The Topo Athletic Vibe is noted as being an active recovery or casual shoes for everyday use. Honestly, I have never considered having a specialized shoe for recovery days, but why not?
I have shoes for fast days like the NB 1500s and Saucony Kinavaras, NB Tempo for longer runs, and some shoes for special occasions like the expensive, low-mileage carbon-plated shoes. But I never really considered models for easy recovery runs until the Topo Vibe came along.
You might wonder why would I want another pair of shoes. So, I usually start planning the run for a while. Part of that planning is lacing up different sets of shoes.
That is when the wheels start to grind—do I run in the heavier trainers, faster minimalists, or what? The shoes that I lace up tend to direct my thought process. Seldom have I actually ran a recovery run in the manner it was designed to be run.
Could a shoe change that? Read on (spoiler: it changed it for me).
Out of the box, it was an interesting introduction. I have seen the shoe, read a good deal about it, so I had some anticipating thoughts. I was pleasantly surprised at the sturdiness of the shoe.
It looks so soft in the photos. It also is actually soft in person, but the form of the upper adds a surprising feel to the hand and feet.
Topo advertises a signature fit with a snug heel and a spacious toe box. I have never had issues on the back end (heel) but the toe box area has caused issues again and again. So, I was excited to see how this fits, especially noting a roomier toe box.
The wrap across the top gives a strong stabilization to what appears to be a squishy shoe. I was somewhat mesmerized by the build of the upper; it's light and airy, but strong and without any obvious structure. It moves but is not easily crushed as I expected and it retains its shape with no hesitation.
I have read they are intended to be worn without socks, but I just can’t. I have always been a socks-on-when-wearing-shoes kind of a guy. So how about some thinner no-shows socks? Great!
The shoe slips on easily. The fit feels nice, and it's true-to-size with a wide toe box, as noted. To me, these have as much room as many 2Es that I have worn.
There is a structure over the top of my foot and ample breathability around the toes. I can’t feel the sides at all on my typically squished toes on non-wide (2E) shoes.
I've walked and hopped around a bit and my initial concerns waned. There are no laces! There is no way this can be a running shoe with no ability to snug it down.
However, on the initial walk and hop around, the shoe didn't move. Interesting! Can this really be a decent shoe for running?
Before hitting the pavement, I took notice of the other features. The drop is 5mm so nothing too far from the norm for me. The weight is around 8 oz, which is nice and noticeably light.
There is no obvious rolling when transitioning from forefoot to toe. The heel is no stiffer than the rest of the shoe; there is a light squish though, and nothing drastic.
The heel is not as dominant as I have experienced in some shoes. It just follows the lead of the front, which feels good when walking.
The insoles are noticeable. Topo did some work with the insole team for this one. It is not the standard paper-thin necessity that just covers some seams and construction. There is some thought that is considered of what your feet might like on a day off or easy run. How about some massage action? It is not distracting though you can sense the ridges just a little and it feels nice.
On the Move
So, first impressions from unboxing, examining, and even skipping around have been good. No doubt this would a good walking or everyday shoe. I really like how it feels all around.
Now, time to test it for running. Watch on, GPS signal obtained, and we're off.
I track my mileage meticulously and usually monitor my pace. I am focusing on recovery for this run and have promised myself not to study my watch.
I was quite skeptical about its performance on the run; it just can't be sloppy with the wide toe box and the laceless design. However, 20 steps down the road, it's not moving around.
Another 20, and no hot spots! Another 20, and my foot has felt the insole, and kinda smiling at me. A mile later, and I notice that I am actually running 60-90 seconds slower than normal (cruising at a modest 8:45-9:15 mile)
I am achieving a recovery pace without a fight by not constantly putting on the brakes! I also haven't felt the urge to speed up. This is a very relaxing, enjoyable run.
My first run in this shoe was 7 miles, I typically go less with new and drastically different shoes. But with this, everything felt good from the beginning. There were no odd sensations on my foot, joints were not squeaking, and burning muscles (from previous runs) were chillaxing nicely.
Before giving my final verdict, I put the shoe through some more paces, including some hills and even a little gravel. It's able to hold its form going downhill though there is a little movement because of its roominess.
Pushing uphill really stresses the sole but no issues. I could get a good sense of the firm underlay yet it didn’t beat me to death. I would not run hills extensively here but in recovery, I suppose that is a given.
This is not a trail shoe by any stretch of the imagination. It's a completely different shoe on uneven, loose terrain (e.g. gravel), so I hopped off the gravel and back onto the pavement quickly.
As far as to wear, I see no major abnormalities taking place. It's wearing similarly to other shoes that easily get 300 miles before showing decent signs of wear. Time will tell, but there are no issues with premature wear.
The foundations of my initial impressions grew as did the relationship with the Topo Athletic Vibe. After a double handful of similar runs, it's molding to my feet well with no changes that work against its purpose. I still continue to make some mental reminders to check on it.
The shoe disappears in my runs and does not call attention to itself. It is indeed a great recovery shoe.
When putting it on, my mind knows what's coming (and what's not). There us not a fight to do more than a nice, easy run. I give the Topo Athletic Vibe credit for getting me there. Also, it's really a great walking and everyday shoe.
I have worn it a time or two and even had it as a travel companion. It doesn't look nor does it feel like the typical running shoe. It's a specialized shoe.
While you might wonder, do you really need shoes specifically for recovery? Well, do you have shoes for everything else? Are you having trouble actually achieving a recovery run?
These went above and beyond what I expected and ever thought possible. Nice!
I’ve been a fan of Topo Athletic for a while and reviewed the Runventure 2, Mtn Racer, the Magnifly 3, all of which have been in the very good to great range.
I’m also a big fan of their shoes’ natural focus instead of the maximalist support and massive heel-to-toe drops.
Topo Athletic Vibe after 3 weeks of daily use.
These slip-on shoes are designed to be worn barefoot, and they excel at maintaining a comfortable fit with or without socks.
I’ve been wearing them to work and for pretty much anything that isn’t running for 3 weeks, and they have yet to stretch out or lose their shape.
The upper is an engineered knit mesh upper with a molded padding overlay of some sort of soft synthetic material near the ankle. It comes together nicely and makes for a very comfortable fit, either barefoot or with socks.
These shoes are meant to be worn barefoot, which I’m not a big fan of, as I have very sweaty feet, and it often feels like my feet slosh around in shoes if I wear them barefoot.
However, these feel better than any other pair of barefoot shoes I’ve tried, though I still typically prefer to wear them with socks for comfort.
View of Topo Athletic Vibe shoes without wearing socks.
Topo claims that the upper is antimicrobial. I assume this is to aid in reducing foot smell and not fighting the coronavirus.
Either way, these slip-ons did not smell especially bad after a few days of my stinky, sweaty feet walking around in them. It just needs a bit of foot powder to be completely odor-free.
One slight issue with this shoe is that the knitted upper ends at about the midfoot. Sometimes when I slip them on, I accidentally fold over the edge of the knitted upper that sits beneath the molded padding section.
This is only a mild complaint, though. It’s easy enough to fix by using my finger between the shoe and my ankle to smooth the material against my foot.
The midsole is appropriately cushy. It has just enough cushioning to make them comfortable for walking at any pace, but they are still responsive and stiff enough that it doesn’t feel like your shoe is a floppy pillow.
My only wish is that they had zero heel-toe drop instead of 5mm. Otherwise, I wouldn’t change anything else!
The midsole is flexible without being floppy.
The insole is actually my favorite part of this shoe. Topo Athletic claims that it “aids in the recovery process as the repeated ridges lightly stimulate and massage the nerves along the bottom of the foot.”
I won’t confirm or deny that claim, but what I do know is that I like how it feels on my foot, especially after a long run.
Insole after 3 weeks of mostly barefoot use.
My only complaint is that there is a slight gap in height between the gray and orange layers, which is noticeable near the heel while wearing the shoes barefoot.
The outsoles are made of a combination of the midsole material covering over the high abrasion areas with more durable material of the same color.
It would be best if you felt the difference to understand, but the outsole looks to be appropriately durable for the intended use of these shoes, which is casually walking around.
Outsole after 3 weeks and ~50 miles.
So how do you measure the performance of a recovery shoe?
Well, I figured I’d run a lot, then wear these shoes and compare how I felt a day or two later to how I feel after similar efforts, according to my training logs.
I was also lucky that I received these shoes in the mail as I was heading out on a 10-mile run, with a 20-mile run scheduled for the next day and a (virtual) marathon scheduled for 3 weeks later!
The results: I had some fastest recoveries I’ve ever experienced after such large mileage weekends! Was this wholly the doing of these shoes? Definitely not.
I think it was a combination of multiple factors, such as I got my run and post-run nutrition just right. I followed up my runs with stretching routines prescribed by my PT and yoga. I rested effectively. I foam rolled after each run, and I got good sleep.
Ultimately, I don’t know how much the shoes helped, but I can confidently say that they felt good on my feet. I enjoyed wearing them when I wasn’t running!
I’ve noted no issues with durability through my first 3 weeks of use. I’ve worn these essentially every day, putting at least a few miles walking on them, and the outsoles only show minor wear.
I like the look of these shoes, but don’t love them. I’m not the kind of person who wears statement pieces or really knows much about fashion at all, but the padded upper section makes the shoes look a tad… weird.
The fit is nearly perfect for barefoot - snug, but not too snug to be constrictive.
They don’t look bad, but they do look just a tad funky on my feet. It’s like shoes that people from the ’80s would design to look futuristic and minimalist.
Topo’s other shoes look pretty good, so I’d hope they can do a little better with the next version of these. However, if you’re like me and not too concerned with looks, this shouldn’t be a big issue!
Fit & comfort
They have all of the comforts of a running shoe but are casual enough to wear to work, making them easy to use as an everyday shoe.
The roomy toe box is large enough to be comfortable but small enough that it doesn’t look like I’m wearing clown shoes (an issue that my wife has with some of my Altra shoes).
The upper hugs the foot well without being too constrictive or loose. The overall fit of these shoes is fine. I wear a size 12 in most shoes, and these in size 12 fit me well.
These shoes retail for $110 on Topo Athletic’s website, which I think is appropriate for these shoes.
They should last a while and be a lot more comfortable than the casual shoes you wear around, and better looking than the old pair of running shoes you wear while out and about.
Would I pay $110 for these shoes? Probably not, but that’s because I like to wait for the new models to come out so I can buy the previous version at a discount. I would definitely pay $80 for these shoes, though!
Would I recommend them to a friend?
Yes! And I’d ask them what they thought of the shoes a week or two later to get more anecdotal evidence about recovery shoes.
These shoes are comfortable, easy to put on, and take off, and you can wear them just about anywhere. If the point of recovery shoes is to be comfortable and easy to wear, then these shoes check both those boxes!
I don’t absolutely love the looks, and I’d prefer a zero heel-toe drop, but these shoes do almost everything well.
Disclaimer: RunRepeat.com provided me these shoes for free in exchange for testing and an honest review. This is my best attempt at an unbiased take on these shoes.
The Topo athletic vibe is definitely an interesting shoe that everyone should try.
The Topo athletic vibe has two colors, black and white. While there is a lack of color options I believe that these colors look great on the shoe. The color I have is black.
Black is the perfect color for a shoe as it can go virtually with every color. White also had this effect but I believe that black is better. They are slip-on shoes that feel excellent. The design of the shoe looks sleek and slim.
When I first got these I was skeptical at the comfort they would provide since they slip on but I was proven wrong.
These shoes feel very soft and cushioned whether you are running or walking in them. I wear these after I am done running mostly and my feet feel great.
Running versus walking
A lot of people seem to be confused about this, is this a running or walking shoe. I have personally seen people that either run in them exclusively or walk in them exclusively. Personally, I believe you can do both while some are worried about the slip-on aspect.
In my experience, if you buy the correct size these shoes work perfectly as running shoes. I also slip these on after I’m done running to get the recovery aspect after. However, I prefer to use these shoes mostly for walking and use them on my shorter runs.
If you plan to use these for running you will need a perfect size since they are slip-on.
I find that these shoes are a true fit but if you want to be extra careful you should go down half a size. If you just want to walk in these you should be able to pull off half to a size bigger or a full size if you really want.
I have run in these shoes for around 50 miles and so far they have held up great. The comfort has held up perfectly so far but I would expect that they will start to break down around 200-300 miles.
If you are going to walk around in these only then you will only need to change these out after years.
These shoes are not meant for fast workouts or hard intervals, they are only meant for easy recovery runs. They are simply not light and bouncy enough for this. They are however perfect for these easy recovery runs mentioned. When doing recovery runs I feel comfortable and fast.
Whether you are using these for runs on concrete or runs on grass I recommend them. (I especially recommend these on grass they feel amazing).
The Topo athletic vibe is definitely worth trying for their ease of comfort and lower price.
I love wearing these shoes after I am done running and need to drive home or walk anywhere. I can feel my feet recovering when I wear them and genuinely think they are worth a try.
After receiving the Topo Vibes in the mail from RunRepeat, I was somewhat at a loss for what I would use them for.
They are advertised as a “running recovery shoe,” which implies that one would run in them. However, I found that the role of this shoe is not that simple.
The Vibes are a laceless shoe with a special Ortholite insole. The shoes were straightforward to slide in and out of.
The insole seemed fine, but the grooves were a bit weird (I don’t know if it was supposed to do anything special).
The upper transitions from the midfoot wrap to the forefoot mesh, which caused some trouble only in my right shoe (suspicious). There appeared to be a loose flap of mesh just hanging around, which was slightly annoying; I had to be careful putting the right shoe on so that I wouldn’t fold up the extra loose flap of mesh.
It’s weird because the left shoe was absolutely fine. Sounds like a factory problem to me.
Just sitting around, the midfoot wrap seemed like it was missing my arch and hugging too far up my foot (something that my other Topos had absolutely no problem with).
This caused a sort of hot spot on my feet when I wasn’t moving. However, it wasn't a problem at all when walking around and running.
Besides the complaints, I do like the general fit of the Vibes, with Topo’s signature wide toe box and nice-fitting forefoot. The upper material is soft and accommodating. It has a great fit if you are just walking around, and I found myself wearing it quite a bit for everyday activities.
This is where the Vibes really get sketchy. The problem with them is that the heel is designed for easy slip-on and slip-off.
This means that when running, especially on the toe-off, you constantly feel like the shoes are flying off your heels. It is very similar to running in slides (exaggerating of course).
During my first (and only) run, I ran three miles at around 7:30 mile pace, and although the shoe felt great underfoot, the loose heel was a constant nuisance. The insole also felt like I was squashing the heck out of it, which probably means that the Ortholite recovery foam isn’t meant to take the standard beating that I put my shoes through during my everyday runs.
It is a shame because otherwise, the midsole and outsole are very similar to the ones that Topo uses in their other running shoes, which are rather nice.
Walking, however, is absolutely fine, but the Vibes become completely unusable when it comes to running.
What do you use them for? Well, if you are buying them for your one do-everything-shoe, please don’t. If you don't mind paying double the price, look for something along the lines of Hoka or Oofos Recovery Slides. I don’t expect this to be a very popular demand, so it looks like Topo has some work to do.
This is the Vibe’s one redeeming factor. I personally think they look fantastic, especially in the all-white colorway.
They even make the usually awkward wide toe box work well with the look. Just wearing them around, I have gotten many compliments (from runners) for my excellent shoe game, even though no one actually knows what brand they are. I don’t know what that orange pull tab is doing though.
They were nice for their specific niche of casual everyday use, but I would not get them again, especially because they are unusable for running. If you can nab them on sale, or you’re part of that small group out there that loves Topo and their style, then they are probably worth getting.
Disclaimer: I received these shoes for free from RunRepeat, and I am obligated to write a review.
Topo Athletic Vibe: A masseur for your feet
The Topo Athletic Vibe is not a regular walking shoe. It is described as a recovery shoe by Topo Athletic. It is a trainer directed at athletes who want to ease their feet after running or some grueling gym sessions.
Why use the Topo Athletic Vibe
The repeated pounding on pavements when you run or train can result in tired, sore feet. Here is where the Topo Athletic Vibe comes in.
Using this pair of slip-on walking shoes feels like wearing bedroom slippers at the end of a really long day. The moment you put it on, the undulations on the Ortholite 3D Wave Sense footbed massages your feet as you walk. They apply gentle pressure to the nerves of the feet to relieve soreness.
The engineered knit mesh upper allows air to pass through and cool the interior. Your feet get hot after a good workout, and the cooling sensation delivered by the breathable top amplifies the comfort.
Nice to know
- Like other Topo Athletic trainers, this model has a snug heel and midfoot fit, but the toe box is spacious.
- The insole of the Topo Athletic Vibe is removable.
- The outsole is made from Vibram rubber outsole, which is grippy and durable.