Monday, September 21, 2015

Topo Athletic Shoes

Several years ago, I ran the San Juan Solstice 50 and my feet to a pounding in an original pair of Brooks PureGrit. I was training for the Leadville 100, my first 100, and became quite concerned about my feet. So, I posted in a forum for Leadville runners inquiring about shoes and someone suggested Altra Lone Peak. It was the first time I'd heard of Altra. Concerned about transitioning to zero drop, I didn't go to Altra right away but eventually got a pair of Altra Instinct on sale and decided to give them a try. That pair of shoes changed everything for me. I fell in love with a simple shoe that I could wear all day in total comfort -- no squished toes, durable outsole, great for cross-training, etc... They were ugly, but I loved them. I became an Altra junkie and have now run more than five thousand miles in their shoes. However, it is no secret that I've had issue with Altra along the way. Altra seems to have lost their way to me, preferring to compete with the likes of Hoka instead of staying true to the original things that made their shoes great. Worse, they seem to constantly rush cheap shoes to market, willing to let the consumer pay more than $100 for shoes they know aren't holding up. The trouble is that very few shoe manufacturers make a serious wide-toe shoe these days. Even wide-model shoes fall well short of allowing my big feet the room Altra gave me. I searched for months until I came across Topo, named for Tony Post, the former CEO of Vibram.

As an REI member, I don't know how I didn't come across Topo Athletic sooner. After I discovered the brand, I did a little initial research and bought a pair of Topo Runduro. The Runduro appeared to be a perfect replacement for the original Altra Instinct I loved so much -- firm sole, low drop, good road feel, light weight, a true wide toebox, and an everyday trainer. The Runduro are on my feet nearly all day now, including gym work, walking and all my "hang out" time. I've worn them for runs between 5 and 13 miles without issues. With 100 running miles on them (and dozens more hours of wear), they appear to be a high quality shoe, hardly showing any wear. I think enough of them that I've already ordered a second pair. This looks like a perfect choice for me, and I've begun converting my friends, many of them I brought with me to Altra. I am so happy to have a simple, comfortable, natural, all around shoe again.

In addition to the Runduro, I took a dive into their trail lineup with a pair of the MT. They fit much like a "trail version" of the Runduro, which is exactly what I wanted. (That was another thing I couldn't figure out with Altra, why they had so much diversity in the lasts and things in their shoes. Build a great shoe, then throw some lugs and trail specific feature on and call it a trail model.) The MT are light, minimally cushioned and have no added protection. I took them out for a trail marathon along the Colorado Trail right out of the box. That proved to be a bit of a mistake due to the lack of protection on such a technical trail, but I loved everything else about them, in particular the weight and the fit. I knew the Runventure were a better choice for technical trail, but I have plenty of shoes currently in my line up for that. Anyway, I don't have much experience with the MT yet, but stay tuned as I get them out on the trail more and see how they hold up.

I am very happy to have found a replacement for Altra, though I will continue to try their products in hopes that they will revert to making shoes like they used to. I have very high hopes for Topo and plan to buy several more models in the near future.

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