Topo Athletic TributeReview Facts
If you’re interested in minimalist running shoes but don’t want to go all the way, the Topo Athletic Tribute running shoes are an effective and stylish alternative. This minimalist shoe is incredibly lightweight and flexible, allowing for the natural stride many runners crave. However, a few carry-over features from running shoes, such as a small heel drop and some protective cushioning, help to bridge the gap between these two styles for individuals who need time to adjust. Don’t get it twisted though; these shoes are more than just a stepping stone to greater things, they are fully capable of providing solid benefits on their own.
The outsole of the Tributes are made from 4mm thick rubber, delivering reliable traction while maintaining structural stability and a terrific amount of flexibility. This material used provides a good amount of durability in high wear areas, especially when you consider the thinness
and lightness of its design. Upon closer inspection, the outsole’s face appears normal when in actuality it has a specially engineered grip pattern. When implemented in conjunction with the outsole’s flex grooves, this is the secret to how these shoes can maximize traction and flexibility. As a result, the Topo Athletic
Tribute is a fluid entity that stretches and contracts naturally with each stride in a manner that emulates a natural running stride.
The Topo Athletic
Tribute has a 7mm EVA foam midsole providing enough cushion to absorb shock from repeated impact with hard surfaces. It can also absorb the shock from unexpected objects, all while delivering a terrific amount of responsiveness. The 5mm footbed is another nice feature of the shoe’s foundation, adding another layer of cushioning. One unfortunate downside to the midsole of these shoes is that individuals looking to replace the midsole will have to deal with some stitching, as the included insole
wasn’t designed to be replaceable. This doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to replace the insoles, but it does add some difficulty to the process.
The upper of the Topo Athletic Tribute consists of ultra-light mesh material that allows your feet to breathe while maintaining a firm exterior barrier. The general consensus among owners of these shoes is that the upper feels breezy and comfortable. The printed pattern along this portion of the Athletic Tribute includes reflective decals which will increase runners’ visibility when running in low light environments, which is a nice safety feature. Runners who are particular about the length of their shoelaces
will appreciate these shoes, as their laces are just long enough to accommodate a traditional cross stitch with enough slack to cinch up at the top.
If the Topo Athletic Tribute was a boxer, it would be in the featherweight class. No springs, special rubber formulas, or gel inserts are included in this package, nor are they needed. With an intentionally barebones design, these are some of the lightest running shoes available at just a hair over 7 ounces. While this does come at the cost of some cushion, there is still enough to accommodate a typical running session
. Even more impressive than this is the fact that these shoes are still resilient to wear and tear despite having wafer-thin material in some places, including a near-transparent upper.
The most impressive aspect of these Topo shoes might be its excellent ventilation. With such a great deal of mesh built into the upper, it's easy to see how these shoes manage to have such excellent breathability. It is because of this overwhelming positive design aspect that these shoes are perfect for training in warmer climates
. They also are quite helpful if you sweat a lot or have foot odor issues, as the excellent airflow helps to ward off excessive sweat pooling.
The midfoot and heel of these shoes provide a secure fit while the forefoot provides ample wiggle room. This wider forefoot spacing allows for natural toe movement and spacing, thus maximizing balance and stability while also keeping your forefoot comfortable. The tightness in the heel is just enough to ensure that the Athletic Tribute doesn’t lose its grip on your feet while running without cutting off circulation. Overall, these are a very comfortable pair of sneakers, provided that you use them in their intended setting. Don’t try and run on a mountain trail or overgrown hiking path and you should be just fine.
The most striking aspect of these running shoes’ style by far is its upper, which is made of a nearly transparent mesh fabric. This material offers such high breathability with such a low weight impact that it nearly feels as if the material isn’t there. While this may seem like a concern in terms of durability, impressive design choices ensure that this portion of the shoe remains stable and resistant to minor debris. These shoes also come in a variety of colors, some more appealing than others. Not all colors are available through all retailers though, so it may take some searching to find the perfect one for you. Ultimately, they aren’t the most stylish pair of minimalist running shoes but they are certainly visually appealing.
A number of variables need to be considered when judging the durability of these running shoes. It’s true that on more harsh environments, the extremely thin upper material and minuscule midsole cushioning can degrade quickly. However, if maintained properly and used in the intended low-intensity environments, these shoes prove to be surprisingly durable. Limited wear and tear should be expected, but only in extreme cases should you need to replace them within a year of purchasing. The final verdict on the Topo Athletic Tribute’s durability is that they are commensurate with any other running shoe, and the vast majority of customers tend to agree.
As a minimalist shoe, the intention is to provide an experience that is closer to barefoot running without actually running barefoot. Because of this, some aspects of protection that are standard to more heavy-duty running shoes are absent. This includes a great deal of midsole cushioning and a thick upper construction preventing wear from debris. If you’re a runner who has sensitive feet or are suffering from tendon injuries, you’ll probably want to give these shoes a pass. However, individuals who aren’t afraid to get up close and personal with the ground they run on will appreciate the subdued and unobtrusive amount of protection offered by the Topo Athletic Tribute.
This is the strongest aspect of these shoes’ design. Since they are so lightweight and close to the ground, the feeling of running in these shoes is virtually identical to the feeling of running barefoot. This makes minimalist running shoes like the Athletic Tribute so popular among a contingency of diehard barefoot runners. This exceptional responsiveness does come at the cost of protection, durability, and viability on any terrain more intense than a standard asphalt road, but for this specific situation they provide an excellent feeling with each stride that dedicated naturalist runners are sure to appreciate.
It is true that minimalist running shoes, being intended to emulate the feel of barefoot running, contribute little to no effort into providing heel or arch support. With the Topo Athletic Tribute, however, quite a bit more support is provided to runner’s feet than they would find in a standard set of minimalist shoes. The Rubber and EVA Foam comprising of the sole offers a buoyant layer of support, making this article of footwear an excellent transition from regular running shoes to barefoot runners (or even vice versa). While support may not be the defining characteristic of these Topo running shoes, there has certainly been a substantial amount of thought put into that aspect of its design.
The best ground for the Tribute is the simplest ground; track, pavement, asphalt, or a treadmill. Considering its stripped-down design, these Topo shoes were geared for these conditions, but a bit more traction and support allows for some additional comfort that can offer runners some wiggle room in a pinch. Wet surfaces are a breeze as well, meaning runners can easily rock these shoes in wetter climates without losing traction. As long as you avoid taking these shoes on any off-roading adventures, you should be able to handle yourself during your entire run without worrying about shoe degradation or foot injury.
The price for a pair of these shoes will vary depending on what size you need, but all sizes manage to stay in an affordable price range. In fact, the Athletic Tribute is on the lower end of the price curve for serious running shoes, and is extremely reasonably priced when compared to big names in barefoot-style running shoes. For this reason, runners who are interested in pursuing minimalist running but aren’t sure if it’s right for them are encouraged to try these shoes out; in addition to the lower initial investment, additional cushion and heel drop help to make the transition process easier.
Ordinarily, minimalist running shoes in the vein of this one from Topo wouldn’t have a drastic increase in traction. For the most part, the design intention is to mimic the style of running barefoot, with traction that is meant to emulate this running style. However, as a sort of compromise between a standard running shoe and a barefoot-style minimalist runner, some additional traction was provided for the Athletic Tribute’s midsole. The result is a strange combination between these two designs; not quite reaching the same heights as a shoe that commits fully to this design, but offering enough benefits from either camp to be acceptable. In this respect, traction is present in these shoes’ midsole, but little else is present in the design to capitalize on this addition.
You may expect these shoes to be highly flexible since they are made from so little material and are designed primarily to imitate the feel of running with no shoes whatsoever. You would be correct to an extent since some effort has clearly been made into providing a forgiving bend to these shoes with the addition of flex grooves along the outsole. However, because the Athletic Tribute’s design is a cross between running shoes and barefoot-style shoes, some of the flexibility present in more naturalist shoes is lost due to additional cushioning. It’s still enough to get the job done, but runner’s shouldn’t expect the same caliber of flexibility that they would find from something in Vivobarefoot’s
Due to a combination of clever design choices, these are some of the most stable minimalist running shoes on the market. With a minimal heel drop emphasizing a wider foot contact area during each stride, a nearly transparent and exceptionally lightweight upper, and an outsole with a surprising degree of flexibility, the result is a truly amazing amount of stability when running in the Topo Athletic Tribute. While some aspects of this shoe’s unconventional design ended up being lackluster, this is one aspect where it really shines.
A minuscule amount of heel elevation is present in these shoes’ midsole. This isn’t quite at the zero-drop status as there is still about 4 mm of extra cushion on the heel, but it serves a purpose. This shoe works best as a sort of transitional trainer for runners looking to ease into a new style of footwear. The slight drop allows for some forgiveness to heel strikers, which are common among wearers of standard running shoes. However, the significantly diminished elevation provides a clear difference in feel and responsiveness that is closer to the minimalist barefoot style of running shoe Topo was clearly inspired by. This design choice is polarizing but ultimately effective.
- Highly breathable and light mesh upper that is nearly transparent
- Limited heel drop, near neutral
- Naturalistic foot cradle emulates barefoot running
- EVA foam outsole standard among running shoes
- Extremely lightweight and stable design
The Topo Athletic Tribute is a solid minimalist running shoe, best used for road running short to mid-length distances. The strongest points of these shoes are their breathability, stability, and responsiveness; the weakest points are its durability, comfort, and flexibility. This isn’t to say that any of these weak points are so weak as to completely rule out these shoes. All it means is that runners looking for shoes that excel in those particular design aspects would be better off looking elsewhere, because they could find shoes that are much more competent in these respects.