Product Review: Topo Athletic Terraventure Trail Shoe

Topo Athletic has been seeing a lot of momentum in the market recently as they continue to expand their product line and reach a wider user base.  I see more and more of them out on the trail, which tells me that their formula is working.  Their most recent expansion of their Trail line is the Terraventure.  For those of you that have been looking for a shoe that caters to more rugged terrain, this one is meant for you.  Let’s take a look.

DISCLAIMER: These were provided to me for free as a member of the Topo Athlete team.  While I am partial to Topo, know that I don’t take the decision to commit to a single shoe brand lightly.  At the end of the day, my goal in all reviews is to lay out the facts in an unbiased way so that you can make an informed buying decision and so the company can use the feedback to make their products better.

Product Description

The Terraventure is marketed as a shoe for more rugged terrain where traction and durability is more critical.  In looking at the shoe out of the box, I can see that this was definitely the focus in creating this particular shoe.  I don’t see the Terraventure as a shoe built completely from the ground up as much as I do a spinoff from one of their existing shoes, the MT-2.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the MT-2 (it is my favorite of their shoes all-around to date), but it does have its shortcomings when running in the rugged Wasatch Mountains of Northern Utah.  The Terraventures are meant to address those shortcomings, most notably with:

  • A more durable upper
  • A more grippy outsole
  • A more protected ride with the inclusion of a rock plate

Of course, these things don’t come for free with the trade-off being more weight in the shoe.  However, if you are looking for something that you can beat up and don’t mind a little more weight, this might be the shoe for you.

Specs

As I am largely comparing the Terraventure to the MT-2, I wanted to include the side-by-side specs for ease of comparison.  Also, here is a link to my review of the MT-2 if you want to look at that one.

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As you can see, they are comparable in most areas.  The difference in the stack height is largely attributed to the deeper lugs and the addition of the rock plate in the shoe.  The price is only slightly higher, most likely reflecting the increase in materials used.

Outside the Shoe

Sticking with the comparison with the MT-2, I have included some side by side images below (the terraventure is on the left/bottom in these photos).

On the upper, the design is only slightly different aesthetically, but largely the same.  What you can’t tell from the image, but is the main difference between the two in terms of the upper is that the Terraventure uses a slightly thicker, more durable material.  This is largely meant to reduce tearing.  The shoe uses a standard lacing system along with a nicely padded heel and tongue.

     

On the outsole, the lug pattern did change ever so slightly, particularly in the midfoot.  Additionally, the lugs are about 1mm deeper for increased traction and grip.

Inside the Shoe/Fit

The inside of the shoe fit almost identical to that of the MT-2.  That is to say, plently of room in the toe box for your toes to splay with a snug fit through the midfoot and heel to keep the shoe firmly in place.  This is Topos bread and butter design approach and it is resonating with a lot of people.

In Action

Fall/winter is my favorite time to test new shoes here in Salt Lake City because you have access to all weather conditions depending on whether you are back in the mountains or down in the foothills.  As such, I got a chance to test these in snow, mud, and dry conditions.  I had a number of observations:

  • The fit was pretty much identical to that of the MT-2.  In other words, my toes had ample room in the wide toe box while the shoe stayed snug with the secure fit through the mid-foot and heel.  Topo continues to stick with what works in my opinion.  They didn’t invent the wide toe box and foot shape design, but I think they perfected it.  While I have found other models to be clumsy in the midfoot and heel (causing slipping and blisters), the Topo design approach simply does not slip and slide around.
  • The deeper lugs, although only about 1mm of depth was added, made a world of difference, particularly in slightly packed snow.  While running, it allows the shoe to get a deeper grip in the snow, which reduced slipping by quite a bit.  In mud, I felt that they did a great job at shedding and preventing build up underfoot.
  • I noticed the rock plate, particularly on scree, where pointy rocks definitely felt a bit more dull.
  • No blisters or hot spots, which has never been a problem with Topo.
  • While heavier in comparison to the MT-2 that I usually run in, they didn’t seem cumbersome.  The shoe was responsive and had a good transition throughout the foot.

Overall, I maxed the distance in these out at about 12 miles for a single run.  It is a bit shorter than I usually like to go, but such is life in my offseason training plan.  Still, I didn’t see anything in those runs that would indicate possible problems over longer distances.

Final Thoughts and Recommendations

As with most trail runners, I have a number of different shoes that I use depending on where I am running and what the conditions are.  In terms of the Terraventure, I see these becoming an integral part of my every day training, when I often like to wear a heavier shoe.  I also see myself being able to log more miles in a pair of Terraventure versus the MT-2 thanks to the durability.  I would then save the lighter MT-2 for race days or speed trail workouts.  For everyone else, I always recommend that you at least try Topo out if you haven’t before; all of their models promote proper foot and running form through their foot shaped design and low heel-toe drop.  If you primarily run in rugged terrain and/or are looking for a solid everyday trainer, I would start with the Terraventure.

Pro’s

  • The increased durability really lived up to the test.  Have yet to see so much as a snag in my Terraventure.
  • The added 1mm in lug depth doesn’t seem like much, but I definitely felt a difference when running in mud/packed snow.  In fact, this was probably one of the most notable improvements in my wear test.
  • The rock plate is a nice addition.  The few times running on scree, I definitely felt more comfortable under foot.

Con’s

  • It is a bit heavy in comparison, coming in a full 2 oz. heavier than the MT-2.  As a user, if you are deciding between Topo shoes, you really need to understand how you want to use the shoe and what the most important factors are, weight or durability.  At the same time, it is actually lighter than many other shoes in the space that tout higher durability, such as the Brooks Cascadia or Saucony Xodus.
  • Breathability, while still more than adequate, is not as good as the MT-2 (as you would expect with a thicker upper).  This, again, is more of a tradeoff versus a deficiency.  I never had an issue with my feet sweating in the Terraventure, but the more durable upper definitely takes away a bit of the airy feel that I get with the MT-2.

If you decide to follow my advice, you can give them (or any other Topo shoe) a try AND get 20% off at topoathletic.com with code TOPODEAN20...with 20% off and a friendly return policy, why wouldn’t you?

If you like this post and would like to stay up to date when future gear reviews, race reports, and other related posts are released, please follow my Facebook page at Ultrarunner Joe!

Product Review: Katadyn BeFree Water Filter Soft Flask

I actually ran across the Katadyn BeFree while I was flipping through an issue of Runner’s World looking at one of their “favorite gear” articles and it caught my eye.  I am a recent convert to soft flasks, which I like to keep readily accessible in the front pouches of my vest.  I figured that one with a built in filter would be great for self supported runs where water sources aren’t always reliable.  I have carried a Life Straw before, and they are great, but the straw is only good when physically at a water source and their bottle models are rigid and don’t fit well in my pack.  This gives me a great option without having to carry any extra gear.

   

Overview

The flask itself is made by Hydrapak, so you know you are getting a solid bottle.  It is a 0.6L flask (20 oz), providing capacity in line with other soft flasks and rigid bottles on the market and perfect for the front pouch of most running packs.  It is going to cost you around $40, which means you are paying about $20 for the added benefit of the filter when you consider the price of similar soft flasks on the market.  The filter is certified for up to 1000 liters of water or about 1600 refills of the flask, so it will last most people for awhile.

In Use

On the trail,  I was quite satisfied, but there are a few things I would tweak to the overall experience.  The bottle itself was great.  Katadyn says that the flow out of the bottle is roughly one liter of water per minute, which is more than enough for a swig of water along the run.  I haven’t yet had any issues with a reduction in water flow and don’t imagine that I will as long as I keep the filter clean between uses.  In general, it is great not having to worry about running out of water.  I generally carry two soft flasks these days.  My usual practice is to empty the filter flask first and then fill up at the next water source, making sure I hang on to my non-filter flask mostly for backup.  Filling it up is super easy.  Just take the cap off, fill the flask, and put it back on.  It is recommended that you wipe off the flask after filling it, but since you are drinking through the cap, the risk of ingesting water that does not pass through the filter is still pretty low.

As for the experience, I would like to see if there is a way to use a straw top instead of the drink nozzle that is on it, that way, I can keep it in the front pouch of my pack and drink from it without having to take it out.  An alternative would be to try one of those soft flask holders (like Solomon has) to make it easier to carry in your hand (which I haven’t tried yet).

Pros

  • Super convenient with the filter built right into the bottle.  You can stop at any water source, take the cap off, fill the bottle, and you are good to go.
  • Easy to clean the filter if water flow becomes clogged.  In most cases, you can just shake it, but if all else fails, you can rinse/flush it in a clean water source.
  • Perfect size to fit conveniently in the front pouch of most packs.
  • Water flow was great.  A light squeeze and you can get a mouthful of water no problem.

Cons

  • The cap is a squirt top, which means you have to take it out and squeeze it to be effective.  I think you could offer a cap with a straw attachment and it would work just as well.  This would keep from having to take it out of the pocket.
  • The top of the soft flask near the cap is a bit more rigid than other Hydrapak flasks I have used and it is a bit more tricky to get stuffed down into the front pockets of my vest when full.

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Product Review: Topo Athletic Ultrafly

It has been a while since I have posted a product review.  With my peak training in full swing and the constant grind of everyday life, I have been left with little spare time.  Fear not though!  I have been out testing a few things and finally found some time to polish up my review of the new Topo Ultrafly, released in May 2016.

DISCLAIMER: I am a member of the 2016 Topo Athlete Team and these shoes were provided to me free of charge.  As always though, I aim to provide my honest feedback to help you make the right buying decision and to help Topo continuously improve their products.

Product Overview

As those of you that have been following me for a while are well aware of, I try to get most of my miles in on the trails. However, with my schedule, I still manage to log a fair amount of road and treadmill miles out of necessity.  Downside, lack of scenery; upside, I get to try out even more shoes!

The Topo Ultrafly is an extension to Topo’s Road line of shoes and is their most cushioned shoe to date.  At 28mm in the heel and 23mm in the forefoot, it offers a more cushioned ride than their Fli-lyte and Magnify models and you can definitely feel the difference when you put it on your foot.  Additionally, this is the first shoe from Topo that offers “light support” through the incorporation of a denser foam on the medial side of the outsole.  So, while it isn’t a full on support shoe (it doesn’t incorporate plastic posts like most other support shoes), it does provide a bit more support than its brothers and sisters.  The outsole pattern and upper are not identical to their other road shoes, but are similar enough in look, fit, and feel that if you like the other road shoes from Topo, you will not have to adjust much to these.  Lastly, the 5mm heel-to-toe drop offers a more natural foot feel without having to transition all the way to zero drop…it is a happy median.

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Specs

Release Date: May, 2016
Price: $120 (An extra 20% off at topoathletic.com with code TOPODEAN20)
Weight: 9.2 oz (M9)
Stack Height: 28mm/23mm (5mm Heel to Toe Drop)
Fit: True to Size

Design/Fit

The design and fit holds true to Topo principles.  It fits true to size and follows the foot shaped design that gives you freedom in the toe box while securing the rest of the foot through the mid foot and heel.  The upper is light and breathable, yet durable.  My pair of Ultrafly has over 100 miles on them and they still look like I just took them out of the box.

Performance

Comparably Light

For a shoe with this kind of stack height, the Ultrafly is actually pretty light at 9.2 oz for a Men’s size 9.  It is at the lighter end of other comparable popular road shoes such as the Mizuno Wave Rider (9.7 oz) , Saucony Ride (9.2 oz), Nike Zoom Pegasus (9.9 0z.) and the Brooks Glycerin (10.6 oz). Topo saves a fair amount of weight with their light, breathable upper as well as through the strategic use of different foam types to incorporate in mild guidance without overdoing it on denser, heavier foam.  To be honest, I have never fretted too much over the weight of a shoe, particular within a half ounce or so and I don’t think most runners should either.  If the shoe performs for you and you train appropriately, then I don’t think it matters all that much to a majority of runners.

Comfort

The added cushion is definitely noticeable and makes for a great feeling underfoot.  With a 28/23 stack height, the Ultrafly definitely provides a soft, cushiony ride, but not without a minimal break-in period.  I found them to be a little stiff out of the box, but they did loosen up a tad after 25-30 miles.

Ride

Topo markets the Ultrafly as a guidance shoe thanks to the denser foam they use on the medial side of the shoe.  As this is further back on the shoe, you will probably notice this more if you are more a heel striker than you would if you run on your fore or mid foot.  The ride of this shoe was definitely plush, but I found the heel to toe transition to be a bit more stiff than their other road shoes, even after a break-in period.  As a support shoe, this is clearly by design and should resonate with the types of runners looking for a bit more in their shoe.

Conclusion

As a light support shoe, I think the Ultrafly is a solid first version.  It provides added support without hindering the natural movement of the foot, so it is not going to mess with your natural body mechanics.  While my personal preference is probably still for the more flexible Magnify, I would recommend this shoe to anyone that is looking for a shoe that embraces the natural shape and function of the foot while providing a bit more support.

Pro’s

  • The cushioning feels great under foot without being overly squishy.
  • The overall weight of the shoe, especially compared to its industry peers, is light.  The makes it a great candidate for race day or as an every day trainer.

Con’s

  • Not as flexible as I typically like in a shoe, but as this is built to be a moderate support shoe, this is by design.  It will work for runners that seek out more support in a shoe.
  • I don’t typically have to deal with rain as often on the road,  but I found the drainage to be less than ideal.  After a 6 mile run in pouring rain, they felt heavy and had puddles in the heels when I took them off.  This is due to the rubber bumper that wraps around the base of the upper.  I would like to see the next version to have some areas where the water can escape.  In the meantime, save these for dry days.

If you like this post and would like to stay up to date when future gear reviews, race reports, and other related posts are released, please follow my Facebook page at Ultrarunner Joe!