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Topo Athletic Ultraventure 2 Review

Topo Athletic Ultraventure 2 Review

Topo Ultraventure 2

The Ultraventure 2 spotted in its natural habitat.

Topo Athletic has been rising in our the shop for years. In 2020 they shot up into our #4 slot, nearly even with and nipping at the heels of Hoka. For a shop that carries most of the major running brand players (we nixed Nike years ago), we’re probably unique worldwide in that regard. While we’ve liked many of their models, there was one which catapulted the brand.

That model was Topo’s Ultraventure. While not the most aesthetically appealing, or advanced in components, the Ultraventure just fit most feet. A strong majority of those who tried it on, liked the wide toebox, good blend of cushion and protection, and capability of the lugged Vibram outsole. When you find a great running shoe, the hope is that the company doesn’t mess it up with the update. So it was with our anticipation of the Topo Athletic Ultraventure 2.

A Review

Specs

Weight: 10.4oz (M9) / 8.3oz (W7)

Stack Height: 30 mm Heel / 25 mm Forefoot

Drop: 5mm

Midsole: Multiple Density EVA

Outsole: Vibram XS TREK EVO

Rockplate? No

Cost: $135

Component Stack Heights

Insole: 3.5mm

Lasting: ~ 4mm

Midsole: ~ 15mm Heel / 10mm Forefoot

Base Outsole Rubber: 2mm

Outsole Vibram XS Trek Lugs: 5mm

Combined Stack Height: 30-25mm (published & confirmed in-house)

Upper

Topo Ultraventure 2

Mesh and Overlays

Ultraventure 2 vs the 1: Lighter, thinner, polyurethane overlays.
Perforated microfiber adds integrity to the quarter panels.

Topo has done a great job with improving an already pretty solid upper. In addition to an improved seamless engineered mesh, Topo thinned the use of polyurethane in the overlays the Ultraventure 2. This creates a soft, breathable upper with little room for hotspots. These more minimal overlays are provided reinforcement from the insertion of perforated microfiber onto the inside quarter-panels. I think this was a nice update, creating a soft, pinch-free upper that still holds the foot on off-camber surfaces.

Tongue and Lacing

Ultraventure 2 Tongue

The Ultraventure 2’s tongue feels fairly traditionally padded. It has a nice, thin elasticized webbing which assists in keeping debris out, and, as paired with the addition of two tongue nylon loops, the tongue from sliding. It has tubular laces, and an updated eyelet design that creates less pinch potential at the base of the tongue and vamp.

Toe Guards

Rubberized toe guards with modified drainage perforations.

Rubberized guards wrap from protecting the toe, medially and laterally to the rear of the shoe, providing additional integrity to the upper, and support of the foot while running off-camber. Drainage perforations have been moved to the medial side versus the V1’s lateral placement. Although it may be splitting hairs, I think this shift will allow the natural pronation of the foot to better push water out. This is especially needed, given, as we’ve noted in prior reviews, their continued use of a spongy ortholite insole. That insole, paired with the 360 rubberized guards, tends to trap water inside the shoe. Although it may not look as clean aesthetically, I think the perforations should be inserted both medially and laterally.

Heel Cup

Ultraventure 2’s modified heel cup.

The Ultraventure 2 hindfoot gets a makeover. The padded collar rises 6mm higher than the Ultraventure v1 making them feel more secure, and effective in debris entering at the ankle. Wrapping that heel is a new external TPU external and internal molded foam heel cup. This specific design, which I first ran in the UltraVenture Pro, adds additional stability in the heel, and prominent attachment points for their trail gaiters. For those gaiters, a D ring has also been added to the vamp at the base of the laces as a forward anchor point. The chassis of the Ultraventure 2 is flexible enough to allow the heel cup to have a secure grip. This a pleasant departure from the rigid Ultraventure Pro chassis cantilevering the cup off the heel.

Midsole

Topo stuck with using a 3 piece EVA midsole in the Ultraventure 2. EVA isn’t the most advanced, durable, or ecologically friendly midsole material on the market. However, it does offer a nice blend of responsive cushioning. The EVA blend is softer than what they use in the MTN Racer, and I’ve actually preferred it to their more advanced Zipfoam used in the Ultraventure Pro. The depth of the midsole, paired with the Vibram outsole, is also protective enough that the Ultraventure 2, similar to the V1 and MTN Racer, doesn’t have, or need a rock plate.

The breakdown of the three EVA components and intentions include:

  1. The main EVA midsole body provides comfort and protection underfoot.
  2. A softer EVA wedge that wraps the lateral heel to provide a soft, smooth transition from heel to midfoot. This can be especially helpful in crossing to roads, and on steep trail descents.
  3. A firmer EVA post is placed under the medial arch. Similar to a traditional posting, this is designed to help keep the midsole platform stable in technical terrain and provide light guidance through the gait cycle.

Outsole

Topo Ultraventure 2 Outsole: Vibram XS Trek EVO

A full length Vibram XS TREK EVO rubber and 5mm lugs comprise the Ultraventure 2’s outsole. It runs a bit softer but is purported to offer a bit better durability than the v1’s XS Trek. I don’t have enough miles in them to yet weigh in on the latter. The XS Trek Evo isn’t quite as sticky as some of the other outsole rubbers, or Vibram’s Megagrip, but it should be plenty capable for the vast majority of all trail runners and situations. The 5mm lugs are spaced well enough apart to effectively shed mud, and not pick up rocks for a free ride. The shapes of those lugs are effective in design, allowing both grip and a smooth ride, as well as multi-directional traction.

Toe Spring

Comparing the toe spring angles of the Ultraventure v1 & v2. The gap between the beige border and v2 toebox reflects the lowered toe spring angle.

One of the more interesting changes for me was their modification of toe spring angle. Toe spring is the degree to which a shoe angles upward in the toe and the metric, or change, wasn’t something listed in any spec sheets or my meetings with Topo on the lineup. Topo reduced the toe spring angle by roughly 10mm (to my measure) versus that of the v1. The intent was to make for a bit smoother toe-off. While it could be placebo, I think it actually does feel smoother.

That angle change, paired with the tweaks in the overlay laminations, make the toe box feel a bit shallower in the v2. My caliper measures the Ultraventure 2 at 1-2mm less depth, but is within the margin of error of being different at all. So, it’s tough to know whether there’s truly less volume versus v1.

Comparisons / Alternatives

Topo MTN Racer

The MTN Racer has the same stack height and drop, but is slightly lighter than the Ultraventure 2. Both models have similar 3 part EVA midsoles, however the MTN Racer’s EVA blend is a bit firmer than that used in the Ultraventure 2. The MTN Racer’s ripstop upper is less porous than the Ultraventure 2’s engineered mesh. The MTN Racer’s Vibram Megagrip is a bit stickier and durable than the Ultraventure 2’s XS Trek Evo.

Topo Ultraventure Pro

The Ultraventure Pro, also coming in at the same stack and drop, is created with a bit firmer midsole platform, and stiffer chassis than the Ultraventure 2. For the individual looking for a more protected hiking crossover shoe, the Ultraventure Pro could be the ticket. Those looking for a trail runner will probably be more comfortable in the Ultraventure 2.

Altra Timp 2

Altra’s Timp 2 is a fairly close match. Both have more oblique toebox designs, with the Ultraventure 2 having a hair’s more room in front of the 2nd and 3rd toes. The Timp 2 has a slightly wider midfoot gauge on the medial side. The midsole stack is set on a balanced or zero drop differential versus the Ultraventure 2’s Drop of 5mm. The midsole stack height is similar to the Ultraventure 2’s stack at the heel. The Timp 2’s Quantic midsole feels a bit softer underfoot than the Ultraventure 2’s EVA blend. For a similarly lugged outsole, the Ultraventure 2’s Vibram XS Trek Evo is a bit stickier and more durable than the compound which Altra is using.

Saucony Mad River TR2

The Saucony Mad River TR2 is another trail model offering an oblique toebox design. The two have a pretty evenly matched amount of toebox volume, though the upper material in the Ultraventure 2 is a bit lighter, and more breathable. The Mad River TR2 is constructed with a slightly wider midfoot, but also a slightly more curved last or shape. The Ultraventure 2 is roughly 2mm higher in stack height, a hair lighter, and a hair firmer. The Ultraventure 2’s lug pattern is a bit more aggressive and the outsole rubber stickier and more durable than what Saucony is using with their PWRTrac.

Who’s the Topo Ultraventure 2 For?

The Ultraventure 2 is a great go-to daily trail trainer or racer. The platform and volume is broad enough to accommodate most foot types, and allows room for swelling over longer distances. The midsole feels like a nice blend of cushion and protection, while still retaining decent ground feel. The outsole grips well on varied surfaces, and the Vibram compound offers dependable durability. The weight is light enough that it suffices as a race-day option as well. That all sounds pretty fuzzy, and could be describing many shoes. But I think that’s truly how the Ultraventure 2 fits and rides. It’s uncommon for someone to try to shoe on in the shop and not think it feels at least pretty good, if not great. And it’ll be the model you’ll grab first for most runs.

The Takeaway and Forecast

Topo Athletic’s Ultraventure 2 is a nice update to an already great trail shoe. Topo will continue in the near term to exist as a niche brand which will keep the Ultraventure 2 and under-noticed and rated trail running option. I believe they will continue to grow through consistently improving designs and biting a bit off of bit of Altra’s market share. It may be a bit before awareness of the brand reaches a more critical mass for the majority of run specialty retailers to give them a shot. Until then I’m forecasting that it will remain one of, if not our top, trail model, and a great choice for the recreationist up to competitive ultra trail runner.

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