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.
“Better is not an accident, Stronger is not a gift, Faster is not a coincidence. It’s a choice.” - Topo Athletic.
Although they may be reasonably unheard of, Topo Athletic can certainly talk the talk, the question is can they walk the walk?
The first pair of trainers by Topo I’m lacing up are the women’s ‘Speed Trainer', designed for intervals and speed work.
Design and Comfort
Aesthetically these look very similar to my Vivo barefoot trainers and they are equally lightweight, but once my foot is slipped in there’s substantial difference in support. Although the Topo's padding is minimal, it felt far more cushioned than my other barefoot shoes. Topo’s designer To-ny Po-st helped launch the Vibram (otherwise known as the trainer with the toes), so it’s no surprise elements of the five-fingered shoe are reflected in his trainers.
The Topo original design separated the larger toe, to encourage the user to make more agile use of all of their foot. However after runners tested the style they preferred a more familiar closed front.Although the design pattern on the front of the trainer still mimics its ancestor, all five of my toes sit comfortably together in the large toe box. I’m relieved not to have them separated like a camel. Bullet dodged.
The First Run
I’ll be the first to admit I'm not the fastest of runners, typically for a warm up I'll average about 6.5-7 mph. A pace I know I'm comfortable with which prepares my heart rate for the bulk of my weight-based workouts. When I jumped onto the treadmill in the Topo ST’s, I seemed to be running with ease, so I cranked up to 8mph.The lack of heel-to-toe drop is designed to encourage a better running posture and it did feel like I was running with better technique. My first impression of these trainers was good, although they don’t call them ‘Speed Runner’ for nothing. Sprinting is definitely going to be where these trainers earn their stripes.
This may seem like an odd thing to review, but let me explain. I’ve spent the last few years working in gyms, therefore, I’m used to listening to the hum of a treadmill, when members pound the belt you can hear they are running with poor form without even looking. For myself, I know when my trainers are affecting my running style when my giant over ear headphones can't drown out the sound of my feet pounding on the belt. So when I leapt on the treadmill in my Topo’s and could enjoy my warm up tracks disruption-free, I realised these shoes are a winner. They were almost silent. I could feel myself holding my head higher and running with more of a barefoot style, the ball of my foot was definitely hitting the treadmill first, even if I couldn't hear it.
The Sprint Test
After a gentle warm up, I opted for 30-second sprints varying from 11.5 - 12 mph. The light weight of the trainer could leave you forgetting you're even wearing them if it wasn’t for the cushioning. The foam padding around the ball of the foot and wide toe box was perfect for driving off as fast as possible and left me supported and yet totally in control of every stride.
I was really impressed with these trainers, you can tell that they are designed with purpose and perform with ease. The style is also well - suited to gym based activity as it’s low platform allows you to drive off the whole of the foot for larger compound lifts. The Topo ST's also gathered a fair amount of attention whilst I was wearing them; which not only channeled my inner narcissist, but gave me a great opportunity to explain the benefits of a minimalist running shoe and encourage others to try a barefoot running style.