Topo’s latest entry into the trail running field is the MTN Racer. This shoe features a tall stack height and 5mm drop with Topo’s classic anatomical last. That wide toebox is magical and the MTN Racer has proven quite capable.
Topo Athletic MTN Racer Features:
- Anatomical toebox
- Ripstop mesh upper
- Fully-gusseted tongue
- Vibram Megagrip outsole
- 5mm drop
- Stack Height: 30mm heel and 25mm forefoot
- Weight: 9.3 oz (Men’s 9)
- MSRP: $140
Long-distance racer for aggressive trails
Topo Athletic’s founder is Tony Post, who was the Vibram FiveFinger guy. So, it was only a matter of time before Vibram outsoles were mated to his anatomical trail runners. The MTN Racer offers a generous, 30mm stack height for added comfort and protection. I wouldn’t call these maximalist shoes, but they do approach that territory. With a 5mm drop, these are a little more traditional than Topo’s typical shoes. So, if you are hesitant to go zero-drop, these are a great choice.
The MTN Racer carries that drop well and never feels ramped. In fact, the entire shoe really feels as natural as any zero-drop or low-drop shoe I’ve worn. After a short break-in period, the MTN Racer offers a foot-cradling fit in every regard. They lace up evenly and consistently for a comfortable fit without restricting blood flow or movement.
Because of the stack height, Topo has opted not to include a rock plate and that’s a good thing. It’s not needed here. The combination of the Vibram outsole and midsole protects against intrusion. In fact, it borders on numb. So, if you demand foot protection against sharp, pointy rocks, you’ll be well-served. These old bones did appreciate the overall ride on mixed terrain.
That Vibram Megragrip outsole offers class-leading grip — no question. On wet and dry trails, loose or firm, Megagrip owns it all. Both toe-off and braking traction are excellent on the variety of trails I’ve encountered. I’ve even run on trails with mixed snow and the treads do a great job digging into frozen terrain. I will say that the rubber does harden up somewhat as temperatures drop below 40-degrees. That hardness is mostly noticed on firm terrain or pavement and only becomes clunky on those occasional pavement approaches.
When trails get mucky and sticky, the open areas do capture mud and get stuck in there. But, as you continue running, dry trails will expel the mud. On one such run, I resisted the temptation and didn’t stop and use a stick to remove the mud, but instead, kept running like Forrest Gump. In time, the mud released and I returned to my car with only a little bit of mud remaining. Pretty cool.
The midsole is just about right on the MTN Racer. It’s supportive without being firm and cushy without being marshmallow-y. And, the anatomic toebox is just fantastic. Having the ability to spread my toes out and really feel each metatarsal as it toes-off each step is such a breath of fresh air. I’m a fan and so are my toes.
The nylon ripstop uppers are durable and resist rocks and debris you’ll find. And, the gusseted tongue keeps the shoe scree-free. To further that protection, you can pick a set of gaiters that integrate with the MTN Racers (and other Topo Athletic models). While the upper is durable and protective, it has a hard time breathing when temperatures rise. I’ve loved it for cold-weather running, but could see these getting a little toasty in the summer.
I’ll add a note about the color options. These are currently only available in what I lovingly call “Ronald McDonald” red. I think the red color wouldn’t be as bad with a set of black laces, but the included orange laces do remind me of some wonderful 1980’s birthday parties in the caboose at the local Golden Arches.
Note: Fit is true-to-size. I wear size 11 in most running shoes and found it to be perfect with the MTN Racer for my regular-width, low-arch feet.
- Outstanding stride
- That Megagrip outsole lives up to its namesake
- Upper provides excellent protection
- Treads will release mud if you’re patient
- Anatomical toebox is a winner
- Feels lightweight and smooth
- Breathability suffers
- Outsole firms up in the cold
- Unfortunate color scheme (some may love it)
The Bottom Line: Topo MTN Racer
My primary checkbox with any trail runner is the toebox. My toes have seen the glory of wide toeboxes and the Topo MTN Racer delivers. With a relatively-tall stack height, the MTN Racer offers good cushion and support — all wrapped up in a protective upper. Vibram Megagrip outsoles make quick work of technical terrain as well.
Buy Now: Available at REI