up rather than push again the floor. This maintains a good upright posture and makes you light on your feet.

The Phantom 3 is lighter than the previous model. The men’s UK 8 is 260g and women’s UK 5 213g. This is light for an everyday training shoe. The main weight saving is in the midsole where Topo Athletic have used two different densities of Zip Foam. There is an outer frame, which is firm to offer stability and durability. The inner section of zip foam is softer to make the shoe more flexible and give a more forgiving ride. The result is a ride that is both softer and more flexible than the previous version.

The upper is made of 30% recycled material. The mesh is lighter and more breathable than the upper of the Phantom 2. The moulded collar offers a plush feel and a snug fit. There is an external plastic heel cup to give the heel counter more stability. The fit is snug at the heel and through the midfoot opening out in the forefoot to give your toes plenty of room to wiggle and spread. Shoes with a rounded toe box have a straight big toe line, allowing the runner to toe-off much more effectively. It also means that because the big toe isn’t under tension, like it is in a shoe with a more pointed toe box, the other toes are free to wiggle. This makes the shoes feel more spacious and comfortable it also allows your feet to function. This means that the impact forces of running are spread more evenly between your feet, ankles, lower legs, knees, hips and lower back than they would be in a shoe that prevents your feet and ankles from working. This helps reduce the chance of injury, as each joint must absorb less shock and as your feet are working inside the shoes this means that they get stronger the more you run.


The tongue is held in place with two tongue stays that the laces thread through. This stops the tongue from slipping down. There is also an extra lace hole, so if you have problems with heel slippage or prefer a snug fit at the heel you can butterfly lace or pull the heel in further.

Topo-Athletic-Phantom-3-Image3The Phantom 3 felt a lot less ‘clumpy’ and a lot more flexible than the previous version. The ride is cushioned but not excessively so. This means that you are ‘aware’ of the floor and if you choose to pick up the pace then the Phantom 3 responds. This is why I find them a very versatile shoe. Don’t get me wrong, they won’t replace your ‘go faster’ super-shoes but they will be a lot more durable and comfortable enough for all types of running. I have found them ideal for winter fartlek’s and hill reps as I can comfortably warm up in the Phantom 3, do the faster running and then warm down. They’re great.

In my experience shoes with a more rounded toe box are so much more comfortable than narrower more pointed toe boxes. You’ve got to try them. I find that I often wear this type of shoe for all the ‘odd jobs’ where you just need to pop a pair of shoes on to nip to the local shop, pick the kids up from school or put the bins out. When my rounded toe box running shoes have lost their bounce for runing, they’re too comfy to recycle!

Topo Athletic running shoes are similar in length to Brooks and Altra and the Phantom 3 is no exception. I have a UK 11, which is the same size as I would use in Brooks, Altra, Saucony or Nnormal. In Hoka, La Sportiva, Karhu and New Balance I would use a UK 11.5 to get the same length.

A lot of brands have very soft midsoles these days. This is often because runners perceive that a softly cushioned shoe absorbs more shock. This isn’t the case. Topo’s are designed to work with your feet. The cushioning can’t be overly soft or your foot doesn’t ‘know’ that it has touched the floor and doesn’t function as nature intended. This means that you lose the natural shock absorption, stability and propulsion that your feet offer, and your feet get weaker. Softly cushioned shoes also wear out quicker than firmer shoes. This is partly because a firmer more responsive midsole is more durable and partly because you will be lighter on your feet in firmer feeling shoes, so you put less force through the midsole.

In summary the Topo Phantom 3 is a lighter, more flexible, and more versatile shoe than the previous version. It is a well cushioned neutral road running shoe that is both durable and versatile enough for all your running, whether new or well experienced. A great shoe from and increasingly popular brand at Northern Runner.

Other Considerations

Altra FWD Experience: These are the first Altra shoes made which aren’t flat. They have a 4mm drop between heel and forefoot and a rocker. Not as wide fitting as the Topo Phantom 3 and due to the rocker they don’t have as much of a natural ride:

Altra Torin 7: Altra neutral everyday training shoe. A similar shaped rounded toe box although they aren’t as broad as the Topo Phantom 3. However, this is a wide fit available in the Men’s version that does have similar volume in the upper. The ride is softer so they aren’t as versatile and best kept for easy running.

Karhu Fusion 3.5: A straight big toe line but the toe box isn’t as rounded or roomy. The heel to forefoot drop is 6mm and the midsole is on the firm and responsive side. Similar to that of the Topo Phantom 3. Karhu shoes use a Fulcrum system to aid propulsion, but this encourages you to lift your heel up rather than ride the shoes which is what happens when you run in shoes with a rocker. So, they also promote a similar upright posture and encourage you to be light on your feet. The shoes are a bit stiffer.

New Balance 880v13: A much softer ride makes these an easy-run shoe for most runners. 10mm heel to forefoot and available in three widths Men’s and two width Women’s.

361 Centauri: A slight rocker gives these a light feels when running in them. 9mm heel to forefoot drop.

Hoka Clifton 9: A softer ride. The rocker does some of the work for you, so they aren’t a natural a ride. 5 mm heel to forefoot. The big toe line is straighter than previous models and there is more room in the toe box than previous version but not as room as the Topo Phantom 3. There is also a GTX version.
Hoka Clifton 9 Gore-Tex:

Brooks Ghost 15: 12mm heel to forefoot makes these a shoe designed more for a heel striker. The toe box is more pointed but, the ride is similarly firm and therefore versatile enough for some quicker running as well as the daily miles and long runs.

On CloudGo: A very roomy toe box with a straight big toe line. Much softer ride and 11mm heel to forefoot drop. Available in two width Men’s and two width Women’s.

Scott Pursuit Ride: The toe box isn’t as pointed as previous versions but nowhere near as roomy as the Phantom 3. The ride is firmer than the previous Scott Pursuit but, not as firm and responsive as the Topo Phantom. The rocker in the shoes is effective which makes these suitable for use as an easy run shoe and some quicker running. Making it similarly versatile to the Phantom 3.

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