Friday, September 15, 2023

Topo Athletic Fli-Lyte 5 Multi Tester Review: 6 Comparisons

Article by Joost De Raeymaeker and Mike Postaski

Topo Fli-Lyte 5 ($125)


Joost: The Topo Fli-Lyte 5 is Topo Athletic’s do it all shoe. I tested version 4 in 2021 and found it to be a great shoe for the gym and maybe to get in a run while I’m at it, but it was not a shoe I would pick up just to go running. I also thought it was a great looking shoe for everyday casual use. 

So what’s changed in version 5? From looking at it, basically everything, except for the stack height and drop, which stay at 23mm heel /20mm forefoot. Topo were also able to shed 0.8 oz with this new version. So let’s check what makes the Fli-Lyte 5 tick and dive into the changes.

Mike P: I haven't run in the Fli-Lyte since way back at V2. The shoe is completely different now, so there's not too much to specifically compare. But it does still slot into Topo's road line as a neutral, low-drop, versatile shoe. I do remember getting a lot of mileage out of my V2’s, specifically using them a lot on the treadmill since they offered a simple, solid & neutral ride. 

I've tested some of Topo's recent road offerings ST-4, Magnify 4, and ST-5 (now in test). so I'll focus on comparing  them to these.


Lightweight - Joost, Mike P

Stable - Joost, Mike P

Reasonably flexible - Joost, Mike P

Good durability and traction - Joost

Great for wide feet - Joost, Mike P

Comfortable - Joost, Mike P

Good looking for casual use as well - Joost


Still doesn’t really feel like a pure running shoe - Joost

New Zip Foam livelier, but there is still a quite dull feeling to this shoe - Joost

Ride feels a little “square” in spite of new rocker design - Joost, Mike P

Can feel a little thin up front - Mike P

Non-exciting, but isn't that the point? - Mike P


Official Weight: 7.5 oz / 213g  (M9) / / 6.3 oz / 179g (W7)  

                            v4: 8.3 oz US9

  Samples: men’s  7.55 oz  /  214g (M US 9.5),

Women’s 7.3 oz / 208g (W US 11.0)

Stack Height: men’s 23 mm heel / 20 mm forefoot ( 3mm drop spec) 

$125.  Available now including at our partner Running Warehouse HERE

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Joost: I got the black upper/white midsole version just like version 4 of the Fli-Lyte I tested in 2021. My first thoughts are: I can use this as a great looking casual shoe, just like that version. 

The step-in is very easy and the lovely wide-feet fit of the Topo brand is immediately obvious. The sometimes quite obvious arch-support in their shoes seems a little less pronounced in the Fli-Lyte 5 and it feels a little roomier still than the previous version. It still fits true to size, though. The midsole feels softer than in the Fli-Lyte 4.

The upper has completely changed in the Fli-Lyte 5. In my very subjective breathability test, which is actually breathing through the upper, it has become still a little more breathable. It’s made of a recycled fibers, engineered mesh. 

There’s a decent toe bumper that provides a bit of structure and shape in the otherwise quite loose and flexible material in the front of the shoe. 

The eyestay is now a more traditional type with flat laces and a smaller, relatively thin tongue. The midfoot is very secure and I had no lace bite with the more traditional arrangement of the eyelets.

There’s no real heel counter, but some more padded and thicker material in the back of the shoe. 

The heel is reinforced with an extra piece of material and a strip of rubber with the shoe’s name and the fact that it has a 3mm drop. The top part of the heel is also slightly tilted away towards the back, avoiding any irritation to the achilles. I didn’t have any issues with slippage.

Mike P: Right off the bat, I have to mention that due to test size availability, I received a women's size 11 for testing. I was told that it was equivalent to a men's 9.5, which is my usual Topo size. I was also told that the women's fit would be slightly narrower than the equivalent men's 9.5.

Given that fact, as well as the fact that Joost has covered the details well - I won't say too much about fit and sizing. But it's quite an interesting scenario to try a women's shoe - and something that I've thought about before. As a lighter runner, and with an average/low volume foot, I've wondered if it would be interesting to try the equivalent and *lighter* women's version of certain models.

As far as the Fli-Lyte 5 specifically - I find no issues at all with the supposedly narrower women's fit. Overall comfort is excellent, and as Joost mentions - the typical Topo arch support is noticeable, but not intrusive. The upper, and the shoe in general, seems very simplistic, as they took a "no-frills" approach to the design and styling.


Mike P: Compared to the most recent Topo road models I've tested (ST-4, Magnifly 4) which are zero drop, the 3mm drop of the FL5 is clearly noticeable. While the 3mm drop feels a bit easier on the lower legs, the FL5 still maintains a somewhat natural feel due to the relatively low 23/20mm stack. I'd say the FL5 feels more similar to the ST-5 than the Magnify in terms of underfoot feel. Specifically, it feels a little thin under the balls of the feet.

The Zip Foam 2 itself is not that dynamic. As with other Zipfoam 2 models, it feels denser and less prone to packing in over time. But don't expect to feel any type of ”bounce” or ”energy” from the foam itself. I do quite like the dampening feel of newer foam, especially if expectations about the feel are set beforehand.

Also of note is the typical Topo under-arch support. It feels less pronounced in the FL5, perhaps due to the heel and 3mm drop. 

Joost: Mike described the general feel of the midsole well. It’s weird that nowadays we find 23/20mm of stack a little thin. The new Zipfoam feels a little softer and slightly less flat than the previous version, but is still relatively dull. 

Stability is excellent, as is to be expected from a low stack, low drop wide platform shoe. 

One of the changes from the Fli-Lyte 4 is that the sides of the midsole are now slightly tapered, instead of just straight, leading to a more boxed in feeling overall.


Mike P: The outsole of the FL5 is a completely new design - different from the standard outsole layout of the Topo road shoes I've tested.

Topo has said that they reduced the rubber volume in recent road models while at the same time maintaining durability of the rubber itself. I do remember my V2’s had harder rubber which was definitely long-lasting. My ST-4 and Magnifly 4 models do have a softer rubber, which I find a little less durable. 

The Fli-Lyte 5 takes the outsole streamlining a bit further with the new rubber design. It’s essentially made up of quite thin strips which run lengthwise as opposed to the more horizontal orientation of their previous, standard outsole layouts. 

I’ve experienced no noticeable wear at 50 miles so far, albeit with about half of those miles being on the treadmill. That being said, durability of the outsole is something I would keep an eye on, as those strips do look a bit thin.

Joost: Mike describes the outsole well. The outsole is now built in a lengthwise way instead of horizontal. This means the horizontal grooves are gone, but thanks to the new Zip Foam of the midsole and the thinner outsole, there’s no change in flexibility. Traction is great and I don’t see any wear on my pair yet after about 30 miles.

Ride, Conclusions and Recommendations

Joost: Topo says that they made changes to the rocker to allow for a more fluid turnover. I can feel a very subtle change, but it’s not obvious while running. Due to the boxed in feeling and because of the wide platform that tapers on the sides, the ride feels a little square to me. I wouldn’t go as far as to call it clunky, but I could definitely not run without being reminded of that squaredness.

On the plus side, the heel and midfoot are excellently held and stability is fantastic, which makes it a great shoe for the gym. No need to change shoes to pop on the treadmill. Price has gone up $5 over the current pricing of the Fli-Lyte 4, but at $125 they are good value for a do it all shoe.

Joost’s Score: 8.92/10

Ride: 8 (50%), Fit 10 (30%), Value 9.5 (15%), Style 9.8 (5%)


Mike P: Topo hits the intended target again - the FL5 is a lightweight, flexible, and very versatile shoe. I find the slight 3mm drop and low stack to be a great middle ground for those looking for a natural feel, yet not wanting to go full zero drop. They are especially good on the treadmill, where IMO extra cushion isn't necessary and only gets in the way.

On the road I find the ride preferable to the ST-4 and Magnifly 4 which I've also tested. The Magnify has a little bit more cushion, but again, I find the 3mm drop more comfortable on the legs. I also quite like the flexibility of the shoe, something which I generally prefer in most shoes. The shoe has a nice, stable, low to the ground feel - but doesn't feel harsh underfoot. This has also been a staple of Topo’s models with the newer Zipfoam 2.

After running primarily in the FL5 for some time, I went out for a run with a more typical (nowadays) higher stacked road trainer. They felt so awkward in comparison, so there's definitely quite a difference in feeling between these and more "normal" road trainers. Something to keep in mind.

I haven't tried the FL5 in the gym, but that's really because I've had the ST-5 in test as well (RTR Review soon), and I like a thinner, flat shoe for working out. But the FL5 would surely be a great option if you're in the gym and go back and forth between the treadmill, strength, and/or other cardio work. Furthermore, it's a great casual and everyday shoe if you want something lighter for just getting around.

Mike P’s Score:  9.28 / 10

Ride: 9.0 - Good ground feel, flexible & easy ride. I'm calling it (natural + 3mm)

Fit: 9.5 - Simple and comfortable (but I do have a narrower women's size)

Value: 10 - Running, gym, casual, travel..

Style: 8.5 - Kind of a plain look, but it works better for non-sport use

Smiles 😊😊😊😊

6 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Topo Fli Lyte 4 (RTR Review)

Joost (M9.5 in both): As with other recent Topo models, almost everything about the shoe has changed between versions. The Fli-Lyte 5 feels a little softer and slightly more bouncy, but is still not a shoe I would pick up just to go for a run. 

For a gym day, with some running included, both are great, as well as for casual wear. The extra $5 won’t break the bank either, so I would go with the new version.

Topo ST-4  (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): The FL5 seems almost like a slightly beefed up version of the ST-4, with the extra 3mm under the heel. It definitely makes the FL5 more runnable and it feels less like a purely minimal shoe. This makes sense as Topo seems to be positioning the upcoming ST-5 as primarily a gym shoe. This works for me - I like the ST-4,5 for strength work, but I prefer the FL5 for running. 

Topo Magnifly 4 (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): There are essentially two differences between the shoes. The Magnifly, with its higher stack, does feel more cushioned and especially under the forefoot. It's also zero drop so you get a bit more pull in the lower legs if you're not used to that. The Magnifly is more oriented towards running, but could also be an everyday casual shoe if you like a flat, but cushioned feel. Both shoes are good options.

Saucony Kinvara 12 (RTR Review) and 13 (RTR Review)

Joost (M9.5 in both): The Kinvara 12 and 13 are the last real Kinvaras for me, since Saucony decided to up the stack height and change the feel with the Kinvara 14. I put on the Kinvara 13 for a short run a couple of days ago and was reminded how much I appreciate the natural feeling of them. It feels less structured than the Topo and also doesn’t have that square ride. For a gym day, I would pick the Topo, just for running, the Kinvara.

Mike P (9.5): I got to try V14 for a while after not having run in Kinvaras for a very long time. They do have less of a "square" ride as Joost mentions, but I found them slightly unstable for me, especially with the somewhat minimal upper. Perhaps I just like a bit more stability as I'm primarily a trail runner. I like the easy ride and more ground feel of the FL5.

Brooks Launch (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): I was able to test V9, but unfortunately only the GTS version. That seemed to make the heel landings a bit restrictive and jarring for me. But the Brooks foam is for sure livelier and they have a quicker feel on the run. They also have a higher drop so  they're less versatile in other areas than the Topo.

The Topo Athletic Fli-Lyte 5 is available at our partners



Tester Profiles

Joost is a Belgian in his 50s living in Luanda, Angola, Africa, where he faces the heat, humidity and general chaos to run anything between 60-100 miles per week. He was on a mission to run and win in his age group in the 6 marathon majors and got his 6th star at London in 2023 with a 2:26:10 PB in Berlin in 2019 at 51. He won his M50 AG at the 2022 Chicago Marathon in 2:29 and in 2023 won his AG in London in 2:36. Only Boston, so far, escapes him for an AG win at the 6 Majors. He ran in primary school, but then thought it would be a lot cooler to be a guitar player in a hard rock band, only picking up running again in 2012, gradually improving his results. Please check out Joost's coaching service here

Mike Postaski currently focuses on long mountainous ultras - anywhere from 50K up to his favorite - 100M. 5'10", 138 lbs, midfoot/forefoot striker - he typically averages 70 mpw (mostly on trails), ramping up to 100+ mpw during race buildups. A recent 2:39 road marathoner, his easy running pace ranges from 7:30 - 9:00/mi. From 2022-23 Mike has won the Standhope 100M, IMTUF 100M, and Scout Mountain 100M trail ultras. He also set a CR of 123.74M at the Pulse Endurance Runs 24H and completed the Boise Trails Challenge on foot in 3 days 13 hours, besting the previous record by 7 hours. Mike's shoe preferences lean towards firmer, dense cushioning, and shoes with narrower profiles. He prefers extra forefoot space, especially for long ultras, and he strongly dislikes pointy toe boxes.

Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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Anonymous said...

Compared to Altra Escalante 3 as everyday sneaker, gym and shorter run?

Mike P said...

This may be of no use - I only ran in Escalante V1 and Escalante Racer. The Altra toebox would be too wide for me to consider for gym use. Not enough lateral foothold for gym/cardio - type movements.

I think the Escalante foam is a bit more dynamic and responsive, but of course it's zero drop. My Escalante 1's tended to bottom out, newer versions may be better.