What You Need to Know
- Lightweight, yet aggressive trail shoe with Vibram Megagrip outsole
- Fills the gap between the MT-3 and the Hydroventure 2
- Could be warm in the summer, but ideal for any other season
Robbe: Topo or not Topo? That is the question.
It shouldn’t be. Topo, while still making a name for themselves, deserves more recognition. I’ll forgive and respect them from being from Boston, just like I forgive Red Sox fans and respectfully offer them a one-finger salute whenever they visit Camden Yards. Sorry, Coach Dave.
Anyway, we’ve been reviewing a bunch of Topo’s summer releases here, and every reviewer has come back with stellar feedback. Street reviews are coming, but for now we’ve been super impressed by both trail shoes we’ve tested so far: the MT-3 (for lighter trails), and the Hydroventure 2 (waterproof shoes for sloppy, rugged trails).
I was assigned the MTN Racer—a shoe that falls between the other two. And it falls perfectly. I’ll tell you right now, this is probably the best trail shoe I’ve ever reviewed.
I tested it for over 60 miles during training and culminating with the OSS/CIA 50 Mile Night Run in Virginia, on stupid technical east coast terrain. Taylor just got it earlier this week out in the Rockies, but has laid down enough miles to know what’s good.
Robbe: I’m not sure where to begin, because I loved pretty much everything about this shoe.
For starters, it’s a light trail shoe, coming in at 9.3 oz. for a size 9. I was not expecting it to feel so light, especially with a Vibram outsole and fairly aggressive lugs. First step-in was excellent, the lightweight ripstop upper with mesh overlays is straightforward and light but secured my foot perfectly.
It felt no different on the trails. This is a shoe that just wants to run—for a long time. And it’s built to do so. My first run was 16 miles out of the box, and it was golden. No hotspots, no discomfort. Pure trail running.
The outsole features Topo’s proprietary Vibram Megagrip outsole, and it grabs and tackles everything as good as any shoe I’ve tested. I put it through some east coast shit and it took it hard. I mean, constant rocks and roots, through streams, uphills, downhills, twists and turns. I feel confident the outsole will hold up for many more miles.
The last trail shoe I reviewed was the Nike Terra Kiger 5, and no doubt it’s a fast shoe. In reality though, it’s kind of a West Coast shoe. I switched to it in the last 12 miles of my 50-miler because I was feeling good and knew there were some fire roads I could take down. But it doesn’t offer the protection and comfort that the MTN Racer provides.
The cushioning is just that perfect sweet spot I feel like I have been looking for in a trail shoe. Comfort is created from the anti-microbial Ortholite footbed combined with a 3-piece injected EVA midsole. I’m gonna be honest—I didn’t train well for my 50-mile race and my legs actually felt pretty good wearing these for the first 38. They kinda got torched after I put on the Kiger 5 and laid down some faster miles at the end, but that’s what I was going for anyway.
The 5mm drop (30 to 25 stack) is probably my favorite height, so that worked for me.
Drainage was good on these, with drainage ports located on both the lateral and medial sides. I took them through some ankle-mud and creeks and I felt like they recovered pretty quickly.
Taylor: What I like most about Topo Athletic’s shoes, in general, is that they are simple and solid (exactly how I felt about both the Hydroventure 2 and MTN Racer). The company intentionally focuses heavily on a few key “ingredients” (foot-shaped design, low drop, lightweight) and it makes all the difference between being a mediocre product and a standout performer. The MTN Racer is no exception to this.
The shoe feels firm underfoot, which is perfect for protection on rocky or technical terrain. Although I do appreciate having some ground feel with trail shoe, I don’t get a lot of that with this shoe. The need for underfoot protection on a true mountain shoe is more important anyway.
The firm midsole also helps with the responsiveness. Some trail shoes that swing on the firm side of the pendulum lose quite a bit of responsiveness because they are too stiff. I really appreciate having a firmer ride that doesn’t compromise the ability to go fast.
MEGAGRIP! It sounds like a heavy metal band, and if it was, I’d be in the crowd holding up a homemade sign with its name on it. It’s the real deal and the perfect choice for a mountain-specific outsole. I have yet to find a surface where Megagrip doesn’t hold up.
My biggest complaint about the Hydroventure 2 was with foot security– especially on technical trails or downhill. The MTN Racer takes care of that. These shoes are slightly slimmer throughout and hold close to your foot. The integrated tongue has a nice layer of padding to be able to lace up pretty tightly without the feeling of a boa constrictor trying to eat your foot.
Robbe: I felt that going aggressively on downhills, I did experience some movement in the toe box, but after retightening my laces, it was fine. You’ll have to find that balance.
I don’t like how the toe box slightly curls up. I felt like I was catching a lot of roots, especially when tired, simply because of this.
Taylor: The upper offers great protection against the elements but breathability is compromised because of it. I usually wear wool-based socks and my feet do get quite warm in these. I would imagine that if the weather tips toward the warmer end, my feet would get some sauna-like treatment.Shop Topo MTN Racer
Topo MTN Racer Conclusion
Taylor: I love it. Simply and whole-heartedly love it. It’ll be a great go-to shoe for hours of adventure on technical terrain and may become my choice for my upcoming 100-miler in July. It has enough of everything to make me confident on just about any terrain (except maybe roads).
Robbe: If you’re looking for a killer trail shoe that isn’t zero-drop (look, I loved you Altra Superior, but this is my new queen), you would be remiss to not consider the Topo MTN Racer. I feel lucky that I was assigned the shoe, because the reviews are few and far between in which I find a shoe I enjoy so much.
I rarely buy another pair of a shoe that I review; I would 100% buy this shoe again. And you can buy it for $140 at Running Warehouse using the shop link below.Shop Topo MTN Racer
Robbe is the Senior Editor/Review Manager for BITR. He lives in Baltimore with his wife and two sons and runs with the Faster Bastards when he’s not MAF training. His favorite race distance is the marathon and his favorite beer is anything but Blue Moon.