I love to see a good underdog story in outdoor gear. Not that Topo Athletic is an underdog, per se, but they are definitely one of the newer kids on the block and yet they’re doing things right by making small moves without grandiose claims and hyperbole. Their shoes have been consistently well-liked with good quality and an eye to the runner rather than to the bottom line. One of their latest models, the Tribute, continues this relatively recently born tradition of quality and innovation in a lightweight, zero-drop platform which I was excited to see arrive at Gearist HQ for testing (and below you can see Baby Gearist giving us an intro to the Tribute!).
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While I typically mention this later in my running shoe reviews, I feel like talking about the weight of the Topo Tribute is necessary right off the bat since it clearly influences every part of the shoe. This shoe comes in at a wonderfully lightweight 7.6 ounces in my men’s size 11 (7.2 oz in size 9). With the outsole, Topo has clearly used rubber where it’s needed while leaving it off where they felt like it wouldn’t be missed. As you can see in the below image where the rubber is comprised of the green and black sections, the remainder being exposed EVA foam, key areas where the foot naturally lands on and leaves the ground are mostly taken care of. The one area where I may like to see a bit of additional rubber is the lateral midfoot – currently exposed EVA – which, with this being a zero-drop shoe, has a tendency to see a lot of action. I tend to land fairly cleanly on the ground so I didn’t notice too much accelerated wear but should someone land with more of a “sliding” foot plant in that are they may see some more wear. Even with the exposed EVA in that area though I feel like the rubber is well placed and takes the brunt of the punishment. As with all of Topo Athletic’s shoes the outsole possesses fantastic flex grooves to allow for natural foot function and movement starting from the instant the foot lands on the ground. The outsole is a total of 4mm thick but based on my 35-ish miles of wear the durability seems as though it could go for at least 450 miles with a clean ground landing. Add to that the fact that a naturally positioned shoe like this with a zero drop is a great tool for working on gait and you’ve got a shoe that will be able to provide you with progressive learning as you go.

Topo Athletic Tribute Running Shoe Review | Gearist
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The midsole of the Topo Tribute continues the shoe’s minimalist approach with its low, 7mm of stack (with the outsole that puts us at 11mm of stack height so far). This single-density, EVA foam midsole is very flexible and allows for really good ground feel. It’s not as springy as some midsole foams have been recently but again, true to part of Topo’s mission, the Tribute aims to be a partner in unobstructed foot function and this very even and decently cushioned midsole material does just that. To jump the gun just a touch in the upper, the footbed (sockliner) of the Topo Tribute – which is glued into the shoe – adds an additional 5mm of stack height to the shoe for a grand total stack of a pleasant 16mm of total stack.
Topo Athletic Tribute Running Shoe Review | Gearist
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The upper of the Topo Tribute continues the super lightweight construction. The main body of mesh is a very open and airy mesh which breathes pretty much like you’re not wearing a shoe at all in places. Lest you think that a mesh like this would be suspect to durability issues (of which I saw none), fear not. Topo has used a very generous amount of 3D printed and bonded overlays to hold the whole thing together. From the toe cap – which is tough enough to make some trail shoes jealous – all the way to the heel counter, the upper has a continuous series of overlays that reinforce typical areas of stress and keep things together while not compromising the flexibility or movement of the shoe. The amount of foam around the collar and tongue is pleasantly low while still providing enough cushioning to be comfortable. Speaking of the tongue, from the first time I put the Topo Tribute on my foot I felt like the tongue was too short. But wait, I have a caveat! While it felt “too short”, it still provides a comfortable barrier from the laces to the top of the foot and it was never anything but comfortable on any of my runs. While the sense of it still throws me a little, my “too short” feeling is simply based on experience and not performance of the Tribute in any way. So, if you put it on and feel this as well, fear not, it functions just as it should.

One thing I am curious about is how well the upper will hold up for people that have a super hard toe off or are using it for a lot of agility-requiring workouts. While the shoe functions fine in those instances I’ve been surprised before at just how much some people are able to beat up what I thought was a really durable shoe so if you’ve got any feedback, good or bad, after being in this shoe for a while, definitely let us know.

Topo Athletic Tribute Running Shoe Review | Gearist
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  In all the Topo Athletic shoes I’ve used and reviewed in the past – with the exception of the Tabi-style RR – the fit has been so solid. First, the sizing is  perfect for my size 11 feet. Starting at the rear of the Tribute, my foot is nicely cradled in the heel cup by sitting down in the midsole a bit as well as by the semi-rigid heel counter. Into the midfoot there is plenty of cinch down room in the laces and throat should you need it though if your foot is especially wide (like over a 2E) you’re probably going to look elsewhere. Then there’s the toe box which is one of  Topo Athletic’s calling cards. There is a ton of room for toe wiggle and splay without being swimmy. As mentioned above, the mesh in this area is also incredibly open to the degree that you can actually just see straight through to your toes/socks which keeps things nicely comfortable. If you’ve got a tendency toward cold feet then come winter time these may present a bit of a problem though there’s always the opportunity to try new socks!
Topo Athletic Tribute Running Shoe Review | Gearist
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I’ve said this before about some shoes and the Topo Tribute embodies it as much as any and that is that the ride of this shoe is quiet. As I mentioned above, the foam isn’t super bouncy/springy as has been the trend in some shoes of late. Rather, topo has opted for a flexible foam that provides great ground feel and a sense that you and your foot are in control of every aspect of the ride, rather than being taken over by the specific aims of the shoe. Traction was solid, even on wet surfaces, and the agility of the shoe truly is left to your foot. So, if you’re taking a lot of turns and the like on a technical road run, the Tribute will be there with you.

What’s the Topo Tribute good for? Well, if you’re wanting to go long in this shoe – marathon distance for instance – it would take the same training that any more minimal racing flat would take and in that case going 26.2 should be no problem. I think most people are going to find it more well-suited to 13.1 and under – even as a speedy 5K shoe.

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As I said at the outset of this review, Topo Athletic is a company that is moving through the running/athletic shoe world in seemingly very deliberate and well thought out steps (no pun intended). Their attention to detail in terms of product and who their target audience is while eschewing hyperbole and grandiose sales jargon is refreshing.

The Topo Tribute has once again impressed me with it’s ground feel, confident yet not overpowered cushion and light weight. Another big point for the Tribute comes in its price which is very well positioned at $100. This is a brand that I hope is around for a long time, doing things right and taking care of the needs of actual athletes needs. Well done, Topo.

Thank you for supporting Gearist by checking out the Topo Athletic Tribute at our partner links below!

Topo Athletic Tribute Running Shoe Review | Gearist
Topo Athletic Tribute Running Shoe Review | Gearist

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