Road Shoes

Shoe of the Week: Topo Athletic Ultrafly 3

This updated Topo Ultrafly provides an exceptional fit and a ride that blends comfort, stability and performance.

Topo Athletic Ultrafly 3 Review

Weight: 9.6 oz. (M), 7.7 oz. (W)

Heel-Toe Offset: 5mm (28mm heel, 23mm forefoot)

Price: $130

Top Line

Uniquely delivers plush comfort, light stability and a natural fit and ride.

Topo Athletic Ultrafly 3
Photo: 101 Degrees West

What’s New

Nearly everything is new on this revamped model, and all of it for the better. The upper has lost all of its rigid overlays and is now an exceptionally comfortable, smooth layer of engineered mesh that lovingly wraps your foot, staying close and holding securely from heel to ball, and staying out of the way over and around the toes. The new Zip Foam midsole is more energetic than the previous compound, producing a not-too-soft, not-too-firm feel that strikes a sweet spot between cushioning and ground feel. And, the external heel counter and low, long, firmer-density medial post provide a touch of guidance and a stable feel without interfering with the natural ride encouraged by the low drop and flexible forefoot.

This Shoe Is For You If…

You appreciate a shoe with a wide, stable platform under the whole foot (particularly the big toe) and a toebox that has ample room for splay — plus you want a moderately-cushioned, moderately-stable, flexible ride that protects without controlling or compromising performance.

Topo Ultrafly 3 top and bottom
Photo: 101 Degrees West

Notes From The Road

The Ultrafly 3 didn’t take long to emerge from my pile of test shoes and find their way onto the “often reached for” shelf. The primary reason they stood out is the fit. It starts with the anatomically-correct shape, narrow in the heel, opening to a wide, roomy forefoot that flares to the inside under the bit toe. Enhancing the natural feel and movement is the new upper, a smooth, soft, engineered mesh that does its job with minimal attention drawn to itself. Putting them on, my heel drops in to a 360° hold, my midfoot is closely wrapped but not squeezed or controlled, and my toes are open and free, without even touching the fabric. The laces are simple and straightforward, with closely-spaced eyelets to dial down the fit to the shape of my foot (and it did take a bit of dialing to arrive at that snug, sock-like wrap).

But the unobtrusive comfort didn’t stop with the upper. I also reached for the Ultrafly 3s because of the ride produced by the new Zip Foam midsole and moderate stability features. While earlier Ultrafly’s felt a bit too protective for my taste, these simply feel stable and comfortable while allowing adequate proprioceptive ground feel and delivering ride that is a low and flexible enough to feel natural — engaging my feet, encouraging a tall, balanced stride — without having to adapt new patterns and strengths. Another tester also praised the midsole ride and durability, “The midsole really stood out for its effective cushioning and rebounding energy return. They held up nicely, feeling fresh and steady with no midsole compression and are good for long training runs.”

Topo Athletic UltraFly 3
Photo: 101 Degrees West

As for performance, one incident tells the story. The Ultrafly 3 looks remarkably similar to Topo’s Magnify 3, another favorite with the same fit, but a zero-drop, slightly faster, more minimal ride. One groggy morning, thinking I was putting on the Magniflys, I accidentally wore the Ultraflys and headed out on a dirt road where I was planning to do a “cruise interval” workout. Once running, I was quickly aware that I had the wrong shoes as the Ultrafly 3 is more cushioned and stable, but I went ahead with the workout in them. Once at a faster pace and up on my toes more, I was surprised to find how comfortably and naturally the Ultrafly flew. The forefoot flexed and rolled my toes off smoothly and the midsole provided a firm, slightly bouncy, powerful push-off that well exceeded expectations. I crushed the workout, and once back, I had to confirm that they were indeed the Ultraflys that feel so protective and stable on slower, longer runs.

While I discovered they’ll carry you comfortably up to threshold pace, I didn’t want to go any faster in them. The Ultrafly 3 isn’t a racer, as that flexible toe-off doesn’t have the pop of today’s racing shoes, plus the forefoot is wide enough to be a bit sloppy at higher speeds. But they are hard to beat for comfortable daily miles, won’t hold you back when you want to pick up the pace, and especially shine on long runs when legs and feet appreciate the extra stability.

Similar Shoes:

Altra Provision 4, Brooks Bedlam 2 or 3Newton Motion 9, On Cloudflyer, Salomon Sonic 3 Balance, Skechers GOrun Forza 4