Zero Drop, Max Cushion Trails Cruiser. 10 Comparisons

Article by Mike Postaski

Topo Pursuit ($140)

Introduction

Mike P:  Topo is getting into the zero drop ultra cushioned game..For a while now their ultra trail offerings have come in the range of a somewhat low to standard 3-5mm drop shoes – think Terraventure, Ultraventure, MTN Racer.  They have offered some zero-drop options, namely the Runventure, but nothing really built for long distances. 

 Enter the Topo Pursuit with an even 28/28mm stack, full Vibram Megagrip outsole, and quite-wide forefoot (wider than typical Topos).  These are definitely venturing into “the other zero-drop, natural running brand”’s territory.  How do they stack up?  Do they retain that special Topo “feel”, and can they bring something new to the table?  

Pros:

Extra stack in the forefoot (in comparison to Ultraventure, MTN Racer) is felt and + Mike P

Rearfoot feel/flexibility is improved without their usual firmer stability insert, plastic clip Mike P

All around comfortable upper – reliable Topo midfoot hold Mike P

Well-padded tongue, no fuss, no sharp edges Mike P

Great as a hiker Mike P

Cons:

Perhaps too wide up front (loose) for technical trails Mike P

Lace/eyelet materials gives a “nails on chalkboard” type of sound when cinching Mike P

Ortholite insole provides soft feel, but closed-cell foam would be better Mike P

Stats

Estimate Weight: 10.6 oz / 301 g (US 9)

  Samples: men’s  11.1 oz  /  315 g (US 10.0)

                  men’s   12.5oz / 357 g (US 12.5)

Stack Height: 28mm heel / 28mm forefoot 

Available August. ($140)

Tester Profile

Mike currently focuses on long mountainous ultras – anywhere from 50K up to his favorite – 100M. 5’10”, 138 lbs, midfoot/forefoot striker – he typically averages 70 mpw (mostly on trails), ramping up to nearly 100 mpw during race buildups. A 2:39 road marathoner, his easy running pace ranges from 7:30 – 9:00/mi. He recently finished 3nd at the Scout Mountain (Idaho) 50 mile trail ultra. Mike shoe preferences lean towards firmer, dense cushioning, with plenty of forefoot space, and he strongly dislikes pointy toe boxes.

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Mike P:  My first impression on trying them on was – wow, this is a comfortable shoe.  I’m typically a fan of Topo’s fit and feel – I’ve run in a lot of their trail and road shoes.  Immediately noticeable with the Pursuit are the very plush feel underfoot, as well as the added width in the forefoot.  They definitely seem wider than the Topo trail shoes that I’ve run in (Ultraventure 1, MTN Racer 2, Runventure 4 – now in test).  I’m not sure how this will translate on the trails, as the Pursuit is being positioned to handle technical trails.  I typically appreciate a wider forefoot, and I find the MTN Racer 2 for example to be just about right.  These are wider, about Altra-width I’d say.

[Pursuit is wider across the forefoot than other Topos]

[Some “innerlays” provide a bit of structure to the upper]

I must note that I went with a US 10 in these.  My previous Topo’s have all been 9.5’s but I’ve actually felt they were just a touch short for me at that size.  So I’d say that sizing is true to size, and in line with other Topo’s.  But I do prefer the extra space up front, given the targeted long distance usage. 

The upper consists of a dense mesh which still flexes well.  There are some inner-lays around the midfoot area for support.  The ankle and achilles collar is soft and well-padded – pretty standard and works well – this is notable as recently brands have been doing strange things in these areas leading to irritation and poor fit.  No such issues here.  

Also notable is that the tongue has a nice height and is also nicely padded – no lace bite at all.  A big improvement in comparison to the MTN Racer 2  

[Well-padded tongue with effective lace loops to prevent any sliding]

There’s something strange about the lace material or the material of the eyelets – when I snug the laces, it gives a grating plasticky type sound.  It’s one of those “nails on chalkboard” kind of deals.  It’s a bit irritating, but has no effect on function. 

Midsole

Mike P:  The big deal here is the high stack at zero-drop.  I recently tested the Timp 4, and that appears to be the clear competitor that the Pursuit is up against (Pursuit – 28mm, Timp 4 – 29mm).  I love the feel of the Pursuit Zipfoam midsole on trails.  Even though Zipfoam is not known to be responsive on road, with 28mm front-to-back, I find it quite cushioned underfoot while retaining great flexibility.  In the past I’ve found Zipfoam to have a bit of a dense, dampening feel, but to me the Pursuit does feel just a touch less dense. 

[Note the lack of firmer medial stability insert or plastic “clip” as used in the Ultraventure, MTN Racer 2]

One of my gripes about the MTN Racer 2 was that it felt a bit thin at the forefoot over longer distances, and especially so in rocky terrain.  I find the extra 3mm of cushion up front seems to make a big difference in the Pursuit.  They didn’t feel thin in the same way as the MTN Racer 2, perhaps due to the slight extra foam up front, plus maybe due to the fact that they’re more balanced with the zero drop.  I ran them in quite rocky terrain and didn’t feel the need for any added rockplate, and I’m glad that none was included.

[Qutie flexible in all directions – it easily flexes and twists laterally as well]

The Pursuit uses Topo’s newer Ortholite insole, made from recycled materials.  This is one area I feel could be improved.  The Ortholite plush feel is nice, but there’s always the water issue – the open cell foam does absorb and hold water.  I’d love to see Topo get into the TPU insole game as other brands have done recently.

Outsole

[Quite a broad platform – especially up front]

Mike P:  Vibram Megagrip – top of the line rubber when it comes to the trails.  I was really surprised at how exceptionally well the shoe gripped in all manner of rocks and technical terrain.  

[A bit slick and wet – still full confidence]

I think the Vibram Megagrip really gets enhanced by the flexibility of the shoe.  The shoe overall seems to really conform to the terrain which lets the Megagrip do its job over more surface area. 

[Great flexibility lets the Vibram Megagrip do its job]

The lug shape and pattern is Topo’s standard which is used on all of their trail shoes.  The lugs themselves are squarish, which helps smooth out the ride, and also provides more surface area for grip.  You probably won’t see as good performance in very loose terrain as with a sharper lug shape, but I found the Pursuit outsole gripped really well in most conditions. 

Ride

Mike P:  The ride is cushioned, comfortable, smooth, and surprisingly stable in technical terrain.  I got to test these throughout a month-long trip around Colorado.  While I did opt for other shoes for my big, high mountain runs, I got to take these out in quite technical and rocky terrain during my more moderate runs.  I also did quite a bit of hiking and general everyday walking in them. 

[One of my few runs with the original “squeaky” laces]

The feel of Zipfoam is what you would expect if you’ve run in other Zipfoam Topos before – a bit of a dense, absorptive feel, but not much in the way of “bounce” or “energy return”.  I found that they really seemed to eat up the terrain and the miles, while keeping my feet and legs noticeably comfortable.  

In comparison to Topo’s other long-distance trail offerings in the range of 3-5mm drop, I prefer the more natural feeling ride of the Pursuit.  The extra cushion under the forefoot really worked for me, and the decision to not go with the firm medial insert and clip (Ultraventure, MTN Racer) I think was a good one.  For me those shoes can feel a bit blocky and a touch stiff in the rear, while I found the Pursuit has a more natural feel.  This design choice seems to work well in concert with the higher stack and zero-drop orientation.

I thought they would be more of a moderate terrain cruiser for me, but ended up quite surprised by how well they handled very rocky and technical terrain.  I attribute this to three factors – balance, flexibility, and grip.  They really flex well over uneven terrain, and the Megagrip grabbed well, providing great confidence, even with the high stack.  Being zero-drop, they also felt well-balanced front to back rather than back-weighted.  I wouldn’t go so far as to call them agile, but I would say they’re surprisingly maneuverable for their weight/stack/wide platform.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Mike P:  Topo continues to churn out solid shoes – for both road and trail.  The Pursuit enters the zero-drop ultra arena with a big splash, and it’s definitely a notable option for natural running enthusiasts looking for a bit more cushion, and should definitely see some Altra customer crossover.  I’m quite surprised that I prefer the Pursuits over Topo’s other more traditionally-stacked ultra/trail shoes.  

If I had one main gripe to highlight – for me they actually went a bit too wide at the forefoot.  I’d like the shoe even more if it had the slimmer and more secure forefoot profile of the MTN Racer 2.  

But of course those who have been looking for more width from Topos will find this very agreeable.  Beyond the running aspects – the Pursuit is also a superb hiking shoe and potentially thru hiker.  It has all day comfort and is a great option if you’re looking for a non-plated, natural hiker with a good amount of cushion.

Mike P’s Score:  9.0 / 10

Ride: 9 – Solid, balanced, natural, cushioned

Fit: 9 – Topo-secure at the midfoot, would prefer a bit narrower up front

Value: 9 – You’ll get solid mileage out of these, and they can double as a hiker

Style: 9 – Olive is not my favorite, but has appealing and understated outdoor vibes

Traction: 9 – Great in most conditions, aside from loose stuff

Rock Protection: 9 – Excellent – given the soft, cushioned feel and no rock plate

“Smiles” score: 😊😊😊😊😊

10 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Topo Ultraventure 1,2 (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): As mentioned earlier, I’ve previously run in size 9.5 Topo trail shoes, but always found them a touch short.  I prefer 10.0 with a full thumbs width up front for longer distances.  The Pursuit is more cushioned, especially up front than the Ultraventure.  The extra cushion up front also provides more protection as well.  The rear of the shoe feels more flexible to me, which I prefer.  There’s also more rearfoot cushion with the Pursuit for longer descents.  Pursuit is also wider across the forefoot.

Topo MTN Racer 2 (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5):  Most of the Ultraventure comparison also applies to the MTN Racer 2.  Those two shoes feel very similar to me (I have V1).  The MTN Racer 2 is a bit lighter and more agile than the Pursuit, but I prefer the added cush and natural feel of the Pursuit.  I wish the Pursuit had the narrower fit of the MTN Racer 2 though.  The MTN Racer 2 tongue is much thinner and I feel some lace pressure – not an issue with the Pursuit.

Topo Runventure 4 (RTR Review soon)

Mike P (9.5):  I just received this shoe and it’s currently in test.  I like the size 9.5 for the lighter, more agile Runventure – for shorter runs.  The Runventure 4 is a great shoe, perfect for shorter – mid distance training runs.  Also at zero-drop, it’s a great complement to the Pursuit.  

Altra Lone Peak (RTR Review)

Mike P:  I haven’t run in the more recent versions, but have tried them on.  The LP is much firmer and also wider.  The Pursuit is not as wide, but provides more than enough space for all but the widest feet.  The big difference I’d say is in cushion – the Pursuit relies on softer cushion, whereas the LP relies on a firmer ground feel with a rock plate.  Both shoes are great hikers. 

Altra Timp 4 (RTR Review)

Mike P (10.0):  This is likely the closest comp of all – both zero-drop, similar stack height, weight, and natural running orientation.  The width up front feels about the same to me, but the Altra’s material is looser so feels less secure.  Topo definitely wins on midfoot lockdown and overall security.  The Pursuit’s  rear and heel cup is more standard and works better for me.  The Timp 4 heel cup is ok, but may not work for all heel shapes.  The Timp Ego Max foam feels more responsive, and is equally dense and protective.  Pursuit has the definite edge in traction with Vibram Megagrip.  

Overall I prefer the ride of the Pursuit – I feel a bit more secure in the upper and the flexibility really shines in comparison to the slabby feel of the Timp.  It can feel like you’re riding a bit high in the Timp, whereas my feet feel more locked into the Pursuit.  I’d say the Pursuit is a better shoe, but between the two, just pick what feels best on foot.

Asics Fuji Lite 2 (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5):  Fuji Lite has a similar soft cushioned feel, but a bit more bouncy and less dense.  I find it a bit too mushy for my taste, and not suited for longer distances.  The Asics upper is also not great.  The Topo is more secure, even with the wider forefoot.  AsicsGrip is better all around, with more bite in loose stuff.  They’re really different shoes, with the Asics suited for shorter runs, and the Pursuits good for any distance.

Asics Gel Trabuco 9/10 (RTR Review)

Mike P (10.0):  The Trabuco’s cushion is firmer, and it also features a wider toebox, although not one as squared off in the front as the Topo’s.  The Trabuco has a slight edge in protection given its firmer foam and full AsicsGrip rubber.  Again, the Asics upper is not great, so again advantage to the Pursuit there. Both shoes are suited to mid-longer distances – I’d say the main difference is preference in cushion.

Brooks Divide 3 (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5):  This is a top pick for a solid budget training shoe.  Toebox width is comparable to the Pursuit so it’s also quite comfortable.  The Brooks features firmer cushioning though.  I like both shoes for training- the Divide for shorter stuff and the Pursuit for some comfort over longer runs.  Can’t beat the $100 price of the Divide. 

Hoka Speedgoat 5 (RTR Review)

Mike P (10.0):  Both are advertised as long distance shoes for technical terrain – but the SG5 can really handle everything you throw at it.  The major difference is in toebox width and volume – SG5 has gotten noticeably narrower and shallower in comparison to V4.  I’m trying to use my SG5’s to eat up training miles, but I have trouble with forefoot squeezing/pressure.  But the SG5 is much lighter, more responsive, more protective, and has better traction.  All around a better ultra shoe, if the fit works for you.

Saucony Xodus Ultra (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5):  A top pick for a lot of us here at RTR.  The Xodus Ultra has a similar level of cushion, but edges out the Pursuit  in protection, responsiveness, traction, and security and agility.  Overall a great shoe, and tough to beat.  It also has a quite roomy “ultra” fit up front, but the Pursuit will offer more space if you really need it.  

The Pursuit will be releasing August 2022

Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors’

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