Topo, a brand that I was relatively unfamiliar with, made a huge first impression with the Specter.
At around 10 years of age, Topo is a fast-growing company with the same goal as any other run-focused shoe brand; quality performance.
Topo is making a statement in the industry by creating shoes that are optimized for running, hiking, walking, and racing. The rest of the review will dive into the fantastic features of the Topo Specter, what makes it unique, and what shoes it vaguely resembles.
TOPO Specter: First Impressions
The Topo Specter is a beautiful piece of footwear engineering that performs as well as it looks. That being said, the appearance of the Specter can be somewhat polarizing.
With a roomier toe box, the forefoot of the shoe is noticeably wider than the rest. This is an intentional design to provide better accommodations for the toes.
The available color schemes for the Topo Specter are extremely attractive. The simplicity and elegance of the Specter’s design make it a great addition to any wardrobe.
Stepping into the Topo Specter offers comfort on all sides of the foot. The toes have room to spread and don’t feel remotely crowded. The heel locks in place with a sufficiently padded collar and tongue.
The midsole feels firm but also soft, bouncy but also protective.
The only negative initial observation I have is regarding the upper. The mesh material is extremely light. Optimal for warm weather, the airy upper can cause the toes to get unnecessarily chilly in cooler climates.
Runners that show a tendency to push holes through the top of their shoes might want to reinforce the inside of their Specters before it’s too late.
Topo Specter: About the shoe
The Topo Specter has its own unique qualities that separate it from comparable shoes across other brands, but I can’t help but notice some similarities.
If I were to subjectively compare the Specter to other shoes on the market I would say that the Specter is a combination of both the Hoka Bondi 8 and the Altra Torin 6.
This comparison is likely part of the reason that I have enjoyed this shoe so much. Like Topo, Altra and Hoka are newer brands in the running industry. All three are making a huge splash with their innovative products.
Topo prioritizes 3 functional components in all of their shoes; a spacious forefoot, a secure midfoot and heel structure, and a low heel-to-toe drop.
The Topo Specter comes equipped with additional room in the toe box. This added space offers better proprioception and comfort.
Running is distraction-free with an exceptionally secured midfoot cage and heel counter.
With so many different heel-to-toe drops, each one has its own pros and cons. At 5mm the Topo Specter is made to promote a midfoot strike while encouraging a natural range of motion.
The bottom of the shoe consists of a thin layer of rubberized outsold and is intended to increase durability while keeping the weight low.
This shoe is designed specifically for road running. The smooth and low-profile outsole is not conducive to technical or wet terrain.
The Topo Specter is the most highly stacked shoe in the Topo lineup with a 35mm stack in the heel and 30mm in the forefoot.
Despite having so much foam underfoot, the Topo Specter is surprisingly lightweight. The Specter arrives at approximately 8.1oz in a men’s size 9 and 6.0oz in a women’s size 7.
The midsole foam is built with two layers of foam. EVA foam sits below a layer of PEBAX. This is meant to deliver that fast and energizing experience for a variety of paces and races.
With the EVA sitting below the PEBAX, the Specter supplies a stable platform with a neutral support structure.
As mentioned previously, the upper is incredibly light and breathable. This is done without compromising security. A midfoot cage lies underneath the mesh material offering enhanced stability.
Small loops at the top of the tongue prevent it from shifting during the run. This should maintain comfort and reduce the risk of blisters.
Resting inside the shoe is an Ortholite insole. These insoles are my favorite. They hold up incredibly well and should help keep the stench down with their anti-microbial properties.
Topo Specter: Colors And Widths
The Topo Specter is offered in four color varieties for men and women. They also have a limited edition Boston Marathon model that is quickly selling out. If you’re lucky there might be one in your size by the time you see this review.
The available colors are limited but appealing. The real limitation, however, is shoe size. Ladies only have one color option available in a size 12 and men only have one choice in a size 15.
Furthermore, widths are not offered in the Specter. The only way to navigate around this hurdle is to convert your shoe size to fit in the opposite gender offering.
A man needing a narrow fit might be able to wear a women’s Specter by going up 1.5 sizes. Similarly, a woman needing a wider fit could get away with wearing a men’s Specter and sizing down 1.5 sizes.
Keep in mind that if you happen to be a bit broader in the forefoot, the naturally inclusive shape of the Specter might provide just enough accommodation.
Topo Specter Road Test: How Did It Perform?
Have you ever started a run in a new pair of shoes and immediately fallen in love with them? That was my experience running in the Specter for the very first time.
The Specter really does everything that it’s designed to accomplish. It’s light, soft, and springy. Every pace feels natural in the Topo Specter.
Some running shoes are well suited for specific paces/efforts. The Specter feels wonderfully robust. Easy paces felt smooth and relaxed while faster efforts were controlled and attainable.
Stride after stride the Specter offers ample padding under the foot. The 5mm drop truly does encourage a more natural midfoot strike.
The added room in the toe box allows the foot to feel free. Without any forefoot restriction, it’s easy to feel as though no shoe is being worn at all!
The only limiting component of the Specter is the outsole. Designed to be minimal in order to reduce weight, the outsole of the Specter is thin and streamlined. This causes the shoe to break down faster than some others on the market.
While most shoes are good for upwards of 500 miles of traffic, I would anticipate that the Specter will last roughly 400. The lighter the shoe, the less mileage a runner will typically get out of it before the performance begins to fade.
The Topo Specter fulfills its duties magnificently.
Key Takeaways: Should you buy the Topo Specter?
The Topo Specter is a shoe well-suited for just about any runner. From hobby joggers to marathoners and beyond, the Specter is an asset that should not be ignored.
Somewhat moderately priced, this shoe is not for runners operating on a tight budget. That said, it won’t necessarily break the bank either.
I’m a firm believer that you get what you pay for when it comes to running shoes. That said, the Topo Specter performs well for the investment.
Although neutral in support, the wide base of the forefoot offers some inherent stability that makes the Specter an inclusive option for a variety of foot types.
The Topo Specter has something special for everyone. All you have to do is wear a pair on a run in order to see what it can do for you.