Topo Athletic Ultraventure - Women's Review
Cons: No rock plate, loose fit in the mid-foot
Manufacturer: Topo Athletic
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Topo Ultraventure is a great choice for those seeking foot freedom with a little extra cushioning in the heel. With a 5-mm drop, it offers a little more cushioning than other wider shoe options. While it doesn't have a rockplate, the underfoot cushioning is sufficient for most forms of terrain, keeping you stable and protected for any distance you wish to run. From 5Ks to Ultramarathons, this comfortable and high performer will keep your feet happy.
Fantastically cushioned, this shoe offers great protection over rocky and sandy terrain. You can feel rocks through the cushioned midsole, but it offers enough protection to ensure you won't get hurt over most surfaces. While it does not come with an integrated rockplate, its main form of protection comes in the form of supportive and responsive cushioning. The cushioning itself isn't super springy or plush but is harder with a higher density. When stepping over super sharp rocks, roots, or while running for hours on end, it offers sufficient protection. The forefoot is stacked with 25mm of cushioning while the heel offers 30mm.
We used this shoe on several runs and hikes from the summer through early fall. We encountered dry, rocky chossy terrain that would usually punish an untrained foot. During the first snowfall of the year in October, we also got to test in wet weather. Through all of it, we'd still recommend this shoe.
The upper is surprisingly water-resistant and dries very quickly. When dunking it in streams and running through wet grass, we were impressed at how well it did. The drainage holes at the back of the shoe and through the mesh also offer a place for water to leave readily.
From desert runs to wet days in the mountains, this shoe is protective enough to be used for all types of distances and terrain. It's an all-terrain warrior that will keep your feet protected.
While the cushioning is ample, we are surprised at the level of sensitivity. The midsole is well-cushioned but doesn't have the same level of sensitivity as the thinnest shoes tested. However, for the level of protection and cushioning offered, we are happy to report, you can detect the trail. When running on uneven terrain, these changes in the terrain easily translate to the body; the shoe itself is quite flexible with offers a good level of responsiveness when adjusting and positioning the body. The flex in the shoe also helps to detect these underfoot hazards, which add to the sensitivity of the shoe. With a higher level of sensitivity with added protection, you can use this shoe for any distance you wish.
We love the traction on these shoes. The outsole is built from Vibram rubber that is sticky on dry rocks, with aggressive enough lugs that do well on most terrain that you'll encounter while trail running. The body of the shoe is flexible, so it does the best on dry trails littered with rocks, leaves, roots, and all the rest. The lugs are not too long and multi-directional, which grabs the trail on both flat and steep slopes.
While running in the mountains of the San Juans, we commonly encountered mega-steep switchbacks littered with rocks over hard-packed dirt. While we didn't trust this shoe as much as we would one with thicker lugs, once we leaned into the terrain, we learned that the outsole does indeed stick.
Lateral traction is also great. When running on a snowy day, this shoe did indeed slip here and there (as all will without microspikes). When wearing another contender on one foot, and this on the other, the Ultraventure did much better holding when the trail sloped off to one side. Where one shoe slipped out, this one stayed the course, offering remarkable lateral traction on these slippery surfaces.
While it does okay in the mud, the lugs aren't long enough to dig in. When running in mud, we had to knock the shoe out or run on hard, dry surfaces before the shoe shed the mud underfoot. While this isn't a big deal, it's important to know it's not the best for this type of terrain, but it'll still get you through it.
The wide toe box and tight heel cup offer nice stability, even though the stack height through the body of the shoe is taller. It's perfect for any trail mission, except ones where you might need to kick steps into a snow slope. When running through mud and snow and rocky choss, it stayed the course. Even with a lower amount of stack height, it feels close to the ground, offering a deeper sense of stability. The upper is built with a water-resistant upper that offers a little bit of rigidity with more flexibility. The shoe doesn't deform when wet and maintains its shape, even when being contorted into weird positions while running through more technical terrain. The lacking system promotes a versatile fit, allowing you to ensure it fits you appropriately for better stability overall.
We also love the super-wide toe box that allows you to spread your toes. This inherently leads to a better balance in the shoe, promoting more stability. It doesn't feel tippy, and the construction doesn't promote rolled ankles. While we would say that this shoe can go anywhere, its structure and traction aren't rigid and bomber enough to be used well for kicking snow steps into a slope. While it can do this, you'll feel uncertain as to whether the shoe will hold. Aside from that, it's excellent.
Comfort and Fit
This shoe is built for comfort for the longest of runs. The uber-cushioned midsole offers great flexibility and cushion (even after 100 miles of use) that beaks in just slightly after a couple of runs. The uppers are thin, breathable, and flexible. Not only did we use this shoe for running, but it was a top choice for wear around town and on long backpacking trips. This is simply because of the ample cushioning, with a little more in the heel, which makes for a good walking shoe.
The fit can easily be adjusted for those with any type of foot. All our testers appreciate the tight-fitting heel cup with a cushioned Achilles that completely wraps the foot, and the lacing structure is wide enough to be cinched down easily. The stand-out feature is the wide toe box that is on par with the Altra brand shoes. While the fit isn't as specific as super tight fit shoes, some people notice that the foot slides forward on the downhill, with a sloppier fit on the midfoot-forefoot. This is all excepted for a shoe with so much room in the forefoot and can be combatted with creative lacing strategies.
It feels lightweight on the trail but certainly isn't 'racing weight'. Weighing just 9.3 ounces, it doesn't absorb water readily and dries quickly. This makes it a great option for that next race or running adventure where you know you need a shoe that can dry out. That said, it's far from waterproof.
The Ultraventure presents an excellent value for an excellent shoe; after about 80 miles of travel on super rocky, steep terrain, it held up well. While the lugs have shown a little bit of wear, the midsole is incredibly responsive, and the shoe has held up its structure. This shoe is best for those that appreciate a super-wide toe box with a little extra cushioning in the heel. Those that can't do the 'zero-drop' but really like toe splay will find lots of value and great performance in this shoe. Just make sure to try it on to see if it works for you.
The Topo Athlete Ultraventure is a high performing shoe that boasts a cushioned midsole, 5mm drop, and a super-wide toe box. It performs well over all types of terrain but isn't waterproof. We do appreciate its great level of breathability and ability to dry out quickly. If you seek a shoe with a wide toe box but can't do 'zero-drop' and wish for a tiny bit of extra cushioning in the heel, this is a great option to consider.
— Amber King
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