Blister Brand Guide: Topo Athletic Running Shoe Lineup, 2020

Blister Brand Guide: Running Shoe Lineups

Intro

When considering a new running shoe, there are so many similar-looking shoes on the market being made by so many different companies, it is virtually impossible to (1) know where to begin; (2) quickly figure out which one or two products from a given brand might work well for you; and (3) determine what products from other brands might be the most similar and also worth considering.

So in our new “Blister Brand Guide” series, we provide an overview of the entire product lineup of a brand; highlight how each product stands out from the rest of that brand’s lineup; and help you figure out quickly and easily which shoe might work best for you. 

In our individual product reviews, we go very deep into the details of particular products. With these Brand Guides, the goal is not Depth, but Breadth. Our Brand Guides and full reviews are designed to complement each other — provide a broad overview of entire company lineups, and then also very detailed reviews of individual products. 

See our other running shoe Brand Guides

Topo Athletic: Brand Background

Topo Athletic was founded in 2013 with the goal of combining the features of minimal, foot-shaped shoes with some of the elements of more traditional shoes. Seven years later, they have a wide range of road and trail shoes that are still built with this goal in mind.

You can expect Topo shoes to have a wide, rounded toe box similar to that found in Altra’s shoes. Unlike Altra, however, Topo makes shoes with a variety of heel-to-toe drops, ranging from 0–5 mm (though that’s still on the lower end compared to the market as a whole). Topo’s shoes also tend to have a slightly narrower fit through the midfoot and heel than Altra shoes. This makes them a good option for runners who love Altra’s wide toe boxes but want a tighter fit throughout the rest of the shoe, or don’t want a zero-drop platform. Some of Topo’s higher-cushion shoes might also be a good alternative for people who enjoy the cushioning of Hoka’s shoes but find Hoka’s fit too narrow and / or their heel-to-toe drops too high.

Topo offers shoes with a range of stack heights and heel-to-toe drops for both road and trail running. In this brand guide, we’ll go through the road and trail models separately, with each category ordered from highest to lowest stack height.

ROAD SHOES

(Most Cushioned to Least Cushioned)

Most Cushion

Blister Brand Guide: Blister discusses the entire 2020 Topo Athletic running shoe lineup
The Phantom is Topo’s most cushioned road shoe. It’s got a light, breathable mesh upper with synthetic overlays to provide structure and hold the foot in place. The midsole uses Topo’s Zipfoam material to provide cushion for long road miles, while the rubber outsole pods increase durability without adding too much weight. The Phantom has a slightly more cushioned ride than the Ultrafly 3. It also lacks the stability/motion control features found in the Ultrafly 3, making it better suited to runners who prefer a more neutral shoe. It’s not a particularly light shoe, but it should be a comfortable option for those looking for a max-cushioned shoe for longer days on the road.

Stack Height

Drop: 5 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $135.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister discusses the entire 2020 Topo Athletic running shoe lineup

Like the previous version of the shoe, the Ultrafly 3 provides extra stability and pronation control for runners who need a more supportive shoe. But in the Ultrafly 3, the Ultrafly 2’s triple-density midsole has been replaced with Topo’s new “Zipfoam” midsole material, which is supposedly a bit softer and springier. The Ultrafly 3 also has a new upper that Topo claims makes for a more comfortable fit. The new midsole and upper make the Ultrafly 3 a few grams lighter than the previous version of the shoe. These changes aside, the Ultrafly 3 is still a bit less flexible and slightly less cushioned than the Phantom — but it still has plenty of cushioning for long runs. If you’re in the market for a moderately cushioned shoe that offers some extra support and pronation control, the Ultrafly 3 could be worth checking out.

Stack Height

Drop: 5 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $130.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister discusses the entire 2020 Topo Athletic running shoe lineup

The Zephyr is a new addition to the Topo road lineup for 2020. Its firm cushioning and fairly lightweight construction are designed to maximize energy return for faster running. The Zephyr also follows the recent road running industry trend of including some kind of fairly rigid plate in the midsole to increase energy return. It has an elastomer plate sandwiched in between the two layers of midsole foam, which allegedly provides extra forefoot stability as well as a faster ride. The Zephyr’s relatively firm Zipfoam midsole and elastomer plate do make it a fairly rigid, inflexible shoe — it likely won’t feel as soft / cushioned as shoes like the Phantom or Magnifly 3, even though the Zephyr has a fairly high stack height. At the same time, that firmer cushioning should make the Zephyr feel much more energetic at faster paces. So if you’re in the market for a firm, fast road shoe for up-tempo running, the Zephyr might be a good match.

Stack Height

Drop: 5 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $130.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister discusses the entire 2020 Topo Athletic running shoe lineup

The Magnifly 3 caters to runners who want a shoe that promotes a forefoot-striking stride while still providing fairly high cushioning. It’s only a little heavier than the Ultrafly 3 and offers a similar amount of cushioning, but in the form of a neutral, zero-drop platform. The Magnifly 3’s dual-density midsole is designed to provide a cushioned yet efficient ride, which should make the Magnifly 3 feel a little faster than the Phantom. The Magnifly 3 has a new mesh upper for a supposedly improved fit as well as minimal rubber outsole pods in high-wear areas for added durability. If you’re looking for a neutral, higher-cushion, zero-drop road shoe, the Magnifly might be a good fit.

Stack Height

Drop: 0 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $120.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister discusses the entire 2020 Topo Athletic running shoe lineup

The Fli-Lyte 3 is more minimal, lightweight, and flexible than Topo’s higher-cushion shoes. The latest version has a new mesh upper that’s lighter and more breathable than previous iterations of the shoe. With a lower 23 mm / 20 mm stack height and 3 mm drop, the Fli-Lyte 3 offers more ground feel than the Magnifly 3. The strategically placed outsole rubber pods add durability and traction without too much additional weight. If you want a flexible, lightweight shoe that still offers some cushioning, the Fli-Lyte 3 is worth checking out. It’s an especially good option for runners looking for a lower-stack shoe with a roomy toe box that isn’t zero drop.

Stack Height

Drop: 3 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $110.00

Least Cushion

Blister Brand Guide: Blister discusses the entire 2020 Topo Athletic running shoe lineup
The ST-3 is Topo’s most minimal road shoe. It’s built on a light, flexible, zero-drop platform for runners who want a shoe that promotes a completely natural, forefoot-striking stride. The new knit upper is simple and minimal. The ST-3 ditches the hard heel counter found in most shoes, which reduces weight but may make the heel cup slightly less secure. Its low weight and low stack height make the ST-3 well suited to shorter, faster runs, but it won’t offer the more plush feel of the higher-cushioned shoes above during long runs. If you’re looking for a minimal, lightweight, zero-drop road shoe, the ST-3 may be the shoe for you.

Stack Height

Drop: 0 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $100.00

TRAIL SHOES

(Most Cushioned to Least Cushioned)

Blister Brand Guide: Blister discusses the entire 2020 Topo Athletic running shoe lineup

The Trailventure is Topo’s new foray into the light hiking boot market. In Topo’s words, it’s a “hiking boot that you can run in.” It features a three-piece midsole and an aggressive Vibram XS Trek outsole similar to the Ultraventure, but with an ankle-height, rip-stop mesh upper similar to a traditional hiking boot. The Trailventure also has a rear / mid-foot rock plate for extra protection on technical trails. If you’re looking for a light hiking boot that feels like a running shoe underfoot but offers more support and protection, the Trailventure could be worth a closer look.

Stack Height

Drop: 5 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $140.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister discusses the entire 2020 Topo Athletic running shoe lineup
The Trailventure WP has the same construction as the Trailventure, but with a waterproof / breathable eVent upper. The waterproof upper should keep your feet drier in wet, cold weather, but won’t be as breathable as the rip-stop mesh upper on the standard version of the shoe. If you like the looks of the Trailventure but usually hike in particularly wet conditions, the Trailventure WP could be a good fit.

Stack Height

Drop: 5 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $160.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister discusses the entire 2020 Topo Athletic running shoe lineup
As you might have guessed from the name, this shoe is designed for long trail runs and races. It’s got an aggressive outsole with fairly large, widely spaced lugs for traction on variable terrain and a triple-density midsole to provide extra support during long runs. The breathable mesh upper should allow for good airflow in warm weather, while slits in the synthetic overlays around the bottom of the upper should offer decent water drainage. While the Ultraventure has the same stack height and drop as the Mtn Racer, it’s a bit heavier, more supportive, and more protective. It also has a harder Vibram XS Trek outsole, which should be a bit more durable, but might not provide quite as much traction on wet terrain. If you’re looking for a maximal trail shoe that will provide support on long runs, the Ultraventure may be a good option.

Stack Height

Drop: 5 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $130.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister discusses the entire 2020 Topo Athletic running shoe lineup

The new Ultraventure Pro combines features from the Ultraventure and Topo’s new Trailventure hiking boots to provide an even more supportive, protective ride than the Ultraventure. While the Ultraventure Pro has the same stack height as the Ultraventure, the Pro also has a three-piece midsole and rigid external heel counter similar to the Trailventure. According to Topo, these features provide more guidance, pronation control, and support through the gait cycle. The Ultraventure Pro also has a stickier Vibram Megagrip outsole, which should provide better traction on wet terrain than the Vibram XS Trek outsole on the Ultraventure. Lastly, unlike the Ultraventure, the Ultraventure Pro has a forefoot rock plate for even more protection on technical trails. The slightly lighter, more neutral, and more flexible Ultraventure will likely still be a better option for less technical and / or faster-paced runs. But if you want a shoe that provides more support, better traction, and more protection (at the cost of a little extra weight), the Ultraventure Pro is worth a look.

Stack Height

Drop: 5 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $145.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister discusses the entire 2020 Topo Athletic running shoe lineup
The Mtn Racer is surprisingly light for how much cushion and protection it offers. It’s got the same stack height as the Ultraventure but is 30 grams lighter (men’s version), making it Topo’s second lightest trail shoe. In spite of its low weight, the Mtn Racer offers an impressive feature set with an aggressive and sticky Vibram MegaGrip outsole, mild pronation control, and breathable rip-stop mesh upper. The stickier MegaGrip outsole should provide better traction on wet terrain than the Ultraventure’s harder outsole compound, but it might not be quite as durable. The Mtn Racer could be a good option for runners who want something more cushioned than the Terraventure 2 or MT-3, but lighter than the Ultraventure.

Stack Height

Drop: 5 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $140.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister discusses the entire 2020 Topo Athletic running shoe lineup

The Terraventure 2 is designed as an all-round trail shoe that provides moderate cushion and protection for all types of terrain. It has a dual-density EVA midsole, harder / more durable Vibram XS Trek outsole, flexible forefoot rock plate, and breathable open mesh upper. The Terraventure offers quite a bit more protection and traction than the MT-3, so it should be a better option for more technical terrain. Its slightly lower stack height and forefoot rock plate might also make it feel a bit more stable and protective on technical, rocky trails than the Mtn Racer. If you’re in the market for a protective shoe for running on a variety of terrain, the Terraventure 2 may be a good fit.

Stack Height

Drop: 3 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $120.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister discusses the entire 2020 Topo Athletic running shoe lineup
The MT-3 has the same stack height and drop as the Terraventure 2, but it’s a bit lighter and less protective. It’s more moderate / less aggressive outsole provides a smooth ride on roads and enough traction for mellower trails, while the minimal rip-stop mesh upper and lack of a rock plate reduce weight. The MT-3 should perform especially well relative to Topo’s other models on runs that combine a mix of roads and trails. If you like the cushioning of the Terraventure 2 but think that its more trail-oriented outsole and protective features are overkill for the type of running you usually do, the MT-3 may be a good option.

Stack Height

Drop: 3 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $110.00
Blister Brand Guide: Blister discusses the entire 2020 Topo Athletic running shoe lineup

The Runventure 3 is still Topo’s most minimal trail shoe, though the newest version does have slightly more (1 mm, to be precise) cushioning. It’s also the only zero-drop model in Topo’s trail lineup. The Runventure 3 also features a new tightly woven mesh upper that should provide a bit more protection than the previous version of the shoe, though it may not be quite as breathable. Aside from those updates, the Runventure 3 still features a firmer midsole than the MT-3 or Terraventure 2, which will likely make it feel less plush underfoot, but should also make it feel a bit snappier and more efficient on fast runs. The Runventure 3’s lower stack height should improve ground feel, but the forefoot rock plate and fairly aggressive Vibram XS Trek outsole should still offer enough protection for moderate to technical terrain. If you’re looking for something a little more minimal than the MT-3 or Terraventure 2 that’s still got a solid amount of underfoot protection for sharp trail obstacles, the Runventure 3 is worth checking out.

Stack Height

Drop: 0 mm

Stated Weight

MSRP: $120.00

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