What You Need To Know
- Weighs 10.2 oz. (289 g.) for a US M10.5 / 8.2 oz. (232 g.) for a US W8.5
- Topo’s improved upper goes a long way
- The slim 20mm midsole is both a hit and a bit of a miss
- It might be time for Topo to cook up something special
- Coming soon for $120
TAYLOR: Consistent is a word that crosses my mind every time I get a new box from Topo Athletic. They stick to their principles, keep the quality up, create thoughtful products, and there’s not much change from one year to the next. For those who’ve already found the joys of Topo, I’d say this is exactly what they’re looking for.
Every Topo Athletic shoe I’ve reviewed has a lot longer list of positives than negatives.
This new Topo Athletic Runventure 4 is yet another example on that list of solid shoes. On paper, there aren’t many changes to this year’s version. On foot, though, it toes the line between familiar and brand new. The Topo Athletic Runventure 4 has taken on a new upper that’s much more comfort-oriented than past models. Since the upper was really my only complaint to the 3, I think Runventure fans are in for a treat with this one.
ALEX: I am a big fan of Topo’s no-frills, consistent design elements that you can expect across models: a roomy toe box, secure midfoot and heel fit, and low heel-to-toe drop. Unlike Altra, you can choose between different heel-to-toe drops within their lineup, ranging from zero to 5mm. For me, this translates directly to a scale of how tight my chronically tight calves and Achilles will be immediately following a one-hour run.
The Topo Athletic Runventure 4 is a lightweight, secure-fitting, comfortable shoe. It’s a minimal shoe with lots of ground feel, some light cushioning, and more flexibility than your yoga instructor. Just kidding, they aren’t that flexible, just a little more than I prefer.
TAYLOR: The running industry has exploded with options over the past five years. One thing that I appreciate from Topo Athletic is that most models will rarely take on any massive changes. It’s a good thing, too, since their shoes offer quality all the way around.
With the Topo Athletic Runventure 4, this means you’re getting a lightweight (10.2 ounces for a men’s size 10.5) zero-drop and low to the ground package (20mm stack). It’s a very similar package to the Altra Superior 5. To be honest, I’m much fonder of what Topo Athletic has going on underfoot. Even though the Runventure technically has less stack than the Superior (22mm) and Lone Peak (26mm), the midsole combination feels more responsive than both Altra competitors. I also think the dual-density foam, Ortholite footbed, and flexible forefoot rock plate offer a similar grade of cushion and protection to the Lone Peak. It provides a good amount of ground feel with moderate protection underfoot. The feel is definitely for runners who want a more natural feel underfoot.
One banner I’ll always fly for Topo Athletic is the fit. Whether it be the Ultraventure, MTN Racer, Terraventure, Hydroventure, it doesn’t matter — the fit is so dialed for natural comfort. Personally, it has the most comfortable foot-shaped design. I’d even go as far as saying it’s the most comfortable fit for a trail shoe that I’ve worn. It just works for my feet.
With the Runventure 4, it’s no different. It boasts a beautifully secure heel and midfoot and a rounded toe box that fits like a glove! There’s a comfortable amount of wiggle room for your toes, but you’re not swimming around.
The upper materials are the most significant change with the Topo Athletic Runventure 4. It went from a more plasticky feeling mesh to a comfort-oriented soft layered mesh. This also comes with extra padding around the heel collar, a little more in the heel counter, and throughout the gusseted tongue. Your foot has a chance to settle into place with all the softer padding, and it feels dang good! Security can be lost with the softer surround, but that is not the case here. It remains a secure package.
Another expected component of a Topo Athletic shoe is the Vibram outsole. A full rubber XS Trek outsole provides a solid grip (as always) on various surfaces. The 6mm lugs give it the go-ahead to tackle snow, mud, loose rock, and the like. It’s impressive how versatile this outsole compound and pattern are. This XS Trek outsole gives comparable confidence as Megagrip while being a little lighter and is a little more durable.
ALEX: The Runventure 4 weighs in at only 8.2 oz for a women’s 8.5. It feels light in hand and even lighter on foot. The upper is made of a breathable mesh with well-placed overlays that add protection to the toe and stability through the midfoot.
The lacing system provides a secure midfoot lockdown that I could achieve on the first try. It feels snug without feeling restrictive. Overall, the fit is the best part of this shoe, thanks to the roomy toebox. It strikes a nice balance between Altra’s ultra-roomy-all-over feel and a more traditional fit. The padded tongue and heel collar are also very comfortable and cause no issues.
The Vibram XS Trek Evo outsole is grippy and sticky and provides excellent traction on technical trails and snow. The principal characteristics of the XS Trek are flexibility and wet traction. If it had the midsole to back it up, this one would be great on wet technical trails.
The women’s colorway is neutral and understated, which I appreciate.Shop Topo Athletic – Men Shop Topo Athletic – Women
TAYLOR: I don’t have much for y’all here. No, it’s not a perfect shoe. There’s also nothing strikingly wrong. When I’m in review mode, I like to know what companies declare about each product. This one is hitting its mark.
Looking down the road, though, Topo Athletic might need to head back to the lab soon. They’re doing well at making minor tweaks to their line year after year. From one position, that’s great! Don’t fix what ain’t broke, eh? Well, this is an ever-evolving industry, and Topo Athletic seems to be slightly behind pace in an already lagging offshoot of the running world. As much as I appreciate the update of the Topo Athletic Runventure 4, nothing particularly wows me either. Let’s go for some wow factor! I’m sure it’s there somewhere!
Alright, if you’re DYING to get a negative out of me, I hope it’s pretty apparent that this won’t be the most protective package. I’d say this is a solid all-around option for those looking for a natural-feeling shoe. This won’t be the most comfortable on repeatedly jagged or technical terrain. Even with the rock plate, you’re feeling almost everything your foot lands on. Not many folks out there want that these days.
ALEX: I spend most of my time in shoes with a 30mm-plus stack height — the Runventure is 20mm. While that extra ground feel was nice at times, I found myself missing the underfoot protection that comes with a higher stack height.
The midsole and outsole combination is too flexible for me. This, combined with the lower stack height, takes it out of the running as a shoe that I would spend a long training day in.
While they market this one as responsive, I wasn’t feelin’ it. When I got on hard-packed trails or roads, the shoe immediately felt pretty dead to me. In the long run (literally), I can’t see myself logging big days on anything technical in these. You can see my dilemma with this one.Shop Topo Athletic – Men Shop Topo Athletic – Women
Topo Athletic Runventure 4 Conclusion
TAYLOR: Topo Athletic nailed this update! For what the Runventure 4 seeks to be, it’s hard to put up any complaints against it. It achieves its aim of being a natural feeling, lightweight, and agile trail shoe.
This new model may lose some durability and weather resistance, but the positives far outweigh what the shoe lost. Reengineering the upper materials brings a lot more comfort to an already nice-fitting package. The new padded mesh allows for both great lockdown and foot comfort.
I appreciate and think Altra Superior and Lone Peak are solid shoes for what it’s worth. But if I’m going zero drop and foot-shaped, I’m probably going to be picking up the Runventure 4 nine out of ten times. If you’re in the hunt for a natural feeling trail runner that packs a punch on a variety of terrain, I’d definitely recommend checking out the Topo Athletic Runventure 4 too.
ALEX: I appreciate Topo’s consistency and no-frills approach to design — they kept it simple, practical, and to the point. The upper is well-designed to provide a secure midfoot fit and a roomy toe box.
I’ll be reaching for the Runventure 4 when I head out for low-mileage training runs (10 miles or less) on moderate terrain. If you’re looking for a lightweight, minimal shoe with lots of grip and ground feel, you are going to like this one.
You can pick up the at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.Shop Topo Athletic – Men Shop Topo Athletic – Women
Taylor Bodin is a trail and ultrarunner living in Estes Park, CO, with his wife and daughter. He and his wife both love running the trails in Rocky Mountain National Park. When not running, Taylor is a Kindergarten/1st grade teacher, running coach, and youth leader for his church.