If you go down to the woods today, You'd better go in the Topo Runventure.
At least, that’s what Topo are hoping with their trail trainer the Runventure. Although they still remain a reasonably new company in the field Topo Athletic are certain to make a name for themselves with their mission to create footwear that optimises the body’s natural movement and despite being a trail trainer, the Runventure still showcases all Topo’s core principles.
The Principles: Shape, Platform and Weight
These three core principals greet you upon opening the box of any pair of Topo footwear and are central to Topo’s fit philosophy.
Shape: The Runventure trainers have the Topo signature wide toe box, allowing for the toes to move naturally and freely. This is particularly useful for the additional balance required in trail running, avoiding sticks, stones and other debris.
Platform: The Runventure has a 19mm platform which is partnered with a TPU midsole plate for extra protection. TPU in case like me, you didn't know, stands for ‘Thermoplastic Polyurethane’. Don’t be fooled by the fact it’s plastic, TPU is more dent resistant than metal, lightweight, shock absorbent, impact resistant and flexible even in colder climates.
Weight: The Runventure are a light pair of trainers for a trail shoe weighing in at just 210g (W5).
Rubber Outsole: 4.5mm
Midsole: 9.5mm EVA (Heel) / 7.5mm EVA (Ball)
Total Stack Height: 19mm X 17mm (2mm Drop)
UK Sizes 4-9 inc. half sizes
The Runventure trainers have a completely unexpected classic look, unlike my first pair of Topo trainers the Speed Trainer, these trainers have a mainstream design and come in two colour variations, black/turquoise or wine/grey.
The trainer slips on easy thanks to the large loop on the heel and is a snug fit, hugging the foot nicely through the heel whilst allowing a loose fit to the large toe box. Where the Runventure boasts a neutral ride, there is no arch support which some runners may be more adapted to, however, the laces are easy to fasten tighter over the arch of the foot to add a little more support. The TPU through the centre of the sole means the trainer lacks flexibility from the heel to the arch, however, the ball of the foot and toes offer more flexibility and are capable of moving freely. The lugs are small with just a 2mm drop, unusual for a trail shoe, but I mustn't be too quick to judge, so I will wait until I’ve seen them in action before forming an opinion on that. My foot feels very sturdy in the shoe, sturdy but not cushioned. There is minimal padding as Topo stick to their barefoot roots, the aim being to give the runner just enough protection whilst not detracting from their minimalist feel. Time to get them dirty.
The Trail Trial
Being a trail shoe, the Runventure is designed for technical terrains mud, rocks, grass, woodland, hills, meadows to mountains and anything else a natural terrain can throw at it. Being based in Essex however, I’m afraid I don’t have any handy volcanoes I can go explore around the corner, nor do I have a mountain up my sleeve, but what we do have is rocks, gravel and mud and thanks to all this rain, more mud. During my adventure in the shoes, the first thing I realised was that when Topo say their 19mm platform doesn’t ‘sacrifice feel’, they really weren't kidding. Basically, your foot's not very far off the ground, so you can literally feel almost every nook and rock on your path, although the TPU protects your foot from any real discomfort this may cause, with no risk of them being beaten to a pulp. When it comes to getting down and dirty the strong mesh upper protected my foot from getting a soaking through puddles and was fairly dirt resistant. How did the small lugs hold up? Well, they held me up. Despite multiple attempts by the dogs to pull me over, the little lugs are small and mighty and protected me from face-planting a puddle of mud many a time, undeterred by their size.
Whilst the shoes did well during the adventure itself, it’s unlacing that reveals the shoes only real downfall. As with all trail runs, it's natural to expect you’re bringing back your fair share of mud, however, some trail shoes shed their mud faster than others and, unfortunately, the Runventures do hold onto the trail, in fact, they help you keep half of it as a not-so-useful souvenir of your run. Having walked on the concrete I was surprised by how much mud the shoes managed to hold, whilst this may seem like it’s not going to affect your run, as the mud gathers and dries it all adds to the weight of what started as a lightweight trainer, the difference won’t be major, but enough to be considered, plus it’s just a little annoying when you're leaving a trail of mud behind you. Top Tip: Take the trainers off at the doorstep and clap out as much excess mud as you can so it doesn’t dry in your trainer and weigh you down on the next run.
Are these the shoes for you?
If you're into trail runs, yes. It will take a bit of getting used to the lack of cushioning, but that fits with Topo’s principle to get you running more naturally. Due to their barefoot style, I wouldn’t personally take the shoe for a long distance run, as I’d prefer more cushioning. I wouldn't risk my calves with anything over a medium distance, as it can take time for your body to become accustomed to running with a barefoot style without causing discomfort, leave that for more experienced runners or those used to running long distance in a barefoot shoe. I’d place this shoe as a go-between. It’s not quite the cushion you would expect from a trail shoe, but it's more than Topo’s other barefoot style trainers. It would be the perfect transitional trainer to take a barefoot runner into trail running or a trail runner into a barefoot stride.
The best thing about Topo is their evolving, this isn't their first trail runner and it certainly won't be their last. I look forward to seeing what improvements the Spring collection will bring.