Tolos Archetype 2 Review – A balance between casual and performance

In my quest for the perfect all-rounder shoe, I discovered the Tolos Archetype 2. I was intrigued by its promise of style, function, and a barefoot feel, all in one. At $115, these shoes offer (relative) affordability, durability, comfort, and versatility for any activity, from the gym to daily wear. Find out why the Tolos Archetype 2 could become your go-to footwear choice.

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Weight

7.4 oz / 210 g for men’s US9

Stack height

5.5mm total stack height. Optional 3mm insole
Zero Drop

Made for

Casual and short runs
Shorter distances

Fit

Low-average volume
Average midfoot
Average toe box
True to size

Feel

As close to barefoot as you’ll get
Good lockdown
Stiff for a low-stack shoe

Pros & Cons

+ Amazing minimal feel
+ Price
– Bootie fit won’t suit everyone

10% DISCOUNT CODE: BRR


I’ve got to be truthful. I hadn’t heard of Tolos until one of my readers introduced me to them. Lucky for me, I happened to be in Denver, where the founder runs the business! So naturally, I got in touch to chat over a coffee! 

My hour-long conversation with the founder made the Archetype 2 experience all the more enjoyable. It helped me understand certain design choices and aspects I could have never guessed without getting the inside scoop. 

It’s important to note that I received these shoes from Tolos for free. However, I was assured that I was completely free to express my honest opinions. This transparency is crucial in ensuring the authenticity of this review. So here goes! 

It’s worth noting upfront that this shoe is not, and was not made as a performance running shoe. 

Instead, it’s a style-focused barefoot option with a sports and performance alter ego.

For me, the Archetype is a direct competitor to the Vivobarefoot Primus Lite, punching way above its weight when it comes to a casual option that can do it all. 

If there was one shoe to take on your vacation. The Archetype should be a top consideration.

Could it work for you? Let’s find out. 

Fit

A bootie-like design which is more relaxed when compared to version 1. Normally, I’m hesitant and even scared when I see a bootie design. Designs like the Primus knit have failed for me in the past, so I didn’t expect any different here, but it worked out amazingly! 

I was informed that the Archetype 1 was fairly difficult to slip on due to the overly tight bootie construction. In Archetype 2, the redesign around the tongue means this is only an issue if you have a very deep foot. 

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What is the lock down like?

The foot is locked in place by a secure midfoot. If there’s one area of the whole shoe that keeps you locked in place, it’s the midfoot. I have average deep feet, and I found the midfoot to be snug. So, if you’ve got super deep feet, you may find the upper material isn’t quite flexible enough to allow for a comfortable fit. 

That’s not to say that the midfoot is bad. Personally, I prefer a tighter midfoot. It stops the foot from slipping forward in the shoe, and you’re not relying on lacing to lock you in place. It also means there’s no material bunching over the top of the foot. 

The insoles provided offer options to make the shoe a low or average volume fit. If you have a low-volume foot, there are insoles provided that can fill out some of the depth to achieve the perfect fit. Interestingly, these aren’t your standard insoles. The plastic-like material is bumpy on one side (like the Naboso insoles), offering underfoot stimulation to reduce fatigue and foot pain. You can also flip the insoles over to expose a smooth surface if you’re not a fan of the bumpy option. 

tolos archetype 2 toes

How’s the heel lock?

I didn’t feel the “hug” around the heel, but I never felt slippage, either. If there’s one negative I could find about the fit, it would be the heel. The only time I found a perfect heel lock was with the insoles in, but that reduced the volume in the toe box for me. It seems like there’s a small mismatch between heel depth and forefoot depth, meaning the heel fit is never perfect. 

Obviously, that comes with the caveat that every foot is different. I never had any heel slippage issues while running in the Archetype 2, so I wouldn’t use this statement as a deciding factor on whether to try the shoe. It’s just a point to be aware of. 

tolos archetype 2 heel

The toe box of Xero Shoes with the depth and midfoot of a Vivobarefoot—that’s the best way I can describe this shoe. The big toe area is slightly tapered like a Xero Shoes model but also thins out to provide a more fitted feel through the midfoot like a Vivobarefoot

This is a great option if you’re not at the extreme end in terms of width, depth, and toe splay. It’s kind of middle of the road in all respects. 

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 outline

Tolos Archetype 2

10% DISCOUNT CODE: BRR

Feel

Considering this is not a road running shoe, it was still a delight to run in. It offers a great deal of ground feel and enough flexibility to offer a “near-barefoot” experience. 

With only 5.5mm between you and the ground, you rely on your foot strength. That’s right! With the insole out, you’re left with 3.5mm of rubber and 2mm of sewn-in insole under the foot. It created amazing ground feel, which is exactly what you want when practicing barefoot running. This is as close as you’re going to get when it comes to minimal shoes and true barefoot running. 

tolos archetype 2 pairs

Is the upper secure?

There’s a balance to be had with upper durability, and the Archetype skews towards durability. That’s not a bad thing. Obviously, the tougher and more heavyweight the material, the more durable it becomes —but that often comes at the cost of flexibility and durability. The Archetype upper is thicker, which discounts it from being a performant running shoe. But don’t  discount it from being a part of your running shoe rotation. 

tolos archetype 2 bumpy insole 2

Multiple insole options make the Archetype a versatile shoe. If you can find a comfortable fit with or without the insole, you will have a super versatile shoe. Personally, I found the bumpy insole great for everyday walks but not for running. Using the flat side reduces the shoe’s volume and smooths out the sharp edges, but it doesn’t add cushion as it’s a relatively solid insole. 

But taking the insole out made the shoe come alive, or should I say, your foot came alive! It forced real foot activation. Something that all barefoot runners look for. 

tolos archetype 2 tongue

Can the shoe work in the gym?

I found very little lateral motion, making it a decent shoe option for gym work. A secondary benefit of the tougher upper is a more secure fit. Your foot doesn’t slip off the side of the base, meaning it works well in the gym or even on the court. 

It’s not the most breathable shoe. Again, it’s back to the upper. The tight weave on this material makes this shoe pretty hot. It’s no worse than Vivobarefoot Primus Lites, but you’ll notice the difference if you’re coming from a purpose-built running shoe with thin mesh material. It all depends on your body, your feet, and your environment. 

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 outline

Tolos Archetype 2

10% DISCOUNT CODE: BRR

Durability

The solid upper material will last well beyond the shoe’s lifetime. In the feel section, I talked a lot about how the upper material detracted from performance. However, regarding durability, the tougher canvas is a big plus point. I do not see anyone busting out the side of this material. 

tolos archetype 2 close outsole

Will the outsoles fail?

As runners, we put a lot of stress through the outsoles, which could be the weak point. The amount of outsole wear often comes down to the activities you use them in. Runners tend to go through shoes much quicker than walkers because the forces and friction created are much higher when running versus walking. In this instance, the outsole becomes a weak point if you’re running in them. 

After 50km of running, I started to see a tiny amount of wear, which will likely translate into substantial wear by the 500km stage. That’s not bad by running shoe standards, but many seem to have higher expectations in the barefoot scene. I will update you when I have more miles in the shoe to see how the wear progresses. 

tolos archetype 2 top view

In the first version, many noted the crease point in the forefoot as a weakness as the outsole splits away from the outsole. In the Archetype 2, we see the toe cap shortened in order to relieve any uncomfortable pinching caused by the crease, but there’s still a potential durability issue. Many who have used Vivobarefoots may have seen this issue before. It’s a common issue you see when you have a flexible shoe with a semi-hard rubber outsole. 

Bang for your buck. It’s worth noting that for $115, you’re getting a quality-made shoe that rivals its higher priced competitors. It becomes a very attractive option when you factor in the versatility and style. 

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 outline

Tolos Archetype 2

10% DISCOUNT CODE: BRR

Conclusion

“If I could only take 1 pair of shoes on vacation, the Tolos Archetype 2 would be my choice”. 

I’ve said this about the Vivobarefoot Primus Lites in the past, and I think they sit in direct competition with each other. 

Stylish Casual option – Yes
Gym ready – Yes
Occasional run – Yes

Considering that Archetype 2 is $60 cheaper than Primus Lite, the decision becomes clearer. In fact, I no longer own my Primus Lite’s and instead use the Tolos as my go-to casual shoe!

Would this be my shoe choice if I was looking for pure barefoot running shoes? No. I think Xero Shoes offers some better options for performance, but if you’re not ready to build out a shoe closet with 10 pairs of shoes, give Tolos a try!

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 outline

Tolos Archetype 2

10% DISCOUNT CODE: BRR

Nick
Nick

Nick is a UESCA-certified ultramarathon coach and avid barefoot runner, having over 5 years of experience in barefoot training and has competed in multiple ultra marathons wearing barefoot shoes. Starting his journey in the running industry over 10 years ago in New Zealand, Nick evolved from a running shoe salesperson to a passionate advocate for the transformative power of barefoot running. He believes in its potential to enhance running experiences for all and combines his unique insights from both personal achievements and professional coaching to guide and inspire the running community."

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