Topo Athletic MTN Racer Trail Running Shoe
The Topo Athletic MTN Racer keeps things light and easy with a low profile frame, lightweight features, and a lower 5 mm drop for increased ground feel. While you will be in tune with the ground under your feet, it also means you will also feel sharp and jagged rocks. This shoe may be speedy and minimalistic, but it doesn’t quite offer the same level of increased protection as many of the other trail runners out there on the market. However, if you want a good grip on the ground under your feet, and you want to go far fast, this is a great choice.
Below, I wanted to get into all of the features that make the Topo Athletic MTN Racer a unique trail running that is worth checking out.
Roomy toe box for natural toe splay
Ideal for cold-weather runs
Ortholite anti-compression footbed
Excellent energy return
Tacky rubber outsole
Great for speed
Not ideal for long distances
The midsole is very stiff and rigid
Offers minimal protection for jagged rocks
If you are expecting to slip your toes into a nice and squishy midsole, you are likely to be disappointed. Topo has used the same materials for their midsole over the years, and runners either love it or they hate it. The midsole is composed of three densities of EVA foam that are compression-resistant. Basically, the midsole of this shoe won’t squish down into a pancake after 100, or even 200 miles.
The build of this triple-layer midsole has been carefully constructed with trails in mind. While it’s generally firm, there are a few areas in the midsole that are slightly more forgiving. The heel counter, for instance, has a slightly softer foam that gives you a little more cushioning and control when going downhills. Along the arch is a firmer layer of foam that gives your arches more support when needed and prevents your arch from collapsing when running on uneven surfaces.
Topo has a tendency to toe the line between road running shoes and trail running shoes. Many of their trail runners boast a versatile outsole that is able to transition from the trails to the sidewalks to offer runners a little more versatility. While this design is great for runners that like to switch it up between sidewalks and trails, it makes them so-so trail runners. The good news when it comes to the MTN Racer, however, is that they dove in head-first in making a 100 percent dedicated trail runner.
The outsole is composed of Vibram Megagrip that is often found in higher-end stability shoes such as Hokas or Brooks. This style of rubber has a slightly tacky finish that really grips all types of surfaces, whether it’s rocky trails, mud, or running over slippery wet leaves. Runners also love that the lugs are moderately aggressive (a positive change from previous styles of Topos), and spaced wide to reduce the overall weight and bulk of the shoe.
Topo does things a little bit differently when compared to other trail runners out there on the market. Instead of reaching for a stretchy mesh material, the upper of this design is made from ripstop nylon material- the same thing used for your tent or sleeping bag. While this nylon doesn’t contour to your foot in the same way as knit materials, it expertly wicks away sweat, mud, and moisture to help keep your feet high and dry when running in soggy weather conditions.
While the ripstop nylon isn’t very stretchy, few runners had issues with the overall fit of this shoe. The wide frame and complex lacing system helps to increase lockdown for a secure fit. It also boasts synthetic overlay on key areas of the foot to boost lockdown and stability as well. This blend of synthetic overlays and ripstop nylon isn’t as breathable as knit options, which means that this shoe will run rather hot. However, it makes it the perfect cold-weather trail running shoe.
I would recommend this shoe for runners that want a minimalistic runner that they can take out on the trails. It boasts a lower drop (5 mm) than most trail runners, and the firm midsole is relatively thin. Runners will have a keen feeling of the ground under their feet, and the lighter frame and low provide is great for agility and speed.
The downside of this shoe, however, is that it doesn’t offer much in terms of protection or comfort. Runners found that they could really feel every rock and tree root under their feet, which may be a deal-breaker for some. It also doesn’t have soft step-in feel or heightened cushioning as other trail runners. However, the compressed EVA foam provides excellent energy feedback that is perfect for high speeds, but not so great for long distances.
While this design is made to fit your foot like a glove, runners have come across a few issues in how they fit their foot. The sizing of Topos is slightly different when compared to other brands out there on the market. If you are able, I recommend heading down to your local shoe store to give these shoes a spin before landing on a size. If you can’t try them on before you buy, be sure to take ample measurements of your feet and compare those numbers to Topo’s sizing chart.
One thing that I love about the fit of this shoe is that it has a wide toe box that allows your toes to naturally splay inside of the shoe. This provides you with ample stability and flexibility in your feet for picking up the pace as needed. Plus, many runners found that it is wide without being too wide, so your feet still feel really locked in as you scale difficult terrains.
Topo’s aren’t a shoe you will necessarily see on any runways, but the Topo Athletic MTN Racer is a step in the right direction. Compared to other trainers in their lineup, this is one of the sleekest and sporty. It boasts a modest silhouette and comes in a few unique color options that are bright and cheery. If you are interested in more neutral color options (such as black), you may be a little disappointed.
I won’t sugar-coat it: the price tag is just a little steep for this shoe. While it isn’t the most expensive trail runner out there on the market, it has a slightly higher price tag than most. This higher price point isn’t due to heightened stability or protection but rather increased durability. The compressed EVA foam in the midsole won’t break down into a pancake, even after 200 miles out on the trails! It may cost a little bit more than most, but the heightened durability makes it worth the price for runners that are hard on their shoes.
Comparisons to Previous Versions
The MTN Racer, on the other hand, was built with the trails in mind. The thoughtful outsole really grips the ground under your feet, and the modest lugs are great for running up and downhills. Plus, it boasts a more sporty and stylish design when compared to other trail runners from Topos.
Overall, I would recommend this shoe for runners that don’t like to be slowed down by heavy and cumbersome stability designs. While it doesn’t offer much protection underfoot, this shoe is made to move. It’s a perfect choice for runners that prefer a more minimalistic or neutral shoe that exchanges speed and performance over plush comfort and protection.