A new model in the Topo Athletic lineup this year, the Specter, is a highly cushioned performance trainer built for fast training days, paved ultras or road racing, particularly in the marathon distance. Topo has introduced high stack height shoes (Phantom) and responsive speed shoes (Cyclone), but the Specter combines these design elements with new advances in the company’s shoe construction that simultaneously improves performance and decreases weight.
A commitment to light construction is evident in the single-layer upper, which uses a dynamically engineered, recycled mesh that has great breathability and flexibility in the forefoot, with a tighter weave in the midfoot and rearfoot for stability. One noticeable element of the upper is that, unlike several other super-lightweight shoes, a secure fit isn’t compromised by excess elimination of material. A thin internal liner wraps the midfoot nicely, and the tongue and lacing system lock the upper down very effectively. As with all Topo shoes, the overall fit of the Specter last is snug in the rearfoot and midfoot, with a rounded toe box that allows full foot splay but doesn’t interfere with quick leg turnover.
The real innovation in the Specter is the high-profile, dual density midsole that combines a highly responsive Pebax insert with the lightest EVA compound Topo has made to date. The Pebax insert sits directly under the foot and is cradled within the exterior EVA, which creates a base of stability that is needed with a high stack height. An element of the outsole geometry we really appreciate is a slightly wider platform in the heel. This increases the overall stability of the shoe, but also makes the Specter much more accessible for runners who have a bit of pronation or supination on landing. Many high-performance shoes are built primarily for neutral, efficient runners, but the Specter has worked very well for our testers who pronate. In a similar manner, the 5mm midsole drop accommodates heel strikers as well as midfoot strikers, and the benefit of the Pebax/EVA combination works just as effectively for both.
Most importantly, for this particular shoe, the midsole combination works extremely well for providing strong energy return with a comfortable and stable platform underfoot. Although there isn’t a carbon plate, in our testing, the responsiveness of the Specter has a very similar feel to most carbon-plated road shoes we’ve reviewed over the past year. An aggressive heel and forefoot rocker geometry helps shorten your stance phase and improve forward momentum when you’re looking to push the pace. Between the responsive midsole and the overall light weight, it’s easy to run fast in this shoe and it’s clearly capable of shaving time off track repeats or a marathon PR compared to any other shoe in the Topo lineup. Another benefit of the Pebax/EVA platform is that your foot position over the EVA remains centralized, even when your form starts to break down in the final miles of long efforts.
Underfoot, a thin, slip-resistant, rubber outsole provides an adequate amount of grip and abrasion resistance. It is strategically positioned on both the lateral and medial heel areas, as well as most of the forefoot. Carved out holes in the outsole compound help shave weight and also add a bit of traction. It doesn’t appear to be a super high durability compound, and we’ve started to see obvious wear after about 100 miles of road and track use. We predict this outsole will be the primary determinant of the overall life span of the Specter, as the midsole and upper have shown minimal signs of breakdown. However, even if the outsole completely wears away, the EVA platform is still capable of giving you a number of fast miles in training or racing.
Features and Specs:
- Weight (men’s/women’s): 8.1oz / 6.9oz
- Stack Height (heel/toe, in mm): 35/30
- Heel-Toe Drop (mm): 5mm
- Ortholite performance insole
- Upper: Single layer, recycled, engineered mesh
- Midsole: Dual density Pebax and EVA for soft landing and propulsive energy return
- Outsole: Thin, slip-resistant rubber
- Two colorways for both men’s and women’s models
- MSRP: $150