Marrying an optimized last that mimics the natural shape and movement of the foot with the proven waterproof/breathable performance of eVent Fabrics seems like a perfect combo. And, upstart shoe company, Topo Athletic has delivered just that with the all-new Hydroventure.

Topo Hydroventure Features:

  • Waterproof/breathable using new eVent DVdryLT construction
  • 23mm max stack height
  • Minimal 3mm drop
  • 21.9 oz. per pair (size 11, actual)
  • Available in navy/black or brick/brown colors
  • MSRP: $130
A tacky trail and an awesome shoe.

A tacky trail and an awesome shoe.

Topo aims to reinvent footwear

Building a shoe that follows the natural shape of the foot? Nah… why would you want that? (Says no one ever.) It’s true though. Nobody questioned why shoe lasts didn’t follow the natural shape and movement of the foot until Altra and Topo came along. And, now that they are here, it’s honestly very difficult to wear anything else.

Topo was founded by footwear guru, Tony Post. Mr. Post is not just anyone, this is a guy who ran competitively at the collegiate level and has spent the rest of his life working on perfecting footwear. One of his most famous exploits is running the 1990 NYC Marathon in a pair of Rockport DresSports shoes. He then sparked the barefoot craze with Vibram FiveFingers shoes before founding Topo Athletic in 2013. Since that time, Topo has aimed to change how athletic shoes are built by following natural foot movements and fit. So far, so good I’d say as Topo has quickly gained notoriety by many in the industry, including us here at FeedTheHabit.com.

Snow and slush were no match for the Hydroventure's.

Snow and slush were no match for the Hydroventure’s.

Hydroventure claims lightest waterproof trail runner

With that introduction, the new Topo Hydroventure shoes were coming in with high expectations. After first seeing them in person at Outdoor Retailer, I knew the combination of eVent Fabrics and Topo know-how would be masterful. You see, waterproof running shoes are one of the most challenging feats to accomplish. eVent has long been a favorite of mine as one of the first truly waterproof and honestly-breathable membranes. The unique technology is called DVdryLT.

I’ll let the eVent/Topo folks explain it.

To create eVent DVdryLT, the team at eVent fabrics engineered a new, waterproof and air permeable Direct Venting™ (DV) membrane that dissipates heat and moisture through footwear and advances breathability during athletic use. Additionally, a patented one-piece upper construction was developed. This innovation allows the fabric laminate to become the body, or upper, of the shoe, which reduces the complexity of construction found in most light waterproof shoes. The eVent DVdryLT manufacturing process eliminates layers and glue to save weight and cost, which increases breathability and improves flexibility.

eVent estimates its new construction yields a significant weight reduction—more than one ounce per pair—because it requires 50 percent fewer parts and 30 percent fewer steps when compared to typical waterproof shoe construction.

Breathability is vastly improved, too, according to eVent’s internal comparisons of its own waterproof and air permeable footwear technologies. A three-layer one-piece upper laminate—such as the one Topo uses in the Hydroventure—more than doubles breathability over traditional waterproof shoe construction.

So, enough background already, it’s time to get these shoes dirty, wet and muddy.

A cool, dry day on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail

A cool, dry day on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail

Onto the trails

Again, on arrival, there was no question that these shoes were actually built around the human foot. No squeezing the forefoot into a pointy toebox and no funky, overly-ramped midsoles. Topo doesn’t go as far as the competition and go a full zero drop in this shoe, but offers a minimal 3mm drop in the Hydroventure. The result is a reduced transition period for those coming from a traditional ramped shoe.

I always wear my shoes around town for a few days before hitting the trails. That break-in period was quick and easy and allowed me to experience DVdryLT’s all-day breathability. At the end of the day, the shoes did retain a little more moisture than a non-waterproof shoe, but only minimally.

When it came time to get the Hydroventure’s dirty, I was met with some excellent testing weather — cold rain and even snow. I love it when Mother Nature cooperates with gear testing needs, so off I went on a slushy run.

Immediately, I appreciated the wide toebox and extra wiggle room that allow my feet to comfortably propel me forward. It’s amazing to wear a pair of shoes that maximizes the natural toe-off of the foot and these simply allow that to happen. Weather protection is absolutely superb — even enduring a complete submersion just below the cuffs for a minute with zero penetration.

Stream crossings are no problem with these.

Stream crossings are no problem with these.

That waterproof capability is also complemented by a fully-breathable upper. As temperatures have increased and I’ve continued to test the capabilities of the Hydroventure’s, they do get overwhelmed when temperatures approach 80 degrees. Your results may vary, but by about 80-85 degrees, these are at their limits. At those temperatures, the Runventure or MT-2 would be a better choice. That said, I’d peg these at a full 10 degrees higher threshold than the competition.

Traction is superb in all conditions — from wet and slushy to dry and loose. The soles are truly great with no serious shortcomings at all. They are grippy enough, yet don’t get in the way of themselves or hinder my natural stride. Additionally, the forefoot protection is spot-on with just the right combination of protection from sharp, pointy rocks yet with enough trail feel so as to still feel in touch with the dirt.

Unfortunately, as I was lacing up just prior to a wet trail run, I pulled out the uppermost lace webbing. Bummer indeed as I had to switch to another pair of shoes for that run. Upon inspection, it appears that the stitching wasn’t sufficient for the load. Later, I employed a center punch and a hammer to make a new hole, which worked great. I did get a replacement pair after a quick email and that new pair has performed flawlessly. Topo assured me that anyone experiencing such an issue would be promptly taken care of in like manner.

The Good

  • Excellent, natural fit with wiggle room for my toes
  • Smooth, natural stride with good stability
  • eVent DVdryLT is legitimately waterproof and breathable beyond the competition
  • Lightweight design
  • Minimal drop with excellent cushioning
  • Traction has been great under all conditions
  • Uppers show no signs of wear
  • Crinkle-free membrane

The Bad

  • Eyelet loop pulled out on first pair, but was promptly replaced
  • Still not recommended for hot weather running

The Bottom Line: Topo Hydroventure

When it comes to wet and cold trail running, these are the best shoes I’ve tested. Breathability remains superb into the 80’s and they are just so darn comfortable. If you’re looking for a new pair of foul-weather dancing shoes, the Topo Hydroventure should be tops on your list.

Buy Now: Visit REI.com

 

In Summary

8.9 The Benchmark

Topo has chosen wisely when partnering with eVent for their first waterproof/breathable trail runner. The Hydroventure is an excellent cold and wet-weather performer with solid traction and superb cushioning. Oh yeah, and that nice, wide toebox makes traditional footwear seem instantly obsolete.

  • Comfort 9
  • Responsiveness 9
  • Traction 10
  • Breathability 8
  • Stride 9
  • Durability 8
  • Protection 9

About Author

A Seattle native, Jason developed a love for the outdoors and a thing for mountains. That infatuation continues as he founded this site in 1999 --sharing his love of road biking, mountain biking, trail running and skiing. That passion is channeled into every article or gear review he writes. Utah's Wasatch Mountains are his playground.

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