Welcome! Ultralight backpacking is my passion, and keeping up on new technologies, gear, and techniques relevant to UL backpacking is what floats my boat. I'm always looking for the lightest, most functional gear to improve a lightweight or ultralight backpacking kit, and report my impressions and field testing results here. For hikers wanting to keep up on the latest and greatest ultralight backpacking gear, this is a good place to hang out. Also, there is a lot of information here (and on our informational website Southwest Ultralight Backpacking) on useful techniques and backcountry etiquette -- food for thought for hikers wanting to lighten their load and their impacts.

My goal for Ultralight Insights is to understand, test, and report on new technologies and gear of interest to lightweight and ultralight backpackers. It's a passion after all, so we just plain enjoy talking about it. I hope readers will add their own wisdom and comments, respond to my questions, ask their own questions, and correct me if I get something wrong. Happy hiking! Will

Monday, March 26, 2018

GEAR REVIEW: TOPO Athletic Runventure 2 Trail Running Shoe and Gaiter

By Will Rietveld

As I have often mentioned, my preference for a backpacking shoe is a lightweight trail runner with a wide toebox, snug heelcup, all-synthetic upper with welded construction, good midsole cushioning, rock plate, and an aggressive outsole for good traction.

That said, I know that footwear is a very personal thing, everyone has different preferences, and different hiking conditions call for different footwear.

In general though, when you carry a light back, you can also wear light shoes, which get the job done just as well as the heavier clunkers, and save a lot of energy.

The main reason I love a wide toebox is because I have wide feet, but beyond that it’s important to note that, as the miles mount up, whether you’re a runner or a hiker, our feet swell and it helps a lot to have a wide toebox to accommodate the expansion.

The new Topo Runventure 2 Trail Running shoe weighs just 9.2 oz/shoe for men’size 9 and has all my desired features for lightweight and ultralight backpacking. (Topo Athletics photo.)

Specifications and Features

Topo Athletic (www.Topoathletic.com)
Runventure 2 Trail Shoe and Topo Gaiter
Nylon mesh upper with TPU overlays, EVA midsole, rubber outsole
Roomy toebox, snug heelcup, padded tongue and heel, moderate cushioning, rock plate, grippy outsole, zero drop.
9.2 ounces/shoe (men’s 9); 11.1 oz/shoe for tested men’s 12. Size L/XL gaiter weighs 1.25 oz/pr
Shoes $110, Gaiters $20


The above table provides most of the relevant information describing the shoes. Compared to the Terraventure shoe the Runventure 2 is a bit lighter (1.2 oz/shoe less), is zero drop compared to a 3 mm heel rise, has less cushioning, and has a bit less stability control. The upper and stiffness are similar.

The Runventure 2 shoe is zero drop, meaning no heel lift. That platform is preferred by many runners, but preferences run the gamut, and most running experts emphasize that a conditioning period is necessary to adjust to zero drop shoes. I note that the Topo Terraventure and Hydroventure shoes, which I have previously reviewed, have 3 millimeters of heel lift. Over time my feet have adjusted to these flatter platform trail runners, and I have no problems with them, although I don’t see any particular advantage of using them for hiking and backpacking compared to conventional shoes.

I tested the Topo Gaiter with the Runventure 2 shoe. The gaiters are made of a stretch nylon fabric that is very durable. They attach at the front with a conventional lace hook, and at the rear with a pair of unique hooks that insert into channels at the back of the shoes. (Topo Athleetics photo.)


 I wore the Runventure for day hiking, trail running, and backpacking on a total of 23 outings totaling 39 days. 

I used them mainly on rocky trails, but there were some notable exceptions which included some off-trail day hikes and a 9-day 78 mile traverse in the Grand Canyon which involved backpacking in very rough and steep conditions.

I have wide feet and find the Runventure just barely wide enough for me when worn with thin socks.

The Runventure performs superbly on trails, providing great traction, cushioning, and agility. Actually, the Runventure is remarkable in that such a lightweight shoe can provide so much foot protection, comfort, and trail performance.

For most of my testing, on trails, I found the Runventure to be very durable for their light weight. This is, of course, the intended use for the shoes. The welded upper with TPU overlays helps a lot for this.

However, one 9-day mostly off-trail backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon shredded them pretty well, as shown in the above photo. I hiked through steep talus slopes and brush, and did a lot of class 3 and 4 scrambling in them while carrying a backpack, and it all took its toll. Note the holes in the mesh uppers on the sides of both shoes; I have found that to be a vulnerable area for shoe damage.

The Topo Gaiter stayed put and kept debris out of my shoes while trail hiking, but it was a different story while hiking off-trail. 

I found the gaiters were not tight enough over the top opening of the shoe to keep debris out, and the hook-in-hole gaiter attachment at the back of the shoes frequently came loose. The heel attachment is simply too cumbersome. Most of the time I left the gaiters attached to the shoes and slipped my foot through the gaiter first and then into the shoe; still too cumbersome. I would be happier with a simple hook-and-loop attachment at the heel, and a tighter fit over the top of the shoe.


Overall, the Runventure 2 has all the features and performance I desire for a good trail running, trail hiking, and ultralight backpacking shoe on trails. However, this shoe just doesn’t have enough beef and durability for off-trail hiking (which is not their intended use). I like the Topo Terraventure better for that purpose, although I wore holes in the sides of them too.

It would be nice if Topo would develop a beefier shoe that can take the abuse of off-trail running and hiking, something akin to the New Balance Leadville or Montrail Hardrock. These of course would weigh a bit more, but Topo designers are experts at packing a lot of performance into minimal weight.

I note that a lot of lightweight and ultralight backpackers prefer Altra shoes, the Lone Peak in particular. The Lone Peak has most of the same attributes as the Topo trail runners, and is somewhat beefier and more durable. They weigh a bit more too, 12.2 oz/shoe versus 10.4 oz/shoe for the Terraventure in my size 12. The uppers on the Lone Peak are a very durable nylon mesh, but they are stitched, which is not my preference. The side seams on the Altras have also opened up from my off-trail use.

Bottomline, for trail use, Topo nails the feature set that I consider to be ideal, and I highly recommend both the Terraventure and Runventure for lightweight hiking and backpacking on trails and less punishing off-trail use. However, they don’t have the beef (stiffness, cushioning, durability) for hardcore off-trail hiking.


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