New Balance Vazee Summit Trail V2 Review

New Balance Vazee Summit Trail V2 Review

Until recently there’s been a bit of a drought on Gearist when it comes to New Balance. With our run category manager, Lori reviewing the Fresh Foam Hierro V2 [REVIEW HERE] we’ve gotten back in touch with our Boston-based friends and boy are we glad to have done so.

Today, I’m going to be diving into the second version of a shoe whose first iteration I did not have the opportunity to try; the New Balance Vazee Summit Trail V2. The Vazee line was a huge favorite of mine with the Vazee Pace and so I was very excited to see if the racer feel of that shoe could make its was effectively off-road. Let’s get to it!

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The outsole of the New balance Vazee Summit Trail V2 remains unchanged from version one. However, since I didn’t review version one, let’s look at it a bit more closely. The rubber use on the outsole of this shoe is NB’s Hydrohesion compound. This material is made to stick in wet or dry conditions without sacrificing durability. The ~4mm deep lugs of the outsole are arranged in a series of alternating-direction rows which are not directionally oriented – in other words, lugs in the front and in the back face both directions. While I would consider the outsole to be full-contact, there are no lugs under the midfoot.

The last pair of New Balance trail running shoes I reviewed was the Fresh Foam Gobi [REVIEW HERE]. Those shoes were basically a trail-adapted version of the Fresh Foam Zante V2 and while I enjoyed the ride just as I had with the Zante(s), the traction and protection of the FF Gobi left a lot to be desired for me. However, the Vazee Summit V2 steps it up in a big way. First, I’ve had this shoe on snowy, muddy and dry trails in and around Gearist HQ here in Colorado. On dry trails the traction was excellent on a wide variety of terrain that included scree, groomed trail and larger, flatter rocks which can sometimes find weakness in less-than-sticky rubber. On muddy trails there were times I could have used a deeper lug if I’m being picky but to be honest, these did very well. The same goes for snowy trail where I found myself running over hidden rocks where the stickiness of the Hydrohesion rubber stood out.

While not the most aggressively lugged shoe in the world, the Vazee Summit Trail V2 is a great choice for a shoe that can handle a wide breadth of trail types – from groomed to technical. Durability has also been quite impressive (another issue I had with the Fresh Foam Gobi) and with ~35 miles on this shoe, I only see real wear on the lugs of the lateral forefoot and then, not much.

New Balance Vazee Summit Trail V2 Review | Gearist

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When I review running shoes I do my best to keep my thoughts mostly subjective and leave other shoes out of the mix. In this case however, right out of the box I was reminded of the Salomon Sense Ultra first by the aesthetics and second by the feel and action of the midsole. I’ll get into this more in the RIDE section below so for now we’ll focus on the build and details of the midsole of the New Balance Vazee Summit Trail V2 by itself.

The midsole of the Vazee Summit V2 is made from New Balance’s REVlite foam offering cushioning but with a firm feel and response. Under the front 3/4 of the shoe is embedded a Lockstep rock plate (visible beneath the midsole rubber cutaways). The stack in the rear foot is 27mm and in the forefoot it is 17mm for a net drop of 10mm.

First I should say that the 10mm stack height on paper is misleading in practice. What I mean by this is that the shoe doesn’t feel to me as though it has so much offset – which I like. The cushioning provided by the REVlite foam is one that allows for excellent ground feel and despite having a relatively low overall stack, the Lockstep plate provides excellent protection underfoot when it’s called for.

New Balance Vazee Summit Trail V2 Review | Gearist

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The upper of the New Balance Vazee Summit V2 is where the design changes from version one really show up (reminder, I did not use V1). The body of the upper is made using NB’s Fantom Fit technology which seamlessly bonds two pieces of lightweight mesh. This mesh is largely covered with a bonded overlay with the only truly open area being the vamp (the space on top of the toes) and around the toes it is reinforced to form the Toe Protect cap. This is a rather large departure from version one which had much more open mesh with more traditional, spaced overlays. The middle half of the bonding has cutaways that are small but plentiful in what our run category manager Lori calls “turkey footprints” (see image). Despite the more closed-off upper mesh the breathability seems reasonably good. To be fair I haven’t put any 80°+ miles in them but I have no reason to believe that I’d feel overheated.

Underlying this seamless upper is a construction which, once again, hearkens to Salomon and their Endofit system. In this case it’s an internal bootie construction (which doesn’t seem to have a name that I can find). This lightweight, stretchy mesh encircles the midfoot, forming the tongue and connecting to the top of the vamp. While it does indeed keep some debris out of the way, since the tongue isn’t truly gusseted finer debris will get in after a while.

The heel cup, while well-formed, is rather flexible for a trail shoe but to see functions extremely well and maintains some of the semi-ness of the heel cup of road models in the Vazee line. The Foam around the collar and on the tongue is a perfect amount, in my opinion – not overly stuffed and just enough to provide comfort on long runs. The laces on the Vazee Summit 2 are a sort of hybrid between a sort helix and tradition sausage-link laces. In any event, they stayed put on some rather gnarly runs.

For me the upper of this shoe is very solid and shows no signs of wear other than being a bit dirty (but aren’t trail shoes supposed to get dirty?). The feel of this spills seamlessly into the light-and-fast feel of the rest of the shoe and is one more part that I feel makes this shoe want to go.

New Balance Vazee Summit Trail V2 Review | Gearist

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This is another spot where the Vazee Summit Trail V2 feels very similar to the Salomon Sense Ultra to me. The internal bootie construction of this shoe gently hugs the foot without feeling confining or tight. The rear of the shoe locked down my heel nicely with no real slipping, even on steeper terrain. Lori mentioned that, for her, the collar just behind the uppermost eyelets came up a little too high on the front of her ankle and while I didn’t notice this myself, it’s worth pointing out. The forefoot is a good width though not super spacious which again, points to a more racer-esque feel. The toe box is good but could easily use some additional room on the lateral side.

As I’ve mentioned above, this shoe definitely has a racer feel and the fit is the first place you’ll notice the cohesive nature of this coming up from the sole unit and tying nicely into the upper and fit.

New Balance Vazee Summit Trail V2 Review | Gearist

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Up to now you’ve probably figured out that I like this shoe. This is true. However, the ride is where I really believe the Vazee Summit Trail V2 shines. As I mentioned in the midsole section above, the ground feel of this shoe is excellent. It manages to pull off being perceptive without being harsh. It’s adept at longer, slower miles while still chomping at the bit to rip of blistering descents without a second thought.

If you fancy yourself as someone who want’s more cushion in a trail shoe then you probably will want something different that can give you that. For me though (not that I’m writing off more cushion), this shoe brings a lot to the table in a sleek and zippy package (which is also pretty light for a trail shoe with the men’s size 9 coming in at 9.1 ounces and the women’s size 8 at 8.0 ounces).

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I’ve sprinkled a few comparisons of the New Balance Vazee Summit Trail V2 to the Salomon Sense Ultra in this review because I think that they’re both amazing shoes that can rip up trails. Now, however, I’ll point out something that sets them apart in a huge way and that is the price. The Vazee Summit 2 comes in at $100. That’s it. I mean, I’ve recently mentioned seeing an over uptick in running shoe prices but this seems to have proved me (happily) wrong. This price is excellent and you should buy this shoe if you think it fits your style at all (and please us our links below to do it while supporting Gearist!).

I am thoroughly impressed with the New Balance Vazee Summit Trail V2 and while I may have been so with version one as well, I’m more than happy to have gotten my feet into this one.

Thank you for supporting Gearist by checking out the New Balance Vazee Summit Trail V2 at our partner links below!

Brandon Wood

Born and raised in the great state of Virginia, Brandon is a former opera singer (true story) who’s had the outdoors flowing through his veins since day one. Brandon now lives in Colorado with his daughter Sydney (AKA, Baby Gearist).

Altra King MT Review

Altra King MT Review

IF YOU’VE TRIED THE KING MT, TELL US ABOUT IT IN THE COMMENTS!

For the first time in as many shoe reviews from me, I find myself in a shoe brand that I’ve never run in before. Here is my first New Balance review in the Fresh Foam Hierro from a few days ago [HIERRO REVIEW LINK]. To be honest, it’s not that I haven’t had the chance to run in any Altra shoe models, it’s just that I just haven’t found myself very interested in them for whatever reason. That has changed.

The Altra King MT, which we are looking at today is not really your daily driver trail running shoe. Rather, this was a shoe which I found most at home on trails that may have some grooming but that are more on the rugged side – and sometimes things which aren’t trails at all. This shoe is ready to go off-trail and on the road less traveled and that excites me. Let’s get into it.

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Let’s start by taking a look at the outsole. Altra has used Vibram Megagrip rubber which is sticky and soft, yet very durable. Perfect for providing traction on wet or slippery surfaces, but with the toothiness of this sole it handles dry terrain as well.

The 6mm directional lugs are laid out in a foot design to accommodate pressure from parts of an actual foot. There is also an implied flex groove right under the metatarsal heads. There is a lot of flexibility in this shoe and I can easily I can fold and twist it.

I have logged 90+ trail miles so far (I know, WAY more than we normally do!) in the King MT and am very impressed with it’s durability and see very little sign of wear at all. I have enjoyed testing this shoe in many different running scenarios. It’s ability to grip well on most any terrain, including angled, smooth, flat rocks (where Brandon had some trouble [LINK] with Altra’s grip in the past) was very impressive. Of course, ice is another story as with all shoes and I was able to use my Kathoola Micro Spikes with success even over the extreme lugs. I didn’t think it felt strange or uncomfortable underfoot.

Altra King MT Review | Gearist

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As with all Altra shoes, the King MT is a zero drop shoe. With a 15mm of stack in the forefoot and heel, Altra uses 2 types of midsole material, A Bound and Altra Ego. Together they create a cushioned but responsive midsole. You will also find a StoneGuard rock plate which does add a torsional stiffness, but not as much as you’d think given it’s carbon fiber-esque appearance.

I was able to take the King MT right from the box and onto the trails with no break-in period. They are quite comfortable from the get-go. In fact, one of my initial runs in them was a longer 12 mile run on the notorious Manitou Incline continuing on up the Barr Trail to Barr Camp with great success. I enjoyed the responsiveness and nimble feel while moving along the rocky and sometimes snowy terrain.

Altra King MT Review | Gearist

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Altra advertises the upper of the King MT as the “most protective” of any of its shoes and that comes as no surprise. The soft feel of the upper is made of polyester ripstop fabric, a web of bonded TPU overlays. It’s not advertised as such, but the upper material almost seemed to have a water-repellant aspect to it (don’t hold me to that, though!).

A nice feature, especially if you’re like me and tend to “toe pick” rocks along the trail, is the great  toe protection provided by a hefty toe cap. That same thick material is carried over to the instep. Speaking of rocks, there is a built in clip and velcro strip on the heel so you can easily attach your gaiters to keep rocks and sand out of your shoes.

Now let’s get to the most obvious aspect on the upper – the velcro strap. I’ll say it right off the bat. When I first saw the King MT I immediately thought it looked like a toddler shoe. Brandon, on the other hand pointed out that it looked like the Nike Air Trainer 1 (circa 1986). This velcro feature is not a gimmick like I thought. It kept my foot in place very well on descents. The velcro connects to an internal microfiber strap that hugs the foot giving a snug fit and keeping it from moving too far forward. While it may add a bit of weight, it’s well worth it for the added security it provides (and will help stave off black toenails). If floppy laces are a problem for you, the strap can keep those locked down as well.

Moving to the back of the upper, the heel cup stays in-line with the minimal nature of the shoe. It is very flexible and has a nice amount of foam for a comfortable fit and feel.

Altra King MT Review | Gearist

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Since the beginning, Altra’s “thing” with regard to fit, has been to have a true foot shape so they just went ahead and called their fit, well, Foot Shape.

Since I run on my forefoot (sometimes without my heel having contact with the ground at all!) I love the roominess up front in the King MT. Through the midfoot the velcro, both the strap itself and the internal connection to the sole unit, goes a long way toward giving a well locked-down feeling. Despite a pretty nonexistent structure in the heel cup, I found no slipping at all and plenty of security, even on the super gnarly terrain that this shoe craves.

Altra King MT Review | Gearist

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The Altra King MT is my first pair of zero drop shoes. As I mentioned above, I run very much on my forefoot and I was able to jump right into these without any transition time (*BUT I don’t recommend doing that – please take your time if you’re coming from a more traditional drop into a shoe like this). Right out of the box, I was able to wear the King MT’s on a pretty brutal run with hugely varied terrain with zero issues.

While it’s not the lightest shoe in the world, it does FEEL light on the foot. (Men’s size 9 weighing 8.5oz & Women’s size 8 weighing 7oz) They were surprisingly comfortable, flexible, and nimble. Despite having a fairly cushioned midsole, the response was very good.

As I mentioned above, the traction on this shoe is excellent on everything from loose rocks to snow and everything in between (though again, watch out for ice with ALL running shoes that aren’t spiked).

Altra King MT Review | Gearist

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Honestly, I am floored with how much I enjoy running in this shoe. With the King MT’s on my feet, I am able to run any trail I choose, regardless of the conditions, with complete confidence. When it comes to adventure, I really enjoy being able to roll with the punches, and these shoes allow me to do just that. I would hate to miss out on an epic adventure because I wasn’t prepared for it.

The King MT craves gnarly trails and getting off of the beaten path, just like I do. At $140 they are a bit expensive (although at our links below they MIGHT be a bit cheaper). However, if you’re someone who is going to be on technical terrain or in inclement weather, I don’t think that price is a deal-breaker. A small price to pay for the many epic memories you’ll have out there in the muck. The dirtier you are after a run the better the adventure!

Please support Gearist by shopping for the King MT from Altra Running at our partner links below!

Brandon Wood

Born and raised in the great state of Virginia, Brandon is a former opera singer (true story) who’s had the outdoors flowing through his veins since day one. Brandon now lives in Colorado with his daughter Sydney (AKA, Baby Gearist).

Under Armour Verge Low GTX Review

Under Armour Verge Low GTX Review

Watching a brand make inroads into a new category can be fascinating. Sometimes it’s the rubber-necking at a car crash mentality while Under Armour Fat Tire | Gearist at other times it’s like watching a tree grow from sapling to behemoth. In the case of Under Armour – which we’ve only reviewed once before – watching them enter the trail running category has been interesting. One of their first (and most interesting looking) forays into that area was their “Fat Tire” shoe (pictured at right). Today though, we’re taking a look at a new, and more “normal” looking trail runner from the Baltimore-based brand, the Verge Low GTX.

We’ve got to admit that we’re pretty impressed with much of what Under Armour has done with the Verge Low GTX. This is a shoe which is built to run long and while we stand by our assertion that it could lose some of it’s weight while still being just as durable, even in its current iteration, there is a lot here. Then there’s the price tag which comes in at $139. While there is a lot of great technology from US themselves as well as their partner brands (GORE and Michelin) in this shoe, we’d like to see it closer to $110-120. $140 just seems like a lot for us with a shoe that’s heavy and in its first try. Again though, we think Under Armour has a lot of good stuff in this shoe and we’re excited to see how it can evolve into a sleeker and more agile package.

When you see a brand like under armor trying to take steps into a new category, how quickly do you try it out? Are you on it right away or do you wait for to see the Gearist review? Tell us in the comments!

Please help support Gearist by checking out the Under Armour Verge Low GTX at the links below!*

*when you shop through these links, you get the best price and the retailers show Gearist some love with no cost to you – it’s a win-win!

Brandon Wood

Born and raised in the great state of Virginia, Brandon is a former opera singer (true story) who’s had the outdoors flowing through his veins since day one. Brandon now lives in Colorado with his daughter Sydney (AKA, Baby Gearist).

Topo Athletic Hydroventure Review

Topo Athletic Hydroventure Review

Isn’t it frustrating when you’ve got a favorite thing – for this example, let’s just say a trail running shoe – and you think, “Man, I really wish this was the same exact shoe but it had X”? Well, simply based on the name you might make the assumption that the Hydroventure from Topo Athletic is pretty much identical to the Runventure [REVIEW HERE] and in some regards you’d be correct. However, apart from the fact that the Hydroventure is a mudslinging, waterproof trail shoe with a very similar name, this shoe is quite different from its namesake.
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As always we’ll start with the outsole of the Topo Hydroventure. Now bear with me because this is going to be brief: the outsole of this shoe is identical in every way (except maybe color) to that of the Runventure and the MT-2. In light of that, here’s what I had to say about the outsole of the MT-2,

The outsole of the Topo MT-2 is seemingly identical to that of the original MT. The outsole is made of 4.5mm deep lugs and has a ton of segments (10, depending on how you look at it) which are separated by generous flex grooves which allow natural foot function throughout. While the lug depth makes things grippy, the lugs themselves are not super aggressive. On one hand this means that more technical and loose trail may be more challenging but on the other hand, it means that the MT-2 maintains its ability to be a hybrid-esque shoe when you need it to be.

The MT-2 loves dry terrain and while it does well on some wetter stuff, the relatively flat surface of the lugs can get tripped up by deeper and more slick mud. As for durability, the MT-2 has held up very well over the ~40 miles I have on them on almost all trail with no real breakdown of the material beyond smoothing out the texture of the lugs.

If you’d like to check out that full review, click HEREI do wish that there was a Topo trail shoe with more aggressive and cleat-like lugs for some more technical and loose terrain, but these performed very well on probably 90% of trails and on the other 10% they didn’t shy away from getting beat up.

Topo Athletic Hydroventure Review | Gearist
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So, you’d think with the outsole of the Hydroventure being identical to that of the Runventure and the MT-2, and the Runventure and the MT-2 having differently designed midsoles that the Hydroventure would be aligned with the design of its namesake – but you’d be wrong. The midsole of the Hydroventure, from and aesthetic standpoint, is basically exactly like that of the MT-2. Both shoes have stack heights of 13.5mm in the heel and 10.5mm in the forefoot for a 3mm net drop and both shoes use the same cushioned, but not overly so, and responsive midsole EVA foam.

What the Hydroventure adds that the MT-2 is without is a TPU rock plate which is embedded in the midsole foam. Below you can see a screenshot taken from an interview I did with Topo’s founder and CEO, Tony Post, where he was kind enough to share this technology with us (you can watch the full video HERE). As he mentions in the video, the rock plate in the Runventure (which is the shoe we were talking about at the time) is segmented so as to allow for flexibility and it does indeed come through with this shoe. In fact, I too the Hydroventure for a 12 mile run while testing it on a rainy day at one of the rockiest trails I know, Devil’s Backbone in Loveland, Colorado, and the rock plate performed wonderfully. Even knowing that there were gaps in the plate for flexibility, I didn’t feel a weakness in those areas.

Topo Athletic Hydroventure Review | Gearist
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Once again, as we approach the upper of the Hydroventure I feel like there is more similarity between it and the upper of the MT-2 than the Runventure. It’s just my opinion but this shoe has much more in common with the MT-2 in its overall design than the Runventure. I’m guessing they went with Hydroventure because something like “MT-2 Hydro” or “MT-2 WP” is a bit clunky to say.

So, diving into the upper let’s first talk about the mesh since this is both what makes up the body and the reason the Hydroventure has its water-driven name. On the exterior the mesh of the shoe is a tightly woven, and seemingly very durable, mesh with also seems to have a wee bit of give to it. It is the same mesh front to back though the underlying structure changes depending on the location in the shoe. ON the interior we find eVent waterproofing which is combined with the exterior mesh to make a single-layer laminate. This helps to cut the weight of the shoe which, according to Topo Athletic, makes the Hydroventure, “the lightest fully waterproof trail running shoe on the market today.” What does this mean in terms of the actual weight? My men’s 11’s come in at 10.5 ounces which is roughly .8 ounces heavier than the MT-2. Considering the fact that this shoe is waterproof and has the addition of a midsole rockplate, that’s pretty impressive. Yes, it’s on the heaviER side of things but all things considered I’m impressed. I should also mention here that the upper is not the most breathable thing in the world, but that’s a frequent trade-off with many pieces of waterproof gear.

The support structure of the upper is a series of 3D-printed on bands which I think do a fantastic job of keeping the foot locked in place. On the super rocky run I mentioned earlier I was truly impressed at how well my foot held within the shoe when I was on rocky and off-camber terrain. Contributing to this is also the laces of the shoe of which, all but the topmost lace are guided through ghillie loops that overlay a fully-gusseted tongue. The foam on the tongue is a good amount and is very flexible so as to avoid hot-spots in that area from folded foam across the top of the foot. The collar, which sits above the fairly flexible yet very well shaped heel counter and cup, could stand to have a touch less foam in my opinion in that it has more in this area than both the MT-2 and the Runventure. Rounding out the upper is a nice toe cap/bumper which is similar that that in the MT-2 and Runventure. It adds nice shaping to the toe box which enhances the “Topo fit” which I’m going to talk about next!

Topo Athletic Hydroventure Review | Gearist
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Sizing of the Hydroventure is right where it should be and spot on with industry standard. However, as I’ll touch on in a second, if you’re unfamiliar with the “Topo fit” you may feel like it’s a bit large simply because of the toe room. It’s supposed to be that way so don’t jump the gun and find yourself in a shoe that’s too small.

Once again the fit of the Hydroventure is excellent as we’ve found in pretty much every Topo model we’ve tested. The heel of the shoe holds the foot very well in place, even on ugly terrain. The midfoot continues the custom-esque fit and fell with lots of room for adjustment within the shoe body and the laces (keep in mind though that you may have to do some playing with the gusseted tongue if you have a particularly low-volume foot). Finally, all that close-fitting in the rear and midfoot blooms in the forefoot as the toe box is shaped to a natural foot. There’s plenty of room for wiggle and splay without being swimmy. As I’ve mentions in other Topo Athletic reviews, the fit of this shoe continues to be what shoes should aspire to.

Topo Athletic Hydroventure Review | Gearist
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With Topo, one of the things that’s always stood out to me with regard to the ride is what I’ve referred to in the past as “quiet elegance”. This is something I feel in that the shoe isn’t one that you’re blown away by a particularly bouncy midsole or any one thing that makes you go, “Woah, that’s different!” Rather, it’s just that the shoe provides what I’ve wanted without trying to do go beyond and have one aspect or another dominate the total experience. This same feeling comes through in the Hydroventure with a coupe of caveats.

First, the eVent waterproof aspect of this shoe is awesome. While it’s not something that jumps out on most runs, I will happily admit that I found myself seeking out mud and puddles when the weather brought them my way. The other caveat I have – and one that is strictly linked to the ride – is that this feels like it has an ever-so-slightly less responsive feel than some other Topo models. This isn’t to say that it’s bad by any stretch, it just seemed to sit even further in the background of my running consciousness. On the one hand, this is a good thing because it’s just furthering that sense of letting the feet and body do their thing without interrupting. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something super poppy and responsive, this may be a bit on the quiet side. Honestly though, things like this are so in the feet [sic] of the beholder that it’s something that bears trying out before making a judgement for yourself.

Topo Athletic Hydroventure Review | Gearist
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Now the thing that I’m less than thrilled with is the price of this shoe. In the past, the price of Topo Athletic shoes has been something that I’ve been extremely impressed with but with the Hydroventure there is the consideration of using a more expensive upper material – eVent – and the process which using that properly requires. Those things all contribute to this shoe coming in at $130. If you need a waterproof shoe in your arsenal I think this is a good one to have and is quite worth it, but that’s definitely a subjective call.

As Topo continues to expand their line in an intelligent and conscientious way, I’m glad to see that trail is an important part of that. As I mentioned I’d love to see a model at some point with a more aggressive and technical-appropriate trail runner. Lest you think that this means the Hydroventure isn’t ready for that kind of thing, fear not! The Hydroventure is a shoe with good traction, tons of durability and the fact that it’s waterproof to boot is a fantastic bonus when precipitation is part of your run.

Please help support Gearist by checking out the Topo Athletic Hydroveture at the links below!*

*when you shop through these links, you get the best price and the retailers show Gearist some love with no cost to you – it’s a win-win!

Brandon Wood

Born and raised in the great state of Virginia, Brandon is a former opera singer (true story) who’s had the outdoors flowing through his veins since day one. Brandon now lives in Colorado with his daughter Sydney (AKA, Baby Gearist).

We did some digging…

We did a bit of digging with some of our partners for deals this week and there are some doozies with the onset of the spring and summer outdoor season. Check out the links below!

AMAZON.COM – CLEARANCE RUNNING SHOES

Brandon Wood

Born and raised in the great state of Virginia, Brandon is a former opera singer (true story) who’s had the outdoors flowing through his veins since day one. Brandon now lives in Colorado with his daughter Sydney (AKA, Baby Gearist).

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