I bought the Topo Ultraventure because I needed of a new pair of trail running shoes and because I wanted a more roomy toe box. I've had a few issues with other trail shoes, that just don't have the kind of space I like in a toe box. Specifically, my last pair of trail shoes - the Salomon Trailster became a bit annoying on downhill sections.
Plus I now have 2 pairs of wide-fit road runners in my shoe rotation. Namely, the Brooks Ghost 12 & 13. So swapping back from them to the Trailster just magnified how tight the toe box is in the Trailster.
Topo Athletic are a relatively new shoe brand, founded in 2013 by Tony Post. According to the information available on the company's website - Tony's goal was to produce shoes that were designed with common sense, simplicity, and comfort, for runners seeking a more natural running experience.
So, have they succeeded? You'll have to keep reading my review and find out...
The main reason that I opted for the Ultraventure - was the foot shaped toe box and to a lesser extent the 5mm heel to toe drop.
Ever since I got a pair of Altra Torrin I fell in love with their anatomically shaped (foot shaped) toe box. I think ALL shoes should be made this way. It just doesn't make sense to cram our tootsies into pointy footwear.
Unfortunately for me though - Altra only make "zero drop" shoes. Which means that there is no difference in the thickness of the cushioning/sole from heel to toe.
Whilst I enjoyed my Altra Torrins, I could never transition to them for my longest long runs. As I find the lack of heel lift puts too much stress on my calf/achillees complex. This is partly due to my impatience, but also because I have small feet compared to my leg length and overall height (I'm a UK size 9 & I'm 6'2" or 188cm).
Ever since dabbling with the Altra brand - I've been looking for a shoe that had the same type of toe box design, but with some heel lift. So, when I spotted the Topo Athletic whilst searching for wide fit trail shoes I was intrigued.
Unlike Altra, Topo Athletic produce zero drop and low drop shoes.The fact that they did produce shoes with a bit of a heel was the deciding factor and after a bit more research I plumped for the Ultraventure.
For my shoe reviews, I've decided upon a scoring system that has a maximum achievable score of 50. Derived from 10 different factors that can influence user experience. Each having a maximum score of 5. Those factors are:
- Build Quality
- Price (Value for money)
I'm generally more concerned with the function of products rather than what they look like. I'm most definitely not a follower of fashion of any kind. Including running gear. I'll pretty much wear just about anything. Especially if it works really well.
That said, I quite like how these shoes look. I think they're quite handsome and I like the colours I chose = Navy/Black (maybe because they matches the colour of Garmin/strap). Also available in Grey/Orange
I score them at a 4 out of 5 for looks
Obviously aesthetics are very subjective and your own opinion may differ widely from mine.
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The Topo Ultraventure seem really well made and are constructed of quality materials.
There are a couple of elements of the design (apart from the foot-shaped toe box) that I think are worth mentioning:
- 30mmm to 25mm stack height giving a 5mm drop
- 3 piece multi-density EVA midsole
- Anti-microbial Ortholite foam footbed/insole
- Engineered abrasion resistant mesh upper with vinyl overlays for a snug, secure fit. The upper also has drainage gills to assist with water release and drying
- Fully gusseted tongue
- Gaiter attachments (the gaiters are an optional extra)
I've never used gaiters, but it's nice to know that I could if I wanted to 😉 They'd certainly come in handy if I decided (or rather if I could afford) to run the marathon des sables.
For quality I give them 4 out of 5
Why did I dock a point?
To be honest, I found it very difficult to find any faults in the build quality. These are really well made shoes. Being slightly picky, for me the heel cup is slightly too low, allowing water in where other shoes wouldn't. Nothing too drastic - they're not waterproof, so my feet are likely to get wet anyway. I've just been surprised by having cold/wet feet - when running through some pretty shallow puddles that other shoes wouldn't have had a problem with.
This is an interesting one. Straight out of the box the Ultraventures felt a bit weird, true to size, but too tight on the bridge of my right foot. Whilst the left foot was fine.
I played around with the lacing for a while, but just couldn't get them to "feel nice" on my right foot. They were secure and my feet didn't slop around in them at all. They felt ok - but also slightly off. I was 50/50 as to whether I would return them and look for something else.
The toe-box was everything I was hoping for though - which was a big reason why I decided not to send them back in the end. That and the fact that I had a trail race scheduled in a couple of days and didn't want to do that in the less than generous toe box of my Salomons.
The race went fine and the Ultraventures stood up to every aspect of the terrain and I was pleased with how they performed. Though the right foot still felt odd - but nothing that resulted in any pain or blistering or the like.
After another month or so of use and the right foot fit issue just disappeared.
Overall I give them a 4 out of 5 for fit
They feel great now that I've broken them in and have run over 170miles in them at the time of typing this review.
As noted above, from the first moment I slid my feet into them I wasn't sure if the Ultraventures were destined to be sent back. When I initially walked around the house in them - it was obvious that they had some cushioning in them. But it didn't seem like there was enough to warrant Topo's label of "Max-Cushioning".
The feel of them on my feet initially was just a bit "Meh!" Neither one thing or the other. But, once I started running in them and especially once I'd broken them in - they just work. It's not like the comfort you experience in a shoe like the Brooks Ghost or a Hoka. It's just that you don't really notice that you're wearing them.
I've never once felt that my toes were rubbing, getting slammed up against the front of the shoe or sliding about. Nor have I felt my soles being pummelled by the rocks and roots on a trail.
I've also covered a fair few miles on roads and pavements now as well, whilst "commuting" to the trails - and they felt just fine on roads too.
They're a kind of a goldilocks comfort wise - they're neither too soft nor too hard and seem just right on every surface I've run on so far. That's quite a feat to pull off really.
So I score them 4 out of 5 for comfort.
The material of the upper is quite thick, but still reasonably breathable. Though they're not the most breathable shoes on my shoe rack. They do the job well enough and my feet have never felt horribly hot or sweaty - even on long Summer runs.
They dry out pretty quickly and as an added advantage the anti-microbial Ortholite foam insole does seem to have made a difference - as they haven't started to smell rancid yet. Despite having been through, mud, puddles, streams etc, which would normally make a shoe whiffy and in need of a good clean and being placed outside for a while. Nice touch.
I score them a 3.5 out of 5 for breathability
The rubber outsole material is Vibram XS Trek and it seems very durable.
The lugs are well spaced and don't tend to get clogged with mud as much as some of my other trail shoes. Though they can hold a bit towards the heel where the lugs are more tightly packed. The lug depth is pretty decent too.
From my experience the grip on these shoes is really good. They cope well on every type of terrain and surface I've taken them over. I've run in wet conditions, over wet leaves and across grass, mud and light gravelly trail and even frosty roads.
So I give them a 5 out of 5
Even though they're designed as a trail shoe. I've worn them on road escapades too and they cope really well on tarmac and concrete.
Topo describe this as "Max-Cushioned" trail shoes. But they don't feel like other heavily cushioned trail shoes (e.g. Hoka One One Speedgoat). They're not at all spongy underfoot. Though they're not rock hard or minimalist either. For my mind, I get a fair bit of feel for the trail under my feet, but never feel like my soles are taking a pounding.
The Ultraventures have no rock plate, but don't seem to need one, the EVA midsole seems to do the trick on its own. No doubt that also helps to give them a certain bounce quality too. They're not dull and unresponsive, but they're not quite a racing flat either.
I give them a 4.5 out of 5
They seem more responsive than some of my more cushioned trail shoes. The ability to run comfortably on road and rocky trails make these quite a versatile shoe. Very capable for long, easy paced runs and also faster paced workouts as well.
I weighed the Ultraventure when I first got them and they clocked up 310g or 10.94oz - for context, I run in a UK size 9.5. Considering the size of that lovely toe box and the depth of cushioning that's not at all bad.
For comparison, they're a fair bit lighter than some of my other shoes. As you can see in the comparison table below:
Salomon Trailster GTX
Brooks Ghost 12
Considering that these shoes are not designed to be a stripped down racer and the level of cushioning they provide. They're surprisingly light weight in my opinion. But again nothing to get super excited about.
So I give them a 4.5 out of 5
Because they're lighter than my other trail shoes of a similar ilk. The weight difference will be noticeable on long trail runs and I'd definitely choose these over my other trail shoes if I were to sign-up for a trail marathon.
The sole/grip in particular seem very durable and after running for over 170+ miles in them now - on mixed surfaces - trail and road. They're not showing any real signs of wear at all.
The materials in the upper also seem pretty good quality and robust. I think these shoes are definitely built to last and stand up to some serious punishment in all weather conditions.
So I give them a 5 out of 5
I've already decided these shoes will last me at least 550 miles of happy running and possibly a fair bit more than that too.
June 2023 Update:
I paid £110.49 for them online - including the cost of postage. Which if I'm honest is way more than I usually fork out for trail shoes. But as I decided that I wanted that foot shaped toe box - I couldn't find an alternative shoe at a cheaper price.
So I give them a 3 out of 5
Even at full recommended retail price of £130 they'd be a pretty good buy for a durable shoe of this quality.
If you're lucky, and you spot a pair in your size for less than RRP - you should snap them up without hesitation.
Where I bought them
I got my Topo Ultraventure from northernrunner.com at the discounted price noted above.
I'm was very happy with the Topo Ultraventure. They needed a bit of breaking in, but I'm glad I stuck with them. But disappointed that they split in an awkward place and with potentially a lot more miles left in them
40 out of a max of 50 (amended down from 42.5 due to the splitting issue)
They’re solidly built, fit really well and after breaking them in are comfortable. The Vibram outsole is another mark of quality and durability. The grip/traction is excellent. Add in the fact that they're quite light, responsive and have that sublime foot-shaped toe box and I think they offer good value for money.
I initially had no doubt that these trail running shoes would last well and I very much enjoyed the runs that I had in them. And they did become my favourite choice for my trail runs. Even though they were not waterproof. But then they split way too soon for my liking and were only fit for the bin!