Searching for the right type, fit, and feel of a trail running shoe comes with trying shoes outside of your “comfort zone.” This was my first experience with the Topo Brand running shoe, and I was compelled to give them a try, given its history of offering a natural running fit.
The Topo Ultraventure, a neutral trail running shoe, is one of the company’s most cushioned shoe that also offers significant protection in a lightweight shoe.
Right out of the box, I was able to see how this is clearly a well-made shoe, and it felt comfortable immediately.
The toe box is extremely roomy, giving lots of toe spread and room for foot swelling throughout the run. I did feel the shoe ran slightly big but not enough to go down in size.
- Category: Neutral
- Offset: 5-6mm
- Stack Height: Medium
- Weight: Women’s 8.7 oz (size 8)
- Gaiter attachment
The upper part of the shoe is a tight weave, which gives it strength over trail terrain and felt breathable.
Topo also states that the fabric has a feature that allows for “water release and quick-drying.”
I did not run in the rain or water, thus was not able to verify this claim. The lacing system is simple but effective in that it pulls evenly, and the laces are certainly long enough to double knot.
This shoe definitely had a noticeable cushioned ride, but it did not deter me from feeling the trail.
The overall shoe offers a great deal of protection surrounding the sides, front, and back.
Even with all of this protection, the shoe felt relatively light. The Ortholite insole is an extra bonus, which added some cushion and comfortable fit.
The shoe offered a great deal of protection all around from the front, sides, and back. There is also a gaiter attachment, which is an added bonus.
The traction on this shoe is amazing. Topo utilizes the “Vibram XS Trek Outsole,” which runs the length of the shoe.
Running on slippery fall leaves on a rocky trail proved to perform incredibly well. When turning corners on a slippery trail, I was truly able to feel the grip, and I was able to keep my speed up as I turned, an amazing feeling!
I took these trail running shoes on a short hike before I ran the trails to get an overall feel of the shoe. I ran a 6-mile technical trail run and another 10-mile trail run.
No doubt they were super comfortable and well-cushioned. I ran on an autumn day with wet leaves covering most of the trail, including the rocks.
The traction was extremely responsive, and I was able to navigate the trails without slipping. I feel Topo did take a lot into consideration when designing this shoe, from the lightness, protection, and comfort.
However, after many tries with low drop shoes, I have finally decided that they are not for me. The shoe is not necessarily “attractive,” but this may not be important as soon enough, they’ll be covered in mud.
This trail shoe does offer a great ride with lots of nice features, but you have to like the wide toe box and the low heel to toe drop.
If I had to describe this shoe in one sentence, I would say it is a marriage of the Hoka Speedgoat and the Altra Lone Peak—a moderate heel-to-toe drop, a wide toe box and natural foot shape, and enough cushion to run for hours.
Long-distance trail running over a variety of surfaces
Experience so far
- One 16-mile run on flat, fast trails
- One 18-mile run on rugged mountain terrain
- A 100-mile trail race on rolling singletrack and dirt roads
For someone with a somewhat wide foot, this shoe fits like a glove. It has neutral support with a 5mm of heel-toe drop—less than many conventional trail shoes, but more (of course) than true zero-drop brands.
I find the 5mm drop to be aggressive enough to approach steep ascents with confidence. It does so without putting too much strain on my calves over long distances.
The wide toe-box is reminiscent of Altra shoes and accommodates swelling during ultramarathons.
The 30mm stack in the heel provides plenty of cushioning, but the shoe still feels connected to the ground—much more so than some maximalist shoes out there, such as the Altra Olympus.
These shoes are humble in their appearance but deliver on the trails.
This shoe has proved its worth over a 100-mile ultra. The midsole is cushioned enough to remain comfortable over long distances.
Meanwhile, the 11oz weight (men’s 10.5, measured on a kitchen scale) is reasonable compared to other cushioned trail shoes. The upper is durable yet forgiving with a wide toe box, allowing for swelling while remaining comfortable.
The lugs on the Vibram outsole are enough to provide traction, but running in slippery mud may prove to be too much.
Overall, this shoe is versatile enough to cover a variety of terrain, cushioned enough to go for miles on end, and light enough to feel lively for hours.
After 130+ miles, including a 100-mile ultra, the shoes are holding up well. There is noticeable wear on the outsoles, but they still have plenty of life left.
The areas of exposed midsole on the bottom of the shoe also show signs of wear but are still intact. The midsole on the sides and the uppers are still in great condition, despite some contact with rocks on my runs.
Lastly, there is no noticeable separation between the upper, midsole, or outsole.
The outsole remains in good shape after 130+ miles.
This shoe is not pushing the boundaries of running shoe technology and features, which is a good thing. I like this shoe because of it’s simple design—manageable stack height and heel-toe drop, forgiving upper, and a durable outsole.
This shoe’s features, while humble, allow it to excel as a versatile long-distance trail shoe. Other reviewers have commented on Topo Athletic’s bizarre approach to their gaters.
It utilizes two horizontal hooks on the heel and another hook to attach to the laces. Admittedly, this design does feel secure and accomplishes the goal of keeping debris out of your shoe.
But, changing your socks at the 70-mile aid station in your ultra may prove to be difficult and frustrating, as the hooks on the heel require some effort. Topo Athletic should look to Altra for a more user-friendly approach to gaters.
The gater loops are secure but not very easy to work with.
My navy blue and black colorway is smooth and subtle, though not very exciting. The shoe is also available in a grey/orange design, which is brighter, but still not bold.
The Topo Athletic Ultraventure is humble, versatile, durable, and—most importantly—fun. This shoe is a solid long-distance trail shoe, especially considering that the price tag is low compared to similar shoes from other brands.
It will satisfy runners from half-marathon distances up to (and beyond) 100 milers. At 11 oz (men’s 10.5, weight on a kitchen scale), it is not the lightest shoe on the market, but this weight translates to durability and cushioned comfort.
The 5mm heel-toe drop is a reasonable compromise between the large drops of traditional running shoe brands and the zero-drop market.
This shoe will remain in heavy rotation within my collection—especially for 20+ mile trail runs—anywhere from flat gravel trails to the steep, rugged slopes of the Grand Canyon.
However, for a similar shoe with a smaller heel-toe drop (3 mm), look to the Topo Athletic Terraventure.
Good to know
- Extended running sessions on technical terrains are the forte of the Topo Athletic Ultraventure. This product features an underfoot platform that has three varying densities. The full-length part is soft and springy while the ones in the heel and midfoot are firmer and more aligned towards stabilizing the foot. A footbed that has antimicrobial capacities rests on top of the tri-density foam.
- The external pad of this trail running companion is made up of Vibram® XS Trek, a rubber compound that is capable of resisting the abrasive nature of the outdoor topography. Prominent traction nodes help the shoe when it comes to clamping the ground and maintaining movement control.
- The upper unit of the Ultraventure utilizes a mesh that is optimized to resist scratches and tears. It is supported by printed overlays, generously padded collar and tongue, and a soft inner sleeve that is non-irritating. Drainage holes and gaiter attachment modules round out the features of the façade.
The Topo Athletic Ultraventure was constructed to be true to size. Runners are encouraged to get a pair with their typical sizing preferences in mind. It is worth noting that trying on the shoe first and scouring for other users’ comments about the size options can ultimately help in achieving a pleasant in-shoe experience.
Widthwise, the available option for men is D – Medium; for women, the variant is B – Medium. Low and medium foot volumes are welcome inside this product’s interior compartment.
The outsole unit of the Topo Athletic Ultraventure is made up of Vibram® XS Trek. This compound has the job of protecting the midsole from the unpredictability of the trails. It is also meant to provide traction through its inherently grippy construction.
Aggressive gripping lugs pockmark the external pad. These prominent nodes are designed to heighten the shoe’s grip over the surfaces. The opposite-facing configuration helps in the tackling of slopes and other types of uneven ground.
Forefoot flex grooves allow the foot to move naturally through the gait cycle. The liftoff phase is the part of the step that benefits the most as it is the motion that requires the bending of the toe joints.
A multi-density ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA) system is used for the midsole unit of the Topo Athletic Ultraventure. The full-length part of this scheme is the one that carries the entirety of the wearer’s foot, supporting it as it goes from the heel to the toe. It is light yet able to attenuate impact shock when the striking phase takes place.
The heel part has a firm wedge that aims to steady the back of the foot and prevent it from buckling. The added volume can also bolster the quality of the impact attenuation.
The medial side of the platform has an elongated post that supports the arch. Overpronated foot motion is averted because of this add-on. Lateral stability is also an aspect that is put into focus because of such an inclusion.
An OrthoLite® foodbed is the surface on which the foot is going to rest. This accoutrement serves as a barrier between the underfoot and the lasting board. It is padded, but it’s not inflexible or weighty. It even has antibacterial and anti-moisture capabilities which maintain the health and cleanliness of the interior chamber.
The upper unit of the Topo Athletic Ultraventure utilizes an Abrasion-Resistant Mesh. This material can stave off tears, especially from sharp objects and rough surfaces. It still has a bevy of breathing holes to allow air to enter the interior chamber and maintain a well-ventilated environment for the foot.
Printed overlays bolster the structural integrity of this running shoe. These synthetic prints ensure a relatively uncluttered look, thereby bringing modern shoe-designs to the traditionally large frames of trail footwear. They also help the lacing system when it comes to securing the foot in place and preventing in-shoe wobbling.
The ghillie lacing system involves semi-round shoelaces that loop through discrete fabric eyelets. These elements work together to secure the foot and keep it in place.
The anatomical toe box is a spacious forefoot design that accommodates the natural splaying of the toes. The relaxation of the foot may contribute to a well-rounded step.
A soft fabric is used for the internal sleeve. This textile hugs the foot securely yet it doesn’t irritate the skin. It also has ventilation pores to further encourage breathability.
The padded tongue and collar cushion the topmost portions of the foot. These facets of the upper unit also help in preventing accidental shoe removals.
Runners can attach separately sold gaiters to hooks that are fashioned on the façade. This inclusion would merit extra security because gaiters are essentially barrier-like sheets that prevent water, mud, and rocks from infiltrating the interior through the opening of the shoe.
Drainage holes are ports through which water can go if it infiltrates the inner compartment.