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Road Running Shoes • July 7, 2023

Topo Athletic Fli-Lyte 5 Review: It’s Not That Deep, Or Is It?

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What You Need To Know


7.5 oz. (212 g) for a US M9,

6.3 oz. (179 g) for a US W7

Stack Height / Drop

23 mm in heel, 20 mm in forefoot (3 mm drop)

Best For

True low-stack daily training

Key Features

Lightweight mesh upper, ZipFoam midsole, great outsole coverage

On The Run
Lightweight upper disappears on the run Just enough ground feel for comfort Not great if you land on a rock


KALEB: The Believe in the Run team has been known to throw around terms like no-nonsense trainer and traditional daily trainer to describe certain shoes (and heck yeah, we’re going to do it in this review too). For some, the phrase evokes the memory of a specific shoe: the shoe that got them through hundreds of miles back in the day before being tragically updated for the worse or removed from the shelves entirely. For others, traditional daily trainer is a nebulous term that describes any shoe without two inches of supercritical foam and a plate big enough to serve dinner on. To be honest, ever since the release of the first Vaporfly back in 2017 — and the subsequent rise of superfoams and plates — the true definition and feel of a traditional daily trainer have become harder to remember.

Simply put, it’s a shoe that you put on your feet. And then you run. Crazy.

Seriously though, a traditional-feeling daily trainer doesn’t feel like much; it just feels like running. You don’t think about it; the foam is typically firmer and more flexible, and the overall shoe is lighter (think old school Kinvara), all coming together to work with your stride in a fairly seamless way. No plates, no magical bouncy trampolines, just you, the road, and a few ounces underfoot keeping you from shattering every bone in your foot. Kinda romantic, if you ask me.

For a while, during the stack-height cold war, this tradition was set aside and forgotten, but now, Topo boldly returns to the best parts of traditionalism with the Fli-Lyte 5, a low stack, lightweight trainer that combines old-school feel with Topo’s signature high-quality construction.

Topo’s been dropping bangers lately, so let’s see if the Fli-Lyte 5 keeps up the hot streak.

MICHAEL: Typically, I’m a pretty habitual route follower on my daily runs. Be it on the roads or trails, you can find me most often on the same dozen routes of varying distances in the same three places in and around Birmingham. That being said, there’s always something special about finding a new, enjoyable route to run repeatedly every three days for six months until I finally get tired of it. The same goes for shoes.

I’ve been a pretty big fan of most stuff from Saucony and Brooks for the past few years, with a little Hoka mixed in there. In the past three months, however, I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing two trail shoes from a little-known (but not that little-known) brand called Topo Athletic… and they were absolutely joyous to run in. So you better believe I was excited to get to review the new Topo Athletic Fli-Lyte 5, my first road running shoe from the natural toebox repping brand. Oh yeah.

RUBY: Before any shoe-talk, let’s talk marketing and brand authenticity: Topo Athletic, take a bow. Finally, a shoe with a name that makes sense (even if the spelling doesn’t). With most daily trainers weighing in between 7.5 oz. and 9.0 oz. for a US W8, the 6.2 oz. Topo Athletic Fli-Lyte 5 is an outlier, but you don’t need weighing scales to notice. Even as a regular reviewer who’s held hundreds of shoes, I’m shocked at how light this daily trainer is.

In a world of super-foams, plates, and high stack heights, the Fli-Lyte 5 again stands out. Simply put, this is a traditional old-school daily trainer with a low 3mm heel-to-toe drop, 23mm stack in the heel, and good ground contact feel. The Fli-Lyte 5 maintains Topo Athletic’s anatomical fit with its wide toe box and reconfigured “foot-shaped” midsole, designed to accommodate your foot’s natural shape and assist the heel-to-toe transition through every gait cycle.

What we like about the Topo Athletic Fli-Lyte 5

KALEB: Like I rambled about in the intro, the Fli-Lyte 5 is a traditional daily trainer, which means you can theoretically wear it for any run you do, and it won’t get in your way. So, I put this shoe through the wringer: recovery runs, tempos, hill work, long runs, gravel trails, and even some technical trails I came across while camping. I racked up over 70 miles on the Fli-Lyte 5, and it took everything like a champ. Just 23mm of foam in the heel sounds like nothing these days, but in reality, it was more than enough to handle my mileage needs. There is a good bit of ground feel, but unless you’re spending your time entirely on large, pointy rocks, that’s a good thing in my book. You feel the road, but you’re protected from it.

ZipFoam itself isn’t anything spectacular as far as bounce or response, but it’s the perfect density for the Fli-Lyte. It’s firm enough not to bottom out on the pavement and soft enough not to feel like the pavement found its way into your shoe — I never felt less protected than I needed to be, even on long runs up to the half marathon distance. Yes, I had to watch that I didn’t get lazy with my form or attempt to bomb down paved hills with a glaring heel strike, but that is the point of a lower-stack shoe: helping keep your form crisp and in mind.

The outsole is reminiscent of the Saucony Endorphin Speed 3, with rubber applied in strategically placed loops and strips, providing durability while keeping weight down. I never had grip issues, even when taking the Fli-Lyte 5 out on wet days over both pavement and dirt paths (please know, however, that there are no lugs to bite into wet dirt or mud since this is a road shoe, so trail run at your own risk). At 70 miles, I can still see the faint, crosshatched pattern on the rubber that most shoes come from the factory with, so I don’t think durability will be an issue at all for the Fli-Lyte.

Last but not least is the upper. I’d go so far as to say this is my favorite upper I’ve ever had the pleasure of wrapping luxuriously around my foot. It’s feather-light, breathable, and has just enough cushion in all the right places to never place too much pressure anywhere. Sometimes, before fast workouts, I crank the laces, and the Fli-Lyte 5 locked my foot in without strangling me. The wide toebox has just enough space for wiggle room but doesn’t cause any sliding, even on sharp, nimble turns. The tongue, while ungusseted, is held in place by the lacing system via two loops on the top side of the tongue.

All these features complement each other to create a natural feeling, yet protective, ride on the roads. And coming in at 7.5 oz. for my US M9, you can ramp the Fli-Lyte up to just about any pace without being weighed down.

MICHAEL: Kaleb has pretty much already mentioned everything I love about the Topo Fli-Lyte 5, so I’m just going to add a few thoughts that may be helpful to some prospective buyers, especially those of us who already love Topo trail shoes and are wondering if the experience holds up on the tarmac.

For starters, I agree with Kaleb here; simplicity is king in the Topo Athletic Fli-Lyte 5. The overall ride here is like the lightweight, flexible ride of a Saucony Kinvara mixed with the width and fit of the New Balance Rebel v2 (one of my favorite road shoes of all time). I found tempo runs, long runs, and even recovery days all within the wheelhouse of the Fli-Lyte 5, even though the shoe should probably really be classified as a tempo shoe.

Additionally, the fit and comfort of Topo’s trail line carry over here in the Fli-Lyte 5. Just like its rugged siblings, the upper is incredibly comfortable for its weight, and the fit through the midfoot and heel counter is excellent; it’s just what we’ve come to expect from Topo (even without a proper tongue gusset, yet another similarity to the Rebel V2). Something else I love is the width of the midsole tooling of the shoe, as the midsole ground contact footprint is wider than an already wide shoe itself. Interestingly, even with the Fli-Lyte 5’s ultralight and flexible construction, I felt this provided some needed support and stability as the miles ticked by and the feet and legs began to tire.

Lastly, I want to throw out some praise here for the ZipFoam midsole, which has proven to be quite the versatile material for Topo. We’ve seen it in do-it-all trail models like the Mtn Racer 3, max-cushion cruisers like the Phantom 3, and now here in a low-to-the-ground tempo-oriented daily trainer. The stuff is lightweight, soft, and has just a little bit of bounce. Once again, I feel comparisons to the Rebel v2 here are warranted. A slight rocker is evident in the Fli-Lyte 5, and it, too, deserves praise. For such a low-stack shoe, this thing rolls through the stride ever-so-slightly, so it doesn’t feel like your foot is having to engage every little muscle and tendon to toe-off in the stride. All in all, the Zip Foam midsole combined with the slight rocker makes for a really enjoyable, quick stride in the Fli-Lyte 5.

RUBY: Topo Athletic’s Fli-Lyte 5 has had a true make-over! It’s not hard to see that Topo Athletic has made more than a few changes to its new Fli-Lyte 5 compared with the Fli-Lyte 4: in fact, the 3mm heel-to-toe drop is the only similarity.

Maintaining the natural foot-shaped toe box Topo Athletic fans know and love, the new upper hugs the foot just right, creating a secure lockdown without feeling too tight. As a runner with relatively average-width feet, not particularly narrow or wide, I’ve often found my toes lost in other shoes boasting wider foot-shaped toe boxes, but not with this one. It’s ideal for logging summer miles, and the upper is better-ventilated and more breathable than previous versions.

The midsole has also had an impressive upgrade, packing a surprising amount of cushion into just 23mm of stack and under 7 oz. of weight. The ride feels slightly softer than previous models yet still snappy with good ground contact feel. The changes don’t stop there, though: Topo Athletic has boldly rethought the geometry of the Fli-Lyte 5 midsole based on the shape of a foot and to reduce excess weight. The tapered midfoot, heel, and toe allow for a more nimble feeling and seamless transition from foot-strike to toe-off. Put simply, the Fli-Lyte is now more responsive to faster paces than ever before.

With a lot of the new, superfoam-infused daily trainers now retailing for $140 or more, I respect Topo Athletic for not trying to sell you a traditional trainer for more. At $125, the Topo Athletic Fli-Lyte 5 remains one of the cheapest daily trainers on the market.

Shop Topo Athletic - Men Shop Topo Athletic - Women

What we don’t like about the Topo Athletic Fli-Lyte 5

KALEB: Another phrase we throw around in the shoe-nerd world is responsive, which can mean a few very different things. A trainer is typically responsive to higher speeds because of a bouncy foam compound, a rockered midsole geometry, light weight, or a combination of the three. While the Fli-Lyte beautifully accomplishes the light weight part, it isn’t rockered by any means, nor is the ZipFoam midsole anything magical. But… that’s not really a bad thing. I mean, if this were a tempo-specific shoe or a racer, I’d definitely see it as a flaw. But the point is that the Fli-Lyte 5 is a classic trainer: you put it on, and you run, and it doesn’t get in the way. I only put this in the bad section as a caution for those that would be tempted to complain if the shoe doesn’t feel like the Alphafly.

The Fli-Lyte is definitely not a shoe for highly technical trails since, duh, it’s a road shoe. The low stack, without any sort of additional protection like a rock plate or thick outsole rubber, gave my feet a case of the Julias Caesar’s whenever I stepped on any sizeable rocks. Also, there aren’t any lugs to grip loose dirt. Topo has the Terraventure for those that like low-stack heights on the trails.

Any other critiques I have are just nit-picky. The wide, flat outsole can be a bit loud on the road with my midfoot/forefoot-striking form, and every now and again, the unguesseted tongue will do something weird for a moment during lace-up, but these are surface-level issues that don’t detract from the shoe’s ability to disappear on foot. For what Topo is marketing, the Fli-Lyte 5 is done absolutely right.

MICHAEL: Once again, I find myself scratching my head to come up with content for the bad section on a Topo shoe review. One minor gripe is that the shoe doesn’t fare well on slick pavement, likely due to the exposed midsole. I can also echo the same sentiment that I shared in my review of the Terraventure 4, in that this shoe isn’t made to be flashy or rep the latest tech (check out the Cyclone 2 if you’re interested in a shoe that really competes with the Rebel v2 in more ways than one), but by-golly does it perform well in just about every fundamental aspect of what we look for in a reliable, lightweight daily trainer.

RUBY: What’s one person’s pro is another’s con, and in this world of high-stack superfoams, I’ve come to enjoy more cushion underfoot. Given how light this shoe is, I was a little let down after lacing up and not feeling the responsive ride I’d hoped for. If I’m honest (and honesty is always the best policy), the Fli-Lyte 5 felt dead underfoot, missing the bounce I’ve come to know and love. Not ready to write off this shoe yet, I switched out the inserts for a pair of Superfeet’s Run Comfort Women’s insoles and tried again. This made all the difference, adding life (and cushion) back into the shoe.

The takeaway? Before rushing to buy the Fli-Lyte 5 (or any shoe for that matter), make sure you know what you’re getting (and not getting). The Fli-Lyte 5 is a traditional, old-school daily trainer and not much else: nor is it trying to be.

Shop Topo Athletic - Men Shop Topo Athletic - Women

Topo Athletic Fli-Lyte 5 Conclusion

KALEB: On my runs, my recurring thought was, “hey, remember that time Saucony pissed off 80% of the OG Kinvara fan club by beefing the stack up above the 30mm mark?”. The reason it kept occurring to me (despite the fact that I’ve never run in the Kinvara in my life) is that the Fli-Lyte 5 may just be the perfect shoe for the low-stack, flexible, lightweight-loving crowd to turn to. It’s low and light enough to do whatever you need it to do, but it retains enough cushion to get an efficient runner through their mileage without issue.

It’s not going to catapult you forward, nor is the foam laced with pixie dust, but there is something freeing about doing the work for yourself, uninhibited. Don’t get me wrong, I love exciting, superfoamed magic shoes as much as the next runner, but the Fli-Lyte is a no-nonsense, no-frills, no-brainer lightweight trainer perfect for those looking to return to a traditional running experience. With a reasonable price and foot-healthy features like a wide toe box and low drop to boot, it’s a shoe I’ll almost certainly end up recommending to any of my friends that are crying about the maximalist shoe movement.

The fact is, the running shoe world is filled with enough polarizing preferences that it’s impossible to please every runner. Many companies try to make a shoe that’s perfect for everyone and end up making a shoe that’s not really ideal for anyone. I respect Topo Athletic for picking an audience and making a shoe that’s as close to perfect for that audience as it gets.

MICHAEL: What Kaleb said is right. Fans of lightweight, nimble trainers will no doubt find something to love about the Fli-Lyte 5. It’s got a low weight; it’s got a little bit of plushness underfoot; it’s got durability; what is there not to love?

Topo has a real contender here for the hearts of former Saucony Kinvara fans or Brooks launch fans who have gotten tired of running that same route one too many times. If you are considering swapping it up and trying something new with the Fli-Lyte 5, I doubt you’ll be disappointed. In fact, you might find yourself jogging a new road with light feet, miles whizzing by, and a smile on your face. This one is for the love of pure running. Thank you again, Topo.

RUBY: Ask me to describe this shoe in one word: light, or should I say “lyte.” Overall, I’m super impressed with the evolution of the FLI-LYTE and the upgrades Topo Athletic has made. Topo Athletic seems to have “out-scienced” science with the amount of cushion and outsole durability packed into a 6.2 oz. shoe. Make no mistake, this is not a highly cushioned, pillowy-soft daily trainer, nor is it trying to be, but Topo Athletic has really maximized every ounce of this shoe, and I’m impressed.

From heel to toe, upper to outsole, this shoe fits really well. Right down to the little (but no less important) details like lacing pattern, enough eyelets to do a runner’s knot, and lace length and thickness, Topo Athletic has left no stone unturned. The breathable upper is perfect for warm-weather running, and the redesigned midsole geometry makes for a more dynamic and responsive ride.

Call me a hypocrite after what I just wrote, but in comparison to other foot-shaped, wider-toe-box, lower stack offerings like the Altra Torin 5 and Altra Escalante 3, the Fli-Lyte 5 sacrifices cushioning for weight. Personally, I prefer Altra’s extra couple ounces of foam, but if you’re looking for a lightweight and snappy ride with good ground contact feel, Topo Athletic’s approach is for you. Oh, and if you’re pinching pennies, the Fli-Lyte 5 comes out on top again, retailing at an impressive $125!

You can pick up the Topo Athletic Fli-Lyte 5 for $125 on August 1 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) at the buttons below.

Shop Topo Athletic - Men Shop Topo Athletic - Women

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Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. Will says:

    Thanks for the review. This is the style I still like and currently used Atreyu Base 2, which even works for slower runs for me. Would you say this is fairly comparable (less the foot shape; I don’t know why but while I’m a total fanboy for TOPO’s shape I can deal with Atrey’s just fine)?

  2. Michael Loutzenheiser says:

    Hi Will! While I have not tried the Atreyu shoes, I would say this shoe more than likely has a similar ride with a bit more ‘natural’ stability added in from the midsole tooling and width. If you’re a fan of the Base 2 and Topo’s fit, you’ll no doubt enjoy this update 🙂

  3. Will says:


  4. Aadi says:

    Great review, as always. Do you happen to know when these will be available?

    1. Robbe says:

      I believe it’s this month, but could’ve been pushed to September

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Kaleb Kabakjian
Track and XC Reviewer

Kaleb is one of the younger, “both of my knees still work” reviewers on the BITR team. As a high school cross country, track and field, and road racing athlete in Pennsylvania, Kaleb loves hearing about the latest endurance-athletics studies and seeing how everything out there can fit into a well-rounded training program. If you don’t see him drinking a weird health concoction or doing some strange warmup technique, he’s probably already started the race.

All-time favorite shoes: Saucony Ride 14, Nike ZoomX Dragonfly

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Fav. Distance

1 Mile

  • 1:18

    Half Marathon
  • 16:14

    5K (XC)
  • 4:30

  • 2:03

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Michael Loutzenheiser
Southern Trail Reviewer

An engineer living with his wife and cat in Birmingham, Ala., Michael loves chill morning runs in the neighborhood, but especially enjoys soaking up long miles of technical southeast singletrack. Occasionally, he’ll get a racing itch and actually string together some “organized” training for a trail race or FKT. In his free time, Michael enjoys books, backpacking, and hanging out with friends.

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Fav. Distance

Half Marathon (Trail)

  • 4:48

  • 1:16

    Half Marathon
  • 16:45

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Ruby Wyles
Track and XC Reviewer
  • Instagram

Ruby is an NCAA Division 1 student-athlete, running shoe geek and all-around exercise science nerd, originally from the United Kingdom. An aspiring pro runner, Ruby currently competes on all terrains– road, track, and cross country– from the 3000m distance up to the half-marathon. A true mileage junkie, Ruby has plenty of opportunities to test out different shoes and properly put them through their paces.

All-time favorite shoes: Nike ZoomX Vaporfly Next%, Hoka One One Clifton 6, Nike Zoom Vomero 14

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Fav. Distance

5K & 10K

  • 16:45

  • 34:56

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