Monday, September 05, 2022

Topo Athletic Runventure 4 Review. Agile, Low Stack, Zero Drop Trail Runner. 9 Comparisons

Article by Mike Postaski

Topo Athletic Runventure 4 ($125)


I received the Runventure 4 at the same time I was testing the Pursuit (RTR Review), also a zero drop trail runner but one with 8mm more stack height front and back.  It was interesting to test both shoes in parallel and notice differences and similarities.  Unfortunately I got tied up with some long distance training, racing, and recovery so I didn’t get a chance to complete this review.  I was able to get a few more runs in recently to refresh my thoughts - bottom line - Topo adds another solid trail offering to its lineup.  If you like a natural ride, but want just a bit of support and cushion underfoot - Runventure 4 fits the bill.


Solid, familiar Topo fit from midfoot through heel

Topo’s more streamlined toebox variety is more secure

Ground feel, yet protected

Light contouring under arch for support

Good looking for casual use (at least the purple version)


Not protective enough at times, but that is somewhat expected given the 20mm stack height

Laces/eyelets make similar plasticky sound as Pursuit do when tightening.


 Official Weight: US 9.0 - 9.1 oz / 258g

  Sample: men’s US 9.5 - 9.5 oz  / 269g

Full Stack Height: 20mm heel / 20mm forefoot 

Available Now ($125)

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Fit is like a glove - a “Topo” glove that is - with a bit of extra space in the toebox.  Since I had them at the same time, I’ll throw out some comparisons to the new Pursuit.  I think that will be helpful since they are both zero drop shoes.  Runventure 4 features a more streamlined fit in comparison to the Pursuit, especially in the toebox.  I find that Topo tends to use slightly different varieties of toebox width depending on the shoe’s intended usage.  I noticed this in their road shoes when testing the ST-4 and the Magnifly 4.  ST-4 was streamlined and snugger in comparison to the Magnifly 4.  There’s a similar difference between the Runventure 4 and the Pursuit.

[Rope-type “overlays” for midfoot security]

Fit is true to size - 9.5 works for me in Topo for most running, although I prefer a 10 for longer distance trail running.  ST-4, Magnifly 4, and Runventure 4 fit similarly and  all are US 9.5.

[Interior view of rope-type “overlays”.  The ropes themselves are not felt at all]

The mesh upper is pliable and comfortable, with a few rope-type overlays which are visible on the outside.  I can’t say how much they help, as the midfoot hold feels great, the same as most other Topos.  The padding around the ankle and achilles collar is soft and plush - no rigid areas to cause irritation.  Same goes for the gusseted tongue - well padded, standard - works fine.  

There’s a decently thick wraparound toe bumper to deflect rocks.  It’s quite flexible, so wouldn’t do much for major rock kicks, but it should be helpful for durability.

[Soft and plush padding around the collar and tongue]

Lastly, I have to point out an irritation I noticed with the laces or eyelets.  They seem to make a grating, plasticky friction sound when you tighten them.  It’s the same as with the Pursuit.  It doesn’t affect functionality at all, It’s just a bit unpleasant when lacing up.


The midsole foam is a standard EVA, not Zipfoam.  It feels pretty much just like that - standard.  There’s no bounce or responsiveness, simply a bit of cushion to dampen any harshness underfoot.  It does a good job of letting you feel the ground, while taking the edge off.  In combination with very good flexibility, it seems to meet the intended purpose of the shoe - to provide a natural feeling ride, without the harshness. 

That being said, in objective terms - with a total stack of only 20mm, the midsole itself does not offer much protection.  You will feel contours of the terrain through to your foot and sharp rock hits can be a problem if you’re not careful.  

[Topo again uses their recycled materials Ortholite insole.  I find that these tend to hold less water than the standard Ortholite insoles.]


[Vibram XS Trek outsole - nearly full coverage]

We have Topo’s standard lug pattern here in Vibram XS Trek rubber.  XS Trek is suitable here, as it’s a bit lighter in comparison to Megagrip to keep the weight down, which matches the character of the shoe.  The outsole grips well in most terrain, and is very versatile in both soft and hard surfaces.  

I didn’t get a chance to test wet grip, but I would not expect any issues.  Perhaps a bit less wet grip than Megagrip varieties, but good enough for most usages.


I was in Colorado for a good portion of my initial testing, so I got to test them in some very rocky and steep terrain.  I was quite surprised by how well they handled themselves on some technical sections.  As mentioned in the midsole section - you have to be “on your toes” so to speak, in rocky and technical terrain.  

Runventure 4 handled the route up to Estes Cone (>11,000 ft) - no problem - doable if you’re prepared to dance!

At 9.5 oz, they are quite light, and feel very well balanced.  At zero drop, with full coverage rubber, the weight of the shoe feels evenly distributed, so they have a nice and solid feel on foot which lends itself to agile running.  With no rock plate in the mix, the shoe is very flexible, both front to back and side to side.  Throw in a nice feel for the ground with the low stack, and you get a very fun ride. 

Protection is the aspect which is most lacking in this shoe, and it should be pointed out. But I wouldn’t call it a weakness, as the protection level provided is really what is expected for this shoe.  You shouldn’t pick up this shoe if absolute foot protection is your main priority.  The full coverage outsole helps to blunt some impact, but you do still feel the ground.

Conclusions and Recommendations

[Estes Cone hidden up in the clouds]

I enjoyed runs of up to 2 hours and up to the 10-15 mile in the Runventure 4.  I’d say the sweet spot for the Runventure 4 is anything below and up to that range.  Of course, if you’re more accustomed to natural running, and zero drop, you could certainly take these much longer.  Within the Topo lineup, they’re a perfect complement to the Pursuit.  They both have similar natural feeling, zero drop rides, with the Pursuit providing more cushion, traction, and space in the forefoot.  Definitely a solid short/long quiver combination here - Runventure 4 for the short and quick outings, Pursuit for longer days.

This is also one of the few running shoes which my wife complimented on  as far as looks.  The purple color does work well for casual use, and I sometimes find myself lacing them up for errands around town.  I’d also point out that they’re a great option as a light hiker, for walking, or other outdoor activities.  If you take daily walks for exercise on trails, the Runventure 4 would be a great pick.

Mike P’s Score:  8.70 / 10

Ride: 8.5 - No wow factor here, just solid, with some ground feel and a bit of protection

Fit: 9.0 - Solid Topo fit here, materials on the soft side and lean towards comfort

Value: 9.0 - Solid price point for a shoe that should see many uses

Style: 8.0 - Always subjective, but they do look a bit generic, good for casual use

Traction: 9.0 - Shouldn’t have any issue in terrain the shoe is intended for

Rock Protection: 8.0 - The shoe’s weakest point, but you get nice ground feel instead

Smiles 😊😊😊😊

9 Comparisons

Altra Superior (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): Both fit similarly, with solid midfoot and rearfoot hold.  The Superior offers a slightly wider toebox, and is flatter underfoot.  Topo’s slight contouring under the arch is preferable for me, but if you prefer a completely natural feel - Superior would be better.  In that regard, I’d say the Runventure 4 is slightly more protective underfoot, with the Superior being a touch thinner-feeling and even more flexible.  Both offer similar traction, but Runventure’s Vibram would get the edge in durability.

Brooks Divide 3 (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5):  The new Divide offers a surprisingly wide toebox for the typically traditional fitting Brooks.  It offers an 8mm drop, a bit more foam underfoot, firmer ride, and overall feels  more protective.  The Runventure wins out in ground feel as well as traction.  I like both shoes.  The Divide is an amazing value at $100.

Hoka Torrent 2 (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5): The Torrent is much more versatile in handling more technical terrain as well as longer distances.  While not being a big stack shoe, it does have a more cushioned feel than the Runventure.  The Runventure toebox is noticeably wider and feels generally more comfort oriented while the Torrent leans more towards performance.  I’d definitely go with the Torrent for racing, and the Runventure if you wanted to switch up to a more natural feel in training.

Inov-8 Terraultra G 270 (RTR Review)

Mike P (10):  The Terraultra was a top pick when they came out, and they provide a bouncier and more dynamic ride.  They provide a more secure fit up front, with a tighter, but not overly tight toebox.  They feel more agile in twisty and turny terrain as they are also zero drop and provide great ground feel.  Protection-wise I’d rate them the same, and traction-wise the Inov-8 has a slight edge.  The nod for comfort definitely goes to the Topo.  The TU collar, achilles, and upper is definitely a bit more rigid.

ON Cloudvista (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5):  The Cloudvista features a more refined-looking upper, and is also a really nice sure for mixed casual use.  On the trail, the ON is better suited to more moderate terrain, and going straight.  Anything off camber or twisty and it can feel a bit unstable.  The Topo is much more versatile in moderate and technical terrain.  The ON has a traditional fit in the toebox, and even one on the narrow side.  The Topo is much more comfortable unless you have a narrow foot.  I much prefer the Runventure 4 across the board.

Saucony Peregrine 12 (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5):  The Peregrine 12 is much more capable in technical terrain - mainly due to its flexible woven rock plate.  The Saucony features one of this year’s best and most secure fits - with a more standard width toebox in comparison to the Topo.  The Saucony can also feel a bit snappier due to its rock plate - they really allow you to go fast in technical terrain when you want to.  I’d reserve the P12 for technical and off trail outings, and go with the Runventure for more moderate, comfortable runs.

Topo Pursuit (RTR Review)

Mike P (10):  As mentioned in the intro - this shoe feels like the big brother to the Runventure 4.  Across the board - a bit more cushion, protection, grip, toebox space, and weight.  They definitely feel bulkier on foot in comparison to the Runventure and are best reserved for longer outings where you want that extra cushion.  Similarly secure from the midfoot through the rear, the Pursuit is a bit wider up front in the toebox.  I found it to have Topo’s widest toebox.  The Pursuit is a solid zero-drop companion to the Runventure 4 for longer days.

Topo MTN Racer 2 (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5):  The MTN Racer 2 feels like a beefed up version of the Runventure 4, with a bit of drop (5mm).  The toebox of the MTN Racer 2 feels about the same width/volume as the Runventure, as opposed to the Pursuit which is more spacious.  Overall fit and sizing is almost the same as the Runventure.  The MTN Racer 2 has more cushion underfoot, which does extend its range, but I still found it a bit thin under the forefoot for true ultra distances.  The MTN Racer 2 is a good option for longer outings or if you prefer a higher drop (5mm vs 0).

VJ Spark (RTR Review)

Mike P (10.5):  First off - note the size difference - VJ shoes run small, it’s the only brand where I consistently wear a 10.5.  I really love the secure fit of the Spark, especially since they also have a broad and comfortable toebox.  The Spark is really an agile-oriented shoe - there’s not much transition between the forefoot and the feel.  They can really feel like a running flat for trails.  The Runventure feels far more supportive and contoured underfoot - definitely better for most running scenarios as well as general usage.  VJ has better grip and traction, but even less protection than the Topo.  I’d recommend the Runventure 4 for more versatile usage, as the Spark is really a very specialized shoe.

The Topo Runventure 4 is available now including at our partners below

Tester Profile

Mike Postaski currently focuses on long mountainous ultras - anywhere from 50K up to his favorite - 100M. 5'10", 138 lbs, midfoot/forefoot striker - he typically averages 70 mpw (mostly on trails), ramping up to nearly 100 mpw during race buildups. A recent 2:39 road marathoner, his easy running pace ranges from 7:30 - 9:00/mi. In 2022 Mike recently won the Standhope 100 mile trail ultra and was 3d at the Scout Mountain 50 mile trail ultra. Mike shoe preferences lean towards firmer, dense cushioning, with plenty of forefoot space, and he strongly dislikes pointy toe boxes.

Samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'

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Mike P said...

Please let me know via comments if any other comps come to mind. Thanks for reading!

Ante said...

Great review and comps! I have started the transition to wide toebox and zero drop to strengthen my feet. Use Altra Rivera 2 for shorter road runs and now look for a trail equivalent, Altra Superior or Topo Runventure 4. I think i go for the Topo! I have several more cushioned road and trail shoes.

Mike P said...

Ante- Good point - I didn't mention that in the review - Runventure 4 would be a great pick to get started with more natural running and wider toeboxes. In general Altras are flatter underfoot and usually have wider toeboxes. Topos tend to be more contoured underfoot with more support under the arch.

I'm sure you know this, but just in case - be sure to transition gradually.. your lower leg muscles and Achilles will need to adapt.

Terrence said...

Interesting that they got rid of the rock plate from 1/2/3 --> 4. I have the 2 and admit it's only a barely-protective plate, but with such low stack it does help. I do love how agile and "natural" the shoe feels - and also use it for up to 15'ish miles.

Ante said...

Thanks Mike, good point to be careful with transition!
The sweater and Patagonia shorts look sharp! Which models are they?

Mike P said...

Ante - Those are two of my favorite pieces of gear. Patagonia Airshed Pro top - nice softer material sleeves and hood, DWR torso area. Best feature is 2-way chest zipper to let air in. Great in cool weather or as a midlayer when cold. Shorts are Patagonia Strider (regular version). I think I have 7 pairs - they have the most comfortable boxer liner I've found.

Ante said...

Regarding insoles, please clarify.
The description is contradictory to what's written in the review of Topo Pursuit; "The Pursuit uses Topo’s newer Ortholite insole, made from recycled materials. This is one area I feel could be improved. The Ortholite plush feel is nice, but there’s always the water issue - the open cell foam does absorb and hold water".

Which insoles come with the shoe and which hold less water? I will use the shoe for swimrun as well. Drainage and low wet weight is an important factor.

Mike P said...

Sorry for any confusion. To clarify-

Both Pursuit and Runventure 4 use the same Ortholite insole. It's a version that uses recycled materials. It seems to be more contoured than other Ortholite insoles - I'm thinking of those blue ones that are usually of a uniform thickness.

That being said, all Ortholite insoles are an open cell foam, so water soaks in like a sponge and takes a lot longer to dry. I definitely wouldn't recommend them for swim run. I'd swap in a regular EVA insole or perhaps TPU if you need more cushion.

Anonymous said...

Did you find much difference in the flexibility of the Pursuit and Runventure 4? I am using the Pursuit for all length runs - 3 to 10 miles, but am considering also purchasing the Runventures for shorter runs if they are significantly more flexible. Short flat runs in my Xeros feel very beneficial to loosening my tight feet and calves, and was looking for something I could get the same benefit for on the trails with a mega grip bottom

Mike P said...

I would say they're more flexible, but really just due to the much lesser stack height. There's no rock plate in either shoe. I'd say the difference is more in the ground feel than the flexibility. You feel more terrain under the forefoot with the Runventure 4 than the Pursuit. But if you're doing a 1/2 combo for short/long they should work well and have a similar feel.

The Runventure 4 naturally has a snugger fit though, so keep that in mind. The Pursuit toebox is really quite wide.

Anonymous said...

Thanks that’s really helpful. I don’t mind the loss of feel, so I’ll stick with my current combo. I’ve got an extra wide forefoot from grappling injuries/adaptations too so slimming down may cause issues for me. Thanks for being so active in the comments!