topo athletic pursuit
Shoe ReviewsTrail

Topo Athletic Pursuit Review: Top O’ The Podium Kinda Shoe

What You Need To Know

  • Weighs 10.8 oz. (306 g.) for a US M9 / 8.6 oz. (244 g.) for a US W8
  • Zero drop, but be not afraid all ye who enter here
  • A Topo favorite for 2/3 of our reviewers (and a Topo first for the other)
  • Megagrip and 28mm of revamped Zipfoam, what else do you need?
  • Available now for $140

TAYLOR: By now, the Topo Athletic name shouldn’t be new to anyone. We’ve given quite a few models top marks in the performance category over the last few years (the debut MTN Racer won Best Trail Shoe of the Year in 2019), and we’re never surprised when a new shoe impresses us. Needless to say, it was all warm fuzzies when the Topo Athletic Pursuit landed at my door.

Topo Athletic sticks to a simple design platform that typically goes a long way in performance. All its shoes are low drop (between 0 and 5mm) and foot-shaped for a natural running feel. It sounds an awful lot like another favorite trail brand of ours, but Topo Athletic shoes still manage to offer a unique experience that stands on its own.

The Pursuit is a new member of Topo’s lineup — basically, a mix between the Ultraventure and Mtn Racer. That’s music to my ears because those two shoes are my top picks from the entire Topo family. The difference is that the Pursuit offers a zero drop platform (28mm stack), kinda like a Magnifly for the trails.

I know the zero drop tag typically turns runners right on or off, but don’t let it scare you this time. The Topo Athletic Pursuit falls close to the Altra Timp, Hoka Speedgoat, and Saucony Xodus, with plenty of cushion and durable construction built to go long. I’m here to say that the Pursuit also belongs in the performance conversation with those heavy hitters.

MATT: Topo Athletic and Merrell feel like cousins at this point. They’re both brands that, for some reason or another, seem to fly under the radar on the trail scene. But when people find them, they know. We’ve been doing our best here at BITR to correct that, and hopefully, you’ve noticed. Both brands have consistently delivered top-notch products that can easily take on the big names in trail running.

The Pursuit is the latest in the Topo trail line and is the first to come with a proper zero-drop design. Aesthetics aside (I’ll admit to not always loving the designs and colorways), Topo has yet to come up short with the performance of shoes I’ve reviewed (Mtn Racer, Ultraventure, Terraventure).

At first glance, the Pursuit doesn’t scream zero drop like other brands. It looks equally as voluminous and cushioned as Topo’s previous models, so I was immediately interested in how this was going to work out. But it did, no doubt.

MELISSA: I’ll be upfront and let you know that this was my first experience running in any Topo Athletic shoe. I had no expectations for the Pursuit outside of what I have for any long-distance trail shoe or daily trainer. I generally look for a relatively light shoe, but I’m always willing to compromise weight for comfort, durability, and grip. When I opened the box, I jumped right in with socked feet and an open mind.

I ended up logging 50 miles in the Pursuit. My quick impressions are that it looks and feels like Altra Lone Peak but with more cushioning. It’s a subtle zero drop with an anatomical toe box and super grippy outsole. The Pursuit carries a little extra weight (about an ounce), but I consider it a fair trade for its smooth, cushioned ride.

Taylor and Matt covered most of it, so if you’re in pursuit of hearing more of our thoughts, let’s proceed.

topo athletic pursuit - upper

The Good

TAYLOR: Even though this shoe sticks to the classically simplistic pedigree of Topo Athletic, the Pursuit has a lot to love. As mentioned, it has similarities to some of the most sought-after trail shoes, but I believe this shoe fills some gaps in the Topo Athletic line.

One thing that will stick out to runners is the step-in feel. The foot-shaped toe box is dialed in all the way around. Whether you have a wide foot or not, this shoe should please your feet. The rounded toe box feels roomy, yet I had zero issues with movement in the forefoot because of the security in the back two-thirds.

The Pursuit provides a locked-in experience. It has a secure midfoot thanks to a subtle gusseted and padded tongue, structured engineered mesh upper, and lacing chain. The heel is also comfortably secure like a cockpit with a well-padded/structured collar — a crucial part of this recipe. This is how I hoped the Ultraventure 2 and MTN Racer 2 would have fit, actually. It reminds me of the original Ultraventure (I’ve likened its fit to the Speedland shoes), and that’s a good thing in every sense.

Underfoot has tones that remind me of the other Topo shoes mentioned, as it feels like a mashup of the two. It also reminds me of one of the royalties of the trail, the Hoka Speedgoat. A 28mm stack provides a softer, more protective, and more cushioned feel than any of the previous versions of Topo’s Zipfoam (EVA). The midsole’s density is pretty middle-of-the-road, I’d say. I’m not sure what’s been altered, but I enjoy it. It won’t be the absolute best in any category, but like the Hoka Speedgoat 5, it has strong enough notes to make a difference in a runner’s experience. This type of midsole is an all-arounder that you could take on any trail, at most speeds, and for any distance.

Subtle and natural stability is also a comforting piece of the puzzle. The Topo Athletic Pursuit has a wider-than-average base, much like what’s found in most Hoka and Altra trail shoes. Nothing feels forced about the guidance and extra stability, either. I like it.

Vibram’s Megagrip is a standard on all Topo Athletic shoes. By now, readers should know how much we love Megagrip. The claw-like 6mm multidirectional lugs provide grip on any surface with ease. Wet, muddy, and loose terrain is where it stands out, though. Honestly, the excellent outsole is one of the reasons I’m tempted to reach for the Topo Athletic Pursuit over Altra’s Timp.

As a total package, this is as tough as they come. At 11.5 ounces for a US M10.5, it’s very average in weight, but it packs a lot of goodness into every ounce. I’ve never had an issue with the durability of Topo Athletic shoes. The Pursuit is a good example of simple tech like welded overlays and engineered mesh, allowing the shoe to strip back the number of components without stripping back durability. This mesh upper, in particular, seems as indestructible as any. The outsole might honestly be the first thing to break down, and that’s still Megagrip.

topo athletic pursuit - outsole

MATT: My experience is very much in line with Taylor’s. We have similar Rolodexes of shoe reviews, and he compared the Pursuit to the same shoes I had in mind.

What jumped out to me first and foremost was the fit of the upper. Despite having great review experiences with several Topo and Altra shoes, I still tend to grab traditionally shaped shoes as my training and race day go-to’s. The Topo Athletic Pursuit may finally push me to the anatomically correct side. The fit is roomy where it should be (toe-box) but secure and locked where it needs to be (heel and mid-foot).

Taylor made a comparison above that I’d also been thinking about. I’m glad he said it because I thought maybe I was going a bit nuts. The Pursuit reminded me of a zero-drop Speedgoat. Maybe it’s a chonky goat that’s not exactly light and nimble, but the comparison is apt in several other ways.

Amble cushion (28mm) and a re-engineered version of Zipfoam midsole gives a soft, squishy ride that I tend to favor, combined with a wide base for a stable and confident vibe as you roll over the trails. Drool.

One thing we’ve become spoiled with from Topo is the use of Vibram Megagrip for their outsoles. They didn’t disappoint with the Pursuit and added some beefy 6mm lugs to ensure this shoe is a true all-terrain vehicle.

For those that may still be stuck on the zero-drop platform, I’d like to add a note based on my personal experience running in the shoe. I’m not a regular zero-drop user. I’ll mix in my Altras occasionally, but I cycle through different shoes with stack and drop measurements.

I’m not sure if it’s due to the 28mm stack or maybe the cushy midsole, but I didn’t notice anything drastic when switching to zero drop, nor did I have any nags or pain points throughout the 20+ miles I put on the shoes. This is just my anecdotal experience here, and I just wanted to share it because I think there is a stigma with zero drop shoes where runners believe they need to be all-in or all-out.

MELISSA: I love how straightforward this shoe is. It has a basic, relatively simple design and gets the job done. As an ultra runner, comfort and extra room in the right places are crucial. The Pursuit accomplishes both thanks to an anatomical foot design. It fits true to size and offers an incredibly secure and stable ride. I was initially concerned about breathability, but my doubts proved wrong — I had no issues and ended up with zero hot spots.

I’m a midfoot striker, and it’s like this midsole was designed just for me. It’s a dream to run in, providing one of the softest impacts I’ve ever experienced on the trail. The traction is excellent thanks to the Vibram Megagrip outsole and well-placed lugs that hold onto a variety of surfaces.

Overall, the Pursuit has all the right features you need for a successful long trail run or race.

Shop Topo Athletic Pursuit – Men Shop Topo Athletic Pursuit – Women

topo athletic pursuit - lateral

The Bad

TAYLOR: As with almost all of my Topo Athletic reviews, I don’t have much to say here. The brand seems to hit its targets consistently. I’m not saying this is the best shoe out there, but again, it’s hard to knock a shoe if it meets its intended goals.

With that being said, I’m here to be nit-picky. Let’s talk about lacing a little to start. The pursuit provides a very secure fit. To get that no-move lockdown, I did have to crank down the laces, causing some pressure over the top of the foot. Because of the strategically padded tongue, there was some discomfort that I had to figure out. As miles slightly softened the Pursuit, the lacing became much more comfortable when finding that secure fit.

As mentioned previously, durability is a nonissue. However, that does typically mean that this could be a warm package. I can confirm that this engineered mesh and extra padding does, though comfortable and secure, not breathe all that well compared to a more open mesh or knit upper. Wear a pair of thinner socks on those warm trail days in the Pursuit, not crew medium thick wool. Trust me.

Zero-drop is always something to consider for runners too. Many know that their bodies crave the zero-drop formula. It’s not for everyone. Personally, a few runs per week is enough for my calves to feel a difference. I hope that Topo Athletic can come out with a similar shoe to the Pursuit with a few millimeters of drop in it. Even though the Ultraventure and MTN Racer would fall in this realm, the Pursuit is the next step in quality for the company.

MATT: I briefly mentioned my not-so-thrilled feelings above about Topo’s stylings, so I’d like to expand on that here. The good news is that when I’m leading off this section with my gripes about aesthetics, that likely means I’m nit-picking, and we have a solid shoe on our hands.

Historically I just haven’t loved the styling and colorways across the board for Topo. The Pursuit hasn’t done anything to move the needle. It looks pretty much service industry or mall walker designed, even though it’s neither. This is all personal taste, and I should caveat that maybe you don’t want style advice from a dude who just recently chopped off his mullet or who may or may not think that midriff tops are beyond due for a comeback.

The reality is that the bar is high for trail shoes right now. If two models perform similarly, I will reach for the ones that look cooler—end of story.

My only other knock is in agreement with Taylor’s comments around breathability. I tested the shoe on a couple of super humid Mid-Atlantic days, and my feet almost roasted. In cooler temps, this will be positive, but if it’s hot, certainly be aware and pair with thin socks.

MELISSA: I agree with Tyler and Matt that there’s little to say here.

Overall, the Topo Athletic Pursuit is a solid trail shoe and one I’d feel confident enough to wear to a 50k or longer race, but not for a shorter, faster race. It just doesn’t feel like a fast shoe — the sole feels more designed to absorb impact rather than spring you forward, and I prefer a good balance of both.

The only other item I’ll mention is that the rounder laces come undone easily, which is a tad annoying. I usually double-knot my laces, but this was a challenge with laces that probably should be about 2 inches longer.

Shop Topo Athletic Pursuit – Men Shop Topo Athletic Pursuit – Women

topo athletic pursuit - heel

Topo Athletic Pursuit Conclusion

TAYLOR: As good as Topo Athletic has been over the last couple of years, the Pursuit is easily its stand-out model on the trail side. It’s not entirely different from the usual mold, but it takes up an extra degree.

The Pursuit is what I was hoping for in both the Ultraventure and MTN Racer updates. There’s a great balance of cushion, protection, and a smooth ride from the revamped Zipfoam. There’s also the same level of consistency and durability on both top and bottom with the engineered mesh upper and Megagrip outsole.

This is probably my favorite experience in a Topo Athletic shoe, and that’s saying something. It joins the ranks of shoes like the Speedgoat, Mtn Racer, Timp, and Xodus, which can do almost everything and do it well. The Pursuit really will show up on everything from generally smooth to terribly rugged terrain. Of course, the best-case scenario is found somewhere in between.

For what it’s worth, if we had a zero drop category for our end-of-year awards, the Topo Athletic Pursuit would likely find itself at the top.

MATT: I agree with Taylor that the Pursuit may be the top trail model in the Topo Athletic line this year, and those other shoes are no slouches.

The Pursuit feels like it’ll compete in that all-rounder division of trail shoes with the likes of the Hoka Speedgoat, Saucony Xodus Ultra, and Merrell Long Sky 2. These are shoes that you can trust and will perform across various terrains and distances. Don’t forget about the zero-drop platform and be careful as you slowly mix it into your rotation.

MELISSA: If you’re pursuing no-frills comfort during your long trail runs, look no further.

The Topo Athletic Pursuit is an excellent shoe for beginners and seasoned trail runners alike, but be sure to transition slowly if this is your first zero drop shoe.

You can pick up the Topo Athletic Pursuit for $140 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.

Shop Topo Athletic Pursuit – Men Shop Topo Athletic Pursuit – Women

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