Zero drop trail running shoes may not be for the masses, but I’ve always appreciated the planted, natural feel they provide. Now in it’s forth iteration, the Topo Athletic Runventure 4 stays true to form by offering a barefoot-like experience in a nimble, capable trail runner.
Topo Athletic Runventure 4 Features:
- Anatomical toebox
- Lightly-cushioned design with 20mm stack height
- Vibram® XS Trek EVO rubber outsole
- Flexible and nimble midsole
- Recycled mesh upper (15% materials overall)
- Gaiter compatible
- Antimicrobial OrthoLite® insoles
- No rock plate for ultimate trail feel
- Available in men’s and women’s
- Weight: 9.6 oz each (size 11, actual)
- MSRP: $125
Ready for a Runventure
Way back in 2018 when times were precedented, I tested the Topo Runventure 2’s and quite liked them. In fact, they remain the back of my Pathfinder for any impromptu trail runs. Somehow the pandemic prevented me from getting into the Runventure 3’s, so we’ll skip that iteration and go right to the Runventure 4’s. This all-new design is definitely the most impressive one of the bunch with a gamut of features rounded out by eco-friendly finishings.
The recipe remains the same — a lightweight, nimble, zero-drop trail running shoe. Before going any further, if you want the synopsis, that’s it. The Runventure 4’s nail all of that and breathability to boot. If you’re new to zero-drop shoes and/or have some trepidation going that route, these are a good place to start. Without any ramping, my feet feel absolutely natural and every step delivers a sensation that you can only achieve with a no-drop frame. To me, it’s as close as I’m going to get to running barefoot without shredding my feet.
While this type of shoe isn’t for the masses, it’s worth a shot if you want the ultimate in close-to-ground feel. I don’t exclusively run in them, but I’ve found I prefer lower-drop shoes in the 0-4mm range. Anything steeper and I feel like I’m running in heels (or how I think that would feel).
The design of the Runventure 4’s is built to maximize everything good about this platform. Topo doesn’t include a rock plate for improved trail feel and airy mesh uppers that allow moisture to quickly evaporate. With a welded toe-protector and a structured heel cup, there’s a little more to these shoes than version 2 provides. Half-round laces flow smoothly through the eyelets and stay consistently-laced. A gusseted tongue stays straight and aims to keep scree out, but the cuff does tend to allow entry. Overall, my feet feel perfectly cradled in them.
Runventure 4 dirt time
I have absolute confidence in Topo’s ability to go from box-to-trail, but I did wear these around town a few days prior to their maiden voyage. Once on the trails, the Runventure 4’s felt right at home. The Vibram® XS Trek EVO outsole features well-spaced lugs that are the perfect depth for traction on all terrain. Each step yields confidence on flats, climbs and descents. Most of the trails I run are loose and rocky and I’m getting tons of traction here.
With a zero-drop design, the entire shoe feels unified and cushioning is even throughout the length of the shoe. When shoes have a tall drop, the forefoot receives a different cushioning profile than the heel, but you’ll find equal opportunity cushioning with the Runventure 4’s. And, that cushioning is really good overall. However, the combination of low-profile cushioning and no rock plate can feel a little vulnerable when running through sharp, pointy rocks. I find I have to dance my way through those sections with light steps to avoid bruising. A full-force step on a sharp rocks can be painful, but it’s the price you’ll gladly pay for trail sensitivity. After a 5-mile run, my feet feel great.
Each stride feels natural and smooth, with a great toe-off that propels you to the next step. I tend to land with most weight towards the middle-rear of the shoe and I love how these feel with each step. As with pretty much every Topo shoe I’ve tried, the inner cuff bows out and allows trail scree to enter. No other pair of Topo’s have had this extensive of cuff damage in a couple months of use. Examining all previous Topo’s I have lying around and the cuff damage is minimal to nonexistent. Unfortunately, this new shoe is putting the cuff in harms way with every stride and it looks pretty hammered. In discussing this with the team at Topo, they are looking into it further. If you pronate, be aware that this could be an issue for you.
I have tested them with Topo’s gaiters and do appreciate the added scree protection, but they do trap moisture and make my feet hot. Ultimately, you can decide if gaiters are right for you, but I am a fan of how their gaiters integrate with their shoes. The outsoles are super-grippy, as mentioned. And, they are wearing quite well. Any mud that’s captured will quickly expel itself once into dry terrain.
The mesh uppers have proven durable and breathable. I feel like they provide the perfect cradle for my feet and aid in stability. Speaking of stability… these shoes are as stable as they come. That stability should come as no surprise due to the construction and foot-cradling ability of the cushioned midsoles.
Fit: I wore a size 11, which is what I always wear in Topo’s shoes. For reference, I wear an 11.5 in Hoka One One, Salomon and Arc’teryx shoes.
- Low-profile zero-drop shoes done right
- That anatomical toe box is amazing (as usual)
- Uppers are very breathable
- Great lacing system for a smooth fit
- Fast and nimble flyers
- Vibram outsole is outstanding in every aspect
- You’ll feel every pointy rock on the trail
- Inner cuff fabric has gotten shredded
The Bottom Line: Topo Athletic Runventure 4
Topo has done their homework with this update. The zero-drop Runventure platform provides a fast, responsive experience for trail runners who prefer the ultimate trail feel. Zero drop delivers a close-to-ground feel unlike any other and the Vibram outsoles rock the party. I can wear these on the warmest days and they continue to breathe well.
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