Our first foray into reviewing Topo Athletic shoes came with the Topo Ultraventure 3 last year. It was good enough to end up on our Best Trail Running Shoes list. Can the high stack, long distance road running ready Topo Atmos hit those same lofty standards? That’s what we’re here to find out.
If you’re unfamiliar with Topo, they have three main differentiators that set them apart from (most) other shoe brands. The first, and most important, is the foot-shaped toebox. Second, is a narrower heel and midfoot meant to increase security and lockdown. And third, a low heel-to-toe drop.
The Topo Atmos we’re reviewing here has a 5mm drop and most Topo shoes follow suit with the same 5mm difference between heel and toe height. But Topo also has several shoes with 3mm and 0mm drops.
Topo’s thesis is a naturally shaped shoe and low drop will help your foot move more naturally while still offering the main benefits of typical running shoes such as plentiful cushion and support. It’s a great theory that we’ve proven out on the trails. Now we get to find out if the Topo fit and feel can translate to a high-stack daily trainer.
Release Date: November 2023
Weight: Men’s 9.7 oz., Women’s 7.9 oz.
Sizing: True to size
- Rundown: The Topo Atmos’ subpar outsole and too-soft heel don’t hold it back from being a very comfortable, accommodating, and smooth daily trainer.
Drew: The Topo Atmos features a fat stack of Topo’s ZipFoam. But it’s a new formula of ZipFoam designed to be softer, lighter, and more responsive. While I wish Topo (and other shoe companies) would name the foam something different when they change it up, I have to agree with their assessment.
This version of ZipFoam feels softer but is also weirdly uneven. Unlike previous Topo shoes I’ve worn, the heel feels softer than the forefoot. I much prefer the cushion to have an even feel, especially when the shoe is a lower drop. As it is, I sometimes felt the Topo Atmos veering into zero drop territory in terms of the on-foot feel. Keep that in mind if you’re a heel striker.
However, I will say the rocker felt smooth. The landing to toe-off was incredibly smooth and helped mitigate the uneven cushion. Nailing a max cushion rocker on its first try is a big win for Topo.
There’s also a noticeable arch which is usually Annie’s arch nemesis (Editor’s Note: how punny of you). How’d the Topo Atmos’ midsole treat you, Annie?
Annie: Thank you for seeing me, Drew. As the resident princess and the pea when it comes to arch support, I was indeed concerned when first lacing up the Topo Atmos. Thankfully, its arch does not reach the dizzying heights found in the Nike InfinityRN line (for example), but there’s still more support here than I personally prefer or necessarily get along with in the long term.
I think the overwhelming majority of people will like the more measured approach of this arch–or at least won’t find it detrimental. But if you’re unusually sensitive like I am, and your natural gait is somewhat easily disrupted by anything resembling underfoot support, you may want to exercise caution.
That goes double if you’re both “sensitively arched” (a term freshly coined here) and a heel striker. As Drew noted, the slightly softer rearfoot cushioning can make the drop feel lower than its actual 5mm. That in and of itself is neither good nor bad. But if I was walking around or fatigued and found my strike drifting back toward that softer heel, sinking into it only further amplified the unwanted sensation of the arch. Depending on your own arch-related idiosyncrasies and running style, you may want to keep that in mind.
Arch preferences aside, the rocker geometry felt incredibly natural. The ZipFoam on the whole felt dense and resilient but plenty forgiving. I didn’t get much response from it, but I enjoyed the obvious dampening effect as I rolled smoothly from the midfoot forward. For a shoe that looks (and is) so bulbous, it also didn’t weigh me down, even as a smaller runner.
Drew: The Topo Atmos sports a recyclable engineered mesh upper that’s fairly industry standard except for the shape. The extra space for the toes is divine.
The upper is comfortable and largely stays out of the way except for two aspects. The tongue is short and threatens to slip underneath the top row of laces. It needed just a few millimeters more material to be perfect.
The other aspect of the upper that was iffy was lace length. When I tightened them, I ended up with way too much lace. I could have used the extra lace loop to mitigate this somewhat but, for whatever reason, my size 12 gets a bunch of extra lace length.
Neither affects performance and they go largely unnoticed while on the run. They’re just annoyances that Topo can clean up in the next version.
Annie: The tongue is short, huh? Every time I tied the shoe, I had to mindfully wrangle the tongue up and the top row of laces down to keep everything in check. It should be said, however, that once I got it set, it did stay securely in place.
Lots of shoes have an extra loop of some kind on the tongue to thread the laces through, but Topo has gone about it in a different, very effective way. There are two little loops integrated on both the medial and lateral sides of the tongue that create an effortless way to draw the upper snugly and evenly around the midfoot for a great hold.
My laces were also rather long (a quirk that tends to crop up fairly regularly for my women’s size 6.5). Though in my case, the fact that I ultimately went with a runner’s knot offset it well enough.
I didn’t experience any heel lift, rubbing, or blisters. But I found that using the runner’s knot to more deliberately draw my heel down into the back of the shoe helped keep the somewhat stiff heel counter, which angled into my achilles a tiny bit, feel less present and rigid.
Drew: The outsole is the worst part of the Topo Atmos. The rubber protects all the right places (the typical high-wear zones) but it’s smooth with some round cutouts. The traction is unreliable anytime you’re facing wet or otherwise slippery surfaces. Sometimes it was fine, other times I got slippage with each step.
Those who live in dry climates won’t have a problem. But if you’re often facing wet or wintry conditions, the inconsistent outsole means you should likely cross this one off and look elsewhere.
Annie: Inconsistency was the name of the game in my experience as well. On flat, mostly dry terrain, I didn’t have issues with the outsole and found it to be pretty average.
But when trying to gain purchase on an incline or over damp leaves, for example, I wasn’t always sure what I was going to get. Its lack of predictability didn’t inspire much confidence on days with more challenging conditions.
Is the Topo Atmos wide foot friendly?
Drew: Yes. Wide footers, especially wide forefooters will absolutely adore the fit of the Topo Atmos. It just feels great to have all that room to spread your toes.
Annie: The Topo Atmos could be a godsend to those who often struggle to find a shoe that offers ample space for a wider forefoot but still expertly locks down a more average-width midfoot.
If you require extra room throughout the shoe, however, you may not get along with the way the fit tapers in significantly at the midfoot, especially since the arch claims a little extra interior space as well.
Is the Topo Atmos worth $160?
Drew: While I wish the outsole was better, I think the Topo Atmos is worth $160. That’s the current price for a max cushion daily trainer and the Atmos checks all the boxes to deliver the correct value for the price point.
Annie: Its outsole underperforms the rest of what it brings to the table, but the Topo Atmos is ready for comfortable daily efforts for a price that–for better or worse–is in line with today’s market. It also boasts a fit that separates it from most of its counterparts so could offer unique value on that front, depending on your needs.
Topo Atmos Summary
Drew: The Topo Atmos’ subpar outsole and inconsistent cushion can’t hold it back from being a very comfortable, accommodating, and smooth daily trainer. If you’ve been struggling to find a daily trainer with enough room to really spread your toes, look no further, the Topo Atmos will deliver the fit and function you’ve been searching for.
Annie: Given Topo’s distinctive and unapologetic approach to fit, I think many runners who haven’t quite found a shoe that feels like it was made for them may believe they’ve struck gold with the Atmos. The outsole is below average, and the midsole itself may not be the star here. But the shoe still delivers comfort, protection, and a wonderfully spacious forefoot without feeling like you’re lugging around extra mass. The fit is definitely the thing that makes this shoe stand out. So, if that’s where you’ve found other shoes lacking, the Topo Atmos is certainly worth a good, long look–as long as you consider a noticeable arch friend, not foe.