Product Review: Topo Athletic COR

Any runner will tell you that in order to continue doing what we all love, it is important to take care of your body.  One way to do that is by cross-training to build strength and stay healthy.  That is one of the things that I love about Topo Athletic shoes; in addition to their running models, they also have a line dedicated to cross-training and gym work.  The COR is the latest model in the gym line and the shoe that I will review for you today.

DISCLAIMER: I bought these shoes at a discount as a member of the Topo Athlete team.

Product Description

The COR is marketed as a light, minimal shoe that can be worn in the gym or around town.  My review will focus on the gym aspects of the shoe.  It has a simplistic look, but don’t let that fool you, it is a high performance shoe.

Specs

The COR is built on the same platform as Topo’s minimalist road shoe, the ST-2.  This translates well into the gym for a number of reasons.  First, it is a zero-drop shoe with a low to the ground feel, providing you with a firm, stable base perfect for lifting weights or high-intensity cardio workouts.  Second, it has a light feel so that it doesn’t feel clunky or impede quick movements.

Weight: 6.8 oz (Size M9)
Heel Drop: 0mm
Stack Height: 16mm

Outside the Shoe

The upper is an elastic-fit mesh with a velcro strap.  The primary driver of the fit is the elastic upper where the strap allows you to fine tune how snug it feels.  The mesh is completely breathable and provides a comfortable fit.  The mesh is a bit thicker than I expected, but results in an overall softer feel without sacrificing much in terms of weight.  While I experienced no issues, the elastic fit might make the shoe difficult to get on if you have a large foot, but I have heard from others that the elastic loosens up a bit after a few wears.  The velcro strap across the top allows you to apply just the right amount of added pressure to keep the shoe snug in place without feeling too restrictive.

Inside the Shoe/Fit

The fit of this shoe is great.  It is light, airy, and comfortable.  The mesh material of the upper is soft enough that you don’t really feel like you are wearing anything.  The natural, low-to-the ground footbed and wide toe box also allow your foot to do what it is meant to do.

In Action

One of the concerns I had before trying the shoe in action was that the upper wouldn’t provide enough stability on quick side movements (as typically found in HIIT-type workouts) and that my foot would roll over the side of the shoe.  So far, this hasn’t been the case.  The upper is flexible, but the strap provides just enough stability to prevent this from happening without inhibiting freedom of movement.  Another thing that look out for in gym shoes is that sometimes, in workouts with explosive side-to-side movements, I have gotten foot cramps because the shoe fit is too tight and restrictive.  Throughout my use of the COR, I have yet to experience such cramping.  The shoe provides stability and confidence to do such workouts without worrying about traction injury.  Lastly, being a low-to-the-ground zero-drop shoe, it provided an excellent platform for strength workouts.  It helped with my form during squats while also providing safe footing while doing weight work.

Final Thoughts and Recommendations

From the gym aspect, it’s a very solid shoe.  Whether you work out at home or the gym, it is a shoe that will get the job done for every workout.  If you are ok with the look, it would even be a comfortable everyday shoe.  And since it is built on the same platform as the ST-2, I would feel confident going for a run in these too.  It is a great multi-purpose shoe.

Pro’s

  • Platform is perfect for just about every type of workout.
  • Upper is definitely more breathable than I expected.  It feels great around the foot.
  • At only $90, this is the best price you will get for a high performance shoe that can be used in so many different ways.

Con’s

  • Stability strap is only mildly helpful in my opinion.  Could probably be improved to provide even more stability support.

If you decide to give them a try and can’t find them locally, you can order them (or any other Topo shoe) at topoathletic.com AND get 10% off with code TOPODEAN10.

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!

Advertisements

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.

screen-shot-2016-12-22-at-9-39-02-am

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 10% off at topoathletic.com with code TOPODEAN10...with 10% 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!

My Perspective on Cross-Training for Trail Runners

As a long distance/endurance runner, I find it much too easy to push cross-training to the back burner or skip it all together.  It is not generally an intentional thing, but like most people with children and a full time job that is not running related, I have to balance my time while also maintaining my target mileage each week.  The truth is, I often have to remind myself just how important cross training is for a trail runners overall health and performance.  What many people don’t realize is that by giving a little leeway on your weekly mileage to allow for cross training is critical for reaching your goals.  For someone that is obsessed with the numbers, such as myself, this is easier said than done.  Still, over the years, I have more or less managed to find the right kind of activities and the right balance that works for me and I want to share some of these thoughts with you.  Here are some of the best cross training activities that I have found for trail runners.

Balance and Stability

I list this one ahead of all others mostly because, as a runner with weak ankles, I find it important to focus on my stabilizing and joint-supporting muscles.  This has helped my body handle the obstacles and uneven terrain found on most trails, which has helped prevent rolled ankles, messed up hips, and other alignment-based maladies.  There are a ton of workouts and tools out there to help with balance and stability; Yoga, one-legged strength workouts, and slacklining are a few.  These all help strengthen the stabilizing muscles that aid in balance and stability on uneven terrain.

My preferred exercises: Yoga, One-leg strength workouts
Recommended tools: Wobble board, slack line

Circuit Training

Circuit training typically incorporates quick, multi-directional movement alongside body weight strength exercises.  Most of these workouts provide a good alternative to speedwork because they are designed to develop you anaerobically.  The side to side speed movement often found in these workouts is also beneficial for strengthening the stabilizing muscles.  There are many different forms of circuit training.  I have personally found that using workouts, such as P90X or Insanity, are ideal for me because of their convenience and completeness of the workouts.

My preferred exercises: Home workouts (Insanity, P90X, etc.)

Sports

If you need something a little more engaging or “fun”, playing sports is also a great way to cross train.  The most common for runners seems to be biking.  Perhaps because it is also thought of as an endurance sport and can take place on the same terrain.  My personal favorite is basketball or soccer.  While I am not technically proficient at either, both provide an excellent cardio workout and much of the same explosive, side to side movements found in circuit training.  As team sports, they also are a great social activity…I just wish I did them more often.

My preferred exercises: Basketball, soccer

Strength/Body Weight

Most runners focus so much on their legs and core, but often overlook the importance of maintaining at least a degree of functional strength in their upper body.  Having a strong upper body is extremely helpful in maintaining your form, especially later in a run when fatigue starts to set in.  While many of the previously mentioned methods of training will work the core and legs, they don’t necessarily work the upper body.  I have found body weight-type exercises to be sufficient for most runners.  Adding a couple reps of push-ups, pull-ups, and bicep/tricep exercises in generally pretty sufficient.

My preferred exercises: Body weight exercises added at the end of a run

As a have said, it is difficult for most people to fit it all in while keeping up their mileage.  The approach that has worked best for me is to cut my mileage in half a couple days a week and then pair it with a 30 minute circuit training workout.  I try to stay flexible with what workout I do, but try to focus on things that target specific weaknesses.  Also, whenever I need to take a leg rest day, I will incorporate some level of upper body workout.  This gives my legs a rest day and frees up time to do something harder for my upper body.  During the offseason, I tend to lower my mileage to get some recovery in from running and substitute it in with added cross training.

The purpose of this post was to reiterate the importance of cross training and give you some ideas based on my approach.  In reality, everyone is different and therefore will need to determine what approach works best for them in the time that they have.  What does seem to be consistent across all endurance athletes though is that we all need some cross training to maximize our performance and reduce or even eliminate injuries.

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!