Check Out These Sneakers From Newton-Based Topo

Will split toe sneakers restart a trend?

Topo split toe sneakers and socks. Photo by Melissa Malamut

No, those aren’t mittens, they’re socks. Topo split toe sneakers and socks. Photo by Melissa Malamut

In the sneaker market, companies spend millions of dollars on advertising in order to stand out from the crowded field. But Newton-based Topo Athletic is a new sneaker company that doesn’t have to do anything to differentiate themselves. That’s because the sneakers look very different from anything you’ve seen before. They have a split toe. Sort of like a sneaker thong.

At first glance, the sneakers look a bit intimidating. But if you wear a thong flip flop, then you’re already aware of how the sneaker will feel… at first. After a few minutes, you hardly notice the difference at all. Tony Post, founder and CEO of Topo Athletic, launched Topo in 2012 following an 11-year tenure as the president and CEO of Vibram USA. You may know Vibram as the “five finger sneaker” which helped spark the minimalist running movement. The “five finger” sneaker also graced the top of the heart of Boston magazine’s May cover. Post, an avid runner, also worked for Rockport for 15 years and ran the New York City and London marathons in Rockport dress shoes in 2 hours and 49 minutes. (Really.)

Men's Red Sneaker. Photo via Topo Athletic Flickr.

Men’s red sneaker. Photo via Topo Athletic/Flickr.

The Topo sneaker features an anatomic toe box, which allows your toes to spread naturally. The split toe design was inspired by the Japanese Tabi shoe, which supposedly provides a more natural and barefoot feeling, while still keeping your feet secure during movement. There is also no height difference between the heel and forefoot of the shoe, because Topo doesn’t want to “fix” the way you run or train. The sneakers are built to encourage a midfoot or forefoot landing when running.

In 1951, Shigeki Tanaka of Japan won the Boston Marathon wear a split toe sneaker created by the founder of Asics. Image via Boston Public Library/Flickr

In 1951, Shigeki Tanaka of Japan won the Boston Marathon wearing a split toe sneaker created by the founder of Asics. Image via Boston Public Library/Flickr

Post and his team at Topo study the physiology, environments, and emerging technologies that enable athletes to improve their performance. There is a CrossFit specific sneaker as well as a running specific sneaker and they are all very lightweight. The sneaker we tested weighs less than our iPhone. “We don’t try to change or correct or fix the way you run or train,” Post says. “We try to do things in footwear that leverage the natural biomechanics in your body to amplify your training or workout — allowing you to get more out of it.”

You can find Topo at City Sports and other retailers.

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