Sunday, November 12, 2023

Topo Athletic Terraventure 4 Multi Tester Review

Article by Ernst Linder and Dom Layfield

Topo Athletic Terraventure 4 ($135)


Ernst: I have run trails regularly for over 10 years. The majority of my runs are on technical and non-technical trails in the “low lands” of the Northeastern U.S. Technical trails consist of a mix of roots, smaller rocks, gravel and forest floor.  I have used several brands over the years and tended towards minimal shoes during the bare-foot running revival

 In 2019 I was introduced to Topo and acquired a pair of Topo MT3. They instantly became my favorite trail shoes for training and racing from the get-go. They were responsive and had just the right mix of softness and protection and I still use them at over 1000 miles, although the outsoles are showing their age. 

Dom: Topo Athletic shoes have long been favorites of mine. 

My first contact with Topo was the MT-2, which I reviewed glowingly back in March 2016, and wore in several races, including the Georgia Death Race a couple of weeks after posting the review on RTR.  Since then, there haven’t been any Topo shoes that I’ve raced in, but there have been many that I’ve enjoyed for training, including the Runventure 3 and the Terraventure 3.  These shoes share the same philosophy, eschewing a voluminous midsole and employing a flexible rockplate instead.  I was delighted by the minimally-constructed Runventure and was initially slightly less enthusiastic about the Terraventure, its stouter cousin.  But to my surprise, the Terraventure ended up being the shoe that I found myself reaching for, time and time again.  Yes, it was slightly heavier, but it provided just a little more rock protection, decreasing the necessity of picking one’s way delicately through rubble, and making it a better option for longer runs.

Dom: To my mind, the Terraventure is an almost perfect training shoe.  Firstly, and most importantly, it matches the shape of my foot, in a way which no other brand does consistently.  Saucony, for example, makes several really great trail shoes, but I always find myself looking down at the shoe and wondering what improbable human anatomy they based their last on.  Topo Athletic shoes are wide in the forefoot, and snug around the midfoot.  


Surprisingly soft and forgiving midsole foam, yet also decently stable due to low stack: Ernst

Excellent stability: Dom

Characteristic Topo broad and secure toe box and overall upper: Ernst, Dom

Deep traction that does not get in the way on harder surfaces: Ernst, Dom

Strong hike and thru hike option: Ernst, Dom

Low drop (3 mm) makes shoe pleasant for toe strikers: Dom


Wish it was a bit lighter: Ernst

Outsole/platform with plate is too stiff for uneven surfaces such as over roots. Ernst

Ortholite footbeds absorb water and are slow to dry: Dom


Approx.Weight: men's 10.55 oz  / 299g (US9) 

  Samples: men’s 10.2 oz / 289g US8.5

  Stack Height: men’s mm 25 heel / 22 mm forefoot ( 3mm drop spec) 

$135. Available now including at our partners REI, Running Warehouse & the end of article

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

We have a dual mesh construction, a durable dense mesh upfront, a bit more ventilated mesh outback with TPU overlays in place of the microfiber overlays of v3.

The Terraventure 3 seemed like an overall lightweight all-purpose trail shoe.  The upper mesh is sturdy yet comfortable.  

The tongue, sidecut, and heel collar all are nicely cushioned, and I have had no issues with soreness due to rubbing.  The midfoot  area of the upper is adequate in providing overall foot position stability.  My worry is that the forefoot plate provides lasting stiffness that may compromise running stability over uneven surfaces. 

I require a big toe box, both in width and height, to be comfortable.  

This model fits perfectly at the 8.5 size.  I always try 8.5 first, and if my foot feels cramped, I size up to a 9.  I have Topo shoes in both sizes. All my Altra shoes are 8.5. I own one pair of On Cloudflow, which does not have a wide toe box. I needed to size up to a 10, which is bad for overall foot comfort.

The Terraventure 4 is compatible with Topo’s gaiters having the hear channels for those gaiters slide in bars.

Dom:  As with all Topo shoes that I’ve tested in recent years, the construction quality is impeccable.  If you are familiar with the previous, excellent Terraventure 3, be reassured that the Terraventure 4 feels just the same.  There’s a new upper that is slightly lighter, but fit is unchanged.  I couldn’t tell the difference if blindfolded.

Dom:  If you’re not familiar with the Terraventure line, here’s my quick rundown.  It shares the signature Topo fit: wide (but not super wide) in the toebox, but snug everywhere else, especially in the midfoot.  Topo shoes fit my feet almost magically, but YMMV.  Heel to toe drop is low at 3 mm, making the shoe a great match for toe strikers, but with enough cushioning in the heel to make the shoe viable for heel strikers also.  As with most aspects of this shoe, it strikes a near-perfect compromise.  Cushioning in the Terraventure is slight: particularly compared to modern monster-cushioned shoes.  Instead Topo employs a rockplate that provides enough protection to cruise comfortably over sharp rocks, and yet still retains a decent amount of ground feel.  Traction is phenomenal: literally, as good as I’ve ever tested.  The combination of solid foot retention, good ground feel, low stack height, and great grip make the shoe super stable and reassuring.


New geometry, with the same 25 heel /22mm forefoot  stack with the heel a bit more seated for  increased stability. The foam is Topo’s newer and now softer Zip Foam. A forefoot rock plate is included.

The shoe provides excellent cushioning.  Again, the initial stiffness combined with the 3mm drop gave me a sore heel initially, but this was remedied after 100+ miles and I barely notice the 3 mm drop in comparison to zero-drop shoes that I also regularly use.

I like the arch definition of the footbed and insole which fits me very well. Other brands’ shoes, for example Altra, significantly hurt the ball of my feet during long runs, which I attribute to a lack of enough arch support.

Dom:  The Terraventure midsole is relatively thin.  This is not a shoe that I would describe as ‘well cushioned’.  Instead of a thick midsole, the Terraventure employs a rockplate under the forefoot.  This gives the shoe a fairly firm ride, with excellent rock protection, and decent ground feel.  But the resulting low stack height (25/22 mm) makes the shoe very stable.

Dom:  There wasn’t much wrong with the previous Terraventure 3, so I was relieved that Topo didn’t change the character of the shoe.  But one minor weak point that I hoped they might remedy was the choice of a Ortholite footbed.  The Ortholite foam has many strengths, most notably retaining its shape and not packing out/losing volume with use.  But its downside is that it does absorb a lot of liquid and dries out slowly after water crossings.  I note that Topo have switched to a TPU-beaded footbed in some of their latest shoes (e.g. the Traverse), and I wonder if this might be a good option for the Terraventure 4.


Ernst: The Vibram MegaGrip  6mm deep outsole grips very nicely on trails as well as on some off-trail sections that I ran recently. I did not notice discomfort while intermittently running paved road sections. 

Dom:  Outsoles really don’t get any better than this.  At least, compared to the many shoes that I’ve tested.  Obviously, in niche conditions (Ice?  Wet grass?) there may be better specialist options, but the combination of Vibram Megagrip rubber and Topo’s lug pattern results in a sole that performs well across the board on almost every surface.  Traction on wet rock (a weak point for many outsole rubbers) is outstanding, as it is on loose sandy surfaces. The sole feels a little stiff on pavement, but the broad lugs keep the experience pleasant.  Amazingly, durability is also excellent, which is particularly impressive as outsole rubber generally has to trade off between grip and wear resistance, so some rubbers (e.g. VJJ) are super sticky but wear down quickly.


Ernst: In my first few runs, I found the shoe to be overly stiff, and a bit too heavy, and had to be careful to avoid ankle-twisting.  The shoe is a little more dynamic now after 100 miles and it is overall quite comfortable even on longer trail runs (10 miles or more). 

Dom:  Interestingly, I had a very different experience to Ernst.  I didn’t find the Terraventure 4 stiff or heavy.  Perhaps this was because I had previously run extensively in the Terraventure 3.  I would point runners that are looking for a lighter, more flexible platform in the direction of the Topo Athletic Runventure 4, that shares a similar design philosophy, but is a little more nimble.

Dom:  When I first tested the Terraventure 3 a couple of years ago, I didn’t like it quite as much as the more minimal Runventure 3.  But without really noticing the transition, I found myself instead reaching for the Terraventure for my daily trail runs.  The Terraventure is also a low drop, low stack height shoe, but has a slightly more supportive upper, and more protection underfoot.  So it shares the characteristics I enjoyed in the Runventure, but is a shoe I can go longer in without tiring my feet, while being less sensitive to the terrain.  Overall, the result is a slightly more mainstream package.

Conclusions and Recommendations

The Terraventure 4 is ideal as a trainer for long rocky and technical mountain runs as well as a good light hiking shoe for any terrain including mountains. I consider the weight to be 1.5 ounces too heavy to consider it for serious trail racing.

Ernst's Score: 8.98 /10

Points off for weight and stiffness.

Dom:  The Terraventure is the sleeper in Topo Athletic’s trail line-up.  There’s nothing flashy in its construction, it doesn’t come in bright colors, doesn’t employ newfangled carbon plates or superfoams, nor make any outlandish performance claims.  But in every regard, this is an excellent training shoe, that quietly, unobtrusively performs well.

Dom:  I agree with Ernst that this is not an obvious choice for racing.  But that’s rather like complaining that a Toyota Camry is slow around the Nürburgring Nordschleife.  This is not a shoe that I would select to race over any distance.  On the other hand, it’s a superb daily training shoe.  Over the last couple of years, I’ve logged many hundred miles in the Terraventure 3, and have really grown to love the shoe.  So I was relieved that Topo Athletic made only minor tweaks, maintaining the character of an outstanding shoe.

Dom:  But to reiterate, this is not a shoe for everyone.  Due to the relatively slim midsole, the ride is distinctly firm.  But the trade-off results in a neutral, low stack shoe with excellent stability.  

Dom: 9.8/10.  A classic.  



Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Altra Altra Lone Peak 4.5 (RTR Review)

Ernst: The Lone Peak is 0.7 oz lighter than the Terraventure 4 (size 8.5 US) but otherwise a comparable shoe. I similarly found its outsole too stiff in the beginning. The upper mesh is very light and attached with traditional stitching which broke open in both shoes after around 500 miles of usage. Foot stability was a problem at times. The shoe has plenty of toe space width in the front, yet the front protecting cover tended to cut into my big toe from the top.  This was not a favorite of mine in spite of its popularity.  

Dom: I’ve tested almost all iterations of the Lone Peak up to V6, although I see we’re up 7 now, which I’ve not tried.  Although the nominal stack height stays constant at 25/25 mm, the character and weight of the shoe seems to vary substantially.  LP6 went on a diet compared to LP5, and LP7 now seems to have put on weight again.  Altra and Topo both emphasize a wide toebox, but the Lone Peak is generally wider than the Terraventure from front to back.  It provides similar protection, but lacking a rockplate and using more midsole, is squishier and softer than the Terraventure.  

Topo Athletic Traverse (RTR Review)

Ernst: While I did not test it the Traverse can be considered the next step up towards hiking at Topo. It has 5mm more heel and 3mm more foretoot stack height. It shares a forefoot rock plate and Vibram MegaGrip outsole with the Terraventure 4. They weigh about the same despite the higher full stack height of the Traverse as the Terraventure has deeper 6mm lugs vs the Traverse’s 4mm, rubber being the heaviest material in a shoe.

Topo Athletic Runventure 3 (RTR Review) and 4 (RTR Review)

Dom: The Runventure is the more minimal cousin of the Terraventure.  While conceptually similar (it forgoes a thick midsole in favor of a flexible forefoot rockplate), the Runventure is lighter, softer, and has completely zero drop at 20 mm.  Compare this to Terraventure’s 3 mm drop at 25/22.  The Terraventure is more mainstream, with a modest drop, and a little more support and protection.  I loved the Runventure, but over time, I’ve found myself leaning more and more toward the Terraventure.  The Terraventure also has slightly better grip, using Vibram Megagrip vs XS Trek outsole rubber. 

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Tester Profile

Ernst lives in the New Hampshire Seacoast area and loves being able to run "from his doorstep" on several connected trail networks.  While being the shortest student in grade school, he found almost all sports to be overly challenging, but "distance" running seemed to be natural for him. Eventually his family steered him towards competitive orienteering in his teenage years in Switzerland. This all stopped when he became an exchange student and moved to the USA. 

But the seed was sown, and eventually the running spirit reemerged. Throughout the years he has rediscovered orienteering, pursued road, trail and mountain running, adventure racing, triathlon and nordic skiing. 

He turned towards more competitive running when Loco started organizing races in the Seacoast area, first half marathons in 2007, and later marathons. His marathon PR is 3:03 at age 59, and he has numerous USA Track and Field New Hampshire age group state records.  He is 68 years old 5ft 5 inches (165cm) tall and weighs 135 lb (61 kg).

Dom 51, 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.  In 2022 Dom finished 4th in the Angeles Crest 100 and was 10th in his age group at UTMB

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

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