Ah, the simple things in life: a cup of hot coffee, a beautiful sunset, a pair of Topo Athletic trail shoes. Simpler is better.
In designing their shoes, Topo seems to take that “simple” mindset in stride with both their design and execution. The Hydroventure 2 carries over award-winning characteristics from the first rendition and adds a few simple touches that make this a stellar choice for a trail shoe. The updates come in the form of a new outsole, upper, and slight changes to the midsole material.
The Hydroventure 2 sticks with the company’s solid and simple foundation—allow plenty of room in the forefoot by being “foot-shaped”, keep it low drop (but not Altra zero-drop), and lightweight.
They are similar in design to many Altra brand shoes; before this shoe test, I actually had only heard of Topo in context with Altra. After this test, though, I feel they are worthy of having their own conversation.
Where the Hydroventure 2 stands apart from the rest of their line of shoes is that they are particularly suited for less-than-ideal conditions. Thankfully, in the “spring” conditions we have had in Colorado as of late (more snow), I had the perfect testing grounds for these shoes.
I put in a bunch of miles in the Hydroventure 2’s, partly because I was intrigued by the design, but mostly because they are darn good shoes for almost any condition and terrain.
There are plenty of positives about this shoe. Perhaps their best quality is that there is nothing overly special about them. That doesn’t sound so much like a compliment, but refer back to the “simpler is better” formula. And with that, Topo Athletic really has put together something special.
The Hydroventure 2 fits nicely. They are the type of comfortable that you don’t realize at first. It just feels…right. These shoes gave me no issues in terms of fit or ride. There is plenty of room for natural movement in the forefoot and there are no spots of friction—even with the more stiff eVent material. The fully gusseted and well-padded tongue hugs the midfoot nicely and holds the heel in place.
Speaking of the eVent upper, that stuff is legit. I’ll compare it to Gore-Tex because unless I went full-on submarine with this shoe, nothing was getting in. I ran through snow, suck-your-boot-off mud, steep mountain runoff streams, and more. The upper held up to anything just as well as any other waterproofing material that I know of.
Below the foot is where the real magic happens with this shoe. In the midsole is a 2-density inject EVA material with a thin rock plate slid into the forefoot. This is solid pairing if you’re looking for a combo of great protection and responsiveness. Any sort of protruding rock or root, even when going fast, was no match for this midsole. The midsole is softer immediately underfoot and becomes more firm toward the outsole. The ride is on the firm side, but that is how I prefer it.
Last, but not least, on the list of great things about the Hydroventure 2 is the Vibram Megagrip outsole. This is truly the king/queen of the mountain when it comes to traction. If I could, I would re-sole all of my shoes to have identical tread. The lugs are large, deep, and spread widely. I am pretty sure there is some sort of chemical attraction between Megagrip and all “non-ideal” surfaces.
I found myself being “forced” off trail to see if the outsole would hold up. Downhill with slick rocks from snowmelt runoff—not a problem. Loose rock and underbrush¬–get out of here! Mud with roots underneath–it’s all good! Seriously, get this outsole some awards for its versatility and dependability.
I only had one real issue with this shoe. One of the joys of trail running is letting loose on some downhills and technical terrain. With the Hydroventure 2, I was not comfortable doing that. Sure, on uphills and in wet conditions the shoe performed beautifully. As terrain became more technical my feet would have a bit of lateral slippage inside the shoe. From the midfoot forward, my feet would slide around and cause some concern if there was any real speed involved.
As with any shoe that has waterproof material, breathability is an issue. If my feet were not wet from water that I had been running through, they were wet from sweat. In colder or wet conditions, I did not mind at all. However, when I was running on a warmer day, my feet would feel as if they were in a sauna with no relief.
My last complaint also has to do with the eVent upper. As this shoe is designed for wet and muddy conditions, I expected the shoe to drain better. Even after full submersion, I hoped that the shoe would drain well, but it just did not. After a couple of river crossings a good deal of water stayed in the forefoot of my shoes and squished around there for miles after. Though the rest of the shoe seems like it could go any distance, this could be a serious hang up.
Topo Athletic Hydroventure 2 Conclusion
Overall, the Hydroventure 2 is a dang solid shoe. Aside from highly technical trails or speedy descents, I felt that I had more than adequate support and protection from the midsole, incredible security underneath from the Vibram Megagrip outsole, and I was protected from the elements.
If you are looking for a trail shoe that needs to get down and dirty in some saturated conditions, look up the Topo Athletic Hydroventure 2. You may just find yourself becoming a big fan of a simple and solid trail shoe.
You can pick up the Hydroventure 2 for $140 at Running Warehouse using the shop link below.Shop Hydroventure 2
Taylor Bodin is a trail and ultrarunner living in Estes Park, CO, with his wife and daughter. He and his wife both love running the trails in Rocky Mountain National Park. When not running, Taylor is a Kindergarten/1st grade teacher, running coach, and youth leader for his church.