Topo Athletic Phantom 3 Review: Easy Miles With Smiles
We independently review everything we recommend. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission.
9.9 oz. (280 g) for a US M9,
8.0 oz. (226 g) for a US W7
33 mm in heel, 28 mm in forefoot (5 mm drop)
Comfortable daily miles
Recycled engineered mesh upper, Dual-density ZipFoam midsole
CHAD: One of the best things about being a part of the Believe in the Run review team is that I get to experience running gear I normally wouldn’t take a chance on. The Topo Athletic Phantom 3 is a prime example, as I can say that I likely would never have made the leap and ventured into the Topo universe. While Topo is increasing in popularity on both trail and road shoe sides, I would still classify it as a niche brand that is still not quite at the forefront of the running community. After logging my miles in the Phantom 3, Topo Athletic can definitely add yours truly to its fan club.
The Phantom 3 is a neutral daily trainer, which Topo Athletic compares to the Hoka Clifton, the Brooks Glycerin 20, and the New Balance 1080v12. It features a breathable mesh upper that’s made of recycled materials (hooray for the environment) and a dual-density ZipFoam midsole. The stack height remains the same as the 2nd version while shedding nearly half an ounce. Also, in keeping with tradition, the Phantom 3 features the anatomically shaped toe box that Topo is known for. Being new to Topo, my first thoughts when pulling this shoe out of the box was, “What sort of Fred Flintstone-footed person is this designed for?” Not gonna lie, I was nervous about how I would feel in the Phantom 3, but I made sure to keep an open mind.
KALEB: I’m pretty sure every single Topo review on our site attempts to give folks context for what it is Topo strives for in its footwear, and I’ll be darned if I’m the one to break the streak. Topo Athletic is a company that attempts to bridge the gap between traditional footwear and natural footwear. It aims to allow the foot to move naturally (with a wide toe box and low heel-to-toe drop) while still providing the quality cushioning, responsiveness, and lockdown of a traditional running shoe.
The Phantom is Topo’s easy-going long run cruiser, kitted out with 33mm of dual-density ZipFoam in the heel, a cushy upper, and a generous helping of outsole rubber to last hundreds of miles. I’m with Chad in that Topo is not a brand I would have ever spent the money on just to experiment with. However, after logging well over the required test mileage in this shoe, I can confidently say it’s a brand worth dipping your toes into.
CARYN: I’d be lying if I said I’d ever heard of Topo (Sorry, Tony) prior to this shoe showing up on my doorstep, and I consider myself well-versed in the world of running shoes. One of my nerdier hobbies is foot strength and mobility (Check out Gait Guru on Instagram, seriously), so seeing that one of the brand’s core values is to allow better movement through specific design features made me excited to log some miles in this shoe.
The Phantom 3 is a neutral, lightweight daily trainer with a mesh upper made of recyclable materials as well as Topo’s dual-density ZipFoam. The unique shape of the toe box allows for toe splay, leading to improved foot function and toe engagement (we love to hear it). With a great fit and simple design that checks most boxes on the to-do list of daily trainers, I’ve definitely found a great new addition to my rotation.
JARRETT: Guess what? I get to keep this short and sweet. There’s no use in repeating what the 3 people above me said, so I’ll be giving my feelings without the technical facts. You’re welcome.
CHAD: Despite my initial concerns, the fit of this shoe is superb. As I said, I was concerned when first getting this shoe that I was not going to get along with a toe box shaped differently than I’m used to. However, the anatomical shape provides enough room for my toes to splay out while I run but isn’t so wide that my feet are flailing about. Additionally, the heel and midfoot provide a secure fit and lockdown. At no point did I feel any heel lift or wiggle, even in my right foot, which has a slightly narrow heel. The external heel counter really helps keep things stable and secure for the entire run.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the ride of this shoe. Even though Topo compares the Phantom 3 to the Glycerin and 1080v12, I feel like the ZipFoam midsole is a bit firmer and provides a different running experience, at least right out of the box. I’d liken it more to the feel of Saucony’s PWRRUN foam that is in the Ride 16 and Endorphin Shift 3, in both firmness and responsiveness. That said, it’s in the “good” section for me because, as a bigger runner, I prefer a firmer ride in my daily trainers, which helps to avoid me bottoming out once the mileage increases.
Also, I noticed during my third run in the shoe that the foam had definitely softened a bit, which made the cushioning of the ride very balanced between too soft and too firm. As Goldilocks would say, it feels just right. But the best part is that I feel like this shoe is going to get even better as the miles pile up.
KALEB: I, too, was concerned about fit for the Topo Athletic Phantom 3. I’m by no means a wide-footed runner, and I’ve been known to be pretty finicky about getting that perfect no-slide lace-up. However, Topo has done a great job at making the benefits of wide toebox running accessible to standard foot runners. The heel and midfoot are comfortably snug, and you don’t lose any sense of security during the run.
The upper is wonderfully plush yet breathable. The tongue, while not gusseted, is fitted with some lace loops near the top that keep it from sliding. This also helps get a comfortable lockdown across the top of the foot.
Another thing I was skeptical about was ZipFoam. It just sounds off-brand, and that made me a little biased. But putting the shoe on for the first time laid my fears to rest: ZipFoam is no joke. The step-in comfort is plush yet supportive, and the ride is similar. I don’t like the sensation of sinking into a shoe and feeling my body mechanics collapse on the run, and the Phantom 3 provides the perfect balance of being protectively cushioned but firm enough to support proper form. The shoe wants to go long and easy — not in a sluggish way, but in the refreshing style that recovery runs should be characterized by.
After some base miles to get my legs adjusted to the shoe, I hit some long runs in the Phantom. During all of them, my legs felt fresh, and the pace felt easy. This is the kind of shoe that feels the same from mile one to mile one hundred, and I mean that in the best way.
There’s a good bit of durable rubber on the bottom of the Phantom, and I had no complaints about grip or durability. While this does add to the weight of the shoe, it never felt clunky or heavy on the run. Sure, it’s no featherweight racing shoe, but the 33mm slab of ZipFoam is responsive enough to keep you rolling through your miles.
CARYN: This shoe is the Toyota Corolla on the sales lot of neutral daily trainers. I promise I won’t stretch out this analogy beyond social acceptability, but hear me out. So much of the daily trainer space is dominated by max cushion, high stack thicc bois (technical term) like the New Balance 1080, Hoka Bondi, and the Asics Novablast. Don’t get me wrong, they’re great shoes, but gone are the days of the lower-stack, no-frills daily trainers making headlines.
As someone that has loved several versions of the Brooks Ghost, I respect a shoe that you can put on and forget about for your entire run. It’s not flashy, it’s usually not the lightest, and it’s certainly never the shoe with the latest technology, but it gets the job done really well. It’s a Toyota Corolla.
While I certainly wouldn’t compare this shoe to a Brooks Glycerin, New Balance 1080, or Hoka Clifton, as Topo suggests, I would compare it to my very favorite version of the Brooks Ghost, along with the Saucony Ride or New Balance 880, more generally. The cushion is on the firmer side, but to me, this is a really nice departure from mushy marshmallow culture.
The overall fit of the upper is fantastic – I had no rubbing or hotspots, and it stayed in place perfectly. I also had no issues with the laces, though I was quite thrown that the shoe came with the extra eyelet pre-laced. I’m not an extra eyelet girlie, but taking the lacing down immediately improved my experience. I have a foot that borders on wide, so I really enjoyed the extra space for my toes to do their thing. I don’t necessarily expect daily trainers to be the lightest shoe in my rotation, but this certainly didn’t feel clunky or heavy, either.
While this shoe certainly does not feel suited for any pace outside of my true easy, I felt like the miles flew by thanks to Topo’s ZipFoam and durable rubber outsole (I think we all agree we need a new name for this foam…)
JARRETT: Topo does an excellent job with the space in the toe box. It’s accommodating and spacious through the forefoot. When it comes to the midfoot, Topo tends to move back to the standard width category. The Phantom 3 is snug in the midfoot but isn’t tight or unbearable. I think people in the 2E category can wear this, but anyone bigger than that may have concerns.
The ZipFoam provides some cushion while not being soft and squishy. It’s said to be springier than EVA, but I get a firmer underfoot feel. I think it’s clear the Phantom 3 is for comfortable easy miles.Shop Topo Athletic Phantom 3 - Men Shop Topo Athletic Phantom 3 - Women
CHAD: There are some daily trainers out there that are versatile enough that they can be used for all sorts of runs, including tempo sessions and speedwork. I don’t think I would consider the Phantom 3 one of those shoes. Given that a US M9 weighs nearly 10 oz, my US M12 weighs considerably more than that. Between the weight and the geometry of the shoe, picking up the pace wasn’t really in the cards during my runs. I did try a few times, but even when I felt like I was putting in the effort to speed up, my pace did not reflect it.
My only other knock would be that the Phantom 3’s look is bland at best. The light blue and yellow together had all the makings of being a good-looking shoe, but it fell a bit flat. Maybe a little more interaction between the colors versus one color being stacked on the other could help.
KALEB: I don’t have a whole lot to put here. For what it’s marketed as, the Phantom 3 does its job really, really well. While this isn’t the shoe for interval work, but that’s alright. It keeps you grounded on the easy days and prevents you from pushing the pace beyond what you should.
During my quest to attain that perfect lockdown, I cinched the Phantom a little too tight once or twice, and the snugged-up midfoot fit pressed painfully on that bony point halfway up the lateral edge (outside edge, for those of you who don’t have any Physical Therapist friends) of the foot. It shouldn’t be an issue as long as you don’t crank on the laces, though I may steer clear if you have a super chonky midfoot.
Also, yeah, it kinda looks like a clown shoe, though that could be in part because I got the brightest colorway the Phantom comes in. If you’re looking to walk around in this one (which I would highly recommend, but I would also question why you’ve made it this far in a running shoe review if you aren’t going to run in the shoe), maybe go for a more subdued colorway to avoid drawing attention to your biomechanically advantageous toe real-estate.
CARYN: For a brand I’d never heard of, I have shockingly little to criticize. I admit, I didn’t love the overall design and mega bright colorway of the shoe — it reminds me of something you’d find in the kids’ section of Target (which isn’t always a bad thing). That being said, the simple design features do seem to align with Topo’s overall brand philosophy, so I can’t totally hate it.
Lately, we’ve seen an onslaught of more versatile daily trainers that can transition easily to tempo paces (I’m looking at you, Endorphin Speed). I would definitely say the Phantom is more of a true daily trainer in the traditional sense; it felt tough to pick up the pace. But let’s be honest, would you enter your Corolla in a Nascar race? Precisely. I’ve also found that even within the neutral shoe category, some do feel more stable than others, thanks to foam components and design elements. This shoe lacks any intrinsic stability, so if you tend toward any kind of pronation, just be aware that this shoe’s not throwing you a bone.
JARRETT: I struggle with Topo saying this proprietary ZipFoam midsole is springier and offers more rebound than EVA. It doesn’t seem very bouncy at all. If I wanted that amazing feel while staying in the Topo lane, I would turn to the Cyclone 2 without ever looking back.
This is a weird one, but when my feet got hot and sweaty, the top of the toe boxes turned the blue mesh a darker blue. I had foot sweat stains. I’m sure this has happened to me with other shoes, but I have never looked down and noticed it to such a degree.Shop Topo Athletic Phantom 3 - Men Shop Topo Athletic Phantom 3 - Women
CHAD: Overall, my first experience in a Topo Athletic shoe was a great success, as I found the Phantom 3 to be an above-average daily trainer. I was able to churn through miles easily without concern for how my feet would feel the following day, given the ideal fit and firm and supportive ride of the shoe. For me, this is a huge deal because not all daily trainers can say that. I hope that this is not the last time I get to lace up a Topo Atheltic shoe because the Phantom 3 is at the Top-o my list of daily trainers I’ve run in. Come for the shoe reviews, stay for the dad jokes.
KALEB: As someone young enough to be Chad’s son, that was painful to read. But he’s not wrong. $145 is a perfectly reasonable price for the Phantom 3. You’re getting a plush trainer that will last you hundreds upon hundreds of comfortable miles while promoting natural running form. If you’re looking for a shoe to rotate in for your easy and long miles, look no further than the Topo Athletic Phantom 3.
CARYN: Talk about pleasantly surprised! There’s nothing better than lacing up a shoe and completely forgetting about it on the run as the miles tick by. I’ll echo Chad and Kaleb here in saying that the overall fit and classic, approachable ride of this shoe makes it a real winner. So if you’re in the market, go for the Corolla — it just might surprise you.
JARRETT: The Phantom 3 is a solid daily trainer. Runners who have a wider forefoot and about average size midfoot will be happy. The miles feel comfortable, but I just want more of the fun feeling I get in the Cyclone 2.
You can pick up the Topo Athletic Phantom 3 for $145 directly from Topo’s website using the buttons below.
Have something to say? Leave a Comment
An attorney by day, Chad lives in Central Pennsylvania with his wife and three kids. Never much for running growing up, Chad began running as a way to improve his physical health. He went from his first 5k in 2015 to running the Paris Marathon in 2016. Given his larger physical build, Chad is the resident Clydesdale runner, providing shoe and gear insights for those with a bigger build and taller stature.
All-time favorite shoes: Saucony Tempus, Mizuno Wave Rider 17, Puma Deviate Nitro 2More from Chad
Kaleb is one of the younger, “both of my knees still work” reviewers on the BITR team. As a high school cross country, track and field, and road racing athlete in Pennsylvania, Kaleb loves hearing about the latest endurance-athletics studies and seeing how everything out there can fit into a well-rounded training program. If you don’t see him drinking a weird health concoction or doing some strange warmup technique, he’s probably already started the race.
All-time favorite shoes: Saucony Ride 14, Nike ZoomX DragonflyMore from Kaleb
Caryn is a recovering ball sports athlete and native Baltimorean who used to cry before the timed mile in gym class. Discovered running somewhat reluctantly when her pants stopped fitting in college, now a big fan of the marathon– go figure! Pediatric ICU nurse and avid UVA sports fan. Can usually be found with her chocolate lab, Gus, looking for a good cup of coffee.
All-time favorite shoes: Saucony Endorphin Speed (any version), Nike React Infinity, Hoka CliftonMore from Caryn
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