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Road Running Shoes • June 25, 2020

Topo Athletic Ultrafly 3 Performance Review

Topo Athletic Ultrafly 3 - feature

What You Need To Know

  • Weighs 9.6 oz (272 g) for a US M9.0/ 7.7 oz (218 g) for a US W7.0
  • Lower-drop (5 mm) shoe with really responsive ZipFoam midsole
  • One of Jeremy’s favorite shoes for everyday runs, comparable to the HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 7
  • Your toes will be singing “I Believe I Can Fly” with all the room in the toe box, (+1 for Space Jam soundtrack, -100 for R. Kelly performance)

ADRIENNE: Despite the COVID-19 slowdown in sport, I was pleased to still receive pairs of Topo Athletic shoes to test out and review. It’s been good to have different things to focus on in my running lately, so slowing down and feeling my run and paying attention to how a shoe really rides has been fun. Like I mentioned in my review of the stripped-down, fairly wide-bodied cruiser, the Magnifly 3, Topo is all about a more natural running experience, and very (very) roomy toe boxes.

Initially, I called the Ultrafly 3 ‘Thicc Bois’ on Instagram, and upon further examination, I have to say they are more daily trainer-like than marshmallow with a stack height coming in at around 28 mm in the heel and 23 in the forefoot; netting a 5 mm drop. Most people (myself included), assume that Topo Athletic is zero-drop because they so closely resemble Altra. Not true. Only three of Topo Athletic’s models are indeed zero-drop, the rest are either 3 mm or 5 mm. Clearly, I needed to do more of my homework.

JEREMY: With the new releases of the Zephyr, Magnifly 3, and Ultrafly 3, Topo Athletic is making some big moves in the road shoe scene this year. The Ultrafly is designed to be a comfortable everyday trainer with a little more stability and cushion than the Magnifly.

This shoe came in an Ocean/Green colorway, which has a bright yellow lacing and sole that honestly looks rad or you might even say it looks ultra fly… at a men’s size 11.5, this shoe weighed 9.9 ounces making it light enough for everyday running, but heavy enough to pack some serious cushion. The 5 mm drop is on the high end for Topo Athletic, but my Achilles tendons appreciated the benefit on the hilly runs I took these on.

Similar to the Zephyr I reviewed earlier this year, there are a lot of excellent features in the Ultrafly. The ZipFoam cushioning gives a nice bounce to your step, while the multi-density midsole provides a firmer push against the ground while keeping things nice and cushy on your foot. A medial post and heel counter work to provide stability and prevent overpronation. The upper is an engineered mesh that is comfy over the foot, especially with Topo’s signature roomy toe box that lets you spread your toes’ proverbial wings and fly while not feeling cramped whatsoever.

Topo Athletic Ultrafly 3 side

The Good

ADRIENNE: Let’s go with vanity right out the gate here: I find the Topo Athletic Ultrafly 3 to be a more muscular, better-looking brother to the Magnifly and some of Topo’s other offerings. These have a bit more of a traditional look and feel that I like, and it can accommodate feet narrow and wide. This shoe also seems to know what it is: a higher mileage trainer made for slower to moderate paces.

There is plenty of protection between you and the road with the brand-new ZipFoam underneath: a fairly lightweight material that appears durable as well. The midsole hit a sweet spot between soft and firm. There’s a nice subtle response to them as well. I felt I didn’t have to work too hard or waste energy for a shoe on the larger side. You’ll also notice the midsole is dual-density to please the mildly overpronated crowd. However, anyone can run in these as the wide forefoot provides plenty of stability on its own. Honestly, I barely noticed the EVA insert on the medial side and forgot this was marketed as a ‘stability shoe’. Nice job, Topo.

Oh, and let’s talk comfort for a sec: I didn’t want to take them off. I foam rolled, cooked dinner, did chores, etc. before thinking of removing them. The materials feel good from top to bottom– but notably the engineered mesh upper felt awesome for some reason. I liked the diamond pattern going on, and unlike the Magnifly, I could get a secure hold without totally pushing the eyelets together. Yes, the toe box is still large and in charge; however, I didn’t feel much slippage when running in them and it was actually kinda nice on recovery runs. A TPU collar holds the foot well and I noticed no slippage. Your heel is clipped in, contributing to the hybrid trainer-natural cruiser feel on your feet.

Disclaimer: They aren’t as soft as they appear. Not a bad thing, just thought I’d throw it out there.  It doesn’t seem to matter where you land, cushioning is consistent and available everywhere on the wide base of the shoe. There is a good amount of rubber coverage without going overboard, giving the shoe decent traction running across wet sidewalk and bridges. Wear after about 30 miles was minimal at best. You can likely get a lot of miles out of these.

Honestly, I really liked these as a recovery run shoe, despite a little firmness, and may keep them in the rotation for that purpose.

JEREMY: My first run in these shoes was supposed to be 45 minutes easy for a recovery day, but about halfway in things were feeling so good I ended up going about twice as far. This shoe is built for comfort, the Zipfoam has a real bounce and the perfect balance of firmness and cushion to make each step nice and easy. This shoe is really set up to be a go-to daily trainer, from easy mileage to long runs it definitely has a place in the rotation. I’ve found myself reaching for this shoe so frequently, that I even tested it out on the trails some and it held up great through some mud, roots, and rocky portions.

Shop Topo Athletic – Men Shop Topo Athletic – Women Topo Athletic Ultrafly 3 heel

The Bad

ADRIENNE: If you wanna do strides in these, just don’t. Up-tempo paces begin to get a little sloppy. That and not everyone is gonna be a fan of the way these things are shaped– but that’s the way it is. Still a touch heavy and the heel feels firmer than the forefoot. I don’t have a problem with that, but thought I’d let everyone know.

JEREMY: My main issue with this shoe, and most Topo athletic shoes in general, is that the fit can be a bit off in the heel for me. While the wider build is perfect for accommodating wider feet and allowing the toes to be free, the back portion of the shoe doesn’t fit snugly, leading to heel slippage.

Shop Topo Athletic – Men Shop Topo Athletic – Women Topo Athletic Ultrafly 3 - outsole

Topo Athletic Ultrafly 3 Conclusion

ADRIENNE: This Topo Athletic shoe is not like the others and worked well with my foot and stride. Like I stated before, this shoe seems to bridge the gap between the quirky and the traditional and may be a good ‘gateway shoe’ for those wanting to get into the lower-drop, high forefoot volume game. This shoe isn’t SuperFly, it’s UltraFly! Corny puns aside, this shoe is available in May and is priced at $120.

JEREMY: This shoe has become a staple in my shoe collection, and I have been wearing it just as much as my other favorite easy day/everyday running shoe, the HOKA ONE ONE Clifton 7. While these shoes are not going to be a great choice for hard workouts or races, they really could be worn for every other run. At $130, that’s a very fair price for a shoe that should last for a long time.

You can pick up the Topo Athletic Ultrafly 3 for $130 right now at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.

Shop Topo Athletic – Men Shop Topo Athletic – Women Topo Athletic Ultrafly 3 - toe

Have something to say? Leave a Comment

  1. stefan says:

    I have been a Topo-fan for a couple of years now. One thing that annoys me is that their shoes get less and less rubber on the outsole and more open foam. That really means worse durability, grip and getting small stones stuck in the foam (gets worse over time). On the fly-lite 2 i can even feel the durable rubber parts through the sole when running on hard surfaces.

    The first fly-lite had an almost complete rubber sole as did the Ultrafly. The new versions have a lot of open foam. I don’t like that at all.
    What do you think?

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