Topo Athletic Ultraventure Pro Review
All Topo shoes have a very distinctive shape. The toe box is broad and rounded to give your feet the space to spread out on impact and function inside the shoes. This gives the runner natural cushioning from their feet, stability and allows your foot to spring you into your next stride. If you aren’t used to a broad, rounded toe box and you don’t have broad feet then shoes of this type will feel roomy when you first put them on.
If you have been running in shoes with a high heel to forefoot drop and a pointed toe box then you might find that your feet don’t spread on impact. This function does come back after a period of time and usually runners then find that all their shoes that don’t have space feel very snug and restrictive. If you’re brand new to low or zero drop we recommend starting gradually, using both your old and new low/zero drop shoes for a while.
Despite being designed for longer distances and having ‘ultra’ in the name, for newer runners running at a more relaxed pace and increasing the distance as you go, the Ultraventure Pro is still a good option. The stiffer, cushioned build would work better than a more minimal shoe, which are not really designed to ‘plod’ along. Faster, out-and-out trail shoes could feel a little hard going and picking a “fast” looking shoe is often a mistake for slower, new runners. Get in touch for advice.
Paul Giblin a GB international ultra-runner was quoted as saying that he thought that “blisters and bleeding feet was all part of the experience of ultramarathon running”. That was until he discovered Topo Athletic running shoes, with their broader & more rounded toe box. The foot function that this shaped toe box allows pushes the lymph around the body so that your feet don’t swell as much as they would in a more restrictive shoe. The extra space makes it a lot more difficult for toes to rub together. This is why Altra shoes, that have a similarly shaped toe box, are very popular with ultramarathon runners and why Inov-8’s most popular ultra/trail shoe is the Terraultra G270. It was one of their first broader trail shoes.
The Topo Ultraventure Pro is designed for the long haul. Designed to perform when you’re hoping the end is close! Therefore, Topo have taken their popular trail shoe, the Ultraventure, and increased the durability, underfoot protection and cushioning. The shoes also have a D-Ring at the end of the laces and attachment in the heel to take Topo’s gaiters.
The heel fit is nice and snug and the shoe holds your foot through the midfoot using internal overlays. Then the shoe opens out into the broad rounded toe box and your toes are free to function. The upper is a tightly woven mesh that is designed to be durable and stop grit and sand from getting into the shoes on mixed terrain. I didn’t notice that the shoe was at all hot to run in even during the heatwave we have been enjoying in the UK, despite this upper being somewhat less breathable.
The external heel cup is the same stable construction used in the Topo Ultraventure 2, Topo Phantom 2 and Topo Ultrafly 3. This heel cup is very firm and stable at the base but stops half way up the heel. This is so that even when you are running up very steep hills there is no plastic heel cup far enough up your heel to dig in. It also means that the soft moulded heel cup above this can mould to the shape of your heel. This gives runners with any calcifications on their heels a better chance of getting a good fit.
The midsole offers the same stable ride as the Topo Ultrafly 3 road shoe and Ultraventure 2. There is a soft crash pad at the heel to offer cushioning to the heel strikers and a firmer piece on the medial side of the midsole to give a small degree of pronation support. The Ultraventure Pro is still for neutral runners. There isn’t a lot of pronation support and it only helps if you roll inwards.
The tongue is nicely padded with tabs for the laces to reduce the chance of the tongue slipping to one side in the shoes. The toe bumper is firm enough to offer a good level of toe protection.
The Ortholite insole gives an initial soft feel to the cushioning. It’s a similar ride to the Topo MTN Racer 2, which also has a zip foam midsole. The difference is that the Ultraventure Pro is a bit more solid, as the midsole is thicker. The stack height is 30mm in the heel and 25 mm in the forefoot. Potential ultramarathon distance shoes needs to have superb rebound, which the Utraventure Pro achieves.
The Ultraventute Pro also has a rockplate in the midfoot. This stiffens up the shoe and this lack of flexion makes the Zip Foam midsole feel firmer. The Ultraventure Pro is obviously designed for longer sessions and events, where you are likely to be walking the longer climbs. The extra underfoot protection will help reduce the chance of getting sore feet. The stiffer forefoot makes it easier to walk quickly in the shoes.
The drawback with underfoot protection is that you lose some feel for the trail. For shorter distances, more trail-feel and flexibility then try the Ultraventure 2.
The outsole is Vibram Mega Grip. This is a soft & sticky rubber that gives good traction in the wet. The same rubber used for the Topo MTN Racer and MTN Racer 2. It is durable but obviously not enough for long distances on tarmac. The rubber used on the outsole of the Ultraventure 2 will handle distance on tarmac/hard surfaces better.
The men’s Ultraventure Pro weighs in at 295g and women’s 238 grams. For a shoe of this type this is very light!
Although the Ultraventure Pro is made for the longer runs when you are likely to be running slower, I didn’t have a problem zipping along quite happily on shorter runs. The stiffer forefoot is noticeable, and they aren’t as ‘effortless’ to run in as the Ultraventure 2. I prefer feeling the ground in more minimal cushioning. I feel this makes me more nimble on the single track trails. As in the Ultraventure, the 5mm lugs provide good grip on a variety of terrain. They are comfortable on hard pack but grip to the single track when it’s wet. They aren’t a cross country shoe but are as versatile as you will get.
In summary, the Topo Ultraventutre Pro is designed for those looking for a cushioned trail shoe for the longer, potential ultramarathon distance. It’s versatile enough shorter, quicker runs for those that don’t mind giving up some feel for the trail and would remain comfortable for newer runners too, with lots of protection and a good amount of cushioning.
Charlie @ Northern Runner Newcastle
Topo Ultraventure and Ultraventure 2: the same shoe with more flexibility and underfoot feel. Here are our reviews:
Inov-8 Terraultra G270: Zero drop. Not a broad in the toe box but, the same shape. No rockplate so more underfoot feel:
Lone Peak 5: Zero drop. Broader fit through the midfoot. Here is our review:
VJ Ultra: 8mm heel to forefoot less rounded toe box. Here is our review:
Hoka Mafate: Here is our review: