First Impressions – Topo Zephyr

This is one of those pair of shoes that have intrigued me since they first came out last year. You know something with a wide toebox, new foam and a plate (while plastic, not carbon), that had some great reviews, but also had some that were less than enthusiastic.

Yep, the Topo Zephyr.

Topo Zephyr

I bought the shoes from REI used gear shop for 1/2 retail price – as excellent condition-dusty, which about right for a shoe that want to experiment with. They are a return and judging from their appearance whoever had them before did maybe 2-3 runs in them for maybe 10-20 miles and did not like the Zephyrs.

Although I have a really good running shoe rotation going right now, nothing was all that suitable for colder weather or winter running, so I figured that the Zephyrs had enough traction for all but the nastiest days and were not as open mesh as my GRR8s for daily training in the cold, windy stuff we get up heah. Yes, it is an excuse to get another pair of running shoes, but at least I thought about why I need them. A first for me – thinking about why I actually need a new pair of running shoes versus just wanting, then getting them.

Also, I came very close to getting a pair of Zephyrs at the end of July having them in the basket overnight, however, I decided to go in a different direction (which ended up being a bad choice), but here we are in September and I just wore the Zephyrs for the first time on a 10K run.

How did it go?

I finished without any blisters or other problems related to the shoes in 70*F/85% Humidity, so it was a good first run. I did a planned easy run to the Ridges O/B course, which has the dirt road down-back, tar, hills (up and down), so it is a good test of how a shoe works in a variety of conditions. The size 8.0 was exactly what I wanted and the fit was great for my hard to fit right foot, which was my experience with the last pair of Topos that I had.

Initially, I was very surprised at how firm and stiff the Zephyrs felt, I was expecting more of a cushioned trainer feel and that is not what they are.

The first thing that I thought of after the first mile was these feel very similar to how the Forza 3 felt initially – very firm. However, the more I thought about it, the Zephyrs seemed more like a pair of Pearl Izumi N2 v1, which I eventually became one of my favorite shoes over the past eight years – once they broke in.

So the firmness is not a bad thing, but it definitely is not what I was expecting from the Zephyrs.

Another reviewer complained of a cupping sound and slappiness when landing in the Zephyrs, which didn’t happen for me. If anything my running on tar was smooth and quiet, the heel-to-toe transition felt smooth. The only time I noticed any slappiness was going down a fairly steep hill on tar and that is pretty normal for me no matter what kind of shoe is on my feet. This one surprised me in a good way.

The plastic plate, I didn’t notice it, which means it was working the way that it should. My first mile was a little quicker without putting any extra effort into it and while my cadence was lower than usual, my pace for the first 4.0 miles was a little quicker than it has been. So most likely the plate makes a small difference.

However, where I noticed the goodness of the plate was while running on the dirt road. All the small rocks and stuff didn’t bother my feet like they usually do, since the plate protected them quite nicely. It might not have been meant to be used as a rock plate, but it worked very well as one, especially when bombing downhill on the rock infused sections down-back. Which means using the Zephyrs for dirt roads, old train trails (now 4-wheeler trails) and non-technical trails is a go.

The outsole is not super aggressive, but has good traction, which is good since I got them to be road shoes during the colder weather and ended up being very quiet underfoot. The Zephyrs did fine with the traction going up and down hills on the dirt road, which as much as I run down-back is very important.

I like the salmon colorway, it is not quite orange, but is visible and Harold colors. Once thing that I really noticed about the Topo line of shoes is that their ankle wells are designed lower than other brands and the Zephyrs are not an exception – zero issues with the ankle bone rubbing on the shoes.

While the Zephyrs are listed as 5mm drop, they felt lower in the heel. It did not cause any issues today and my Achilles and hamstrings both felt okay, so that is a positive sign that the drop might be right around what they advertise.

What didn’t I like

About the only thing during this first run that stood out to me (besides the firmness, which I do not really consider to be a bad thing) was a very minor thing – the length of the lace. I am not a fan of the laces whipping against the other leg (especially the plastic aiglet that is at the end of the laces) and that happened a bit too often this morning. Which means that I will be changing out the laces at some point tonight.

I am not a fan of the extra thin tongue, it is a bit fussy to get settled correctly and I cannot cinch down too hard on the laces. If I do there is a bit of lace pinch as I found out on the mile walk I took with Bennie before I ran in them. It was not a problem while running, but I also took some extra time to get it just right before I started the run.

Topo Zephyr

The Zephyrs were a little heavier than I thought they would be at 9.3/9.4 ounces, I thought for a size 8.0 that they would come in below 9.0 ounces. This is not a serious thing, but even though they seem to run – lighter than their weight, I could tell that if I attempted race pace for any length of time I would be feeling the shoes a lot more.

The Zephyrs to me are more a daily trainer that I will do easy and longer runs in. I can do tempo runs in if I want to, but really I have better shoes for racing or tempo work than these, but what I got them for, the Zephyrs might just be what I am looking for.

Overall the Topo Zephyrs made a good first impression.

There is a lot about them that I do like and hope that like the Pearl Izumi N2 v1, that once they break in that they will become a big favorite for me. However, I can see why some runners might be “surprised” by their firmness and look in other directions, because I was definitely not expecting this level of firmness from this shoe. I have a feeling that they are a shoe that takes 30-50 miles to break in and then they become the favorite shoe in your rotation for the 300-400 miles.

Only time will tell, but I am hopeful that the Zephyrs will be that kind of shoe.

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