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!

TNFECS Utah 50K (Sorta) 2016 Race Report

Well, that was one helluva way to end my season.  My goal was to run a fast 50K to finish my 2016 races on a strong note, but Mother Nature had something quite different in store for me at The North Face Endurance Challenge Utah this year.  Watching the weather forecast all week was depressing, with constant rain and snow predicted for 2 1/2 straight days leading into the race on Saturday.  As it came closer, I decided to accept that I would be dealing with the adverse conditions and make the best of it, even if it wasn’t what I was hoping for.

The race had a scheduled start of 7:00am on Saturday morning.  Living about 45 minutes away, I decided to sleep in my own bed the night before and drive up in the morning.  Since I don’t like to feel rushed, I got there at about 6:15 only to find out that the race start was delayed until 8:00.  To pile on to it, at about 7:15, the race crew made the announcement that the 50 Milers that started a couple hours earlier were being rerouted because the upper half of the mountain was experiencing white out conditions and the course markers were buried in snow.  We too would now be running a modified course; two loops of the half marathon course.  So, my 50K turns into a Marathon at the last minute…oh well, you can’t control the weather and I was already there so I might as well MAN UP!

We started out on the trail in three waves with instructions on the new route to help spread us out on the single track.  I took off in the first wave and we immediately went the wrong way.  By the time we figured it out, we tacked on an extra half mile and ended up behind most of wave 2 and 3.  This created quite the bottleneck as we all tried to swerve around people in the mud (not always so gracefully).  The first climb is supposed to go up over 3,000 feet to Jupiter Peak, but instead, we went up about 1,400 feet before we started cutting across the middle of the mountain to the other side to run down.  There were a few sections on the first loop that were actually pretty runnable and I moved as fast as I could.  I didn’t take a lot of pictures because I was too busy trying to not fall on my ass, but I did steal a few from other people so you can get a sense for what we were dealing with.  I am happy to report that although I had to move slower at times, I did manage to stay upright the whole time!

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PC: Ryan Delany

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PC: Alan Griffin

We ended up having three aid stations per loop and I was impressed with how well stocked they stayed for the entire race and how friendly the volunteers were.  They were all super helpful, despite probably dealing with a higher percentage of grumpy runners than normal.  Thanks to all of you volunteers!

I ended up doing the first loop in around 2:30, which I was pretty happy with given the conditions, however, the second loop was a slightly different story.  As I started back the second climb, I started to have some stomach issues.  It ended up being nothing major and settled down after about five miles, but it did make it painful to run for a few miles there.  In most cases, the uphill grade on this course would be runnable for me, but with the conditions and the stomach pain, I decided to hike most of it on this lap so that I didn’t dig myself into a bigger hole.  I think this ended up being smart as I was able to rally, although it did cost me a bit of time.  The other significant issue on the second lap were the trail conditions.  While manageable on the first lap for the most part, by the time I came through for the second lap, they were torn up after all of the foot traffic that had been passing through.  This too contributed to slowing me down a bit more than I was hoping.

As I crossed the finish line, I ended up doing the second lap about 30 minutes slower than the first with an overall time of 5:28:07.  Good for the top 30% of finishers.  The conditions weren’t ideal and definitely exposed some of my weaknesses (being a skittish downhill runner for example), but I can’t really complain all that much.  Given all of the injuries I had this year, it was good to get through the race without any setbacks.  I also managed to get across the finish line before Rob Krar finished the 50 Miler, so that is good in my book.  Even though he is a beast, he did start three hours before me and I never like getting passed up by people running longer distances 🙂

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PC: Ryan Delany

For now, I am going to enjoy my off season and getting to run for fun without having to focus on a particular race.  I also plan on doing quite a bit more strength training ahead of the 2017 race season to help combat some of these injuries that popped up on me from happening more often.  Don’t worry though, just because race season is over doesn’t mean you won’t find me out on the trails all winter…afterall, I am a trail addict!

Pros:

  • Hard to talk about pros when a race does not go at all as you expected.  Still, I will say that the volunteers went above and beyond during this event.  They dealt wonderfully with the conditions and were quick to deal with the last minute modifications.
  • Despite being wet and muddy, the scenery for this race is amazing.  This year in particular, you got to see Fall and Winter battle it out…it was pretty nice.

Cons:

  • While not part of the normal course, because the 50 Mile, 50K, and Marathon runners all ended up doing laps on the same trail, it was pretty crowded and got pretty sloppy.  That being said, this was the exception that the weather brought this year.  I ran this race before and can say it is definitely not the norm.
  • My biggest complaint was how they handled the weather.  Given that the weather was expected all week, I felt they should have made the course changes at least the night before to give runners more advanced warning.

2016 was mentally tough for me.  It has been one with random nagging injuries that never allowed me to get the momentum that I was hoping for.  They were frustrating, which definitely took a toll on me mentally too.  Despite that, I still had my fair share of people cheering me on.  Thanks to my friends and family for their continued support.  Thank you to the crew and volunteers for dealing with the elements to make sure us runners were taken care of.  Lastly, thanks to all of my sponsors for enabling me with the best gear ever.  Please show your love and check out my “What I Use” page for discounts on everything that I use and trust!  Here is what I used.

  • Topo Athletic Hydroventure: This is the best waterproof shoe on the market.  26+ miles of wet, muddy trails and my feet stayed completely dry.  Unreal!
  • Injinji Trail 2.0 Crew Sierra: Love the designs on the new Injinji trail socks and as always, no blisters.
  • Orange Mud Vest Pack 1: Light, with enough room for the water and food I need to get me from one aid station to the next on race day.
  • Headsweats Go Hat: If you wear hats on race day, there isn’t a better one out there.
  • RAD Roller and Rod: I always need to take care of the muscles after a great run.

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: Orange Mud Endurance Pack

For their first few years of existence, the mantra at Orange Mud was centered around bottles over bladders.  The first four packs they released were bottle-based, with their signature “bottles on the back/jetpack” design.  So you can imagine my surprise when they said they were working on a bladder pack.  At the same time, it makes sense.  From a business growth perspective, there is a huge demographic that prefers bladders (particular for long, self-supported activities).  Besides, why shouldn’t the folks in the bladder camp get to enjoy the high-quality, well-thought-out designs from Orange Mud!?  With that said, I bring you my review of the Orange Mud Endurance Pack.

Product Overview

This is Orange Mud’s first foray into a non-bottle based pack, although it steals many of the same concepts of its bottle-based predecessors.  For example, it still has the signature shoulder and chest pockets that you get on both of the Orange Mud Vest Pack models.  It also uses the same breathable mesh.  Where it differs is on the back of the pack, where the bladder neatly hides away beneath the storage that is layered on top of it.  The result is a ton more storage room than we are used to seeing with Orange Mud packs.  Here are the specs from their site:

  • Pack Weight: – 270grams, 9.5oz.
  • Dimensions: 10″W x 13″ tall / Volume 6 liters.
  • Bladder: HydraPak 2L (70oz) elite, with quick disconnect and blaster valve.
  • Compartment 1: Bladder compartment
  • Compartment 2: Main cargo
  • Compartment 3: Zippered elastic pocket with secure key clip.
  • MUDX Technology: Trekking Pole Attachment Option.
  • Material details: Our stretch fabric is tough, abrasion resistant, & endurance designed.
  • Shoulder pocket storage: Phone, gel, nutrition, electrolyte and more, both sides.
  • Front chest pocket storage: 15oz/450ml soft flask capable.
  • Front adjustments: 2 elastic straps have multiple adjustment locations.

Price: $135/$150 (trekking pole model) at OrangeMud.com (click to visit)

Fit

This is probably the most form-fitting hydration pack in the Orange Mud line of products.  While I love the bottle system, the fluid shape of a bladder contributes to the packs ability to mold to the contour of your body for more “hug-like” feel.  Additionally, the pack itself is slightly longer from top to bottom, which increases the footprint on the body, but also enables a more snug and secure fit.

I have never really had much of a problem with bounce on any of the Orange Mud packs to be perfectly honest, and the Endurance Pack is no exception.  What I did find is that while the bottle-based packs did seem to take a bit longer to dial in the right fit, the Endurance pack was a lot easier right out of the gate.


Ride

The Wasatch mountains in Utah offer the best terrain for field testing because of the steep uphills and aggressive downhills; they just offer the right conditions for really testing out a products potential.  The most annoying thing to me about any pack is when it shifts a lot on a fast downhill.  I am happy to report that this passed with flying colors.  The very secure fit not only makes me happy on downhills, but it also allows the pack to disappear when wearing it.  What I mean is that it fits so close to the body that you forget you are even wearing it.  Despite that, it did not feel restrictive whatsoever!  The downside to the fit and larger footprint is the effects it has on breathability, especially on the back.  As good as the mesh is on the pack, it there is simply nowhere for heat to escape off the back of the body.  I definitely sweat more on my back than in Orange Mud bottle packs.

Conclusion

Overall, this is an unbelievable entrance into the bladder-based pack.  Minus a few nitpicky things, I think Orange Mud nailed it.  In fact, this pack has actually caused me great internal strife and conflict.  One the one hand, I hate bladders, but on the other hand, this pack is so comfortable that it makes it worth it.  I still struggle with this, but having choices is never a bad thing.  One complaint I have always heard about OM is price, yet this is pretty price comparable to similar bladder packs on the market.  I would recommend this pack to anyone that likes bladders over bottles or just needs a pack that can hold more water and other stuff.  I have used Nathan and Salomon bladder packs in the past and this more than holds its own against any of those that I have tried.  I likely will still race with one of the bottle-based vest packs, but this is definitely my new go-to for long distance, self-supported runs.

Pro’s:

  • Fit…in other words, like a glove.  I was always pleasantly satisfied with the minimal bounce of their bottle-based packs but this fits even better.  It literally does not move at all.
  • Plenty of storage! With the two front pockets, shoulder pockets, open back pocket, zip back pocket, and cinch cords, you can carry anything and everything in this pack.
  • Quality. Nothing about this pack says “cheap”.  The construction and sewing is all top notch from what I can tell.

Con’s:

  • Add on charge for the pole hooks.  Should be included.  I am not a fan of how they secure either as it makes me paranoid that they are going to become unhooked (I must add that this has been all paranoia so far since it has not actually happened to date).
  • Bladder size.  70 oz. is perfectly fine for me, especially since you can stash soft flasks up front, but some people do like a larger bladder reservoir and might have a problem fitting anything larger than the 2L in this pack.
  • Bigger footprint on the back is not as breathable as some other Orange Mud packs.

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!