Topo Athletic Runventure 2 Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Zero drop, wide toe box, light and sensitive
Cons: Plastic lacing eyelets create discomfort, very wide heel, little underfoot protection, poor traction
Manufacturer: Topo Athletic
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Runventure 2 is the only zero drop model in Topo Athletic's trail running shoe lineup, with the rest all having 3mm of drop. We were thrilled to test another lightweight zero drop shoe as a comparable alternative to the many popular models made by Altra, but are a bit saddened by the results. While the wide forefoot, lightweight, and super sensitivity are all pluses, we simply can't get by the overly sloppy fit and especially the discomfort caused on the top of our feet by the hard plastic inserts that serve as the top lacing eyelets.
Although they aren't sharp, they sure felt that way to us as they repeatedly gouged our feet as we ran, especially on uneven terrain where we felt compelled to tighten up the laces to compensate for the loose fit. However, even while wearing them loose and simply walking around town we felt this pressure that wouldn't let us relax into these shoes. If you are sold on zero drop and aren't overwhelmingly psyched on the Altra trail shoes of late, they are worth a look but be sure to try them on (or be sure you can send them back) before committing to your purchase.
This shoe will be appreciated more for its sensitivity, and nimble, low to the ground feel than it will for its foot protection. While Topo says that this shoe has a rock plate sandwiched into the underfoot foam, we found that it covers a very limited area in the forefoot region, and doesn't do much to protect from protruding features on the trail. The outsole is made of many smaller pieces of lugged rubber glued in place to the foam beneath, leaving plenty of exposed sections, not unlike the soles of the Hoka Speedgoat 3.
The sole wraps up over the front of the toes to offer some protection against kicking rocks or roots on your way down the hill, and the rest of the toe bumper features a rubberized overlay on the outside of the shoe that wraps around the sides of the foot, offering some bathtub-like protection for the mesh on the sides of the foot. We think this design does a decent job of protecting fragile mesh fabric but doesn't add much to the protection of the foot. All in all, this shoe is pretty light on protection and will be favored by those who run light, carefully, and prefer smoother running surfaces.
Once again, when it comes to traction, what we consider to be the second most important characteristic of a trail running shoe, this one comes up short. The outsole has many square and rectangular shaped lugs that are roughly 3mm deep, and punctuated in places by cutouts where there is exposed foam. The lugs have large surface areas and are very closely grouped together by today's standards, inhibiting their ability to grip very soft surfaces as well as deeper, more widely spaced lugs like those found on the Salomon Speedcross 5 or the Inov-8 Roclite 290. The rubber is moderately firm and does an okay job gripping rock, but the close lugs also compromise the ability to shed mud. While the traction on these shoes is more than good enough for firmly packed trails (and will thus most likely be good enough for most trail runners), it simply isn't up to par for off-trail travel.
With zero difference in the heights of the heel versus the toes and a wide platform underfoot, one would expect this to be a very stable shoe. We were surprised to find that it isn't so. The fit of the heel, in particular, is very wide to the point of sloppiness, and there is no way to tighten down the laces on the heel! So, we found that we experienced a lot of slippage when on any sort of hill — be it uphills, downhills, or while side-hilling. When side-hilling the lacing eyelets that we found so uncomfortable really dug in, showing their ugly side. The 19mm of stack height is a low figure compared to the rest, and so there was little to no propensity to roll an ankle, in stark contrast to the Hoka Challenger ATR 5. That said, the sloppy and uncomfortable fit ensures that they are not a shoe we can trust when needing precise footing.
While the discomfort we experienced in these shoes certainly prejudiced us against them, they do seem like a very promising shoe that could simply use a couple of tweaks to be drastically better. In that way, they are like a lot of trail shoes that we have tested over the years, and so are worth keeping an eye on.
The fit, in general, is quite wide throughout, although only in the heel is this problematic. There is minimal padding around the ankle opening to hold the shoe snug or provide a bit of extra comfort. In the water bucket test we found that they took on a relatively average amount of water, but interestingly were one of the very best at quickly draining and drying out, managing to ditch most of the added water weight after only five minutes.
We mentioned above that the main culprit when it comes to discomfort is the plastic inserts used as the highest lacing grommet. There are four of them, two on each shoe, and they dig into the tops of the feet whether the shoes are worn loose or tight, and were something we simply couldn't hack. Try them on if they interest you, and if this complaint isn't an issue, then you will likely love what they have to offer. If you feel what we feel, then you won't need any convincing to look elsewhere.
Our pair of men's size 11 shoes weighed in at 20.9 ounces per pair. This is a bit heavier than the similar Altra Superior 4. While this is extremely light for a pair of shoes, many other pairs are even lighter. While running, they feel as light as their numerical weight would suggest, adding to the effect of a natural, unencumbered stride.
Sensitivity is far and away the attribute that defines these shoes. They are significantly more sensitive than the Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 5. You can feel virtually everything that you step on when you travel with these shoes on your feet, a quality that is appreciated by many, but which comes at the direct expense of underfoot protection. In our hands, they are flexible and very easy to bend. We gave them top marks for this quality.
These shoes are one of the more affordable ones available this year. Since we think they are so uncomfortable, we don't recommend them as a good value. However, if you try them on and feel like they are comfortable enough for you, then we think they likely present a relatively good value and recommend you try them out.
The Topo Athletic Runventure 2 is a lightweight shoe that is remarkable for its zero drop platform. It is a very wide shoe from the forefoot all the way to the heel, so those who have trouble with all of the narrow fitting shoes these days are in luck. They are very comparable to the Altra Superior 4, although in our opinion are less comfortable than those shoes. If they are comfortable on your feet, then you are in luck, but even if they aren't, we feel that this is a model that is worth keeping an eye on for consideration in the future.
— Andy Wellman