Topo Fli-Lyte Review

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I've been surprised how much I've enjoyed running in the Fli-Lyte. It's not an amazingly light shoe, nor is it an amazingly well cushioned shoe, but I found myself putting on far more miles in the Fli-Lyte than the other shoes I've been testing concurrently. This subtle, subconscious bias is an interesting indication that this is a shoe that is a pleasure to run in. Partly I think this is due to the cushioning that is provided by the Fli-Lyte being quite natural and with some good spring. Another thing I've come to really appreciate is that the shape of the shoe is simply wonderful, being one of the first I've tested this seems to be designed to fit the human foot. It captures some of the natural biomechanics and freedom that you normally only get in something like a Vibram FiveFingers. In fact, I go so far as to say that my toes feel rather more natural in the Fli-Lyte than they do in a FiveFingers. The only problem I found with the Fli-Lyte is that the cushioning provided by the insole seems to where out disturbingly quickly. By the time I'd run a hundred miles, the cushioning under the ball of my foot and compressed by ~4 mm which tilts my feet inwards far more than running on the camber of the road would do. Replacement Insoles might alleviate this problem, but my experience in trying to find a good replacement insoles has been a rather poor. Of course, your Foot Strike pattern might be rather different and so you might find the shoe lasts you longer, but be aware of this issue. I've rated the Fli-Lyte as "Highly Recommended" in spite of the possible longevity problems, and I will test it out a few replacement insoles to see how they work with this shoe. (I use The Science of Running Shoes as the basis of how I test running shoes and what you should look for in a running shoe.)

Topo Fli-Lyte top
Topo Fli-Lyte outside
Topo Fli-Lyte bottom
Topo Fli-Lyte inside

1 Characteristics

  • Cushioning . The Fli-Lyte is reasonably well cushioned with a nice combination of springiness and responsiveness. Personally, I find that this is about the right level of cushioning for the marathon or 50 K distance, and maybe enough cushioning for a 50 miler. It's certainly not a Maximalist shoe, but it's plenty for most purposes. The Fli-Lyte's cushioning-to-weight ratio is rather poor however, providing about the same cushioning as the New Balance RC5000v2 but is more than twice as heavy. It also weighs about the same as the Hoka Clifton which is a massively more cushioned. One noteworthy problem with the Fli-Lyte is the insole which provides some of the cushioning was rather badly born after only 100 miles. This is rather disappointing, especially as the midsole had only slight signs of compression at this point. I've found that Replacement Insoles can help extend the life of the Fli-Lyte somewhat.
  • Drop. The Fli-Lyte has a 4mm drop when loaded, which is a tad more than I'd like but it never bothered me.
  • Structure. The Fli-Lyte does not interfere with your Running Form with medial posts or the like.
  • Flexibility. The Fli-Lyte was moderately flexible when I did my initial analysis, but after running in it for a while the flexibility increased quite dramatically. I suspect this is partly due to the degradation of the foam midsole under the ball of my foot. With use, the Fli-Lyte has a specific point that the forefoot wants to bend, which corresponds to the natural movement of my foot.
  • Outsole. The Fli-Lyte has rubber outsole under all of the contact patches. The outsole seems fairly thick, and little few signs of wear over the first hundred miles. There are no stone traps or other holes in the sole, so running over gravel is not a problem.
  • Shape. The Fli-Lyte has the best shape of any shoe I've tested, with a nice roomy toe box that allows my toes to move quite naturally. The founder of the company apparently worked for Vibram and was involved in their FiveFingers range of shoes. The toe box of this shoe allows for the same type of natural toe movement that you get in a FiveFingers shoe, which is a great achievement. The Topo's shoe shape is quite a bit better than Altra, whose toe boxes are overly stylized and exaggerated, as well as not having quite enough headroom.
  • Upper. Like virtually all modern running shoes, the Fli-Lyte has a comfortable, largely seamless upper. There are a few overlays, but their placement means they are unobtrusive. The ankle opening is nicely padded and comfortable though it is a little bit stiffer than I would like. The upper is reasonably breathable as you can see from the picture below.
    Topo Fli-Lyte Upper.jpg
  • Tongue. The Fli-Lyte has a traditional tongue that is has a tab to attach it to the laces. The tongue is soft and nicely padded and stayed in place well.
  • Lacing. The Fli-Lyte has round laces which I often find problematic as round laces come undone far too easily. This never happened to me with the Fli-Lyte, possibly because the laces are slightly rougher than other round laces.
  • Heel Counter. The Fli-Lyte has only a modest heel counter, though none would be better. However, the rear of the shoe is a little stiffer than I would like, though this did not cause me any problems even with my skin condition.
helping-hand.jpg

2 A Comparison with other Recommended Shoes

For a more detailed comparison of these shoes see the Recommendations for Best Running Shoes. This table lists the key attributes of What to Look for in Running Shoes. For more detailed information, on the shoes see detailed shoe comparison.

Full Review Name Rating Recommended
price
Benefit Weight
(oz)
Penalty
(sec/mile)
Forefoot
Thickness
Heel
Thickness
Loaded Drop
mm
Cushioning Flexibility
Asics 33-DFA Review 33-DFA Worth considering $90 5.7 10.6 16.5 27 27 0 6.1 6
Saucony Type A6 Review A6 Highly Recommended $100 8.2 6.1 9.5 17 21 4 5.0 8
Adidas Adios Boost 2 Review Adios Worth considering $140 4.7 8.6 13.4 17 27 11 4.0 7
Hoka Bondi Review Bondi Highly Recommended $150 8.0 10.9 17.0 41 45 5 8.8 0
Hoka Bondi 5 Review Bondi Review Pending $150 6.1 11.6 18.1 38 42 5 7.1 4
Hoka Clayton Review Clayton Best of the Best $150 8.8 8.3 12.9 26 30 3 7.3 5
Hoka Clifton 3 Review Clifton3 Best of the Best $130 9.1 9.8 15.3 34 38 3 8.9 6
On Cloudracer Review Cloudracer Worth considering $130 5.7 8.2 12.8 19 27 5 4.7 8
Hoka Conquest Review Conquest Worth considering $170 5.0 11.9 18.5 28 34 5 6.0 3
Saucony Cortana 4 Review Cortana Worth considering $150 4.4 9.9 18.7 22 28 5 4.3 5
Mizuno Wave Cruise Review Cruise Worth considering $120 6.6 5.9 12.5 17 20 7 3.9 7
Newton Distance IV Review Distance Worth considering $155 7.5 9.1 14.2 26 31 3 6.8 6
Asics Gel DS Racer 10 Review DS Racer Worth considering $110 8.2 7.0 10.9 21 26 6 5.8 6
Mizuno Wave Ekiden 8 Review Ekiden Worth considering $115 5.7 5.7 14.6 13 18 6 3.2 8
Saucony Endorphin Review Endorphin Highly Recommended $125 11.1 4.1 6.4 14 13 -1 4.5 9
Adidas Energy Boost Review Energy Worth considering $160 7.2 10.0 15.6 20 30 7 7.2 6
Altra Escalante Review Escalante Review Pending $130 9.1 8.7 13.5 28 25 -1 7.9 7
Puma Faas 100 R Review Faas 100 Highly Recommended $90 8.4 6.1 9.4 15 20 1 5.1 9
Saucony Fastwitch Review Fastwitch Highly Recommended $90 9.5 7.1 11.1 20 22 4 6.8 8
Topo Fli-Lyte Review Fli-Lyte Highly Recommended $100 6.0 9.4 14.6 23 24 4 5.6 6
Nike Free 4.0 Review Free Recommended $120 5.3 8.2 13.6 24 30 6 4.4 6
Saucony Freedom Review Freedom Recommended $160 5.4 10.7 16.6 25 29 3 5.8 7
Asics Gel Lyte 33 3 Review Gel Lyte Not recommended $90 8.0 7.3 11.4 17 24 4 5.8 9
Skechers GOmeb Speed 3 Review GOmeb 3 Worth considering $120 6.9 8.1 12.6 20 24 4 5.5 8
Skechers GORun 4 Review GORun Not recommended $100 6.1 7.5 11.7 15 23 3 4.5 7
Skechers GOrun Ultra 2 Review GRU Worth considering $90 7.5 10.0 15.6 28 34 8 7.5 5
Skechers GOrun Ultra Road Review GRU-R Worth considering $105 6.5 11.3 17.6 30 40 6 7.4 7
Asics GT 2000 Review GT 2000 Not recommended $120 4.8 11.2 17.4 28 35 5 5.4 4
Hoka Hupana Review Hupana Recommended $115 6.1 8.9 13.9 31 36 7 5.4 5
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 7 Review Hyper Speed Highly Recommended $75 10.9 6.3 9.8 22 26 5 6.8 7
Altra Instinct 3.5 Review Instinct 3.5 Recommended $115 4.9 9.3 15.2 24 23 0 4.5 6
Altra Instinct 4.0 Review Instinct 4.0 Review Pending $120 6.0 9.8 15.3 29 25 -1 5.9 6
Asics Tarther Kainos 3 Review Kainos Worth considering $130 10.0 6.9 10.7 17 27 9 6.8 7
Saucony Kinvara 7 Review Kinvara Best of the Best $110 7.4 8.2 12.8 23 27 3 6.1 6
Nike LunaRacer 4 Review LunaRacer Recommended $90 9.9 7.0 10.9 22 30 7 6.9 6
Nike LunarSpider R5 Review LunarSpider Recommended $125 6.9 6.7 10.4 17 21 3 4.6 7
Hoka Mafate Speed Review Mafate Best of the Best $170 7.6 11.9 18.5 39 40 4 9.0 3
Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 v2 Review N0 Highly Recommended $100 7.9 6.5 10.1 14 20 4 5.2 8
Saucony Nomad Review Nomad Review Pending $110 4.3 10.5 17.2 25 27 2 4.5 5
Hoka Odyssey Review Odyssey Highly Recommended $130 8.5 9.4 14.6 37 45 5 8.0 4
Altra Olympus Review Olympus Highly Recommended $130 5.4 11.8 18.4 27 27 3 6.4 4
Altra One 2.5 Review One Highly Recommended $100 8.5 7.1 11.1 22 25 2 6.0 8
Altra Paradigm Review Paradigm Highly Recommended $130 6.4 9.9 15.4 25 25 1 6.4 4
Asics Piranha SP 5 Review Piranha Recommended $100 10.1 4.2 6.5 11 15 3 4.2 9
Brooks PureFlow 5 Review PureFlow Worth considering $110 6.0 9.7 15.1 26 29 5 5.8 8
Salming Race Review Race Worth considering $130 6.9 6.5 10.1 16 19 4 4.5 7
New Balance RC1600 v2 Review RC1600 Highly Recommended $110 8.8 5.6 8.7 15 21 5 4.9 8
New Balance RC5000 Review RC5000 Best of the Best $125 12.2 3.4 5.3 13 17 3 4.2 8
New Balance RC5000v2 Review RC5000v2 Best of the Best $125 14.2 4.0 6.2 13 21 6 5.7 8
Skechers GoRun Ride 3 Review Ride Worth considering $85 5.9 8.5 13.2 18 28 6 5.0 9
Inov-8 RoadXTreme 220 Review RXT-220 Worth considering $120 5.2 8.0 18.2 14 17 3 4.2 9
Topo ST-2 ST-2 Highly Recommended $90 8.2 7.3 11.4 20 18 0 6.0 8
Hoka Stinson Lite Review Stinson Highly Recommended $160 7.3 11.6 18.1 35 40 6 8.5 2
Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 Review Streak LT Best of the Best $80 8.8 5.4 8.4 16 21 4 4.8 6
Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Review Takumi Sen 3 Highly Recommended $160 7.7 6.6 10.2 17 21 4 5.1 6
Altra Torin 2.0 Review Torin Worth considering $125 5.8 9.6 14.9 28 25 -1 5.5 5
Hoka Tracer Review Tracer Recommended $130 7.2 7.4 11.5 21 24 2 5.3 6
Merrell Trail Glove 3 Review Trail Glove Best of the Best $100 2.9 6.9 24.7 11 11 0 2.0 9
Topo Tribute Review Tribute Recommended $100 5.9 7.3 11.4 20 18 -1 4.3 7
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 Review Universe Highly Recommended $125 10.7 3.1 10.6 9 12 1 3.3 9
Merrell Vapor Glove 2 Review Vapor Glove Highly Recommended $85 2.1 6.1 27.6 6 5 0 1.3 10
New Balance Vazee Pace Review Vazee Pace Worth considering $110 6.0 8.6 13.4 18 24 6 5.2 6
Asics TartherZeal 3 Review Zeal Worth considering $140 10.9 6.3 9.8 17 27 9 6.8 7

It's not a running shoe, but I love the Hoka Tor Ultra hiking boot and I've tested the Altra Lone Peak Boot.
Older shoe reviews: Saucony Hattori Review, Mizuno Cursoris Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, Hoka Clifton Review, Saucony Virrata 2 Review, Brooks PureCadence 3 Review, Brooks PureConnect 3 Review, Brooks PureFlow 3 Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, New Balance 980 Review, Brooks Transcend 2 Review.
Reviews of shoes that are not worth including on the table: Hoka Huaka Review, Patagonia EVERlong Review.