Altra vs Topo – A Deep Dive Into Wide Toebox Running Shoes!


Lace up for a deep dive as we’re going to put Altra vs Topo and see which brand could potentially be part of your running shoe rotation.

Altra and Topo have risen to prominence, captivating the hearts of runners seeking a more natural and comfortable experience.

While they share a lot of design philosophies, each offers its unique approach to cater to the diverse needs of runners.

In this comparison, we will explore the distinctive features, technologies, and benefits of Altra and Topo Athletic running shoes, assisting you in making an informed choice as you embark on your running journey.

Let’s dive right into it…


Altra vs Topo

Quick Comparison

If you’re in a hurry, here’s a quick overview of the key similarities and differences between Altra and Topo…

  • Both Altra and Topo advocate natural foot movement
  • Altra shoes are zero drop while Topo usually uses 0mm to 5mm drops
  • Both are known for their roomy toebox but Altras are a bit roomier
  • Altra has more cushioned and higher stack height models in their line
  • Topos are lower to the ground offering more ground feel
  • Both have solid trail runners, but Altra’s line has more depth
  • Altra has the carbon fiber Vanish, but Topo don’t have any carbon plate shoes 
  • Topo shoes are more affordable than Altras

Let’s dive into more details…


Brand Background

Established in 2009 by two avid runners, Golden Harper and Brian Beckstead, Altra was born out of a desire to address common running issues and enhance the running experience.

They quickly gained attention for introducing the concept of “zero-drop” footwear, where the heel and forefoot are at the same height. The brand also emphasizes a wide toebox to allow the toes to splay naturally.

Founded in 2013 by Tony Post, Topo Athletic has quickly become another prominent player in the world of running footwear.

They focus on creating shoes that respect the foot’s anatomy while integrating elements like cushioning, stability, and comfort to optimize overall performance.

Drawing inspiration from the Japanese word “topos,” meaning “place,” the brand aspired to create shoes that seamlessly connected the runner to the terrain.

Design Philosophy


If you’re particular about drop differential, you’ll find a slight contrast between the two.

Altra shoes typically have a zero-drop design, where the heel and forefoot are positioned at the same height.


According to Altra, Zero drop:

  • Promotes a more level footstrike
  • Encourages a midfoot landing
  • Encourages a more natural, low-impact running form
  • Reduces the impact on joints
  • Promotes better alignment

Topo Athletic shoes generally feature a moderate heel-to-toe drop, usually ranging from 0mm to 5mm. This design offers a compromise between the more traditional heel-strike running style and the natural midfoot strike promoted by Altra.


Foot-Shaped Toebox

Both Altra and Topo are well-known for their wide toe boxes. And unlike traditional running shoes that taper towards the front, Altra and Topo shoes allow the toes to spread out naturally, providing ample room for toe splay and improved stability and balance.

This design can be particularly beneficial for runners with wider feet or those who appreciate a more spacious fit.



Altra’s design philosophy revolves around the belief that running shoes should mimic the natural shape and movement of the human foot.

That’s why they have what they call their signature FootShape toebox. This anatomical fit reduces pressure on the toes and forefoot, mitigating the risk of common running issues like bunions and neuromas. By embracing a spacious toe box, Altra emphasizes comfort and a more accommodating fit for a wide range of foot shapes.

These are some great running shoes if you have bunions while these running shoes are really helpful with Morton’s neuroma


Topo Athletic’s design philosophy centers around the concept of “functional simplicity.” The brand aims to strike a balance between the benefits of minimalist running shoes and the support required for optimal performance.

Like Altra, one of the distinguishing aspects of Topo Athletic shoes is their wide toebox. By providing extra space through the toebox, Topo encourages toe splay and a more stable and balanced platform, enabling a more efficient push-off during each stride.

The brand also believes that allowing the toes to move freely not only enhances performance but also contributes to overall foot health and comfort.

However, Altra’s FootShape toebox takes it a step further in terms of room through the toebox, allowing for maximum toe splay and comfort. So compared to Altra, Topo shoes might not be as wide as Altra’s.

So, in terms of fit and feel, some runners prefer the anatomical fit of Altra’s FootShape toe box, while others may appreciate the slightly snugger fit of certain Topo models.

It’s essential to try on various models from both brands to find the one that feels like a perfect match for your feet.

Cushioning & Stack Height

Topo and Altra Athletic offer different approaches to cushioning.


Altra offers a variety of cushioning options, ranging from minimalist to more plush models. The cushioning is often uniform from heel to toe, in line with their zero-drop philosophy.

Except for the Escalante, Escalante Racer, Superior, and Solstice XT2, most Altra shoes are on the plusher higher stacked end of the spectrum.

A higher stack height means there is a greater amount of midsole cushioning between your foot and the ground. This generous cushioning aims to provide a plush and protective landing, reducing the impact on your joints and muscles during your runs.

Altra’s focus on ample cushioning makes their shoes particularly appealing to runners who prioritize a more cushioned and forgiving ride, especially during long-distance runs or on hard surfaces.


Topo Athletic employs a more minimalist approach to cushioning and stack height in most of their shoes, which provides a closer-to-the-ground feel.

They use a multi-density midsole design to achieve a balance between cushioning and responsiveness. Their shoes often feature softer materials in the heel for impact absorption and slightly firmer materials in the forefoot for propulsion.

This design choice provides runners with a closer-to-the-ground feel, allowing for better ground contact and increased responsiveness.

Runners who prefer a more natural and connected sensation with the terrain often appreciate Topo’s approach to cushioning, as it enhances agility and encourages a more efficient stride.

But like Altra, Topo also have some cushioned offerings like the Topo Specter.

The Topo Specter stands as a pinnacle of performance innovation within Topo Athletic’s lineup. Meticulously engineered, the Specter boasts a blend of state-of-the-art responsive cushioning, an aggressive rocker geometry, a snug midfoot fit, and a wide toebox.



The Altra Torin 7 has Ego Max cushioning which is a little bit lighter than the previous iteration, giving you that plush feel to go those miles.

With their classic premium guidance shoe, the Paradigm 7, Altra really created stability in an inherent way thanks to their updated Ego Max. This Ego Max is a little bit lighter weight, a little bit more cushioned, a little more responsive, and a little bit more lively underfoot.

The Olympus still uses an EVA midsole running the full length of the shoe. The sidewalls continue to create that very inherently stable design.

The Superior 6 is still utilizing just compression-molded EVA. This midsole makes the Superior nimble enough if you need to make your way through if you’re not going on anything that’s overly rugged and technical.

The Escalante 3 still has an Ego midsole compound. It has been slightly tuned to be a little bit more versatile, but it’s still soft and responsive.

The Vanish is the first shoe to use Ego Pro midsole compound which is a supercritical TPU foam. The Vanish is their lightest weight yet, most cushioned, but it’s also their most responsive.

This is by far Altra’s highest-performing foam within their line. The Ego Pro is really just building on that Ego name that the consumers come to know and love with Altra.

Ego Pro is exceptionally lightweight and unbelievably soft, and with that softness, you really get a nice response.

The Paradigm’s level of support makes it a reliable option for runners with fallen arches.


The Specter has a new compound to the Topo line. We’ve got a supercritical Pebax Inner Core which is going to create that softness to go the distance and a more highly responsive design than your average max cushion shoe.

This midsole is really going to provide a unique experience that maybe some Topo users have never felt with a Topo shoe. It’s going to be a lot more lively and provide that nice efficiency as you’re going through your gait, especially at some of those faster speeds, which makes the Topo Specter one of these great running shoes for Hallux Rigidus.

That Pebax Core is going to be encapsulated by an EVA frame, which is going to create a little bit more support and really help keep that highly responsive Pebax Core nice and stabilized inside the shoe.

Here’s a quick review of the Specter…

The original Topo Cyclone has that Zip Core foam which offered that nice springy and responsive ride underfoot. Now the Cyclone 2 boasts a new full Pebax Powered performance midsole. The new midsole compound is even more responsive, seriously lightweight, and energetic underfoot.

This midsole compound has a nice amount of squishiness in terms of absorbing impact, but the springiness of this Pebax foam makes sure you don’t get stuck in there. As the foam decompresses, it literally pops you right out into that next ride with a nice amount of pep and nice energy.

Here’s a quick review of the Cyclone 2…

The Ultraventure 3 has a thick Zip foam midsole that provides just enough cushioning for longer efforts. It has some softness and more responsiveness, but really what the midsole lacks is that bounce. It’s sort of one-dimensional in that it absorbs shock but doesn’t really give you that bounce on the back end.

The new Zip foam on the MTN Racer seems to be a little bit softer, lighter, and bouncier, but nothing crazy.


Carbon Fiber Offerings

The Vanish Carbon is a super fun race offering within the Altra lineup. The midsole is a new EGo Pro design which is their lightest and most responsive compound to date. That Ego Pro midsole works great with a Carbitex carbon fiber plate that provides speed and a flexible snap. 

It’s a three-prong design that’s going to offer a very propulsive ride, allowing you to effortlessly run from foot strike to toe-off.

Unfortunately, Topo Athletic do not have any carbon-plated shoes in their lineup at least at the time of writing this article.

Curious to know about super shoes? Check out these great carbon fiber running shoes.

Stability Systems

Both the Altra Provision 7 and the Topo Ultrafly 4 Topo Ultrafly 4 are popular options among runners seeking stability, but they approach this aspect with different design philosophies.

Altra’s unique GuideRail system offers stability by gently guiding the foot’s motion without being overly restrictive. GuideRails are basically these two walls of foam on both sides, providing guidance for overpronators and underpronators as well.

On the other hand, the Topo Ultrafly’s stability features come from the combination of a wider platform, strategic cushioning, and a medial posting.

While the Provision 7 focuses on guiding the foot’s movement, the Ultrafly 4 emphasizes a stable platform and targeted support.

Terrain & Use

Both Altra and Topo Athletic offer shoes suitable for road and trail running.

Topo Athletic provides options for runners who want to balance cushioning and stability for both road and trail running. Their shoes are designed to handle a variety of surfaces while offering a comfortable and secure fit.

Altra’s focus on natural movement might be particularly beneficial for trail runners seeking a more adaptive gait on uneven terrain.

… which brings us to what brand offers more and better trail options…

Trail Running Offerings

For those of you who love hitting the trails, both Topo Athletic and Altra have some solid offerings.


Throughout the past years, Altra has given us some of the best trail running shoes in the market. Their trail shoes are especially well-regarded, with aggressive MaxTrac outsoles and superior traction to tackle various terrains, allowing you to tackle a variety of surfaces with confidence.

The zero-drop design and FootShape toe box also continue to be present in their trail shoes, promoting a more natural and stable running form on rugged trails.

Additionally, Altra offers a diverse range of cushioning options, from minimal to well-cushioned, ensuring there’s something for every trail runner’s preferences.

Let’s briefly talk about Altra’s revered icon among trail runners…

Renowned for its trail-conquering prowess, the Lone Peak is characterized by its distinctive zero-drop platform and spacious toe box.

These features promote a natural and comfortable stride while tackling rugged terrains. With a robust outsole for superior traction and a durable yet flexible construction, the Altra Lone Peak has solidified its reputation as a legendary and trusted companion for trail adventures.

Recently, Altra has given us some shoes that fall into a new category called “road-to-trail-shoes“.

Road-to-trail shoes like the Altra Outroad are designed to offer versatility for runners who enjoy both road running and trail running. These shoes aim to provide a smooth and comfortable experience on paved surfaces while still offering the necessary grip and protection for tackling off-road trails.

These are some great zero-drop shoes if you’re into trail running.


Topo Athletic also has a strong presence in the trail running shoe market. Their trail shoes emphasize a blend of functionality and lightweight design.

Additionally, Topo’s trail shoes generally have a more minimal stack height, appealing to runners who prefer a more low-to-the-ground and responsive trail running experience.

The brand’s trail shoes often feature aggressive lugs and durable outsoles to provide excellent traction on various terrains. The wide toe box enables toe splay and enhanced stability on uneven surfaces.

The Topo Runventure 4 is a standout choice for trail enthusiasts seeking a natural and good all-purpose trail shoe experience.

Highlighted by its zero-drop platform, the Runventure is lightweight yet durable. Coupled with an adaptable outsole, it allows runners to confidently navigate various terrains.

The shoe’s anatomical fit, including a secure midfoot and heel, ensures stability and comfort during challenging off-road runs.

Crafted for tackling rugged trails, the MTN Racer 2 combines a lightweight build with robust protection. The shoe’s anatomical fit and secure midfoot hold ensure stability on uneven terrain, while the versatile outsole delivers a dependable grip.

Staying true to Topo Athletic’s philosophy, the MTN Racer 2 includes a wide toe box, allowing for natural toe splay and added stability during off-road runs.

With its responsive cushioning and thoughtful construction, the MTN Racer 2 reflects Topo Athletic’s dedication to enhancing the mountain running experience, making it a favored choice for athletes seeking a balance between responsiveness, durability, and protection on rugged terrain.



Determining the overall durability between Altra and Topo shoes can be challenging as it depends on various factors, including the specific model, materials used, and the runner’s individual usage.

Both Altra and Topo Athletic are reputable brands known for constructing their shoes with quality materials and craftsmanship, which contributes to their overall durability.

Altra shoes are often praised for their robust build, resilient outsoles, and durable uppers that can withstand the rigors of trail running.

Similarly, Topo Athletic is also recognized for creating durable shoes that maintain their integrity through challenging conditions.

To maximize the longevity of your shoes, proper care, regular maintenance, and knowing when to replace them are essential factors to consider, regardless of the brand you choose.

But if you really want to know which one’s more durable, Topo has a slight edge over Altra. One potential factor why some Altra models are less durable than Topo’s is the trade-off between cushioning and longevity. The ample cushioning in Altra shoes, while providing comfort and protection, may wear down faster compared to more minimalist shoe designs.

Additionally, the lightweight and flexible construction that enhances the shoe’s performance may lead to slightly less durability when exposed to extreme wear and tear on rugged terrains or high-mileage usage.


Both Altra and Topo Athletic offer a range of running shoes at various price points, and the affordability of their shoes can depend on the specific model and features.

However, Topo Athletic tends to offer a slightly more budget-friendly range compared to Altra. Topo’s focus on functional simplicity and minimalist design allows them to maintain competitive pricing while still providing excellent performance and comfort.

It’s important to note that shoe prices can vary based on the type of shoe (road, trail), materials used, and any advanced technologies incorporated into the design.

Where to buy Altra (not affiliate)
Where to buy Topo (not affiliate)
TopoRoad Runner Sports


Before we wrap up this comparison, let’s compare:

  • Altra Lone Peak vs. Topo Terraventure
  • Altra Provisions vs. Topo Ultrafly 4

Altra Lone Peak vs. Topo Terraventure


These shoes share a similar appearance and stack height. However, the Lone Peak offers a 0mm drop, while the Terraventure has a 3mm drop, though this difference is barely noticeable on the trail.

Both shoes are lightweight, which is crucial for conserving energy during hikes and avoiding unnecessary strain. They also boast a wide toebox, promoting natural toe splay, making them comfortable options for long trails.

In terms of drainage, the Lone Peak tends to dry quicker due to its mesh design, while the Terraventure’s non-mesh areas take a little longer to dry.

The laces on the Lone Peak are more reliable and less prone to coming undone compared to the Terraventure’s laces.


Outsole & Durability

In terms of the outsole, the Terraventure surpasses the Lone Peak. The outsole provides excellent traction, especially in wet conditions, whereas the Lone Peak can be slippery at times.

Regarding durability, the Terraventure’s upper is stiffer and more robust, which translates to better longevity compared to the Lone Peak’s upper. However, the Lone Peak’s upper offers a more conforming and sock-like feel.

Midsole & Rock Plate

Regarding the midsole and the rock plate, the Lone Peak is suitable for relatively groomed trails and smooth surfaces. However, on rough or rocky terrain, you may feel everything beneath your feet.

In contrast, the Terraventure offers a combination of a good midsole, rock plate, and durable sole, providing superior protection and comfort on challenging trails.

The Lone Peak’s midsole feels soft and cushioned, but it may flatten after a couple of hundred miles. The Terraventure’s midsole is harder and less comfortable but maintains its performance over time.

In conclusion, both shoes have their merits and similarities. I personally prefer the Altra Lone Peak due to its superior comfort and fit for my feet.

For regular groomed trails, the Lone Peak offers adequate protection. However, for rocky or off-trail hiking, the Terraventure’s additional protection and durability make it the better choice.

To sum up, the Lone Peak is my go-to choice for most situations, while I opt for the Terraventure when facing rough and challenging terrains. Ultimately, the decision between the two comes down to your preferred comfort, protection needs, and the specific nature of your hikes. 

Altra Provision vs. Topo Ultrafly 4




Something I’ll note is that Altra does have three different foot shapes. They have the original which is their widest and this is something you see on the Olympus and the Lone Peak.

The standard is what we see on the Provision 7. The slim is what we see on the Vanish Carbon, Vanish Tempo, and the new road-to-trail Altra Outroad.

As for Topo, they only have one foot shape which is just kind of their conventional wide toebox shoe.

With that being said, let’s compare these two models with regard to fit and feel…

Fit & Feel

Both shoes fit true to size and both have a great lockdown, but I will say the Topo Ultrafly 4 does have a slightly more accommodating experience all the way from the heel to toe.

It’s just ever so slightly wider. It’s nothing massive, but it is noticeable if you put the shoes on each foot. So, if you want a little bit more of an accommodating fit, I would probably go in the Ultrafly 4 direction.

The other thing to note is that you do have a little bit more rigid heel counter on the Topo because you have this plastic clip that feeds into the stability story that we’ll talk about later towards the base of the heel counter, and it’s just not as flimsy.

On the Provision 7, it’s going to be a little bit more minimal and easier to move around.

I will say both uppers are very comfortable and I was quite happy with both. Again, I didn’t have an issue with both at all, but it is going to be a little bit more accommodating in the heel, midfoot, and forefoot on the Ultrafly 4.

In terms of lockdown, I think the Topo Ultrafly 4 has a slightly better lockdown system.


As far as the tongues on these shoes go, they are very similar. They both have similar levels of padding and unfortunately, they’re both non-gusseted. I think both tongues do a great job of keeping the lace pressure off without being too bulky.

The tongue on the Provision 6 was a little bit too tall and bulky for my liking. So Altra kind of brought it down, but the tongues have very similar profiles and a similar level of cushioning.

The one difference I’ll say is on the Ultrafly 4, you have these kind of small cables on the tongue that keep it from moving around. It secures the laces and gives you an extra point to keep it from moving while on the Provision 7, you have the midfoot ribbon that keeps the tongue from moving around.

I think this feature is a little bit more effective on the Ultrafly 4 because it’s higher up and that’s typically where that movement occurs.


This is what really separates these two models and put some clear daylight between their experiences.

Starting with the Altra Provision 7, the shoe uses EGO foam and in my opinion, EGO does a good job of not being too soft and not too firm because if it’s too soft, it’s not quite that stable, and it’s too firm, it’s just not fun to wear.

Moving on over to the Topo Ultrafly 4, the shoe features ZIP in the midsole. The midsole is much firmer compared to the Altra Provision 7’s EGO midsole. I think this gives you some positives and negatives.

The positives are it’s a much more stable experience because if the midsole is firmer, it’s going to be inherently more stable.

The negatives are if you’re on your feet all day and you just want a softer ride, that’s going to be a detractor as it is, again, a very firm experience.


Altra Provision

The Provision provides stability using GuideRails which are essentially walls of foam on the lateral and medial side that keep you from rolling inward or outward too much.

The lateral GuideRails are quite small and there’s a decent amount of lateral support. Most of the support is on the medial side thanks to that larger GuideRail.

Overall, the Provision 7 is a very stable shoe and I quite like it. It’s very versatile not only for running but a whole host of other activities because of how well it’s structured, the lockdown fit, and the midsole itself.

Topo Ultrafly

The thing that gives the Ultrafly stability other than just it being a wide stable base is it has a medial posting.

On the Altra Provision, we have GuideRails, but on the Ultrafly 4, we have this more firm more dense foam which gives you guidance to the medial side only.

So, you have the firm midsole, the plastic heel clip at the back, and then this medial posting which gives you support to the inside.

In terms of stability, I think the Ultrafly is going to be a much more stable shoe compared to the Provision 7 although it is going to be a much more firm ride.

Overall, if you like that traditional medial posting setup and you want a slightly firmer more stable experience, go with the Ultrafly 4. And if you want stability through GuideRails on both sides and a slightly softer ride, go with the Altra Provision 7.


This is where the Provision 7 wins as it has more coverage and thicker rubber which I think gives it a better grip mainly because you have these tiny lugs which do grip the ground quite well.

With that being said, the Ultrafly 4 isn’t bad. It just wasn’t as good as the Provision 7 with regard to outsole traction.

So, with all that being said, I was quite pleased with the Topo Ultrafly mainly because of how the upper felt on my foot. I love the wide toebox, and I love that I do get a little bit of an offset instead of a zero-drop platform.

So, which one I like the most?

If I had to pick between these two shoes for running, I’d probably go with the Provision 7 mainly because I just appreciate a slightly more cushioned experience.

I just personally don’t need the medial support and it is a rather firm ride and I do like a little bit more cushion for the pushing for me personally.

Again, it just kind of comes down to your personal preferences, but I will say if I’m wearing it casually, going to the gym, and things like that, I do prefer the Ultrafly 4 because it makes it a little bit more versatile for me, but then if I’m using it for running, I’d probably use the Altra Provision 7.

Wrap Up

In the ongoing dialogue of Altra versus Topo, we find ourselves immersed in a conversation that extends beyond mere footwear. However, the choice between Altra and Topo depends on individual preferences, running goals, and biomechanics.

Altra shines with its zero-drop, wide toebox design, and innovative cushioning. Topo Athletic excels in offering a multi-dimensional approach to cushioning, stability, and comfort.

As you embark on your running journey, consider these brands’ distinct features to find the perfect match for your unique needs and aspirations.

See you in the next one 🙂

About Eric Barber

Eric Barber is a happy father of two little angels, a husband, and a runner. He eats, sleeps, and dreams anything foot related: running shoes, walking shoes, sneakers, you name it. It all started when Eric was a shoe store specialist watching and fitting people's feet day in and day out.

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