Monday, September 27, 2021

Topo Athletic Terraventure 3 Review: Quiet Excellence

Article by Dom Layfield

Topo Athletic Terraventure 3 ($125)


Dom: Spacious fit

Dom: Excellent ground feel

Dom: Outstanding traction

Dom: Stable


Dom: Fit may be too spacious for some

Dom: Not much cushioning


Official Weight: men's 10.2 oz  / 289g (US9)

 Samples:  US M10 319g (11.3 oz) per shoe

Full Stack Height: 25mm heel /22mm forefoot, 3mm drop

Available now. $125  

Dom 49, trains and competes mainly on trails in Southern California.  In 2017 he was 14th at Western States 100 and in 2018 finished 50th at UTMB and 32nd at the 2018 Los Angeles marathon in a time of 2:46.  In 2019, his only notable finish was at the multi-day Dragon’s Back race in the UK.  All 2020 plans were wrecked by Covid and California forest fires.  In 2021, he’s trying to inch his way back to racing!

First Impressions and Fit

Dom:  It’s been about three years since I reviewed the Terraventure 2 for RTR.  When I put the new Terraventure 3 on my foot, my first thought was that the new shoe had got a lot more spacious.  Topo Athletic have typically found a middle ground between the super-spacious Altra fit, and the foot-squishing shape of most running shoe brands, but the TV3 felt extra roomy.   I had to rummage deep in my box of old running shoes to dig out the (egg-yolk yellow) TV2 to compare against.  

Compared to the TV2, TV3 does feel slightly roomier in the forefoot, but the difference was not as much as I expected.  Mostly it appeared down to the upper materials and construction.  The TV2 forefoot is slightly snugger, but has more stretch to it. 

Dom:  Otherwise, this is classic Topo Athletic.  The forefoot is spacious, but the midfoot remains snug.  Everyone has their personal preference, but I’ve always found that Topo shoes are a great match to the shape of my foot.   Construction and material choices are top notch.  The new, discreet dark blue colorway is not as eye-catching as the splendid yellow of the TV2, but is probably a more mainstream choice.  The TV3 is a handsome shoe.


Dom:  The TV3 upper sees a lot of change, with new fabrics and construction.  The rear and tongue are wrapped in an open weave mesh that is very breathable (light easily filters through).  

The forefoot employs a denser-weave mesh (good for dust exclusion) with a little stretch to it.  

Forefoot stretch is carefully moderated using several reinforcing elements, most notably an overlay (underlay?) on the inside of the toe crease, connecting the sole to the lace collar.   

As a concept, I would be worried this might cause rubbing or other foot irritation.  But in practice, I wasn’t aware of this construction at all until I examined the shoe carefully after a run, and noticed that dirt had stuck to the upper slightly differently in the area where the overlay had decreased sweat transpiration.   

Midfoot mesh weave is open enough to see through! 

At the right angle to the light, you can just make out the shape of the hidden, internal overlays supporting the forefoot.

Dom: Otherwise, the fact that there is little to remark about the performance of the upper is testament to Topo’s excellence:   Everything feels good, is impeccably constructed, and performs well.   As a matter of personal taste, I would prefer a slightly less substantial heel collar, and generally like shoes with a little more give to the upper.   Your mileage may vary.   For heavier runners and usage as a lightweight hiking shoe , this is probably the right balance.

Terraventure 3 has well-padded, fully-gussetted tongue

Dom:  TV3 also incorporates the almost invisible attachment points for their custom gaiters, which have two hooks that loop through tiny eyelets on either side of the heel.  

Gaiter attachment points on heel 

This is perhaps my favorite gaiter design, with the only downside being that the hooks are small enough to be hard to manipulate with numb fingers, and the eyelets can clog with dirt and ice.  Once connected up, however, the gaiter is very secure and seals well, without the problem of snow/mud pushing the sides of the gaiter upward that plagues most other brands that have only a single attachment point at the heel.


Dom: If Topo Athletic shoes have a weakness, historically it has been their midsoles, which can feel somewhat lacking in bounce.  However, for shoes like the Terraventure 3, this kind of midsole, occupying a smaller fraction of the sole stack, and including a sandwiched rock plate, feels appropriate.

Dom: The rock plate itself is quite flexible and unobtrusive -- which, frankly, is the only kind of rock plate that makes sense.  Stiffer plates provide more protection, but at the cost of ground feel and stability.  (A good trail shoe needs to conform around a rock more than to teeter on top like a seesaw.)   On the other hand, the rock protection in the TV3 is not huge: This is not a shoe that you can use to thunder over rubble without a thought to how you place your feet.


Dom:  The outsole design and construction in the previous TV2 was top notch.  I found that the traction was excellent in all conditions.  This tread pattern is a go-anywhere all-star, that handles well in mud, snow, slickrock, and dusty trails.  The new TV3 switches out Vibram XS Trek for Megagrip rubber, but otherwise seems to be pretty much identical.   This is a good thing.  I have yet to find anything that grips wet rock as well as Megagrip (including the Inov-8 Graphene rubber).   The rubber upgrade should make a sure-footed shoe even better.   


Dom:  Firm, stable, and surefooted.   If that sounds like your cup of tea, you’ll enjoy the Terraventure 3.  If you’re after a high-piled stack of pillowy squish, you may feel that the TV3 ride a little unforgiving.   I would describe the ride as ‘transparent’, with just enough protection and excellent ground feel.


Dom:  I struggle when reviewing a shoe that doesn’t quite suit my taste.  I can readily see the excellence in the Terraventure 3, and can appreciate how it manages to be a go-everywhere one shoe quiver, with no real weakness.  But it occupies a middle ground that I’m not personally seeking.  Mostly I like my shoes flexible and light for everyday training, and then extra cushy when I’m pushing the limit of my volume capacity.  The Terraventure 3 sits in the middle, being neutral and reasonably supportive; also stable, firm, protective, with great ground feel, and impeccable traction.   This shoe is so well-designed and executed that it is hard to find anything to critique. Perhaps just lacking a little excitement?


Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Topo Terraventure 2 (RTR Review)

Dom:  Discussed at length above.  To summarize: the outsole rubber has been upgraded to Vibram Megagrip; new upper construction with less stretch, more durability.  Otherwise the character of the shoe is very similar, particularly the underfoot feel.

Altra Lone Peak 5 (RTR Review)

Dom:  This is the obvious comparison, with both shoes at similar weight and stack height (25/22 mm in TV3 vs 25/25 in LP5).    The shape of the Terraventure is better; traction is better; stability is better.  The Lone Peak is more flexible and squishier underfoot, but it feels oversized and floppy.  The Terraventure 3 is a better shoe, period. 

Topo Runventure 3 (RTR Review)

Dom: The Runventure 3 is the little brother of the Terraventure 3, following the same rockplate recipe, but in a lighter, more flexible shoe.  The Terraventure 3 is the concept upscaled slightly, with more protection, more support, a little heel-to-toe drop, and more durability.

 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. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.

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Curt said...

Ah, I've been watching the Terraventure 3 with a lot of interest. One question though -- I've heard they've recently updated their last (unsure when) to a slightly more "anatomic" shape with a bit of contoured arch support. This concerns me a bit, as I've typically found "arch support" to be both unwelcome and uncomfortable. Did you notice this on the TV3? And is this more significant than in previous models?

Telemarker said...

Hi Curt,

I didn't notice any change in the arch support. There is some arch support, but not any more than I've seen in other Topo models, and it felt like the right amount to me. YMMV.

I just pulled out the 3-year-old yellow Terraventure 2 and compared it to new Terraventure 3. If there's a difference in arch support, it must be *very* slight (not more than a mm). Hard to say for sure as old shoe has seen a small amount of midsole compression.

So: no obvious change to last. If your intel is correct, perhaps the change has only been applied to Topo's road shoes...

-- Dom

mirceaxvlad said...

Hi. You said that the LP5 feels oversized compared then Terraventure. Do you mean width-wise? Or length-wise as well. I've tried-on the LP5s, and the midfoot width is too much for me. Do you think that I should order the Terraventure half size up, or it's not the case?

Unknown said...

This comparison with the LP5 reads like Topo corrected all flaws from the LP5 and therefore this should be quite a great shoe after my understanding ? Last LP was v4, and apart from flattening out and not enough protection, partly the width for average foot, I really enjoyed them for Long runs...

Telemarker said...

I thought the Altra LP5 was generally oversized, to the point that I would advise most runners to consider dropping down a 1/2 size. The Topo TV3, on the other hand, runs true to size.

@mirceaxvlad, you should order Terraventure 3 in your regular size. Do not size up. If midfoot of LP5 was too wide for you, the Terraventure should be significantly better, with a snugger midfoot and better foot retention.

rms said...

Great review, thanks. I've been looking for a reason to jump back in to topo, will keep an eye on this one

Jeremy said...

@Curt: I haven't worn any shoes from Topo until the Terraventure 3, but my first impression with it reflects what you're saying here. I expected the shoes to be more of a flat footbed but the instep is very pronounced, to the extent that I feel the midfoot is too tight. It's like the review is saying -- the midfoot is snug, just perhaps too snug for me. This was the first trail runner I've tried using in a while, after using thin hiking sandals (Lunas) for a long time, so this may just be an issue if you're coming from footwear without arch supports, but yeah I really felt the arch support issue you're talking about. Other than that, the shoe feels great.. which is a shame imo. Would much prefer if it had a flatter footbed so that the entire foot could splay out more rather than just the toebox area being wide enough for that.