TAYLOR: Long road trips mean gummies. Worms or bears? Doesn’t matter, just gimme gummies. Pro tip: off-brand gummies are just as good as Haribo. Plus, they don’t have the ego
What’s that have to do with shoes? In the U.S. running scene, there’s a tendency to view Topo Athletic as an “off brand” or pirate of Altra because both companies have similar design principles (wider, foot-shaped toe box, zero/low heel to toe drop). Topo Athletic may not have the marketing push of Altra, but they have a founder in Tony Post (hence, Topo), CEO of Vibram for over a decade. As such, I’m here to tell you that this “off-brand” company is on par with or exceeds Altra quality. Cyber slap me! I knew it was coming.
Listen, some of my all-time favorite shoes are Altra and Topo Athletic, for both similar and different reasons. The point is, if you’re looking for a low to zero-drop and foot-shaped shoe, you have options.
Here we have the Topo Athletic Runventure 3. It’s a firecracker– light, fast, and at times a little squirrely. With a zero-drop platform (not always the case with Topo), wider forefoot, and quality design, it is trail-ready and worthy of consideration if the “natural” running experience is what you’re looking for.
For the record, the off-brand thing really doesn’t work for Oreos. Just get the true double-stuffed goodness.
TAYLOR: Have you ever taken a juiced-up go-kart out for a spin? They’re fun and fast and a little unpredictable. The Runventure 3 is my little juiced-up go-kart. It’s one of the lightest trail shoes that you’ll find. To go under 10 oz for a size 10.5 trail shoe (9.7 oz) is really pretty awesome. Add a few other elements to make it zippy and that’s where the fun really begins.
Usually light means lacking in some departments, but not here. The R3 has plenty of protection and grit. An ESS forefoot plate shields you from about anything. They protected well on any surface that I could get my toes on here in the Rockies. Even on steep descents with large loose rocks, I didn’t feel any invaders underfoot.
The full-length EVA midsole also helps with protection. At only 18 mm of cushion, it’s on the firm side. Me likey! So, not only do you get some decent protection, you also get a bit of energy return. Very few trail shoes can claim to be responsive, but the R3 is one of them. Kudos.
Vibram has some pretty magical compounds that complement all of the Topo Athletic shoes. I was a little skeptical because the Runventure doesn’t have Megagrip like on the Topo Athletic MTN Racer. After plenty of miles, I can confidently say that the Vibram XS Trek outsole, with deep 6 mm multidirectional lugs, is another outstanding compound by Vibram. Nod my head and applaud in approval.
Last little note: Let’s be honest, most of the Topo Athletic trail shoes look like straight-up dad hikers that are trying too hard; not so much the Runventure 3. Yes, I’m a dad to two beautiful girls, but at 27 years old I want a shoe that’s a little more “sexy.” This sleek and simple design appeals to me.
ERIN: OK, so. This is the second of two Topo Athletic trail shoes I received recently. It’s number two because I liked it second-best. But before I rag on it too much, let’s talk about the good parts.
The Runventure 3 is one of the lighter options from Topo in the trail-running department, and I presume it is meant as a shorter racing type shoe, as it is on the minimal side. Of course, if you’re someone who can run a hundred miles in sandals or whatever, you’re probably rolling your eyes and scoffing that someone might think a 7+ ounce women’s size 7 shoe is “on the minimal side.”
This is also a 0 mm drop shoe, which doesn’t really fit in the “good” or “bad” categories necessarily, but I’ll put it in this column. It fits true to size, which I’ve found to be true of recent Topo offerings, and has the widest toe box of any Topo I’ve run in, but not in a sloppy way. I didn’t have any issues with fit.
Like the Ultraventure, the Runventure 3 has a Vibram XS Trek outsole and offers great traction on slick, muddy trails; it also has drainage ports that do an OK job, but they’re kind of negated by the mesh upper, which is the opposite of breathable (we’ll get to that in a minute).
The Runventure 3 has more of a classic Topo look than the Ultraventure; I’m not really sure what I mean by that other than it just…looks like a Topo. I don’t know. Maybe it’s the neon laces?Shop Topo Athletic Runventure 3
TAYLOR: All of the ingredients of the Runventure 3 are ideal for shoes ready to move quick, even on the most technical terrain. One crucial ingredient is lacking though… the fit.
In general, the R3’s fit true-to-size and are comfortable to run in. The forefoot has a little extra wiggle room (but not too much) and the heel locks in with a nicely padded collar. BUT (that’s a big but for a reason) it is missing that beautifully fitting midfoot that I have come to expect in a Topo Athletic shoe. Without it, no matter if the other ingredients are top-notch, the “average score” of this shoe comes down considerably.
Oddly, I felt this most on flatter trail segments. On the downhills, my feet seemed to settle into the wider foot-shaped forefoot a little for a slightly more secure fit. Knowing that the fit is a little sloppy was always in the back of my head, and I couldn’t really let my guard down. It’s a shame because this shoe is primed for speedy trail running!
What’s the cause of this? I had the same issue with the Topo Athletic Hydroventure 2. I loved everything about the shoe, but the more “plasticky” abrasion-resistant mesh upper just doesn’t hug tight enough. Also, though it does protect from the elements rather well, it can get a little steamy.
ERIN: I just didn’t love this shoe. I don’t hate it, either, but I’d choose the Ultraventure (or the MT3) over the Runventure 3 for almost any scenario. The first, and probably most glaring, issue is the upper. It’s very stiff and plasticky and makes a popping sound with every step where it creases at the flex point. While I haven’t found it to be totally uncomfortable, it doesn’t breathe well and it feels and looks cheap. It does an OK job at keeping water out, but if it’s even remotely warm and humid it’ll feel like you ran through streams all day but without the initial refreshing cold water feeling. They make your feet sweat and that sweat just… hangs out.
The ride is also pretty ‘meh’ for me. I found the midsole to be stiff, inflexible, and slappy– just a harsh ride all around. The forefoot cushioning is minimal (to be fair, it looks minimal and is advertised that way) and, even with the addition of a forefoot rock plate, you’re still going to feel any rocks underfoot. I ran on the only local local trail that is open near me right now and it’s fairly technical, and even after just a 7-mile run my feet were a bit fatigued from all the rocks poking at ‘em.Shop Topo Athletic Runventure 3
TAYLOR: Topo Athletic has it going on! Even though the Runventure 3 isn’t their best showing, they still stack up really well compared to other light and trail shoes. Not many shoes that are this light can offer the same amount of protection, grip, and durability. Even if the fit is a little more loosey-goosey than ideal, I’ll still put these puppies on for a quick spin around the block… which happen to be steep technical trails in my case. You can pick up the shoe for $120 at Running Warehouse by using the shop link below.
ERIN: I think I’m just getting old (and or slow) because I just can’t do these minimal type trail shoes anymore. If you’re looking for a light-ish, minimal zero-drop trail shoe that isn’t the Altra Superior– especially if you live in a cool, dry place with minimally rocky trails (MUST BE NICE) you might enjoy the Runventure 3.
You can pick up the at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.Shop Topo Athletic Runventure 3