Last year I tested out the Topo Fli-Lyte 2, a lightweight shoe from Topo Athletic with 3mm heel drop. This time I decided to buy the newly released Ultrafly 2 in order to check out how their more stable shoe would perform and if I, as a more overpronated runner, could have a shoe that fit me better.
It's more foot-shaped than a conventional running shoe and builds on the natural runner school of thought, where the toes get more space and thus should contribute more to the stability. It does, however, compared to barefoot shoes, offer a huge amount of cushioning for the longer runs. So far I've run on forest paths, gravel and asphalt in order to make up my mind about the shoe.
The fit of the Topo Ultrafly 2 is unlike any other shoe I have ever tried. The foot-shaped toe box offers a lot of space around the forefoot without the fit feeling too loose. This is mostly due to the amazing midfoot of the shoe. There is surely no similar fitting shoe on the market to my knowledge.
The laces and upper mesh grips firmly and hinders movement of the midfoot and pushes the foot back towards a heel cap the offers a different type of padding than usual.
I am not a big fan of the overly padded heel collars that some shoe manufacturers have a tendency of implementing into their most cushioned shoes (some examples are Saucony Hurricane and Triumph). This heel is not overly padded and feels comfortable on, but sports two tiny cushions on each side of the Achilles tendon that are hard to ignore. I suspect this to be a polarizing aspect of the shoe when consumers try them on for the first time. This is most importantly not noticeable when running!
Compared to other shoes (New Balance, Diadora, Saucony, Mizuno) I use half a US size higher than normal with Topo (10 US to 10.5 US) shoes, and this shoe doesn't differ in that regard. This might not always be the case for you, and I encourage you to try them out before you buy them.
Topo has on the newer models gone for flat laces instead of round. I am generally a fan of this. Especially on the new Topo Ultrafly 2 where the laces' fabric is a bit rougher than the Fli-Lyte 2s, resulting in a better and tighter knot that doesn't go up. This has been a problem with my Fli-Lytes.
Overall I love having this shoe on regardless of the extra heel padding around the Achilles. For me, the fit of the upper mesh around the midfoot really distinguishes this shoe from other shoes and makes it a must try just for the fit itself. My only concern is that the two extra pads on the heel will be easy to accidentally move if you are putting on the shoe without holding the heel cap.
I would always recommend you to try the shoe in the store before buying it, and especially if you plan to buy a foot-shaped shoe like this one. It's just much more noticeable if you hit the flatter front part with your toes.
The Topo Ultrafly 2 falls into a mid category between a stability shoe and a neutral shoe. It has a three density sole construction with added support on the inside. Compared to the pronation supported shoes like the Mizuno Inspire, Saucony Guide and New Balance 1260/860 this shoe offers less stability, but that isn't the point.
The natural running idea is that the toes and the lower heel drop (5mm) will replace some of the need for support in the first place.
The heel cap is also not as prominent in this shoe compared to the ones I have mentioned above, and this is the only place I would consider implementing added support without sacrificing how the shoe feels.
If a more stable shoe is desired then an Altra Provision could be an option. Just know that added stability is often accompanied by a more clumsy feel. If you want a less stable shoe with the same characteristics, the Fli-Lyte 2 or the Magnifly 2 could be great options from the same manufacturer.
The upper is changed a bit from the previous model. The most noticeable change is the type of pattern used in the mesh and overall use of the flex film to add support. The amount used is also a difference, and that can contribute to a slightly less stable hold around the midfoot on the newer model.
Refinement is the key word here, and it's clear that Topo is better at producing their shoes and upper now after some years on the market.
Overall I can't see any noticeable difference stability wise between the new and the old Ultrafly. The shoe is, in my opinion, a more stable neutral shoe that is more comfortable to run in than its more stable rival Altra Provision.
The Topo Ultrafly 2 feels good from the start and doesn't change during the first 50k as I have noticed other shoes have done. The denser foam on the medial side (inside) is there for added support but isn't noticeable either while walking or running. During a test at work, I noticed a noticeable difference in stability performance compared to the lighter Fli-Lyte 2, but this is also the point.
There are three flex grooves beneath the forefoot which makes it a flexible shoe. What differs here from other shoes is that the grooves are more curved, which contributes to a wider flex area. The flex makes it a comfortable ride and reduces some of the possibility to run a faster pace.
The grip underneath is suited for a dry forest, gravel and asphalt run, but will not be enough if you try any more challenging wet environments. If you want to run in these environments, then the trail series from Topo should be a more suited choice, but even these have limited grip compared to their competitors in my opinion.
There is a big difference between the Ultrafly 2 and the Fli-Lyte 2 in speed as well. The Fli-Lyte invites you to run fast, while the Ultrafly feels a lot more like a cruising shoe. It is possible to run fast in them, but that will drain you just like running with some of the other long-distance shoes (New Balance 1080, Saucony Hurricane). I like these shoes and from now on these will be some of my long distance cruise go-to shoes.
Overall the Ultrafly 2 feels good and comfortable, but it has sort of the same effect on me as running with a Saucony Guide. The shoe does its job perfectly, I just don't feel anything special when running with it. Worth noticing is that the Saucony Guide 10 was my most used shoe in 2017, and just like the Guide, the Ultrafly 2 just works.
The wow factor of this shoe is noticeably when you put it on for the first time. Especially how the midfoot fit me I consider close to perfect. The forefoot is wide and roomy, and even though it is especially suited for those with a wide forefoot, the fit is still very good for people with average width feet as well. This again comes down to the great upper around the midfoot.
First and foremost this is a long distance trainer that really shines on those longer slower runs (also includes recovery runs). No wonder the ultra community has embraced it as they have here in Denmark. Faster runs are though more of a struggle and the Fly-Lyte 2 would, in my opinion, be a better option for those who want to run at a higher pace.
The extra support on the medial side makes this a possibility for all the overpronators out there, but if there is a need for a more supportive shoe I would go for a more conventional route, or try the Altra Provision.
I would recommend this shoe if you want a well-cushioned shoe during the week or need a shoe to train towards a marathon in. The wide toe box makes it perfect for people who struggle with blue toes, blisters or other forefoot related issues. It is a specialty shoe that sits outside the conventional market next to Altra shoes and that foot-shaped form is something not everybody is interested in. But from my experience, those who try the Ultrafly usually end up loving them. They will be with me for a long time and I'm looking forward to all the great runs Ill get with this shoe.
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