The running shoe chosen for the months between February and May has to be able to tackle everything Mother Nature can dish out. For those training to tackle a Spring marathon somewhere across the country or even the globe, this versatility could make the difference between trouble and triumph throughout the season.
The Runventure 3 from Topo Athletic looks the part of a stout offering, with several new tweaks from its successful predecessor that were a joy to explore. Here’s how they measured up.
Upper & fit
Much like its beefier cousin the Hydroventure, the Runventure has a very roomy fit in the front and throughout the toe box, a hallmark of the Topo Athletic line. In my now customary size 11, I experienced no issues in terms of length, width, or heel dimensions.
If I had to choose an SUV to describe the overall fit, it would probably be the Toyota Highlander of offroad shoes. It generally has comfortable styling but is not much for overhead space.
This only became noticeable during one 16-mile run, and a 10-mile hill work out when the shoe became mildly tight across the bridge of the foot due to swelling.
The Runventure 3 has a low profile overall but has certainly seen its share of improvements from previous models where the upper is concerned.
This model has borrowed the TPU overlays present in last year’s MTN Racer as well as the ventilation ports at the forefoot of the shoe, which made for improved moisture management in that offering, as well.
Especially with the Runventure featuring a lower overall stack height (30/25mm compared to 20mm) and a 0mm heel to toe offset, this certainly comes in handy on waterlogged early spring trails, and during the odd snowstorm, we had a few weeks back.
Another advantage built into this year’s model was the ripstop style of fabric throughout the upper intermingled with the TPU that didn’t show any signs of letting up despite over 150 miles of hiking, trail running, and disc golfing (prior to the closing of our local parks these last couple of weeks).
Overall, the only thing missing of note is the lack of gaiter attachments to the heel and midfoot previously available on all Topo Athletic trail models. Nevertheless, the heel cup remains supportive and is actually more forgiving with the decrease in the material.
Overall, the upper has seen a major facelift, and almost all of it has helped push the Runventure 3 into a new echelon of off-road comfort.
Insole & midsole cushioning systems
The one knock on previous versions of the Runventure was the stiffness of the midsole and the lack of forgiveness in its overall level of cushioning.
In terms of addressing the issue of flexibility, the new midsole to the outsole interface does wonders to allow for more freedom of movement for the foot and ankle during the gait cycle.
The Rock plate is still present in this year’s model but feels less snappy while still providing anti-bruising protection to the foot on rocky trails, gravel roads, and flagstone paths.
For those looking to feel the run underfoot, the shoe is a nice middle ground between barefoot and traditional trail runners. For those who like to feel it all, the 20mm sole will feel like too much fluff.
If you’re looking for the Goldilocks shoe, you may be in the right place, especially at an MSRP of $120. However, listed at 9.2 oz per shoe for a men’s size 9, it can feel heavier than that on runs over 10 miles and loses some appeal even for the middle of the road (or trail, as it were) runner in terms of the minimal to maximal continuum.
Not much has changed with the insole, as it maintains the Ortholite-produced footbed with the antimicrobial feature that, for me, is indispensable as a marathon runner, trail enthusiast, and disc golf lover in a very soupy time of the year.
Outsole & durability
The biggest upgrade that the Runventure received was definitely in the outsole.
Unlike the Runventure 2 which had a stock rubber outsole from Topo Athletic, the Runventure 3 sports the XS Trek EVO rubber from Vibram.
In comparison with the Megagrip material that was used on the Hydroventure, MTN Racer, and also on the Vibram V-Alpha, the Trek EVO sole feels even more grippy if that is possible.
When reaching back for extra oomph on my drives playing disc golf, sprinting up and down the gravel roads, I’ve used to social distance on my long runs and hill workouts, the sole really hooks up like almost none other this year.
Most importantly, this does not compromise the durability of the sole, even after 150+ miles of use plus countless hours worn as my go-to work shoe in the PT clinic.
The shoe cleans up exceedingly well, showing no real evidence of mud or sweat staining like I experienced with the MTN Racer and the ST-3.
Most importantly, there has been no issues of integrity with the seams of the upper as it connects to the midsole. No splitting of the sole unit from the toe, nor any breakdown in the inner heel padding.
All issues that I have experienced at the 150-300 mile mark with almost all previous models I have used from Topo Athletic, making it by far the best for longevity that I have seen from Tony Post’s up and coming group.
I am a big proponent of versatility in the running shoe world. When you are investing 100+ dollars into a shoe, you want it to perform in a variety of roles from a go-to trainer, to work/casual, and then finally the “yard shoe.”
The colorway options on the Runventure 3 are both relatively neutral (bluish, slate grey as well as the standard black), but have some great accents in the midfoot lacing system as well as in the heel with the nod to the Southwestern Rockies over top of the heel counter.
As mentioned earlier, the shoe maintains its looks well into and past the break-in period of the shoe with just light maintenance.
It is easy to transition the shoe from your Sunday long run into your Monday grind as it is a very quick drying shoe that passes the muster when paired with khakis, a pair of scrubs, or a pair of split shorts.
The only thing missing is the edgy, neon color option from the Runventure 1 and 2 series. For those who like a little more spice in their ride or have a more lax dress code at work, consumers may look elsewhere, such as the Brooks Cascadia or the Saucony Xodus series for more funky offerings.
- The neutral color scheme that will withstand hard usage and look great as an everyday shoe
- Zero drop and mid to low stack height for those looking to transition to more minimal fare
- The rock plate is flexible yet still protective
- Best-in-class level structural integrity for the high mileage and multi-sport use
- Great use of premium materials in an MSRP $120 shoe
- Lacks a flashy alternate colorway for the bold trail enthusiast
- Feels heavier than the listed 9.2 oz. per shoe
- Little change to the excessively firm midsole to suit a wider range of runners
The Runventure 3 has taken a giant leap forward into a premier position in the lightweight trail shoe market. It is built tough, meant to last, and can get you from point A-Z comfortably.
Disclosure: For the purpose of review, I’d like to thank Topo Athletic for providing me with a pair of Runventure 3. No additional compensation was provided, and the review process objective over the course of a normal life cycle of my daily training shoes.
The Topo Athletic Runventure 3 is meant as a light, quick all-purpose trail shoe, which is always welcome, but poor choice in materials and design make this a no-go.
- Advertised weight: 9.2 oz (M's 9)
- Measured weight: 9.1 & 9.3 oz (M’s 9.5)
- Drop: 0 mm
This is where the problems begin...
Topo Athletic's shoes have two trademarks: zero drop and a shape that makes clown shoes look reasonable. Their marketing would have you believe that this is closer to a natural shape, but I've yet to meet anyone whose feet are shaped like badminton racquets.
This toe box is so wide you can't touch any part of the shoe with your toes if you tried. Some people may enjoy this, but the downside is you have to cinch down the laces tighter than desirable.
If you don't, your feet are going to slide everywhere within the shoe.
On the plus side, the arches are supportive enough. And, 80% of the time, I feel like they're not, and I don't even have high arches.
On the first few runs, something strange was noticeable: one of the shoes fit significantly tighter than the other.
I figured one must be laced up tighter than the other, so I fiddled with the laces off and on throughout the run. And the next run too. And the next. Eventually, I began to suspect the shoes were two different sizes.
The labels indicated they were the same, but on the scale, the looser shoe measured 0.25 oz heavier. I've never seen a discrepancy that large.
Clearly, one shoe was indeed larger than the other. It's possible I simply got a bad batch, but it's also possible that Topo's error tolerance isn't optimal.
And now for an even bigger problem…
The Runventure 3 is, without a doubt, the least breathable running shoe I've ever worn. Rather than a knit or mesh-like material, Topo opted for a material that's comparable to a waterproof jacket.
Are the shoes waterproof? No. Are they water-resistant? There's no mention of that on their website. It's hard to understand what the idea was, but the result isn't good.
If you live in a warm, humid area, you won't want to wear these shoes for at least half the year.
Whether it's a downpour, a stream crossing, or simply a lot of sweat, all shoes get wet eventually. Trying to keep water out is a futile effort; it's better to have shoes that breathe and dry quickly. The Runventure 3 takes days to dry out, even when left outside in warm weather.
The upper material isn't flexible either; normally, that's a problem mostly reserved for the outsole. Running in these feels like trying to fold a piece of laminated cardstock.
Aside from the material, the design of the upper is good overall. You're able to use the laces to get a good fit at any point in the midfoot, and they didn't overdo it with the overlays. There's just enough protection on the toes without weighing the shoe down.
Fortunately, there are some good things to talk about.
The Runventure 3 features a Vibram outsole, somewhat surprising for a shoe in its weight class. With the famously tough, durable outsole, the Runventure 3 works well on any off-road surface, including dirt, gravel, wood chips, and rocky terrain.
I haven't had a chance to test them in sloppy mud yet, but there's no reason to doubt they wouldn't handle that as well.
Probably the most surprising thing about the Runventure 3 is the quality of the ride. Once you get used to the strange shape, these shoes run well on all surfaces, including pavement.
Somehow, despite the tough Vibram outsole, the Runventure 3 remains flexible and doesn't feel like tank tread on paved surfaces.
That flexible outsole has its drawbacks. While the Runventure 3 has a rock plate, it offers little protection. You'll notice almost any technical terrain, even more than you would in some highly cushioned road shoes.
The Runventure 3 doesn't have a lot of cushioning, but it usually feels like it does. Even on long runs, you don't feel the ground beneath you too much, and your feet stay comfortable.
It's only on technical terrain that you notice the lack of cushioning, not so much because the ground feels too hard, but rather because a rock can make itself felt through the thin midsole, despite the presence of a rock plate and a Vibram outsole.
One would expect the exact opposite: the outsole and rock plate would prevent you from feeling rocks, but the lack of cushioning would take a toll on long runs. Somehow, it's the other way around.
In the looks department, overall, a big thumbs up. These shoes look great! Trail shoes usually look better than road shoes, not only because they don't look like a disco floor threw up on them, but they also don't commit the cardinal sin: white outsoles.
The Runventure 3 comes in only two color choices, and while they might not look exciting, that works in its favor. A black shoe with blue trim looks much better than a shoe with five different colors on it.
My biggest gripe about the visual design is the lack of reflectivity. One could argue that's not important for a trail shoe since you're unlikely to be caught in the headlights of a car while trail running.
But, let's put it another way: What's the disadvantage to including reflective accents?
In every bad shoe, there's a good shoe trying to shine through.
A light, fast, all-purpose trail shoe is always a great pair to keep around, and the Runventure 3 accomplishes a few things that most shoes in its category fail to do, notably in terms of effective cushioning and versatile tread.
The Runventure could go from a D+ to an A- with the release of the Runventure 4 if Topo makes these changes:
- This review won't convince Topo to use a normal-sized toe box, but goodness, dial it back a little bit.
- Look into manufacturing defects and make sure both shoes always come out the same size.
- Use a more typical, mesh-like material for the upper.
- If possible, address rock protection issues, but without sacrificing the current level of flexibility, cushion, and lightweight.
- Surprisingly well-cushioned
- Flexible enough
- Good feel on both road and trail
- Ridiculous shape
- Shoes are unevenly sized
- Abysmal breathability
- Little protection from rocks
I have run quite a bit in Altras over the years, so when these Topo's mentioned a roomy toe box, a low drop, and lightweight, I was sold.
But how do they stack up once taken out on the trails? Will they win me over as a long time Altra wearer?
I got the grey/red colorway, and I think they look simple and pragmatic. The grey almost has a carbon fiber-esque look, which is fitting since these shoes are lightweight and nimble.
I appreciate that they don't have any big flashy logos or colors either, just their name on the tongue and a small logo on the side of the heel.
Overall, I quite like the look of these shoes as it correlates closely to how the shoe is supposed to perform.
Fit & feel
I got a size 10 as that is my normal size, and I feel the fit is spot on. I'm used to wearing Altras, so the wide toe box and zero-drop is nothing new to me.
Speaking of Altras, I have previously worn the Superiors and the Timps, both of which are trail shoes and both of which did not fit as well as the Topo Runventure 3s out of the box.
In addition to being more comfortable, the Topos are also quite a bit lighter coming in at around 9.5 ounces.
One thing I was worried about was the upper. Being trail shoes, the upper is a bit stiffer than a knit upper seen on many road shoes.
Also, you can see it crease when going up on your toes. This adds the possibility of putting pressure on the top of the foot that could lead to hot spots or general discomfort.
But in reality, I never found it to be a problem. In all honesty, I have really come to love the upper. After breaking in the shoes after a few miles, I feel the upper loosens up and becomes more flexible.
The upper does a great job of not letting my shoes fill with dirt. It may not have the comfort of a knit upper, but the practicality on the trails far outweigh any negatives, in my opinion.
The tongue has a reasonable amount of padding. It's not super thick or super thin, but rather somewhere in the middle.
Initially, I had some issues getting the tightness just right when lacing, but now that I've gotten to know the shoes better, I don't have any issue.
The insoles are "powered by Ortholite." In all honesty, it's just a thin piece of foam, and it isn't glued into the shoe.
I haven't run into any issues with it slipping, but again, I live in a very dry climate, so that may be a concern for those living in wetter climates.
Overall, the fit and feel of the Runventure 3 is better than I expected. Some things I thought were going to be issues ended up not being a problem at all.
I found the comfort and weight of the shoes to be better than its competitors from Altra.
One of the first runs I did in these shoes was a 12.5 mile run with a combination of hard rocky technical trails followed by a run home on nice paved river trails.
The run home was where I was most surprised. I knew these shoes were meant for the trails, but the run home on the sidewalk-like paved river trail really showed the true potential of these shoes.
I felt as if the shoes performed very similarly to a road shoe by providing me good pop and allowing me to really push the pace.
Ordinarily, I find trail shoes suffer on pavement and sidewalks due to the big lugs on the sole or the stiffness from the rock plate, but these shoes felt light and nimble and not at all clunky or sluggish.
Back on the trails, I found more of their strengths. Yes, these shoes are light, and that allows for quicker paces, so these shoes would be great for trail races.
In addition to the weight, the stability of the shoes is quite good especially considering how flexible the shoes are. The wide toe box allows your foot and toes to splay out, which helps in naturally giving you a good stable base.
The traction is also pretty good due to the Vibram outsole, but I wasn't able to truly test them in wet conditions due to where I live. There is a lot to like with these shoes, but there is one weakness, in my opinion.
I mentioned earlier how the trails near me are rocky and technical. I have found that the ground feel of the shoes is almost too good.
I have definitely felt some of the bigger and sharper rocks while on the trails. I have done multiple 10+ mile long runs, so feeling rock after rock really takes its toll on your feet.
There is supposedly a forefoot rock plate, but the shoes are so flexible, and the ground feel is so prominent that it is almost like it's not there. Why is there a rock plate if it isn't going to actually protect you from rocks?
Durability & value
The shoes have held up pretty well so far with the Vibram outsole and lugs still being in good shape. The upper and the rest of the shoes are showing no noticeable deterioration either.
I would expect to get right around the standard 300+ miles out of them before needing to retire them. At a retail price of $120, I think the mileage to cost ratio is pretty on point.
- Zero drop
- Roomy toe box
- Upper is perfect for trails
- The insole is nothing to write home about
- More of an all-rounder rather than a specialist
- Needs a touch more underfoot protection, almost too much ground feel
There really is a lot to like with the shoes. I think if you were to buy just one pair of trail shoes, then these could be a great option. They are lightweight and feel much faster than other trail shoes I have worn in the past.
They seem to be tailored as more of an all-rounder that does a good job on a variety of trails and conditions, rather than doing a great job in just one or two trail types. If I could improve just one thing, though, I'll add just a touch more underfoot protection.
These shoes have really opened my eyes on Topo as a running shoe brand. I feel they have out Altra'd Altra with the Runventure 3. I will certainly look more closely at their road running shoes in the future.
Going back to the title of this review, are these the new trail king?
I think the Runventure 3s are more likely the trail prince in their current form. With one or two small tweaks, I really do think the next version has the potential to ascend to the title of trail king.
I have had the pleasure of running in several pairs of Topo shoes, but never a Topo trail runner. The Topo Runventure 3 is one of Topo’s more minimal models that is intended for moderately rugged trails.
At a modest 9.5 oz, this relatively lightweight trainer boasts a rugged Vibram outsole along with all of the other features that have made Topo such a strong competitor in the natural running world.
Here’s my in-depth look at the latest installment of the Runventure line of shoes by Topo Athletic.
The upper is extremely flexible for a non-barefoot trail running shoe. My foot was able to flex fairly naturally during all of my runs.
Staying with the natural shoe shape that has become Topo’s claim to fame, this shoe has an extremely wide toe box. The wide toe box allows for the toes to splay naturally throughout the run, which is extremely important in trail running.
This could be a turn-off for those who are used to the shape of traditional running shoes. Once you get used to it, though, you’ll never turn back.
There are some synthetic overlays on the sides of the shoes. I had to return my first pair of Topo road running shoes because of similar overlays. I was getting blisters where the overlays buckled and rubbed against the sides of my feet.
I’m very happy to say that was not an issue with these! The overlays were soft enough to be only barely noticeable.
The midsole is not extraordinarily cushioned. I would say that the cushioning resides somewhere between a minimal trail runner and moderate cushioning.
For me, this was fine on all of my runs that were 7 miles or less in length. It was not ideal for my runs as they crept into the double digits, though.
My feet started to fatigue earlier than I am accustomed to, which made me slow down a bit. That being said, it was nice to be able to feel the trail.
These are 0 mm drop shoes. I absolutely LOVE 0 drop shoes, especially on trails. They work very well for me and my running style.
For other people, they may not work quite as well. As always, it is worthwhile to get some input from a trained professional before taking the plunge on a zero drop shoe after only running in conventional running shoes.
This is where these shoes shine! The outsole is absolutely rugged. As an ultra athlete who races on some pretty tough terrain, this makes me very happy.
These shoes come equipped with a Vibram outsole. If you have never had the pleasure of owning shoes with a Vibram outsole, just know that this is one of the toughest types of soles out there.
These shoes are so tough that after 40 miles of running on mountainous terrain there is no visible damage.
The lugs are a nice size for moderately muddy terrain and rocky terrain. They definitely protected my feet from the damage that sharp rocks can inflict.
These shoes also work well on mild terrain. It is nice to see a pair of trail runners that can handle tough terrain and mild terrain relatively equally.
Finally, these beauties have drainage ports. This is an awesome feature that may make these shoes good for mud runs/OCRs.
My first run was after a heavy rain when the trails were severely flooded. My shoes drained with no problems at all.
The shoes look good! I received a black pair with blue embellishments. I do not like flashy shoes, so this works well for me. If you prefer a flashier style, then this may not be the best shoe for you.
The shoes breathe very well. They do not sacrifice warmth during colder runs, either. The temperature was 35 degrees Fahrenheit during my very first run with them. My feet were comfortable the entire time.
The temperature for my most recent run in them was around 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Again, my feet were quite comfortable.
There’s nothing special about the responsiveness of these shoes. They ride like normal trail runners. They do a great job of keeping you safe on rocky terrain—and that’s exactly what they’re meant to do.
These are not for speed work (though I’m sure you could do some speed work in them).
EXCELLENT. These shoes have been put through the ringer during my testing. Aside from being a little dirty, they look brand new.
I think that I will be able to get at least 400 miles out of them, if not more. This is one of the strongest features of the Runventure 3 shoes.
These shoes perform quite well on rugged trails and muddy surfaces. There was never a moment where I was afraid of slipping and falling.
I did not spend a lot of time on moderate trails, but the little bit of time that I spent on less rugged terrain was also promising. This is one of the other strong points of the Runventures.
The Runventure 3 by Topo Athletic is a rugged trail runner that is tough enough to handle rocky terrain and muddy conditions alike.
The Vibram sole is extremely resistant to damage, and the features like the wide toe box and zero-drop make it a great shoe for people who favor natural running shoes.
Though not necessarily comfortable enough for an ultramarathon, this is a great shoe for easy trail runs and shorter distance trail races.
With the added touch of drainage ports, the Runventure 3 trail runners have become one of my favorite types of trail running shoes. I would absolutely buy another pair of these shoes for day to day trail training!
Good to know
The Topo Athletic Runventure 3 is a trail running shoe that is meant to provide runners with support and traction over technical terrains. But it also has a low-to-the-ground configuration to deliver a performance that isn’t marred by midsole thickness and any caveats that may come with a substantial foam presence. The use of Vibram® technology could potentially heighten surface control. The upper unit has been retooled to emphasize abrasion resistance, freedom of motion, and drainage. Focusing on improving the efficacy of the silhouette can permit better enjoyment of the run.
Runners can enjoy their usual sizing expectations because Topo Athletic had utilized the standard measurements when they plotted the sizing scheme of this running shoe. Still, caution should always be considered when choosing any wearable apparel. Testing the shoe personally or watching user reviews that cover the aspect of size can better the perception of comfort when wearing it.
The external pad of the Topo Athletic Runventure 3 is made of Vibram® XS Trek. This layer is meant to protect the midsole foam from the abrasive nature of the outdoor terrains. It has a sticky nature to help the runner when it comes to taking control of the movements over the unpredictable paths.
Aggressive gripping lugs permit the outsole to adhere to the ground with sureness and ease. Upward and downward traversals become less harrowing with claw-like protrusions underneath the shoes.
The midsole unit of the Topo Athletic Runventure 3 is made of ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA). The job of this full-length cushioning unit is to protect the foot from the impact shock generated by the landing phase of the gait cycle. It has a springy nature that encourages the foot to lift off the ground with ease. EVA is used in many running shoe series, including the famed Hoka One One Speedgoat trail-optimized line.
An ESS forefoot rock plate aims to protect the ball of the foot from the abrasive nature of the surfaces.
An OrthoLite® sockliner is placed right above the main midsole technology. This thin foam is meant to provide a soft surface of extra plushness that the foot can enjoy. It has a fabric top to further evoke comfort. Furthermore, it features antimicrobial and anti-moisture capabilities which result in a clean and healthy in-shoe environment.
The upper unit of the Topo Athletic Runventure 3 is made of an abrasion-resistant mesh. The purpose of this material is to remain intact, even when exposed to trail debris and other elements. It has a close-weave construction to permit the foot to move through the environment without worrying about tearing and debris infiltration.
Printed overlays grace the front, the sides, and the heel of this product. The job of these add-ons is to reinforce the textiles and maintain the upright positioning of the silhouette. They also help the traditional lacing system in securing the foot and locking it in place.
Drainage holes at the sides give the shoe a chance to remove water from the inner chamber if exploration in bodies of water is inevitable.
How Runventure 3 compares
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