Topo Ultra Fly v1 – 50 Mile Review

Another review of the previous version of a running shoe. I figure that a lot of runners buy the older shoes, like I do, once they go on sale.

The Topo Ultra Fly v1 is a shoe that I have wanted to try since it came out. However, I couldn’t justify the full retail price to experiment with sizing and feel, on shoes I had never seen in person.

So I have been waiting for the price point to get down to the $50-70 price range that is a little easier to swallow when experimenting with a shoe I haven’t been able to put my hands on or feet in. Especially, if they do not work as planned for me.

The Ultra Fly’s finally came down in price recently and I made the suggestion to D2 that they would make the perfect Father’s Day gift. She tends to spoil me and suddenly a couple of days after making that suggestion a pair of Topo Ultra Fly v1’s size 8.5 men’s, showed up in the mail box.

My initial impressions were positive and while they are advertised as a road shoe. I believe based how on I use the Topo Ultra Fly v1, they are more of a hybrid or road to trail running shoe for me. Not a bad thing, but the uppers are way over-built for just road use, are a bit heavy compared to other road shoes in my rotation and there is a LOT of rubber on the outsoles.

How have I used the Topo Ultra Fly v1?

I have run mostly asphalt roads, with some time on the dirt roads down-back, a trail exploration over at Quarry Road, where I found some single-track, with a very tiny bit of mud and a trail race there as well. So I have done just about all the different kinds of runs that I do except for a track workout and I do not see these as good for that purpose.

Especially, since I cannot honestly say that I feel particularly fast in the Ultra Fly’s, but they have been solid and for the most part comfortable on most of my runs in them.

However, while running longer on tar at the 6.0 or so miles mark, the left Achilles/ankle (tibial tendons) began to complain more than I want and while it was not enough to make me stop running. The three times it happened, it added enough discomfort to slow me down and made the end of the runs rather uncomfortable.

In other words they were not the confidence builders that I want for my long runs at this point in my marathon training. Especially after so many failed attempts to train properly for another marathon over the years.

Let’s get to the review.

Fit

I am a true size 8.0, but with skinny heels and Hobbit forefeet, with a Tailor’s Bunionette on my right foot – in other words a tough foot to fit for most brands or shoes. Which means in most brands I usually wear 8.5, including Altra, which according to other reviews are similar to Topo in the toe box.

Since I wasn’t sure how the fit would be, I went up to an 8.5 size just to be sure they would fit. The Topo Ultra Fly 1’s fit is okay, but not perfect. The size 8.5’s are a bit longish and quite roomy up front (thankfully), but a bit too wide in the heel. They are still very comfortable for me to run or walk in, so the fit isn’t that bad.

However, if I was to get another pair of Topo’s, I probably would stay true to size and go with a size 8.0 U.S. or even look at a Women’s size 10 Ultra Fly – lighter and yet still wider in the forefoot, with narrower heels.

Speaking of Altra since this is the brand that Topo is compared most to. I walked a ways in a Lone Peak 2.5 and the Ultra Fly V1’s to get a better feel for the differences between the fit of the two. Yes, I know one is a trail shoe and the other is what I call a hybrid road shoe.

From previously running short distances in the Torin 3.5’s and the Lone Peak 2.5’s to compare them to. I think that the Ultra Fly v1’s fit wider in the forefoot than the Torin’s and about the same as the Lone Peak 2.5’s, are not as snug in the heal and a little higher in the side walls. 5mm versus zero drop is not all that much of a difference, but I could feel the differences between the two and much preferred the 5mm drop.

I actually preferred the fit/feel of the Torin 3.5’s, while running, but my Achilles do not do well with zero drop over the long haul and I don’t like to use inserts, so the Topo Ultra Fly work better for me, with their 5mm drop as part of the shoe’s design.

Outsole/sole

The outsole for me will still be usable a long time from now. It is showing very little signs of wear after more than 60 miles on varied terrains.

While it is not what I consider a strictly road outsole, it is also not really a great trail tread either, it has some features of both, without the specificity for either one. That hybrid thing again.

However, the Ultra Fly’s outsole runs smoothly on tar and has decent grip on dry dirt and provides good protection from rocks, roots and stuff due to the thickness of the sole itself. Although when I attempted to brake using my heels going down groomed trail hills, at faster speeds there was not as much grip as I would have liked.

The sole thickness also caused the shoes to be fairly inflexible compared to other shoes in my rotation, but this stiffness has not aggravated my Plantar Faciitis so far.

The Ultra Fly’s are not the quietest shoes I have run in, but with that amount of rubber on the outsole I do expect them to be noisier than shoes that have more/mostly exposed midsole materials on the outsole. Although I did find that going down hills, they get a bit slappy, when I do not lean into the hill.

Upper

They hold my feet quite nicely, but in my opinion there too many overlays and the rubber on the front of the toe box seems a bit of overkill for what is supposed to be primarily a road shoe. All this adds to the shoe’s weight and seems unnecessary.

I like the burnt orange upper, although the other colorways in the v1 and now the v2 are kind of boring to my way of thinking, but others seem to like the grays, blacks and dark blues. I am not a fan.

Thoughts

While I do like running in the the Topo Ultra Fly v1’s, they are heavier and too over-built to be my primary running shoes. They really do not fit any one niche in my rotation and that is their weakness and at the same time their strength.

I think the Ultra Fly’s biggest strength are their versatility and due to that they are a good truck shoe for me. The ones that I keep at the ready in the truck and will do pretty much any run that I feel like doing in them. Whether on the spur of the moment or if I decide that the shoes I have with me are not what I want to run in that day due to the weather or where I actually end up running.

That is how I see the Ultra Fly’s, they are a Swiss Army Knife shoe that I can run decently in for just about any run, but at the same time really are not the “best” shoe I have for most runs.

Especially, since I have road shoes that are lighter and/or more cushioned, trail shoes that have better grip or more protection and go faster shoes, but none of the those have that do most anything ability that the Ultra Fly’s have for me.

The Topo Ultra Fly would be a great choice for someone who only has one or two pair of shoes and wanted a pair that could do most everything shoe. You know a hybrid shoe for daily training on roads, winter, trails or whatever and maybe a race day shoe for speed work and racing. I could see that combination working quite well.

According to Topo, the Ultra Fly has changed in the upper quite a bit in version 2, but the weight seemed to stay pretty much the same. However, I have not seen V2 in person, so I don’t really know how they actually are and would not want to make any comparisons by pulling information out of my arse or relying on someone else’s viewpoint, so I won’t.

While the Ultra Fly’s will remain in the rotation, I do not see them being my marathon shoe in the Fall or my primary daily trainers. They are a very good and durable running shoe that doesn’t quite beat out the competition, to make them the shoes that I tend to reach for first when I go for a particular kind of training run.

That is the problem with hybrid shoes they do lots of things well, but…

Yeah, there is always — a but… with them.