Topo Athletics Terraventure 4 Review – Sorry Topo, I can’t do this anymore

This is the last time I attempt to review a Topo Athletic shoe in the near future. The shoe's prominent arch support and stiff nature ruin what could have been a great long-distance option.

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Weight

10.1oz / 286g for men’s US9

Stack height

25mm/22mm
3mm drop

Made for

Long muddy runs
Recovery trail runs

Fit

Wide toe box
Narrow midfoot
Average lockdown

Feel

Super stiff
Somewhat rockers
Average firmness

Pros & Cons

+ Great outsole and lug depth
+ Price/Durability ratio
– Please… no more arch support


The Topo Athletic Terraventure 4 is touted to be a perfect option for aggressive trails where nimbleness and grip are paramount. 

Sadly, certain aspects of the shoe completely ruin the experience of what could have been a perfect long-distance option. 

As a minimal runner, I expected the 3mm drop would be problematic, but truthfully, the stiff 25mm stack height was the issue. And for this reason I suggest the Terraventure to conventional shoe users looking for a wide-toe box. 

For the rest of the review, I’ll try and put my issue aside with the Terraventure,  and dive deep into the shoe’s fit, feel, and durability (this is where the positives lie!) and suggest what other shoes you should consider. 

What if you could build a more sustainable running experience by making simple tweaks that result in faster times and bigger distances…

Fit

After trying the Topo Atheltic ST-5, I was really hoping that Topo could come through with a decent trail offering. I didn’t love the ST-5, but it had potential. 

The Terraventure generally fits narrow through the midfoot and widens slightly towards the forefoot. It fits deeper than most Altra’s, but that’s not saying much. 

topo athletic terraventure 4 arch support

Arch support why!

I want to get to this straight away because it’s an area I fundamentally disagree with.

I can’t get my head around the prominent arch support in these Topo shoes. It was awkward for me, and my arches are well developed. If you have lower arches, that slight bump under your foot will not work!

By adding arch support, you’ll be offloading some of the load onto different areas of the body and weakening the foot, leading to more reliance on arch support and potential injuries in the future. I can only suggest these shoes as long as you have an excellent foot-strengthening routine to use in tandem. 

What size to order?

I ordered true to size, and it was perfect in length. I had a thumb width from my longest point to the end of the shoe. That’s enough for any swelling and movement during a long run. Any shorter and it could become a problem. 

You can choose ½ sizes up to US13 in mens and up to US11 in womens. If in doubt, I’d suggest going ½ a size larger. This adds roughly 3-4mm in length and a tiny amount in width, so it’ll be tricky to see the difference, but that little extra room can avoid any damaged toes on descents. 

topo athletic terraventure 4 toe box 2

Is the toe box actually wide?

The big toe has plenty of room to spread and contribute to natural movement. If there’s one thing I enjoy about Topo shoes, it is the squared-off toe box. On the big-toe side, it’s a little more freeing than Altra. When you’ve been out of conventional shoes for a while, you’ll appreciate having the ability to stretch your big toe right out. 

Strangely, my little toes felt constricted. Even though the toe box’s taper isn’t aggressive, I had issues with my little toes getting squashed. It’s possible that ½ size large could have alleviated this, but it’s something to be aware of if you’ve got a large toe splay. 

topo athletic terraventure 4 gusset

Is the upper forgiving?

The upper combines a tight plastic weave with stiffer, more durable overlays. This combination results in a constricting feeling shoe. That’s not such a bad thing in a trail shoe, as I had no problems slipping from side to side in the shoe, but if you’re like me with an average or wider midfoot, it’s uncomfortable. I’d only suggest this model to those with a narrower fan-shaped foot. 

The stiff upper doesn’t lend itself to proper foot function. Because your foot cannot flex because of the constricting nature of the shoe, it turns your foot into an inanimate block. Combine this with a stiffer sole, and you have a lifeless shoe. 

Does the heel lock in place?

The locked down is good to average but may cause issues for those with bony heels. The heel cup is solid. Way too solid if you ask me! If your heel is in an odd shape, breaking in the shoe could take a long time. Or you may just end up giving up because it’s just uncomfortable! 

My suggestion is to go easy on the lacing and don’t overtighten. Because most materials are stiff, you don’t need to crank the laces to get a locked-in fit. Loop an excellent lace lock and give it a gentle tug, nothing more.

Will they accommodate shallow and deep feet?

I’d only suggest the Terraventures to those with average or shallow feet. If you have deep feet, you’ll be squished in all directions, from the arch support to the side walls. Topo has wide options in other models, so if you’re married to the brand, maybe look at those options. (Or just try Altra Lone Peaks).

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 outline

Topo Athletic Terraventure 4

Feel

Take what I say with a pinch of salt. 

Whereas I want to spread the word about minimal shoes and ground feel, I know many of you do not want to pursue that route. 

With that said, this shoe is stiff and firm. To the point when I started shuffling instead of running when testing out the shoe. That’s not for me. 

topo athletic terraventure 4 unboxing 2

What is the ride of the shoe like?

From the heel to the forefoot, there is zero bend, so you’re relying on the rocker of the shoe. And there’s not too much of it to rely on! I found I was hardly picking up my feet and almost sliding them across the ground onto the next step. 

There’s a little flex at the forefoot, but you’d have to put significant weight through it to notice. Most runners will not benefit from this flex; instead, you roll off the toe with the minor taper in cushioning that runs up to the toe. 

What is the ground feel like?

As you may have guessed, there’s almost zero ground feel. The firmness and stiffness of the midsole blunt any hint of ground underfoot. I realize that the scale of ground feel differs depending on what shoes you’re used to, but there’s a drastic difference when comparing to a similar stack height such as the Lone Peak. 

topo athletic terraventure 4 heels

Are the shoes zero drop?

No! These are a 3mm drop shoe! Its 22mm at the forefoot and 25mm in the heel. Did running in my first non-drop shoe feel weird after 5 years of barefoot shoes? To be honest, I couldn’t tell. Maybe that’s because the ride was so drastically different, or perhaps those few mm make no difference. 

Personally, I’d tell you to ignore the minor drop. With manufacturing tolerances and the uneven packing out of the midsole, you’ve likely unsuspectedly run in non-zero drop shoes in the past. Other aspects of a shoe, like the rocker shape, toe taper, and toe spring, make more of a difference (none of which feature drastically in this shoe).

What type of runs are they suited too?

I could only suggest this shoe for long, non-technical trails. Long, because much of the work is taken away from the feet, which will reduce lower leg fatigue. And non-technical because I had no idea what was under my feet during my run! If I was trying to dance from rock to rock, I’m 90% certain I would have rolled my ankle at some point. 

topo athletic terraventure 4 outsole

Is the upper secure?

The upper did a good job of locking in the foot well but to the detriment of comfort. It’s tricky to balance a secure fit and comfort right. Sadly, I believe Topo has missed the mark here. My midfoot was screaming, and the heel was way too solid. It gave no opportunity for my feet to function in the shoe and ended in a dull feeling. 

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 outline

Topo Athletic Terraventure 4

Durability

Durability is one aspect where the Terraventure 4 wins! All that stiffness translates to durability! 

Can the upper withstand scuffs and scrapes?

Even though the Terraventure lacks overlays, the upper material is rigid. Due to the heavy-weight nylon weave, you’re not likely to rip through the upper easily. The same goes for the crease points in the forefoot. I can’t imagine anyone will rip out the side like many do in Altras! 

The toe cap is protective, but don’t kick rocks too hard! If there’s anything that should be stiff, it’s the toe cap, but it’s still semi-soft. I prefer this type of option, but it seems like a strange choice for a shoe of this build. 

topo athletic terraventure 4 toe box

How long will the outsole last?

I would score the outsole a 10/10! The Vibram Megagrip is always a winner! And props to the lug pattern, too! These shoes are more than ready for the muddy depths of US coasts! I still wouldn’t suggest taking them on hard surfaces too much because you will see wear, but when you stick to the trails, you’ll get a decent life span out of them. 

The small areas of exposed shoes on the underside are protected with a plastic rock plate. Another feature contributing to the lack of ground feel is a stiffer plate on the bottom of the shoe. It means your foot and shoe are well protected from sharp rocks, but at the cost of ground feel.

Is the build high quality?

I see no faults in the manufacturing and design of the shoe. Again, it’s a great shame that I highly dislike other aspects of the shoe because the build and design are second to none! If only they still made barefoot shoes…..

topo athletic terraventure 4 lace locking

Are there any weak points of the shoe?

If I could guess the first part of the shoe to break down, it’d be the inner liner. Because the shoe’s exterior is so stiff, any movement in the shoe will cause friction. Friction causes heat but also ends in wear and tear. If you wear holes in the heel of your shoes, steer clear! 

Merrell Vapor Glove 6 outline

Topo Athletic Terraventure 4

Conclusion 

As you may have noticed, this wasn’t my favorite shoe. 

In fact, I think it’s the worst shoe I’ve run in for a long time :S 

I’ve now decided I’ll no longer take on any more Topos until I see a drastic change in design and the removal of that horrible arch support! 

All I can do is point you in different directions. 

So, if you want a similar stack-height shoe with more flexibility and a forgiving fit. 

If you want to feel the ground and work your feet how they are built to work!

If you still want a highly stacked shoe for long distances. 

  • Try the Altra Olympus 5! The fit is way nicer and still has a megagrip outsole!
Merrell Vapor Glove 6 outline

Topo Athletic Terraventure 4

Nick
Nick

Nick is a UESCA-certified ultramarathon coach and avid barefoot runner, having over 5 years of experience in barefoot training and has competed in multiple ultra marathons wearing barefoot shoes. Starting his journey in the running industry over 10 years ago in New Zealand, Nick evolved from a running shoe salesperson to a passionate advocate for the transformative power of barefoot running. He believes in its potential to enhance running experiences for all and combines his unique insights from both personal achievements and professional coaching to guide and inspire the running community."

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