Ask any serious trail runner residing in Ashland, Oregon, about their local trails, and they will immediately tell you how amazing and, more importantly, how accessible our buttery granitic trails are compared to other mountain running communities. Out the door, most runners can find dirt roads, challenging singletrack, and miles of persistent climbing within a mile or two.
With a little more effort, trail runners can sink into solitude and the scenic views of the Siskiyou Mountains and the Southern Cascades. This is the dominant scene where I enjoy zipping around in the Topo Ultraventure 2 ($135).
For this review, I made sure to slip on the Ultraventure 2 in different running environments and through all seasons. I aimed to suitably test the versatility and durability of this responsive shoe on my home trails, granite mountain slabs, the undulating Rogue River Trail, and the U.S. Midwest’s unforgiving rocky hills.
Through it all, the Topo Ultraventure 2 stood up to the challenge. The shoe has an actual weight of 9.4 ounces (267 grams) in a women’s size 9.5, and an advertised weight of 10.4 ounces (295 grams) in a men’s size 9, giving it an impressively lightweight feel.
I discovered Topo after my previously favorite running shoe was discontinued. I needed to find an alternative, something just as versatile for all types of trails. Similar to iRunFar shoe reviewer Tom Caughlan, the Pearl Izumi E:Motion Trail N2 was my shoe, and I had stocked up on all the pairs I could find before it disappeared. I wasn’t sure what to buy after that great shoe went by the wayside.
Fortunately, our local running store, Rogue Valley Runners, sent me home in Topo Ultraventures, and therein was the perfect replacement shoe. The Topo Ultraventure 2 has an appealing 30-millimeter stack height, five-millimeter drop, wide toebox, and great responsiveness on unpredictable terrain.
Notably, the American Podiatric Medical Association recently awarded Topo its seal of acceptance as a means to “Empower [podiatrists] and consumers with the right information to make educated decisions regarding foot health.” A definite reassurance for those of us who value foot function, strength, and overall kinetic chain health while making informed running shoe decisions.
Although I generally race ultramarathon distances in the Topo Terraventure and save my Topo Ultraventure 2 for mountain excursions and rocky runs, this year I slipped on the Ultraventure 2 for the local Siskiyou Outback 50k. Due to plantar fasciitis that nearly halted my training, my feet needed a little more stability, a slight increase in drop, and more support. I enjoy minimalist footwear, but due to this injury, my go-to minimalist shoes lacked the cushion and stability I needed. The Ultraventure 2 allowed for a confident race experience.
Topo Ultraventure 2 Upper
The Topo Ultraventure 2 upper is similar to the Altra Lone Peak 5 — check out our Altra Lone Peak 5 review — characteristics of toe freedom accompanied by a secure heel and midfoot that keeps the body’s foundation in place on varied terrains. The Ultraventure 2 isn’t as wide as an Altra, but it has more foot and ankle security due to an internal microfiber belt that connects the heel counter and midfoot. It gives the runner a nice and cushioned mountain adventure.
The microfiber wrap is combined with an external TPU heel counter to keep the foot stable in stride. The addition of TPU adds flexibility for greater stabilization on varied terrain. On wet and rocky trail, my confidence in these shoes never wanes.
The Ultraventure 2 has a simple upper: soft abrasion-resistant mesh aiming for breathability, in addition to reduced overlays and fast action draining. This adds to the lightweight feel of the shoes, nice during long runs and races. I liked the simple mesh system for hot summer running and while traipsing through streams or striding it out on rainy days. The water drains well through these shoes, and with the right socks, my feet stayed warm and relatively fresh. On loose, rocky terrain and technical trails, increased toe protection would be nice.
The tongue is partially gusseted; it keeps most debris out, and the tongue stays in place. However, loose soil has often made its way into the nooks and crannies of the shoe. The Ultraventure 2 does come with gaiter attachments around the heel and at the base of the tongue, however, I didn’t test this feature.
I generally lace my shoes in such a way that I can slip them on and off, rarely ever having to relace them on the trail or at home. The Ultraventure 2 allows for this quirk of mine with its padded tongue and simple cord-like and ridged lacing. Once I am laced in, the heel cup comfortably grabs and keeps me safely in the shoes — and my toes can still wiggle.
Topo Ultraventure 2 Midsole
The Topo Ultraventure 2 midsole features a three-piece EVA injected foam. A great element of injection-molded midsoles is their rebound and increased responsiveness. These midsoles do have a tendency to crease quickly, giving way to compression lines along the midsole sidewalls after extensive use. Creases are indicative that the shoe has run its course.
I started seeing compression lines after 350 miles, but over the last two years, I have accumulated over 400 miles in both the original Topo Ultraventure and Ultraventure 2. I have a tendency to push the lifetime of my running shoes; I liken it to a brief love affair that I am not willing to end, as the memories are plentiful and comforting.
One of the most outstanding features of a running shoe is not needing a break-in period. The midsole of the Ultraventure 2 warrants the “ahhh” of immediate comfort from the initial step. The Ultraventure 2 provides a little more comfort in the midsole than its predecessor.
In the updated version, the midsole is stabilized with an OrthoLite insole. Despite not having a rock plate, the deep midsole yields a nice cushion that still has some firmness. These aspects result in more responsive landings and pushoffs through the gait cycle, allowing for exacting ground connection and earth feel that I enjoy throughout my running experience.
Topo Ultraventure 2 Outsole
The Topo Ultraventure 2 is fortified with Vibram XS Trek EVO outsoles. This particular Vibram technology is created for enhanced flexibility and traction in wet environments. The soles are equipped with multidirectional and well-spaced lugs to grip and feel the ground on the technical trails, providing confidence in this shoe’s traction and durability.
The Vibram outsole material is engineered for stability and comfort, resulting in a responsive ride. This is a trail shoe through and through. Luckily, from my door to trail is less than a mile, and I can get through the pavement section without too much sticky and heavy landings compared to my road flats. One thing I have noticed is that mud has a tendency to accumulate between the lugs and stick to the outsole if there isn’t deliberate action to clean the shoes during or post-run.
Topo Ultraventure 2 Overall Impressions
The Topo Ultraventure 2 is an experience in stability, confident traction, performance, and ruggedness married with a touch of minimalism and cushion for just enough trail feel without the fatigue that may come with other lower drop shoes. I like the assurance of knowing that my feet are going to hold up over five or more hours of running in these shoes, and that they will accommodate swelling and wet environments. This shoe boasts a wide toebox for a more natural foot-shaped feel that many other running shoes fail to offer.
For this runner and movement specialist, this is of the utmost importance, because a shoe that is foot-shaped promotes healthy and strong functioning feet and ankles. Other people may say that Topo shoes don’t score strongly in aesthetic appeal, but I don’t care about that as much. As long as it is functional for my running needs, and stands the test of time on my feet, I will happily keep slipping back into Topo Ultraventure 2. I feel safe. I feel grounded. I feel fast. I feel confident.
Call for Comments
- Do you have any experience with Topo shoes?
- What do you think of the updated Ultraventure 2? Leave a comment to share your thoughts on the shoe overall as well as its specific features.
[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]
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