Topo Athletic Cyclone 2 Review: Simplicity At Its Best
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Weighs 6.9 oz. (196 g) for a US M9
28 mm in heel, 23 mm in forefoot (5 mm drop)
Full Pebax midsole, breathable upper, extremely lightweight
We’re thinkin’ it’s a Topo turning point
ROBBE: I’m gonna be honest here — these days, nine out of ten shoes that come in for review are a side hustle by a mattress company. Lots of comfort, lots of cush, and sometimes they lull you to sleep in the middle of a run. We’re probably partially responsible for this — for years, we decried any shoe with less than 25 mm of stack height as being too harsh, begging for a little more underfoot protection on the roads.
It’s probably a net positive overall, but that doesn’t mean we need it in every shoe. Sometimes it’s nice to have a shoe that just feels like running in its simplest form. I think that’s the reason why Atreyu resonated with so many people. There wasn’t any of the bullshit, it was just a simple shoe with a simple upper and simple midsole that made running feel like running again.
The Topo Athletic Cyclone 2 is like the premium version of Atreyu. Its components and construction are of higher quality, but it doesn’t mask the joys of running. In fact, it enhances them. That’s a bit of a spoiler, but let’s get into what makes the Cyclone 2 both old school and new school in the same package.
For starters, the shoe has a full “Pebax Powered” midsole, according to Topo Athletic. This means it is legit, 100% authentic Pebax. It’s also good that it’s not a core of Pebax wrapped in an EVA carrier like the Topo Athletic Specter, which we thought was a poor attempt at using Pebax and a shoe that I did not understand. The Cyclone 2 is plain and simple, and it’s very nice, as you’ll see.
The stack height is reasonable at 28 mm in the heel and 23 mm in the forefoot; however, by 2022 standards, that’s almost barefoot running. The 5 mm drop is consistent with pretty much every Topo Athletic shoe. To call this shoe lightweight doesn’t do it justice. It’s one of the lightest shoes out there, coming in at 6.9 oz. for a US M9.
According to Topo, the shoe is built for up-tempo daily mileage and racing up to the half marathon distance. One of those is true, the other I’m still on the fence about.
Nevertheless, this shoe is probably the most exciting Topo road shoe to date, and the one I most enjoyed running in, so let’s get into the why.
JARRETT (WIDE-FOOT): Every time I talk about the best wide shoes, there are comments about Topo Athletic and why I haven’t included them in my favorites. The truth is, I’ve tried a few and found the toe box to be nice and spacious, but the midfoot has been too tight. I’ve got that meaty midfoot, so they haven’t been my cup of tea. Those diehard Topo fans will be more than pleased to know that the Cyclone 2 has changed my mind about Topo, and I may be the newest convert.
SAM: If you’re like me, you’ve seen Topo around and never worn one (if you’re not like me skip ahead). What are these shoes? Why are they shaped like that? Who is wearing them? What is Topo? The answer to all these questions lies in another question: Who is Topo? Topo’s founder, Tony Post (get it: To Po), is the engine behind this brand’s vision.
Like Miley Cyrus, their goal is to make a shoe that gets the best of both worlds. It allows for natural toe splay with a traditionally snug midfoot and heel. I have a wider foot and a midfoot landing, so I was excited to try this shoe out. Read on to see how it worked.
RYAN: Unlike Jarrett and Sam, I’ve had my fair share of Topo encounters. Some, like the Specter, were spooky, while others left me underwhelmed. Maybe it was the Zipfoam or the overall style, but I never found the shoe for me. Then, I heard I’d be getting the Cyclone 2. A Topo Athletic shoe? With Pebax? And a New Balance Rebel v2-style upper? Sign me up.
Like the 2007 hit from Baby Bash of the same name, the Topo Athletic Cyclone 2 has all the fixings to be a banger. Good features (like T-Pain), a solid base (or bass), and enough weather references to make Al Roker spin. Am I singing in the rain? Let’s find out.
ROBBE: I love a good fitting upper, and for some reason, they can often be hard to find — especially in lightweight shoes that save ounces by stripping it down. Topo Athletic has always excelled at the upper game, in my opinion. Something about their lacing system and tongue creates a perfect wrap around the top and sides of the midfoot. The Topo Athletic Cyclone 2 is no different (for the most part). The mesh is ultra-breathable and lightweight and is very reminiscent of the New Balance Rebel v2, both in the design and materials, and I definitely don’t hate that.
Since we’re talking about the light weight, we should mention that this shoe is featherlight at 6.4 oz. for my US M7.5. A ladybug’s fart could blow this thing over if you’re not careful. And that’s a good thing. The shoe feels like a slipper and completely disappears on foot.
Underfoot, the shoe shines with the Pebax-powered midsole. It’s the perfect balance of comfort mixed with a responsive road feel. Damn, I love a good road feel shoe, and this one delivers perfectly. Some people will want more stack height, but this kind of shoe is almost extinct, so I welcome it for where it’s at. A traditional EVA midsole would make this shoe either too heavy or too firm, so the Pebax prescription was necessary for this shoe to hit the mark.
I took this shoe for a few six-mile runs at slower paces but really wanted to test it for faster paces since that’s where it shows its true colors as an up-tempo shoe. So I did a 9-mile workout with a dozen 400s at 5K pace, hoping it would carry me to my intended times. It did all that and more. As I said in the intro, this shoe feels like pure running. The light weight, combined with the bounce and rocker geometry of the midsole, allows you to just go — and go fast — whatever your “fast” may be. There are no bells and whistles here, no plates or rods or the latest in propulsion technology, and that’s okay. It’s a simple shoe that returns the simple joys of running.
I found that on my cooldown miles, I still wanted to keep running fast in the shoe, so I did. It was great.
For those Altra people looking for a better Escalante or who are just turned off to Altra slowly ghosting its natural toe box, you need to move to the Cyclone 2. No, it’s not zero-drop, but give it up already — a 5 mm drop isn’t going to kill you.
While there isn’t full rubber coverage on the outsole, the rubber they used here is very tacky, and it’s a decent amount in both the forefoot and heel. It feels remarkably similar to the Adidas Continental rubber used on the Adios Pro and Takumi Sen, which is one of the best outsole formulas in the game.
Lastly, this is far and away the best-looking Topo road shoe to date.
JARRETT (WIDE-FOOT): Topo ditched the ZipFoam foam for Pebax. Not just a dual compound midsole, but the Topo Athletic Cyclone 2 features a 100% Pebax midsole. This allows the shoe to provide a bouncy and responsive ride while keeping it super light. My US M10.5 weighs just 7.4 oz. (209 g.). With a 5mm drop (28 mm heel and 23 mm toe), I never had to wean my way in like people suggest with 0 mm drops.
The Cyclone 2 is meant to be an uptempo trainer, and I agree entirely. Sure, my slower easy miles were great, and I felt the softness of the Pebax, but the shoes felt great when picking up the paces. I felt like the shoes came alive, and I was moving with relative ease.
This new tightly woven upper is light and thin. My toes took a few miles to warm up on some of the colder days. I can see the breathable mesh being fantastic when the temperatures pick back up. The midfoot had a nice, snug fit, and the toe box was exceptionally spacious. I didn’t feel like my toes were cramped, nor were they sliding around. This is for sure an approved #WideFootFam fit.
The tongue is padded and has two lace pass-throughs to keep it from sliding around. The heel is also nicely padded and feels great around the ankle. People who had issues with the OG Cyclone heel collar will be happy with the update.
Underneath is a thin rubber covering the forefoot and heel, with exposed Pebax midsole in the midfoot. I thought the traction was good on the road in dry conditions. On the two wet runs, I was a little more hesitant when taking corners. Obviously, the exposed midsole was to save weight, although I wonder about the life expectancy. Although it’s not a concern right now, I do have some (hopefully just) cosmetic wear after 40 miles.
Lastly, I like how these look. Topo does a good job making the roomy toe box design look sleek and fast. However, there’s no denying these look pretty similar to the New Balance Rebel v2…
SAM: Let’s start with the obvious. This shoe is outrageously light. The upper is thin, snug, and extremely comfortable. I also was a big fan of the lacing system, and the overall fit of the shoe does not feel impacted to save weight, as my US M9.5 came in right around 7 oz. but feels much more luxurious than 7 oz. shoes usually do.
Once the shoe was on, I noticed how much bounce and cushion the “Pebax Powered” midsole had. This shoe gives you around 28 mm of stack in the heel and 23 mm in the forefoot for a 5 mm drop. While walking around, this was comfortable, but it was not as cushioned or bouncy as I would’ve hoped while running. More on this later.
Running in the shoe, I also noticed how much I liked the wide toe box while running. It gave my toes enough room to splay but never felt loose. This is an issue I have had with Altras, where the toe box is wide enough for my foot, but the entire shoe ends up feeling like I borrowed it from a clown because I can barely keep my foot in. The heel and midfoot were also snug enough for me to have no issues with heel slippage or any rubbing from loose fitting points. Besides the solid outsole rubber, this is where the pros stop for me. The Cyclone 2 has many great parts, but the whole is not greater than the sum of them.
RYAN: Since the other guys have covered the weight and Pebax midsole pretty well, I’m just gonna hit the looks. This is an absolutely gorgeous shoe, in my opinion. Easily the best-looking Topo Athletic shoe to date. Maybe it’s just because it looks like the New Balance Rebel v2, but that’s one of my favorite shoes of all time. If New Balance had dropped this same colorway, I probably would have bought five. Oh, wait, they very nearly did.
Unfortunately, the looks are all I’ve got. I put my 20 miles in the Cyclone, and I’m not sure that the shoe loved me back, so let’s move on.Shop Topo Athletic Road Shoes – Men ShopTopo Athletic Road Shoes – Women
ROBBE: Natural toe box — good, to a certain extent. I felt that the traditional “fast fit” of an uptempo shoe was missing because of the wide toe box. Cornering lends to a bit of movement up front, and I didn’t feel the bite I like from other traditional uptempo or speed shoes. The design of the upper also creates a bit too much fabric bending/bunching in the toe box, and I felt like the wide toe box was a bit too roomy. It wasn’t a huge deal, but it just wasn’t a perfect fit for me in that regard.
No rubber on the midfoot area of the outsole is probably not the best, but I’m not too worried about it, considering the forefoot and heel are done up right.
In part due to Topo’s steadfast loyalty to the 5 mm drop and the lack of a plate, the shoe doesn’t have the same forward propulsion as other shoes in the range, namely the Saucony Endorphin Speed or Asics Magic Speed 2. Then again, the Cyclone 2 is $20 less than the Endorphin Speed, and the Magic Speed 2 is garbage, so who cares.
Of course, at $150, it’s also a $30 increase from the price point of the last Cyclone, but it’s also a totally different shoe. Still, for a simple shoe, that may be hard for some people to swallow (though I think it’s fair).
Some will want more cushion underfoot, and I question racing in this shoe for a half marathon. If you’re on a budget, you definitely could, but I’d still opt for something with a bit more cushion or propulsion. That’s where it does fall short of shoes like the Endorphin Speed or Takumi Sen.
JARRETT (WIDE-FOOT): It’s a bummer that the Topo Athletic Cyclone 2 has jumped from $120 to $150, but that’s obviously because of the full Pebax midsole. I guess I’m so used to seeing prices bump about $10 (i.e., the 2022 inflation tax), so the $30 was a bit jarring. With great Pebax comes great costs. In this case, it’s worth it.
SAM: The Cyclone 2 is light, comfortable, and decently cushioned, but when the parts are put together in action, the shoe does not blow me away. I was hoping for a smooth and bouncy ride so light I forgot it was there, but every run after wearing the Cyclone 2, all I really felt was “meh.” Unlike Robbe and Jarrett, I found this shoe very difficult to pick up the pace while running, which is not what I expected for a shoe meant to be a short-distance racer.
The core of the issue for me resides in the midsole build. The Pebax is slightly bouncy on its own, but there is not enough there to provide a great spring, and there is no plate or shank to make up for the pop that the shoe is missing. This shoe compares closely to the Skechers GoRun Razor 4. They have similar midsole builds, stack heights, and weight, but something about the half-plate in the Razor sets it apart from the Cyclone. There is a slight pop that adds to the shoe but does not get in the way, and I felt like I was missing it in the Cyclone. In an age where every shoe is made with super foams and plate technologies, not having either means you are not doing enough, in my opinion.
While I liked the wide toe box and the fit of the heel, I did not like the two of them together while running. The Cyclone 2 was not smooth going through my stride, and I could feel the point where the shoe transitioned from snug to wide. This transition point also bothered my foot into the next day, which I did not enjoy. I think this could be a great shoe with a little more stack, a plate, and a smoother heel-to-toe transition. But for a racing shoe for use up to a half marathon? You can find something more exciting than this.
RYAN: The Topo Athletic Cyclone 2 arrived just before New Year’s, and I immediately took it out for nine miles. Was that a great idea? Maybe not. I’m sure it works for some people, but I seem to be dealing with some tendinitis in my left foot that only started when the Cyclone 2 showed up. I, of course, don’t know that the Cyclone 2 set my foot off — it could be anything from landing funny to bad luck — but the timing left me a little suspicious.
On a more general note, I don’t think natural toe boxes are for me. Like Sam mentioned, something didn’t always feel smooth, and the lack of forefoot lockdown around corners made me slip and slide a bit. The midfoot and heel were fine, but I like that sweet, sweet toe security. It was a problem that I also had with the Specter, though I think the lower stack height helped with the overall security at least.Shop Topo Athletic Road Shoes – Men ShopTopo Athletic Road Shoes – Women
ROBBE: For sure, this is the best Topo shoe to date. It’s not as flashy as some of the crazy shit coming from Saucony or Adidas, but it’s a damn fine shoe (and hot-looking, too). It bridges the gap perfectly between the traditional feeling of pure running and the modern feeling of racing in Pebax.
Fans of Atreyu, Altra Escalante or Rivera, or the New Balance Rebel v2 will love this shoe and should give it a chance. I know I’ll be reaching for it on those short and quick runs or on uptempo days with intervals or fartleks. It’s a turning point for Topo Athletic, and it’s exciting to see them stay true to their mission as they evolve, and in the process, provide value and excitement to their customers (something that Altra has fumbled over the last couple of years).
JARRETT (WIDE-FOOT): I may not have tried all the offerings from Topo, or even the recent ones, but I would still bet that the Cyclone 2 is the best shoe that Topo has released. The Topo Athletic Cyclone 2’s fit is nice and locked down in the midfoot, and the toe box is roomy and very accommodating. The star of the shoe is the Pebax midsole which gives a fun and fast ride. Plus, at 7.4 oz. for my size 10.5, this is one of the lightest wide fitting shoes I own. Topo has started 2023 off with a bang with the Cyclone 2.
SAM: Like Jarrett, I definitely need to try more Topo shoes. The idea of a roomy toebox and a snug midfoot/heel had my interest, and after running in this shoe, it has my attention. I’m not sure I will come back to this shoe in particular, but if I am looking for something light and efficient, I know where to go. If this is truly a turning point for Topo Athletic, I am glad I got clued in because, with a few more changes, this shoe is a hit. Keep pumping them out, Topo, your time is coming soon.
RYAN: I think the Topo Athletic Cyclone 2 marks a step forward for the brand, but it remains a try-before-you-buy option for me. The natural toe box won’t work for everyone, but the move to a Pebax foam is exciting either way. I’m willing to overlook my foot pain because I think that Topo is definitely taking strides in the right direction, and the Cyclone 2 is a sign of a bright future. You can’t make a tiger change its stripes, so don’t expect Topo to move away from that toe box.
You can pick up the Topo Athletic Cyclone 2 in February 2023 for $150 by using the shop link below.
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Robbe is the lead copywriter and editor for all things Believe in the Run. He loves going on weird routes through Baltimore, finding trash on the ground, and running with the Faster Bastards. Appreciates mezcal and New York Times crosswords. Loves his two boys more than anything. Has the weakest ankles in the game.
All-time favorite shoes: Nike Epic React, Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 Runshield, Asics Metaspeed Edge+More from Robbe
Wide Foot Jarrett likes talking about wide shoes. Did you know he wears wide shoes? You should probably know he wears wide shoes. Besides running, Jarrett is a lover of coffee, donuts, pizza, and tacos. Basically, Jarrett is the ultimate race-cation travel companion because he will be on food duty while you’re busy panicking about whether you want to try and break your PR. Will also sleep on the floor. He’ll also answer any question in his DMs.
All-time favorite shoes: New Balance Vazee Prism v2, New Balance FuelCell SC Trainer, Asics Metaspeed Sky.More from Jarrett
Sam lives in Baltimore with his wife and two kids and spends his days fixing espresso machines for Ceremony Coffee Roasters. He runs with the Faster Bastards when he can, races ultras, and has been working on completing the AT section by section. He thinks the best days are made of long miles on nasty trails, but that a good surf session, a really stunning book, or a day of board games are pretty all right too.
All-time favorite shoes: Saucony Xodus Ultra, Topo Athletic Ultraventure 3, Altra Lone PeakMore from Sam
Ryan is kind of like Robbe’s Igor behind the scenes. He helps to compile and clean up everyone’s reviews, and finds time to get in a few miles of his own. When he’s not running or editing, Ryan writes and reviews for Android Authority, spending time with the latest tech and complaining when things don’t work quite right. If he’s not doing any of that, maybe you’ll find him nose-deep in a crossword puzzle or trying to catch up on an endless backlog of shows to stream.
All-time favorite shoes: New Balance Rebel v2, New Balance RC Elite v2, Saucony Endorphin Speed 3More from Ryan