If you’re familiar with Topo Athletic’s origin story, you can appreciate the progression of their expanded line of footwear. Founder Tony Post created the company after departing Vibram USA at the height of the minimalist shoe boom, which is why Topo’s founding principles are geared toward natural running with an emphasis on foot movement. Their early models were low to the ground and extremely flexible, with only enough material to provide basic comfort and protection without compromising biomechanics.
From there, the model lineup expanded to place more emphasis on comfort and performance elements, with improved midsole technologies and thicker stack heights to accommodate a wider variety of users. While some design elements like anatomic lasts and moderate heel-toe drops have stayed constant, other construction elements evolved to compete with traditional shoe brands. This gave Topo a range of options for individual preferences.
The only thing missing from their road lineup was a true max-cushion trainer, and that gap is now resolved with the new Atmos. It features the largest midsole volume and stack heights Topo has ever created, combined with the fit and comfort that is consistent across the company’s lineup. The closest direct comparison is the Hoka Bondi line: the Bondi is 1mm higher in the heel, has a 4mm drop instead of 5mm in the Atmos, and is a full ounce heavier than the Atmos. You might say the Atmos is a shoe designed to out-Hoka Hoka, and in many ways, it does just that.
From a last and upper standpoint, everything we like about Topo is in place here. Soft and flexible engineered mesh uppers have exceptional breathability and are made with 30% recycled content, which is equivalent to about three plastic bottles per pair. We love the absence of overlays in the uppers which improves both ventilation and flexibility and doesn’t compromise the durability or overall structure. Uppers attach to the midsole platform securely, with a traditional lacing system that maintains tension. The classic Topo fit includes a slightly snug rearfoot and forefoot that expands into a rounded toebox, and that remains unchanged, along with an Ortholite footbed that gives a comfortable step-in feel.
For any max-cushion shoe, the midsole configuration is the most important when trying to determine its comfort, stability and ride quality. The Atmos uses an updated version of Topo’s proprietary Zipfoam compound, which is essentially a TPU/EVA blend that is continually tinkered with from cycle to cycle of new product releases. This is the lightest version of Zipfoam that Topo has created, which is key in keeping the overall weight low; it’s quite unusual to see a max-cushioned trainer come in under 10oz for men. The responsiveness of the Zipfoam is very impressive, and although we wouldn’t use these shoes for tempo training, they feel more than capable of sustaining fast leg turnover in smaller bursts. In comparison to the EVA compound in Hoka’s Bondi shoe, we’d describe Topo Zipfoam as slightly firmer, with less of a cushioned feel on impact but with a rebound sensation that is equivalent or slightly better.
To provide a measure of stability, there is more foam on the medial side of the foot, and rounded geometry in the forefoot provides a smooth transition from stance phase to toe-off. Again, comparing the Atmos to the Bondi, the overall geometry of the midsole isn’t as noticeably contoured in the Atmos, particularly in the rearfoot, so heel strikers might not benefit as strongly as midfoot strikers, but the differences here are also very subtle. The forefoot contour is pretty much equal in both models.
Outsole rubber placement on the Atmos is generous, both in thickness and in positioning—two qualities that we definitely appreciate when it comes to high-mileage training shoes. Rubber thickness is 3.5mm in the heel, 2.5mm in the forefoot and the compound has solid grip and good slip resistance on wet roadways in addition to dry surfaces. Although the placement of the rubber is strategic to decrease overall weight, we were happy to see that it incorporates the lateral and medial sides equally in both the rearfoot and forefoot. We honestly don’t understand why more companies don’t do this. We have approximately 100 miles on our test pair, and there are no signs of either premature wear or outsole rubber detaching from the EVA.
Overall, the Atmos should be a very attractive option for two fairly sizeable groups of runners: 1) those who love max-cushioned shoes and want a different last shape to improve rearfoot fit or forefoot room, and 2) longtime Topo users who have been seeking a Hoka-equivalent road trainer for high-mileage daily training.
The Topo Athletic Atmos is available at www.topoathletic.com.
Features and Specs:
- Weight (oz): 9.7 men’s / 7.9 women’s
- Stack Height (heel/toe, in mm) 38/33
- Heel-toe drop (mm): 5mm
- Upper: recycled engineered mesh
- Ortholite footbed
- Midsole: updated Zipfoam compound
- Outsole: high abrasion rubber positioned bilaterally
- Three color options for men and women
- MSRP: $160