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Topo Athletic Ultraventure 2 - Women's Review

A protective and comfortable ride, touting a wide toe box and a little extra cushioning in the heel, making it a great choice for all trails and distances
Topo Athletic Ultraventure 2 - Women's
Photo: Topo Athletic
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Price:  $135 List | Check Price at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Sticky and confidence inspiring traction, stable, protective, wide toe box, good for forefoot and heel strikers
Cons:  No rock plate, tapers at the toe, outsole holds mud
Manufacturer:   Topo Athletic
By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 28, 2021
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72
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 16
  • Foot Protection - 25% 8
  • Traction - 20% 7
  • Sensitivity - 15% 6
  • Stability - 15% 7
  • Comfort and Fit - 15% 8
  • Weight - 10% 6

Our Verdict

The Topo Athletic Ultraventure 2 is an ideal choice for those seeking a wide and voluminous toe box with lots of underfoot protection. It features a 5mm drop, which adds a little extra protection for both forefoot and heel strikers. It touts a durable design that doesn't pack out easily, with a sticky outsole designed for all trails and distances. Topo has a similar design to Altra shoes in regards to the wide toe box, but the differences might be preferable for some. If you seek a shoe designed to take on the distances with extra cushioning in the heel and through the midsole, this is a wonderful choice.

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Star Rating
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Pros Sticky and confidence inspiring traction, stable, protective, wide toe box, good for forefoot and heel strikersLight, very protective, excellent mud shed, superior traction, surprisingly stableExcellent traction, great balance of foot protection and sensitivity, specific fit, durable outsoleLightweight and streamlined, durable elements, very sensitive, precise fit, protective upper, stable on technical terrain, fun color optionsSensitive, stable, precise fit, great for technical surfaces
Cons No rock plate, tapers at the toe, outsole holds mudNarrow fit, runs small, rigid construction takes time to break-inHigher heel is less stable, lugs wear down on pavementExpensive, no extra room in the toe box, tongue requires readjustment, zero drop design is best for only someHeavier, lacks cushioning, best for narrow feet
Bottom Line A protective and comfortable ride, touting a wide toe box and a little extra cushioning in the heel, making it a great choice for all trails and distancesStable and deliciously sticky, this contender is just a crusher all the way around, built for training runs and long distances alikeAn aggressive trail shoe that is built for the steepest and most technical trails out thereOur favorite for its low profile and zero-drop design that feels like an extension of the body, ready to tackle technical terrainA sensitive yet protective trail runner best for technical terrain, with a little less cushioning in the forefoot
Rating Categories Ultraventure 2 Dynafit Feline SL - Women's Speedcross 5 Inov-8 Terraultra G270 Bushido 2
Foot Protection (25%)
8
8
9
6
6
Traction (20%)
7
9
9
8
8
Sensitivity (15%)
6
9
7
9
9
Stability (15%)
7
8
7
9
8
Comfort And Fit (15%)
8
6
7
6
8
Weight (10%)
6
6
5
9
5
Specs Ultraventure 2 Dynafit Feline SL... Speedcross 5 Inov-8 Terraultra... Bushido 2
Measured Weight (per shoe, size 9) 9.4 oz 9.8 oz 10.7 oz 8.3 oz 10.3 oz
Heel-to-Toe Drop 5 mm 8 mm 10 mm 0 mm 6 mm
Stack Height (Heel, Forefoot) 30 mm, 25 mm Not disclosed 35 mm, 25 mm 12 mm, 12 mm 19 mm, 13 mm
Upper Engineered mesh Mesh, continuous nylon Nylon mesh, sythetic overlays Mesh and TPU AirMesh, Thermal adhesive microfiber, High frequency welded ripstop
Midsole 3-piece injected EVA Feline SL midsole Injected EVA Powerflow Max 1.5 mm dual-density compressed EVA
Outsole Vibram XS Trek EVO Sticky Pomoco Outer Contragrip Graphene Grip Dual-Density FriXion XT V-Groove with Impact Brake System
Rock Plate? None Not disclosed Yes Not disclosed Yes
Wide Version Available? No No No No No
Sizes Available 6 - 11 5 - 11 5 - 12 5.5 - 11 36 - 43 EU

Our Analysis and Test Results

What's New With the Topo Ultraventure 2?


The Ultraventure 2 has seen just a few updates from the original version.
  • The midsole feels a little firmer and taller (but no reported increases in stack height)
  • Added microfiber belt connecting the upper to the heel for a better fit
  • Updated lacing eyelets with wider spacing for better cinching
  • New gaiter adapt eyelet

The Topo Athletic Ultraventure 2 (left) has some welcome...
The Topo Athletic Ultraventure 2 (left) has some welcome improvements over the original Ultraventure model (right).
Photo: Amber King

The Ultraventure 2 stands out for its wide toe box and 5mm drop with lots of underfoot cushioning. It's designed for longer distances as a protective trail shoe that will bite down on any surface. It is best for those seeking protective comfort with the freedom to spread their toes in a voluminous toe box. The extra cushion in the heel offers a little extra support for both heel and forefoot strikers.

Performance Comparison


The Topo Athletic Ultraventure 2 offers a wide toe box with a little...
The Topo Athletic Ultraventure 2 offers a wide toe box with a little extra cushioning under the heel.
Photo: Amber King


Foot Protection


Loaded with underfoot cushioning that is responsive and compact, this shoe will protect your foot from underfoot hazards. The thick midsole is pronounced, with 25mm at the forefoot and 30mm at the heel. It does not have a rock plate, but we didn't notice any performance differences when running on technical terrain, in comparison to those that do. The lack of a rock plate makes it a bit more flexible than those that have one.

This shoe has a thick midsole offering excellent protection from...
This shoe has a thick midsole offering excellent protection from rocks, roots, mud, and cactus (as we can see here).
Photo: Amber King

The upper mesh is multilayered, offering protection from fine particulates like sand. The newest iteration comes with a gaiter eyelet, allowing you to use a gaiter for sandy or dusty conditions. The mesh is quick to dry, and after tromping through a few streams, managed to dry out in about 20 minutes in temperatures around 60 degrees. It doesn't have a dedicated drainage system at the toe, but the mesh does a fine job releasing water. Overall, this is a protective shoe that we would trust on hard, rocky terrain where your foot might need a little extra armor.

The mesh is breathable and keeps out debris, drying quickly when wet.
The mesh is breathable and keeps out debris, drying quickly when wet.
Photo: Amber King


Traction


The outsole on this shoe is absolutely bomber. The Vibram XS Trek EVO rubber is sticky, yet durable. The lugs are 6mm in depth with nice spacing. It excels on traditional trails and paths, sticking well to slickrock and other surfaces. The lug tops are flat and smooth, which offer a nice ride, even on hard pavement and roads. You can say this is a versatile shoe because of the outsole construction. It earns a middle-of-the-road score because it still slips on some surfaces and tends to collect sticky mud.

The outsole is sticky and a great option for scrambling.
The outsole is sticky and a great option for scrambling.
Photo: Amber King

When heading down the Old Horsethief trail in Ouray (a training route), we noticed the shoe slipping out on kitty litter over dirt. On the same trail, we encountered snow when kicking in steps. While we trusted this shoe to hold during these tests, we weren't as confident in it as other contenders with longer, more tapered lugs that act like teeth to hold tight to such slippery surfaces. While the rubber is sticky, it's not as soft as other contenders, so when it rains outside, slippery rocks are a bit of a hazard (as is true for most trail runners).

We appreciate the Vibram outsole with flatter lugs that can bite...
We appreciate the Vibram outsole with flatter lugs that can bite down on the trail. However, as you can see, they don't release mud easily.
Photo: Amber King

Sensitivity


While Ultraventure 2 has thicker cushioning, it lacks a rock plate which helps a little with sensitivity. We could still sense trail undulations underfoot, but the stack of 3-piece injected EVA foam is dense. The translation to the foot is a smooth ride, even on uneven terrain. While this is a huge plus for some, those looking for a really intimate experience should look at a shoe with a little less cushioning.

If you are a forefoot striker, expect to feel the trail a little...
If you are a forefoot striker, expect to feel the trail a little more than if you primarily strike with your heel.
Photo: Amber King

Stability


While the stack height feels a little taller than most, the stable construction and wider toe box offer more balance, and thus, confidence on the trail. The new upper uses a microfiber belt that connects the midfoot to the heel, which wraps it together for a better fitting heel. The TPU overlays also add a little structure, keeping the shoe flexible, but structured.

On uneven terrain, the wider toe box helps with balance, making this...
On uneven terrain, the wider toe box helps with balance, making this a fairly stable contender.
Photo: Amber King

We tested the Ultraventure 2 on several runs in the San Juan mountains of Colorado, right when the snow was melting. This means muddy, rocky, and uneven transitions. Upon each landing, the platform always felt flat, offering just enough sensitivity to adjust the body as needed. The height is high, but the wider landing pad in the forefoot and heel makes it a stable ride. That said, the tipping point on this shoe is more pronounced. The outsole is about the same width as the upper, meaning that if you do go over, it will be a hard turn on the ankle since the wall height is high and steep. However, our main tester is a chronic ankle roller and didn't roll her ankle in this shoe after 60+ miles of use. After all these miles on uneven terrain, she likes the stability and trusts it on uneven surfaces.

A look at the TPU overlays and how the laces integrate into the upper.
A look at the TPU overlays and how the laces integrate into the upper.
Photo: Amber King

Comfort and Fit


We can't boast enough about the excellent comfort and enhanced fit on the newest iteration of this shoe. With a load of underfoot cushioning that is responsive and protective, our foot continued to stay fresh on the trail. The wider toe box allows a bit of splay, while the redesigned upper is more flexible and quick to dry.

We appreciate the wider forefoot that allows toes to wiggle freely.
We appreciate the wider forefoot that allows toes to wiggle freely.
Photo: Amber King

This shoe is neutral with a 5mm drop from heel to toe, offering a little extra cushion. For those that have tried zero-drop shoes like Altra but couldn't do them because of the lack of support in the heel, this is an excellent alternative. Zero-drop shoes favor midfoot strikers, but the added cushioning in the heel for the Ultraventure will accommodate a heel striker as well. The toe box is similar but tapers more to the front of the toes so your foot feels a little more squished than in Altra shoes, which have a wide forefoot to the end of the toe. As a result, you still have width and room to wiggle, but it's a little tighter. The lacing system is also redesigned, so there is more space between the width of the eyelets, allowing you to cinch it down for a precise fit.

We appreciate the comfort of this shoe, especially for distances...
We appreciate the comfort of this shoe, especially for distances that go into the ultra territory.
Photo: Amber King

On the trails, our feet stayed in place. The heel cup enveloped our foot, with a secure wrap around the midfoot. On steeper trails, we experienced toe bang at the top of the shoe when going downhill, but this was easily fixed by tightening the laces. The underfoot cushioning is harder than an Altra model, so it doesn't feel as plush, but it's more responsive and energetic, making it a comfortable choice for both short and long distances.

Weight


We weighed one size 9 shoe at just 9.4 oz. This is lightweight for the level of protection and comfort the Ultraventure 2 offers. We would feel confident wearing it during training runs and races, especially for distances into the ultras.

While this shoe seems bulky, it's actually pretty light.
While this shoe seems bulky, it's actually pretty light.
Photo: Amber King

Value


This shoe offers excellent value. It is best for those seeking a side and roomy toe box with excellent underfoot cushioning. Those that will see the best value are those that appreciate a sticky and moderately aggressive outsole with nice stability elements. This is a shoe designed to take on distances of all types, over terrain that ranges from easy to technical. Additionally, it uses a durable design. The previous version we tested is still going strong after 400+ miles and has turned into the shoe we wear for chores because of its excellent comfort and durability. After 60+ miles on the new pair, it still looks like new, with just a tiny bit of wear on the collar, because of our main testers' cadence.

Conclusion


The Topo Ultraventure 2 is best for folks seeking a wide forefoot with extra underfoot cushioning in the heel. The Vibram outsole is moderately aggressive, with the ability to go anywhere. This shoe presents a great value and is a wonderful alternative to the Altra brand. It has more protection, cushion, and is more durable. it is a good choice for both heel and forefoot strikers ready to log the miles in comfort.

Enjoy a little extra toe wiggle and extra cushioning for a...
Enjoy a little extra toe wiggle and extra cushioning for a responsive and well-supported ride.
Photo: Amber King

Amber King