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Topo Tribute Performance Review

Told you I picked up some “different” shoes back in December at The Running Event, and the Topo Tribute is one of them. Not that it isn’t made up of the regular components of a runner, they’re just seen in a model most are unfamiliar with. I hope I change that because Topo makes some SERIOUS performers in the category. Based on the same three principle components of the Magnifly I reviewed last month — roomy toe box, low drop, and lightweight — the Topo Tribute is a speed trainer made on a slimmer last and silhouette than the Magnifly. But don’t take my word for it — actually, take my word for it, because here comes the performance review.


TOPO Traction

TRACTION – Very, VERY good. With the rubber missing I was a little worried about wet conditions, but no problems. I even warmed up in these on a basketball night and they were squeaking on the floor. The high wear areas show very little signs of damage (these pics are from about 50 miles of wear). The white foam areas hardly touch the ground, just enough to get dirty. Uphill and downhill were easy runs and no fear of tumbling from the slip.


TOPO Cushioning

CUSHIONING – Ahh, the downfall of minimal, 0-drop shoes. Not so fast. Topo has found an EVA foam for the midsole that is dense and provides great impact protection. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t Boost or Micro G, but my feet felt good after short runs. I never took these out over four or five miles, but staying in that distance felt fast from start to finish (the shoe, not me). So far, SO FAR, no loss of compression — the Tribute is still cushioning and protecting great, but being a foam-only setup, and especially EVA, I could see the bottoming out coming sooner rather than later, but speed trainers/sprint shoes aren’t built for miles — they’re built for intense work. If you need cushioning, the previously mentioned Magnifly or Ultrafly is your shoe. However, if you need speed and quick pop, try the Topo Tribute.


TOPO Transition

TRANSITION – One place 0-drop shoes absolutely rise is in transition. I know I have said it in previous running reviews, but in the last year I have made a conscious effort to become a forefoot runner. I was always a heel striker but as I have gotten older it’s just too much stress on my knees. Forefoot striking takes that impact off, and 0-drop shoes make it easier for me to run that way. The weight and low ride of the Tribute pump my foot into the next step easily with no mushy cushioning to slow my response. The lightweight outsole balances the thin upper and it’s like the shoe isn’t even there. Weighing in at 7.2 ounces in a men’s size 9, it isn’t the lightest out there, but it feels lighter due to the fit and ride.


TOPO materials

MATERIALS – Way open mesh in the toebox and side panels. Like, almost not there open mesh. I could see details of my socks through the upper. For speed training and summer runs, it gets no better. For even the slightest of cool weather, you better be doing speed training because your toes are freezing after ten minutes. I can’t complain — my feet have never been cooler during a run.

The overlays are printed on the upper so there are no seams anywhere for chafing or blistering. This keeps the slim line and weight down but also keeps the strength in high-stress areas. Midsole is DENSE EVA, packed tight so it doesn’t just absorb but gives a little response and bounce. Not Boost-like but not dead like other EVA foam midsoles. The outsole has high-abrasion rubber in the areas that hit the ground and exposed EVA, again for weight control, in areas that aren’t supposed to hit the ground. Let’s RUUUUUNNNNNN!!!!!!


Topo Fit

FIT – Like the Magnifly, the fit is phenomenal after the first wear. The heel is fitted and contoured to match your ankle, but almost too much. Like the Magnifly, on first wear I had some chafing and rubbing. Not to the point of blisters, but it was painful. I was wearing Swiftwick running socks (best I have ever tried) that came up over the top of the shoe, so that wasn’t the issue. The shoe just fits so snug that it’s like a second skin in the heel, which, yeah, is the design. After a couple of short two to three mile runs the heel dialed in and locked perfect though. Afterwards, I had no more problems.

The forefoot fit is where the Topo design philosophy really shines. Instead of a narrowed toebox, Topo decided to square the toe to allow the foot to naturally splay (spread) on impact. It does look a little strange but dang, it works. After some miles your foot naturally swells from pounding. Where normal toeboxes would feel cramped, Topo solves the issue with the wider design.

Oh yeah, sizing. True to size all the way. If you don’t know what that is, take the last 10 pairs of shoes you have bought, add the sizes together, divide by five, and then divide again by two. It will give you your correct size.

Topo Tribute Overall

TOPO Overall

OVERALL – Topo Athletic has made HUGE strides since first appearing on WearTesters back in 2014 and making split-toe runners. They have found their lane and developed some extremely comfortable and functional concepts. Looks-wise, yeah, they may not be as aesthetically pleasing as some other brands, but honestly, I like different. And if different works, I like it even more.

Topo works, and the Tribute is a very good speed trainer. Smaller brands aren’t scared to take chances — they must in order to find their market. When those chances work, look out. Check the Topo Tribute out if you need a high-quality road trainer or speed/sprint shoe with great fit and transition. I love my job sometimes, and this is one of the reasons why.

  1. These sound pretty good. The toe box reminds of Altra’s shoes. I have a pair of Altra Olympus and I love those. Ill have to give these a look. Good performance review by Duke.

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