Topo Athletic Fli-Lyte 4 Performance Review
TAYLOR: Topo Athletic has been a frequent flyer of my shoe rack over the past couple of years. I mostly run trails, which has been the extent of my experience with the natural running focused company. What always gets me about Topo Athletic is their simple philosophy that always provides a supreme fit. All of their shoes are foot-shaped, low drop, and have fitted midfoot and heel.
The Topo Athletic Fli-Lyte 4 is their first road shoe that I have experienced. Yes, they run with the same philosophy in the road department. They are not flashy in any way, just a simple moderately cushioned (23mm to 20mm – 3mm drop) daily trainer.
Simple is rarely a bad thing, in my book. The newest member of the Fli-Lyte family gets some upper updates and a fresh Zip Foam midsole. I took this straightforward daily trainer for a variety of runs. It reminded me of a few different shoes like the Altra Rivera and classic ASICS DS Trainer. Both are shoes I have thoroughly enjoyed, but they have their limits. Is that true of the Fli-Lyte 4? Let’s see!
RYAN: The Fli-Lyte 4 is my first experience with a shoe from Topo Athletic, and it arrived almost in disguise. I don’t know if it’s the low 3mm drop or the unassuming blue colorway, but I really wasn’t sure what to expect lacing this shoe up for the first time. After all, I’m no wideboi, so I didn’t know whether to be excited about the roomy toebox or not.
Once I locked into the Fli-Lyte 4, however, everything changed. It wasn’t perfect, but I can understand the appeal of a lightweight (just 8.3oz for a US Men’s 9), low-drop trainer for some quick miles around town. There’s not a ton to dig into in this intro, so let’s get to the good-good.
TAYLOR: Technology is changing everything we know so quickly, even running shoes. It’s tough to find something that is both familiar yet adequate these days. The Fli-Lyte 4 brings just that to the table. There are no plates, supercritical foams, air bags, or a massive stack. It’s a simple shoe that has that classic daily trainer feel while not being a has-been.
At first, this shoe felt somewhat flat and firm. Then, I compared it to everything I have been running in lately, and each one seems to seek its own pedestal. That’s not really the case here. I feel the Fli-Lyte 4 simply wants to be a dependable and versatile daily trainer. After a few runs to break it in, that is precisely what it’s become.
Topo Athletic debuted its newest midsole compound last year called Zip Foam. On its own, as it is in the Fli-Lyte 4, it is a medium to firm density described as being lightweight, durable, and relatively responsive. All this is not an embellishment from the company. That’s almost the verbatim experience I had while running in this shoe. I didn’t feel any particular snappiness out of each step, but the tapered toe assisted the simple midsole with a smooth roll through each stride. Add in being a low drop shoe (23mm to 20mm – 3mm drop), and the whole recipe made for a consistent foot-strike and comfortable ride overall.
The Zip Foam is also a very durable midsole. After my testing miles, there was no inclination that a soul had run in these things. That’s impressive for a relatively lightweight daily trainer (9.4 ounces for a men’s 10.5)
What is always a stand-out feature of Topo Athletic shoes is the fit. A roomy toebox will make this popular with anyone who gives it a shot. I had zero worries about it being too roomy because the midfoot and heel were snug as a bug in a rug (Can you tell I’m a kindergarten teacher?) But seriously, there was little to no movement on any surface (even light trail) without having to wrench down on the laces. A more structured heel counter and padded collar made way for even more security without lacking in the comfort department.
A multi-layered mesh provided even more comfort with a soft yet secure fit throughout the foot. It’s moderately airy for those warm days. Even better, this is an excellent example of a company using recycled materials and coming out with a solid no-compromise product.
RYAN: Forget Bath Fitter and their perfect fit jingle, that title belongs to the Topo Athletic Fli-Lyte 4 now. From the heel to the top of my foot, the shoe just fits perfectly. It’s snug but not tight, and I never felt like any part of my foot was slipping or sliding around. The natural toebox is just right, too. It did take a little getting used to, but it gave my toes the perfect amount of space on both roads and gravel trails.
I also felt like the Fli-Lyte 4 had a solid amount of cushion despite its weight and low-drop design. My foot was comfortable with just the right level of support from both the tongue and the collar. The engineered mesh upper let my foot breathe without any issues, even as the warm days of early fall wind down.
Topo Athletic’s ZipFoam felt pretty good for short bursts of speed — think of a strider or slightly longer. It was responsive enough to pick up the pace at times, but you’re not buying this shoe for a plush ride anyway. I took the Fli-Lyte 4 on a few six-milers around town, and I always felt like the 3mm drop (23mm heel – 20mm toe) was just enough for my needs.Shop – Men Shop – Women
TAYLOR: For what it is, a simple daily trainer, there is not much to gripe about with the Fli-Lyte 4. It really is a simple and dependable trainer.
One small note is that the lacing eyelets are non-traditional and are looped layers of mesh with a welded overlay. Even though the tongue is moderately cushioned, I could still feel the eyelets push down in one spot over the top side of my foot. Now, if you like your shoes particularly tight, this could be a deal-breaker. Otherwise, when I laced up normally, I did not have an issue.
I know the Zip Foam is not described as being one with a ton of character, but I found myself desiring more. Not necessarily for more cushioning, I just wanted more of what it had to offer. It felt like it was being shy when it is kept to a moderate to low stack. There are other shoe options that will give me more, but I feel it could be of benefit here too.
A very pronounced arch support gave me a slight hesitation in my first few runs. It is a very different sensation, and the support seems to be a little misplaced closer to the rear of the foot than I would expect for arch support. It did simmer down as I put miles in, and that may have been my own expectations of the shoe kicking in, but I never entirely got used to that feeling.
RYAN: Remember when I said the Topo Athletic Fli-Lyte 4 seemed to arrive in disguise? It’s not the most exciting shoe in the world. My blue colorway certainly beats the black version that Taylor got, but there’s not much going on to spice up the look. You’re probably not going to roll up in these expecting to turn too many heads.
My other issue is that I wouldn’t push the Fli-Lyte 4 for long runs. This may just be part of not being used to a low drop, but I felt like six miles is as long as I really wanted to go in this shoe. Not as a result of breathability or support, but the responsiveness didn’t seem to stick around while pounding the pavement.Shop – Men Shop – Women
TAYLOR: Topo Athletic’s Fly-Lite 4 isn’t anything new, wild, or exciting, but it is still a solid training partner. Zip foam brings new life to the classic feel of a daily trainer. With enough zip and medium/firm protection, I wouldn’t hesitate to grab for this on lower mileage days (runs up to 60 minutes) — fast or slow. As always, if you’re looking at Topo Athletic, be ready for a dialed-in, accommodating, and foot-shaped fit.
RYAN: The Topo Athletic Fli-Lyte 4 is a solid option if you want a low-drop shoe that keeps things light and simple. It’s become a solid option for the days where I just want to rock a few miles and give the cushioned monsters a break. If you like room to let your toes do their own thing, pick up the Fli-Lyte 4.
Did I mention the price? This shoe is just $115, and I’m never gonna complain about that.
You can pick up the Topo Athletic’s Fly-Lite 4 for $115 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.Shop – Men Shop – Women
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