Article by Annie Cole and Dominique Winebaum
Topo Athletic Traverse ($150)
Dominique: The Traverse is a new model and a welcome addition to Topo Athletic’s hiking category – a low top that behaves like a true hiker fit for thru-hiking along with a side of trail running. This is great news for hikers and Topo aficionados like me as I don’t have to “short change” myself by wearing a trail runner in lieu of a hiker when opting to hike in a low top shoe as opposed to a hiking boot. Hikers may favor a high top on arduous hikes or with heavy packs and/or in wintry conditions and with a heavy pack while opting for a low top shoe in the summer season and/or on easier trails.
I am well acquainted with Topo having reviewed the Trailventure 2, a hiking boot, and the MTN Racer 3, a trail runner as well as prior versions. My friend Annie Cole, a long time hiker and seasoned wearer of the Topo brand, is joining me in reviewing the Traverse.
Topo Athletic is expanding its hiking offerings with a sturdy low top hiker: Dominique/Annie
Extremely comfortable and reliable as a low top hiker: Dominique/Annie
True to size fit: Dominique/Annie
Secure and comfortable foothold: Dominique/Annie
Tightly woven mesh upper that is protective and resilient and with good breathability: Dominique/Annie
Vibram® Megagrip outsole provides great traction and sure footing: Dominique/Annie
Forefoot rock plate provides additional protection: Dominique/Annie
Lightweight for a hiker: Dominique/Annie
New insole with TPU beads improves rebound: Dominique
Topo gaiter compatible: Dominique/Annie
Good value: Dominique/Annie
Not overly excited about the gray color /Dominique
I don’t mind the gray color/Annie
Official Weight: men’s 10.6 oz / 300g (US9) / women’s 8.7 oz / g (US7)
Stack Height: men’s 30mm heel / 25mm forefoot ( 5mm drop spec)
$150 Available Nov.
First Impressions, Fit and Upper
Dominique: With no time for “break-in,” I wore the Traverse on an 11 mile hike in the White Mountains on the Mt Osceola loop, and by all means, I comfortably and safely navigated the challenging rocky terrain with what felt like perfect footwear.
My first impressions of the Traverse were extremely positive after taking them on a challenging hike fresh out of the box.
The fit is true to size and extremely comfortable. The Traverse is 3 oz lighter than my Trailventure 2 WP (RTR Review), which is a waterproof breathable hiking boot, yet it is comparable to a hiker in a low top version. I don’t plan to retire my Trailventure 2 and forego hiking boots altogether, but rather tailor my footwear accordingly since I have options. On that note, I was impressed with Brooks Cascadia 17 (RTR Review), a trail runner that is also built like a low top sturdy hiker.
This first edition of the Traverse is only available in a non waterproof breathable version, which I prefer to a WP version, as it is more breathable and dries out faster. In line with helping keep feet dry, draining holes are built into the upper to prevent water from pooling, i.e. for those water crossings that did not go as planned!
Distinctive of the brand is the “Topo fit” – roomy toe box, secure midfoot and heel, and low heel to toe drop (5mm) – all design features that contribute to an enhanced and comfortable fit.
Notably, the Traverse’s dense mesh upper is reinforced with rubbery overlays creating a snugger fit and sturdier hold than the MTN Racer 3, especially in the forefoot.
Clearly, the upper is a “beefed up” version of those other models from the Topo trail run series with more protection against rocks and shocks, such as via the top cap, and with better hold over all.
The shoelace system is a good example as well, with extra padding on the tongue for a comfortable and secure fit when tying the shoelaces tightly. There is also added rubber along the eyelets improving both hold and resilience against the elements.
A heelpull tab is a nice addition to help putting on and taking off your shoe. And they are compatible with Topo’s gaiters with slots for their metal hooks at the heel.
Annie: I agree with all of Dominique’s findings regarding the Traverse. In March, before a trip to Hawaii, I purchased the Topo Ultraventure Pro trail running/hiking shoes. I needed something lightweight, with a roomy toe box but durable enough to support me on steep, slippery Hawaiian slopes. While the Ultraventure Pro were lightweight, provided excellent traction on the terrain, extremely comfortable and in a colorful turquoise, my foot slid around in the toe box unless I really tightened and retightened the laces.
When I compare the two visually, it is easy to see why I had issues with the lacing design of the Ultraventure Pro.
The rubber along the eyelets, the thicker laces and the padded tongue of the Traverse design is definitely an improvement. I also have not had to stop and retie my shoes repeatedly as was often the case with the Ultraventure Pro. It also seems that Topo has designed more rubber around the toe area of the Traverse which makes it more supportive.
Overall, the Traverse feels like a more substantial shoe; more supportive, has no issues with foot slippage and is comfortable all around.
Dominique: The stack height is slightly lower, 30 mm (heel) and 25 mm (forefoot) than the MTN Racer 3, whose stack height is 33 mm/27mm. The shoe is less stiff as a result even with its protective rock plate in the forefoot (MTN Racer has none).
The ZipFoam™ is stiffer/firmer than the newly formulated ZipFoam™ in the MTN Racer 3 along with Traverse having a lower stack height, which makes sense as this is primarily a hiking shoe where stability is key. By all means, the underfoot feel does not disappoint as my feet were not aching at the end of long hikes.
The sockliner, made with embeddedTPU beads, is a new type of insole used by Topo. It adds a layer of “fun” and high rebound. This is not my first experience with an insole made of TPU beads (Craft shoes), and is a worthy switch from the Ortholite® insole typically used in Topo footwear and which are thin and tend to absorb more moisture. This sockliner helps take the “edge off” of the firmer older ZipFoam™.
Annie: The stack height (30mm x 25mm) heel to toe respectively are the same in the Traverse and Ultraventure Pro. The Ultraventure Pro weighs slightly less (8.2 oz) than the Traverse (8.7 oz). Both shoes offer the protective rock plate in the forefoot, and both types of shoes are comfortable as my feet do not ache at the end of a hike (even with my neuroma).
I do not have experience with the new TOPO insole made of TPU beads. I always remove the liner that comes with the shoe and replace it with an off brand liner made for people that suffer from foot pain and numbness due to a neuroma.
Dominique: The Vibram Megagrip® outsole with 4mm lugs provides great traction and protection along with surefooting on challenging surfaces.
Annie: The Vibram® Megagrip outsole on the Traverse has not let me down. I have had the opportunity to hike in several different environments: slippery, wet conditions in the White Mountains, dry, varied rock surfaces in the Badlands and the Black Hills and steep, dry dusty trails in the Chewelah,WA conservation lands.
The Vibram® Megagrip outsole gave me all the stability and confidence I needed while hiking in these various conditions. I agree that the outsole provides the “ultimate in traction and grip”. The Ultraventure Pro outsole provided comparable traction and grip.
Ride, Conclusions and Recommendations
Dominique: The Traverse is primarily designed as a low top hiker but can do double duty as a trail runner. After three fairly long hikes, an 11 miler in the White Mountains, a 10 miler on the gentler trails in ParK City, UT, and a 12 miler in the Uintas on mixed trail conditions, I experienced zero issues with the Traverse; namely, no blisters, no pressure points, and no sore feet at the end of the day. I also ran them when finishing my hike in the Uintas to avoid the rain.
In short, they “ride” extremely well as hikers, and not only in terms of keeping my feet comfortable, but also by feeling safely and firmly grounded when navigating challenging terrain.
The TPU beads insole adds a pleasant feel underfoot and a “happy” factor to the ride. By all means, the ride is very stable with just the right amount of stack height, a fairly low drop at 5mm, and a midsole that is on the firmer side.
I would definitely recommend the Traverse to hikers and walkers who are looking for a sturdy, reliable, and comfortable low top shoe that behaves like a true hiker (yet can also trail run).
Rightly so, the Traverse is primarily designed for the trails, and not for runway shows or a lifestyle look, so don’t expect to make fashion statements wearing them. I wish it was a little more colorful and bolder in look.
The Traverse is fairly priced at $150 for a low top sturdy hiker designed to enhance the comfort of your feet along with having a durable platform fit for thru-hiking or just day-hikes.
Dominique: 9.7 /10
Annie: Topo does not disappoint with their new Traverse. The roomy toe box (essential for my comfort), secure midfoot and heel, and low heel to toe drop (5mm) make this shoe perfect for me. This shoe is substantial and supportive enough to withstand the roots, rocks and ankle twisting terrain of the White Mountains, which is my home hiking territory.
😊😊😊😊😊 (I don’t mind the color)
Dominique has run for over 40 years, consistently about 25 miles per week at paces between 10 and 11 minute miles and once a week down in the mid 9 minute miles. She races rarely, but always surprises more hard core runners in her age group when she does. She has a 1985 marathon PR of 3:16 in her second marathon which at the time put her on the top 10 Swiss women’s lists. An avid hiker and trekker, she has been around Mont Blanc 3 times, hiked Chamonix to Zermatt, and completed the 48 New Hampshire 4000 footers. She is the mother of two grown children, both runners post college, and also enjoys nordic and alpine skiing, tennis, and gardening.
The Topo Athletic Traverse will release November 2023
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Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors’.
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