Topo Traverse Review

An in-depth review of the Topo Traverse trail running shoe.

By on October 26, 2023 | Comments

Topo’s trail running and hiking shoes are a healthy balance of innovation, reliability, functionality, and predictability. I feel confident that with any tried-and-true model, or even with a new shoe concept, Topo will not stray far from what works for outdoor movers who gravitate toward Topo’s mission and engineering. Enter the Topo Traverse ($150) — an exciting new performance hybrid that can adequately tackle the technical and the tarmac.

I don’t sweat traversing the pavement with this fresh work horse because it integrates Expanded Thermal Polyurethane (E-TPU) technology into the highly durable and water-resistant insoles, and it also works well as a long-haul hiking and running shoe.

The Topo Traverse debuted in October, 2023. I received my advance pair in the mail just prior to sweeping the first 28 miles of the Pine to Palm 100 Mile held in Southern Oregon. I laced them up early on race morning, and over a long day of volunteering, I didn’t think about my shoes or feet once — only to recognize that after seven hours of hard work they excelled across the board.

The Traverse is designed with a forefoot TPU rock plate, has a 5-millimeter drop, has claimed 30-millimeter heel and 25-millimeter stack heights, and comes gaiter-ready. It has an actual weight of 10.5 ounces (298 grams) for a U.S. men’s size 9, and still allows for adequate technical running when needed, as well as protection and security for longer outings.

Compared to the Topo Pursuit and Topo Terraventure 4, the Traverse has a slightly narrower toebox, a point of concern for some. You can read our Topo Pursuit review and Topo Terraventure 4 review to compare for yourself.

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Topo Traverse

The Topo Traverse. All photos: iRunFar/Bryon Powell

Topo Traverse Upper

The Topo Traverse upper is a tightly woven mesh extending from the toebox back to the start of a nicely padded heel cup. The designers opted for micro-stitched underlays instead of any external aesthetic and structural components. This gives the Traverse an integrated look.

A notable feature of the Traverse upper is the bolstering of the welded rubber toe protection, which extends considerably down the length of both sides of the shoe. Not to worry, there are drain holes in the double layered rubber on the medial side to allow for quick water release. The holes work.

The rubber fortification also replaces the usual stitched fabric for the eyelets of the Ghillie lacing system. To boot — another thin rubber layer guards the top of the low profile and unshifting tongue. You may not think you need it, but the Traverse tongue boasts extra padding down the midline. If you have ever soccer-kicked a stone or a branch on a long a run, perhaps that little cushion will save you some metatarsal pain.

The low profile heel cup is nicely padded and similar in feel to many other Topo trail shoes. It locks in the foot through the gait cycle without worry of abrasion or undo slippage.

Designers again use thin rubber, which extends from the top of the laces and connects to a thickly stitched piece of fabric, pulling the heel together. The fabric includes a liberal pull tab — an amenity I hardly ever use on any type of shoe. It looks nice on the Traverse, and if you want to hang your shoes on hooks, you could. To ensure further structural support and roll control, a thin piece of TPU anchors the heel upper to the midsole.

Topo Traverse - lateral view

A lateral view of the Topo Traverse.

Topo Traverse Midsole

The Topo Traverse midsole is the original dual-density injected Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate (EVA) referred to as ZipFoam. The dual-density design provides a soft layer of foam directly underneath the foot, but is slightly stiffened with firmer foam underneath it — riding above the outsole. The double layer provides a moderate cushion while the second layer confidently tackles the ground — affording the runner support and stability on tougher terrains.

What Topo uniquely does with the Traverse, as I commented about above, is that they added the E-TPU beads into their insole, which is also water resistant. The beaded insole adds softness and elasticity to the midsole, without compromising weight or energy return. I have a feeling shoe companies will be integrating this technology into midsole designs more frequently over the next couple of years.

Importantly, the integration of a TPU rock plate at the forefoot bolsters the protective support for runners and hikers seeking more technical adventures. One of the best things about the rock plate is that most runners don’t even know it is there, but it increases the durability of the shoe.

Topo Traverse - medial view - v2

A medial view of the Topo Traverse.

Topo Traverse Outsole

The Topo Traverse has the standard and dependable Vibram Megagrip outsole, like most models now in the Topo trail running shoe line up. Topo has fully embraced this full-length outsole construction with a well-spaced and multi-directional lug layout. It allows for exceptional grip and flexibility over technical terrain and across weather laden substrates.

I have been consistently running in Topos for the last five years — especially in this outsole design — and it has proven itself time and time again to work across the spectrum of weather and trail conditions. If you are worried about weight from the outsole while running technical terrain, and while in maddening releases from the heavens, the protection and grip where the rubber hits the trails matters way more.

Notably, I like the fact that it is a design that understands how a foot lands, rolls through mid-stance, and then toes off. It is simply dependable. The company’s shoe designers discovered something that works, so they are sticking to it, because it sticks when you need it the most.

Topo Traverse - outsole

The outsole of the Topo Traverse.

Topo Traverse Overall Impressions

If you can’t tell, I am a huge proponent and supporter of Topo running shoes. I am always on the lookout for a dependable, comfortable, and most importantly a versatile hybrid trail running shoe. The Topo Traverse truly is a remarkable and unremarkable shoe to have in my rotation.

For clarification on the latter, it is seldom that I slip on a shoe for the first time and immediately run nearly 30 miles without thinking about my feet, ankles, or shoes for that matter. That I was able to do this with the Traverse immediately made them my reliable sidekicks.

The Traverse is intended for both long slow trail running and thru hiking, and they functionally perform for those purposes. With that being said, the combination of the extra stack height, forefoot rock plate, insole, Vibram Megagrip outsole, and protective layers on the upper pushes the Traverse over technical trails with confidence when necessary.

The Traverse may lose a little ground feel and speed with this combination, while also not catering to the maximally cushioned crew. Since I am also a huge fan and daily wearer of Topo’s recovery shoes with OrthoLite 3D Wave Sense recovery foam, the new embedded TPU beads underfoot in the Traverse add a breath of fresh air. Thanks — it is time to Traverse.

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Call for Comments

  • Have you got your hands on — and feet in — the Topo Traverse? If so, tell us your thoughts.
  • Are you a fan of other Topo trail shoes?

[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]

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Check out our Best Trail Running Shoes article to learn about our current favorite trail running shoes!

Topo Traverse - top view

A top view of the Topo Traverse.

Molly Schmelzle

Molly Schmelzle is a gear reviewer for iRunFar. She is relatively new to the reviewing scene but is a veteran competitive athlete, ultrarunner, and writer. Molly has authored biology-based research papers and numerous grants for funding opportunities. She has been coaching runners of all abilities with a particular focus on strength and conditioning training over the last 7 years. Together with her partner, a sports chiropractor with a specialty in running and endurance athletes, they are in the beginning stages of building a mobility and strength program for runners. Molly is a dedicated biologist for the state of Oregon and is a strength coach on the side. She enjoys running ultras in remote mountainous areas and will occasionally hop into road half and full marathons.