Topo Athletic MT-2 And Ultrafly Review

There have been a lot of new trail running brands out there over the past several years, to the point where keeping track of everything coming out can at times seem impossible. So, we pick and we choose based on initial impressions from trade shows, early release buzz, and general word of mouth from other runners. Topo Athletic was initially a brand that I wrote off. Their shoes seemed aesthetically uninspiring and their marketing even less so. They seemed like another brand trying to capitalize on the ‘natural’ running movement, CrossFit, and the minimalism craze that frankly I’m quite tired of.

But to understand Topo Athletic as a company you have to understand it’s founder, Tony Post. A former D1 collegiate runner and 2:25 marathoner, Post started in the shoe business with Rockport back in the 1980s. Yes, that Rockport. Like, the dorky-looking dress shoes your dad would rave about wearing to the office because they didn’t hurt his feet. He then became CEO of Vibram USA for 11 years. With this shoe-design background he founded Topo in 2013 with the hopes of getting right what other companies had not: designing a natural running shoe that retained the beneficial features of performance running shoes.

I’ll admit, I first came upon these shoes after hearing several trail runners discussing that they’d converted from Altra to Topo shoes after not being able to handle the zero drop and sometimes-sloppy midfoot of certain Altra models. There are some similarities between the brands, most notably the foot-shaped toebox design as well as employing minimalist features with enough cushioning for ultra distances. But the similarities really stop there, and Topo is now earning accolades for these utilitarian designs.

In the balance of this article, we review and compare the Topo Athletic MT-2 ($100) and the Topo Athletic Ultrafly ($120).

Topo Athletic MT-2

The MT-2 is a very simple and straightforward shoe that has been a pure joy to run in. This shoe is an exercise in simplicity and perfectly melds the type of features you’d expect in a ‘natural’ shoe: flexibility, low drop, an agile feel, and just enough cushioning for ultras.

Topo MT-2

The Topo Athletic MT-2.

Topo Athletic MT-2 Upper

The upper of the MT-2 is really where the weight savings seems to come in with ultralight mesh and a ton of welded-on overlays throughout the midfoot that give the shoe a very locked-down fit. A gusseted tongue and traditional laces compliment this sensation, and this is one of the only shoes I’ve ever worn with a natural or foot-shaped toebox where I didn’t have issues with my foot sliding forward on downhills. In fact, the MT-2 is one of the most confidence-inspiring, go-fast trail running shoes I’ve worn in years. A nice, rubberized toe bumper protects from kicking rocks and compliments this elegantly simple upper construction. While I’ve heard of some runners having issues with the upper mesh blowing out on the medial and lateral sides of the shoe, I have not experienced this issue and the mesh looks to be holding up well.

Topo MT-2 lateral upper

The Topo Athletic MT-2’s lateral upper.

Topo Athletic MT-2 Midsole

With a 3mm heel drop and a weight of 8.5 ounces for a men’s size 9 U.S., the MT-2 sounds like a pretty minimalist shoe. However, the 23mm stack height shows that it has some pretty substantial cushioning for the weight. The full-length EVA midsole has a very plush and springy feel, which hasn’t disappeared in 150 miles of running. And while the MT-2 doesn’t have a rock plate, I didn’t have any issues with stone bruising or sore feet.

Comparatively, the cushioning of the MT-2 is similar in both stack height and firmness to a shoe like the Altra Lone Peak 3.0, Nike Kiger 3, or Pearl Izumi N2 V2. The durometer of the shoe is relatively soft but very smooth and works best for faster-paced running on less-technical terrain.

Topo MT-2 medial upper

The Topo Athletic MT-2’s medial upper.

Topo Athletic MT-2 Outsole

The outsole of the MT-2 is one area where I would expect some changes in the coming years. While the extremely low-profile multi-directional lugs work great for dry trails and hybrid road/trail runs, there isn’t much there to grab when the conditions get really sloppy. The outsole rubber does perform well on wet surfaces and it is high abrasion and seems to take a beating without showing any wear.

Topo MT-2 outsole

The Topo Athletic MT-2’s outsole.

Topo Athletic Ultrafly

While technically a road shoe, the Ultrafly has the pedigree to handle all but the most technical trails. It is hard not to compare this shoe to the Altra Paradigm or Hoka Huaka as its supreme cushioning but stable stack height works well on a variety of surfaces.

Topo Ultrafly

The Topo Athletic Ultrafly.

Topo Athletic Ultrafly Upper

The upper of the Ultrafly is very similar in construction and feel to that of the MT-2, and it provides a good deal of confidence on technical trails without feeling restrictive. This particular toebox shape is, in my opinion, the best on the market, offering ample room for toe splay and swelling without feeling sloppy at all. I can wear both the Ultrafly and MT-2 with whatever thickness of socks most compliment the weather on the day and not worry about feeling hemmed in. The Ultrafly also has a rubber toe bumper which, while unnecessary for a road shoe, confirms my belief that this hybrid shoe works fairly well on the trails.

One odd feature is the addition of two Achilles pads on the heel collar on either sides of the heel notch. Initially, this felt odd but after the first run in the Ultrafly I never noticed them.

Topo Ultrafly lateral upper

The Topo Athletic Ultrafly’s lateral upper.

Topo Athletic Ultrafly Midsole

Boasting a 5mm drop and weighing a svelte 9.2 ounces for a men’s size 9 U.S., the Ultrafly packs a ton of semi-firm cushioning into its 28mm stack height. While this firmer midsole cushioning works great on the roads it also offers protection from rocks on hardpacked trails. It is surprising just how much cushioning this full-length, three-piece midsole provides, and with varying degrees of firmness in the construction, some stability is provided as well.

Even with the 28mm stack height, the Ultrafly does feel pretty stable. I never got the sense that I was wearing a maximal shoe and the firmness of the cushioning lends itself to faster-paced running. However, I feel most comfortable in the Ultrafly going for easy recovery runs on pavement and mellow trails.

Topo Ultrafly medial upper

The Topo Athletic Ultrafly’s medial upper.

Topo Athletic Ultrafly Outsole

Just as with the uniformity in their uppers, Topo tends to use a similar outsole pattern in all of their road shoes. This high-abrasion carbon rubber is featured over the entire length of the shoe and really seems to increase traction and durability.

Topo Ultrafly outsole

The Topo Athletic Ultrafly’s outsole.

Overall Impressions

Right out of the box I was very impressed with both of these Topo Athletic models. I have been suffering over the past year with some arthritis in my big toe, making any tapered toeboxes positively painful after a few miles. I really think that wearing these Topo models over the last few months really helped to decrease swelling and inflammation. The Topo toebox design isn’t sloppy in the least and the rubberized toecap really helps protect and maintain the shape of the toebox. While the designs are quite minimalist with simple uppers, EVA foam without a rock plate, and low-profile outsoles, the real beauty of these shoes is their simplicity. The uppers are very lightweight and breathable, offering just enough protection from the elements and great drainage when wet. The EVA midsoles are resilient and protective enough without a rock plate, and while I could see a bit more outsole lugging adding benefit in future versions, it didn’t bother me enough to keep me from choosing them on an almost-daily basis.

With a shoe like the MT-2, I’m not quite sure if I could wear it for longer than 50 miles. It is currently my favorite shoe for throwing on for a faster-paced jaunt up to 10 miles. The transition of the MT-2 and overall trail feel is incredibly smooth and its the kind of shoe you forget you’re wearing. As it turns out, Topo recently released the Terraventure, which features a rock plate and additional cushioning and which may be a proper ultra shoe for the longer distances.

The nice thing about Topo shoes is that the uppers don’t vary much from model to model. You can guarantee that if you like the fit of these shoes you will likely do well in other models. It is rare these days for a shoe company to offer similar lasts and fit in multiple road and trail models, which could create a lot of converts to the Topo brand. My only request to Tony Post and his design team is to keep up the good work, and don’t mess with a good thing.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Have you tried any of the Topo Athletic models? If so, which ones and what have your experiences with them been like?
  • Are you running in the MT-2 or the Ultrafly? Can you share some specific thoughts about these shoe models?

[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with brand that produces running shoes, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]

Tom Caughlan

is iRunFar's Minimalist Gear Editor. Tom’s passion for trail running and specialty running retail experience shine through in all of his highly technical reviews, which do range outside minimalist shoes.

There are 33 comments

    1. Tom Caughlan

      Glenn-
      The heel counters of both shoes are pretty flexible and soft. I wouldn’t recommend them to a runner looking for a firm heel counter.

  1. Vince

    I had the Fly-Lite and while I really liked how they fit, feel, etc. they did not get much mileage out of them… Within a few months of ownership the rubber on the sole started falling off and the upper came unattached…

    I contacted them to inform them and they acknowledged the issue, and claimed to have fixed it in newer models. I really enjoyed running in the shoe, but am a bit gun-shy to go back to them until I can confirm they improved the durability

  2. Dan

    I have been a dedicated Altra fan for the last several years. After running 100+ miles in the Altra Lone Peak 3.0, I started having significant lateral foot pain. Going to another shoe brand, the pain goes away. Wear the Altras, the pain would return. I have noticed the Altra footbed is not flat but seems “lumpy”. Standing with most of my weight on one foot, I can feel pressure on the forward, outside of the foot. This effect is even more pronounced with the insole removed. Now I’m running in the Topo MT-2 and with limited miles on them, so far I’m happy. They also have the wide toe box that my feet love. For another review of the MT-2, check out ultrarunnerjoe.com. He also has a discount code that brings the price down to $80 – what a deal!

    1. Tom

      Dan, I noticed the same thing when trying on a pair of the 3.0s this past weekend. Thought it might just be me but I guess not. I don’t feel it in my superiors or paradigms. It bothered me enough to keep me purchasing them. I ended up getting a pair of the Topo Terraventures instead.

  3. Eric

    What about fit? Narrow or wide? I have a very narrow heel. I was running in the Lone Peak 2.5, but Altra changed the fit for the Lone Peak 3 and now I am searching for a new shoe.

    1. Tom Caughlan

      Eric-
      I find that the midfoot and heel of the MT-2 and Ultrafly to be nice and snug. I had issues with the heel of the Lone Peak 3 slipping and had to use the heel lock lacing hole.
      The MT-2 is snug enough in the midfoot that I don’t slide forward on downhills, and the toebox is glorious.

  4. Mark

    Tom, or anyone who has worn both, I’d be interested to know how the MT-2 sizing is compared with the Lone Peak 3.0? I wear an 11.5 in LP 2.0 and 12.0 in LP 3.0, both of which are slightly loose, but fit well enough when I crank the laces down. Thanks for any input.

    1. Stephanie Tatum

      Hi, I have Topo Fli-lytes and Hydroventures in men’s size 10.5. In my Lone Peak 2.5s (sorry, haven’t got the 3.0s yet), I wear a men’s 10. I love the wide toe box in the Topo shoes – plenty of space without feeling sloppy. It’s great to have options rather than just one brand.

      1. Tom Caughlan

        Again, the fit of the MT-2 is much more secure than my Lone Peak 3.0s. I also feel that the Lone Peaks lacing and overlays place undue pressure on my first metatarsal (big toe) which has given me problems.

    2. Loubrenner

      I wear 11.5 in the LP3 and 11 in the MT-2. The new superior 3.0 have been made more firm in the midsole which makes them more similar to the MT2 than the LP in my opinion.

  5. Henning

    I wear the magnifly for road and dirt road runs. Even wore them for a trail 50k with some of the roads mentioned above. No complaints at all. Great cushion. Feet feel secure in the upper. I feel the LP 2.0 are to loose in the upper and are hard to get a nice lockdown. Not to mention its lug shedding outsole.

    The fit and feel of the magnifly makes me want to try out terraventure when my speedgoats are finished (btw, they have an awesome outsole, super grippy, even sticky)

  6. Martin Criminale

    I couldn’t agree more! It took just one run in a pair of Topos (the Magnifly) to convince me to switch brands. I just got the Ultrafly and it’s the same amazing fit but with more cushion and protection. I can’t wait for the Terraventure, here’s hoping the traction is up for wet trails in the Pacific Northwest.

    1. Tom

      I wore my Terraventures on a muddy 7 miles ofnthe Wildwood trail out of the box and didn’t slip once. They had great traction on the wet rocks and footbridges as well.

  7. Banban

    I remember months ago i saved a pic of Topo shoe For future read and there you are. Im a fan of Altra. Pearl Izumis N1V1 was my first trail shoe and its still the best until they shut it down. So back to Altra, im a fan cos within few years of running an injuries i can say that my feet is built for low drop or zero drop, thats why i choosed Altra.

    Its hard already to find a good low drop shoes these days aside from Altra but the things that i hate about em are sizing problems, weak outsole, hard to get the right lacing and Altras just cant handle jungle (wet) running. I live in Malaysia, we dont have that scenic trail view those Europeans have, we have a gnarly jungle trails.

    Altra Superior is my favourite trail shoe do you guys have any Suggestion from Topos i should get?

  8. Alex

    Thought provoking. I’ve been an Altra-only guy since the Lone Peak 1 because I need the foot-shaped wide toe box. Sounds like Topo has embraced that same design priority, so maybe I should give them a try!

    Thanks for the review!

    1. Alex

      Got myself a pair of MT-2s, and ran 18 miles of trail in them first time out. They’re great. All the toe wiggle room of Altras without the midfoot sloppiness that I dislike. I’m not sure the MT2 is enough cushion for me for 50 miles, but for even a rugged 50K race it would be fine. I’m very glad to now have a second shoe brand that I know I can go to for shoes that work for me!

      1. Ted W

        I switch from LPs to the terraventure. I also have a pair of the Ultrafly. Initially I though TOPO would fit the bill for me and my rehabbing/torn plantars. But now that the honeymoon is over. I’m finding TOPO to be quite still/rigid. Not that I want/need huge flex. but that rigidity and the cushion is not that “soft”, my feet tend to still hurt/ache. Perhaps I should shift more blame to the orthotics I’m using in the topo. they take up volume, and the shoe fits tighter. But I’m still thinking the cushion and stiffness are not doing me a favor.

        I’m contemplating.. since I’ve not had success in the past. Trying out the newest Hoka clifton or bondi. they have “wide” size. so maybe them with wide+orthortic will provide the cushion and space.

        I will I could return to the days of my merrell barefoot but alas, they seem behind me now

    2. Scott Handley

      Altra’s are straight lasted , a so – called wide toebox does not work for a wide forefoot narrow heel person that has a more curved lasted shape. That’s why Topos work for me, & Altras will never fit.

  9. Charlie Adams

    I completely blew out the side of my Superior 2.0s in a race last weekend and stopped at a local shop that had Topos. I ended up buying ST-2s and they have been GREAT road shoes so far. Anybody looking for something between the old NB Minimus and Altras would do well. They don’t have a heel counter at all, so a good fit and lacing is important to prevent heel blisters, but they’re much more snug in the heel and mid foot than altras. I’ll probably either check out the MT-2s or get the new Superiors as my next trail shoes.

  10. KenZ

    Nice Review; I’ll certainly keep them in mind if I ever am looking for a more cushioned shoe for perhaps the last half of some longer race. However, I will say that I embraced minimalism back when it was all the rage in 2010, and am STILL buying into it. I progressed into it slowly, and I believe intelligently, thus building up foot strength. I see it like this: if you wear a back brace all day long, without it you’re hosed. Same with super cushiony shoes, compression socks, etc. Not to say that this is wrong, just that I prefer going with less than more. I enjoy the ground feel and the feedback, and once your feet are trained up for it, they don’t get beat up. 153 miles of Spartathlon road in the 6.2oz Saucony Fastwitch? No problem. Wasatch 100 in the 8.1oz Asics FujiLytes? No problem.

    Again, I’m not saying this is a better way of doing it than going for more cushion, but I find the pendulum swing away from minimalism a bit puzzling. I did like the review though; got a few friends who I think will really like these.

    1. Alex

      Glad it’s working out for you. Check back in with us when you’re in your 50s; I’m definitely happy that there are cushy shoes out there for us old guys with wrecked feet who still want to run ultras.

  11. Jared

    Has Topo dropped the Runventure from their lineup? Technically it seems very similar to the MT-2 but wondering what happened to the Runventure. I liken that shoe to the responsive feel of Altra Superior with the cushioning of the Lone Peak, in a really well made shoe. Would be a shame if Topo dumped the Runventure.

  12. Ted W

    Like many above, I’ve been an altra fan sine the Torin 1, the LP 1, and I loved the earlier superiors, even though I kept blowing them out. I just cant see myself going to a tighter toe box again. I’m not super tied to the zero drop, and in fact I’ve been battling some plantars issues. Its no normal plantars in the tendon stretch/flex in the arch. Rather its irritation and inflammation at the insertion point of the tendon in the heel. My PT suggested since all the muscles/tendons are better but the heel pain is somewhat constant. maybe its time to drop the zero drop shoes. She would like me in a 4 to 8mm drop. I’m wondering if the 4mm in the terraventure will be enough to make a difference, or if the basic shoe construction will also help a little. Whats the views on the terraventure? Why would someone actually want the hydroventure? seems like all the waterproof shoes just would make things HOT, right?

  13. Maria Torres

    I currently have Altra Lone Peak 3.0. My feet feel restricted as the sole of the shoe does not allow for a forefoot strike. Sole forces me to midstrike which does not feel natural to me. Are Topo soles a little more forgiving as far as how the foot lands on the floor?

  14. Kristian

    As for size comparison, I wear an Altra superior 3.0 size 11, LP 3.0 size 11, Torin 3.0 size 11.5, and Topo Terraventura size 11.

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