TAYLOR: Running isn’t for everyone. I wish I understood that, but I just don’t get it. Sweating, breaking down muscles, chafing, and the occasional bonk – what’s not to love!?
The “joy” exponentially grows as the miles add up and the terrain gets more gnarly. Thankfully, there are whole businesses that create goods for us trail junkies.
Shoes are a necessity, and few fill the niche of being an “ultra trail” shoe. The Hoka ONE ONE Mafate series, Inov8 Terraultra G270, Salomon S/Lab Ultra come to mind. Topo Athletic’s latest offering, the Ultraventure Pro, fits that same bill.
I rank the original Ultraventure really high as a general trail shoe – like top 5 faves – for its fit and performance over a variety of terrain. 2020 seems to think it needed a little beefing up to roll with the times. Here we are with the Ultraventure Pro.
Usually, I think of Pro in the same line as “elite,” meaning the shoe is slimmer, faster, more responsive and so on. That’s not necessarily the case here but that’s a bad thing. The Pro gains a lot in terms of protection and comfort for going the ultra distances.
TAYLOR: Quality isn’t lost on Topo Athletic. They piece together thoughtful gear that gets the job done. The Ultraventure Pro’s job is simple: eat long miles over who knows what the heck kind of terrain, and comfortably.
Like every single pair of Topos that I’ve tested, the Ultraventure Pro is comfortable and durable. Base principles of the brand allow for natural feel and foot motions while running. Being foot-shaped, the more accommodating toe box allows for sustained comfort as the day and miles drag on.
Foot protection is a heavy theme throughout the Pro. Topo’s classic Abrasion Resistant Mesh covers the upper. It’s a tighter woven mesh that keeps debris out. Durability is not an issue. I have yet to find any semblance of wear on any pair of my Topos with this same upper material. The Ultraventure Pro’s upper seems to be very similar to the original, and it seems to have a degree more of protection. Thankfully, it’s not as steamy as the MTN Racer or Runventure 3.
This shoe provides a laundry list of protection underfoot. Most notable is the midsole. Topo typically uses a three-piece model with varying densities. This is the first trail shoe to have their new Zipfoam (also found in their new road line – Ultrafly 3, Zephyr, and Phantom). It’s a lighter EVA compound with a bit more bounce. It feels a little softer than the original Ultraventure midsole but still swings slightly toward the firm side of the density pendulum, which is good in this case because it offers protection without adding weight. My men’s 10.5 came in at 11.2 oz. and the first Ultraventure was 11.3oz.
An ESS rock plate has your back, too. Even with all the underfoot fortification, there are trace amounts of ground feel and I dig that.
Topo is pretty keen on their Ortholite footbed insert. So am I. Another 5 mm of responsive and soft cushion is always a plus. Why aren’t more companies utilizing this strategy of getting more out of their shoes? It must be an ultra-shoe thing.
Slap on another 6mm worth of Vibram Megagrip for even more protection and some of the best grip on any surface you could ask for. Add it all up and you’ll get 30mm – 25mm worth of unfiltered, ready-for-the-long-haul underfoot protection.
TAYLOR: I’ve found myself loving Topo Athletic shoes over the past couple of years. It really is hard to pick out points of weakness because these designs are very well-crafted. With that being said, with the OG Ultraventure as the standard to compare against, the Pro has some lapses.
The fit was a little sloppy. The forefoot was roomy and secure enough. The heel side of the midfoot and the heel had some issues though. I definitely had more slippage than I’m used to in a pair of Topos. The same issue surfaced with the Runventure 3. It wasn’t enough to completely abandon ship when the going was technical or fast, but it was wonky enough that I wanted to search for ways to fix it. Some lacing tricks helped secure the heel a little more for the technical trail segment. I found myself much more comfortable when picking up the pace.
The next critique is more of personal preference. The Ultraventure Pro does have more stability than the original. Even though it’s named “Pro” the focus on stability takes away from the diversity of the Utraventure series. Over 100 miles in the mountains, I can see where this can offer some reprieve, but I don’t love the sensation overall.
TAYLOR: Topo Athletic takes an ultra ready shoe and gives it a little more grit. The Ultraventure Pro can surely take you on some crazy long runs with it’s 30 mm stack height, new Zipfoam midsole, dependable Vibram Megagrip outsole, and all-around durability. This shoe takes a slight turn from the first Ultraventure, but makes up for it in what it has to offer to those going long on rugged terrain.