Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Topo Athletic MT-4 Multi Tester Review

Article by Peter Stuart, Canice Harte, Jeff Valliere, and Jana Herzgova

Topo Athletic MT-4 ($120 at launch, $125 Jan. 2022)

Introduction

Peter: The MT-4 is a 10.7 oz /  303g men’s US9 that Topo suggests is a good road/trail hybrid that’s also good for light hiking and trail running. I haven’t run the previous versions, but the MT-4 is a really nice shoe that took to the trails from the jump. 


Pros:

Breathable, Peter, Jeff V, Jana

Very comfortable, Peter, Jeff V

Good traction, Peter, Jeff V, Jana

Well padded tongue, Peter, Jeff V, , Jana

Roomy, yet secure fit:  Jeff V

Great mid foot hold and very breathable while not letting trail debris in: Canice 


Cons:

A tiny bit firm:  Peter

Flat dense feel: Canice

Protection in rocky, technical terrain:  Jeff V

A bit too much of a wide/floppy feel when running: Jana 

Stats

Official Weight: men's 10.7 oz  / 303g (US9) 8.6 oz / 244g women's / (US7)

  Samples: men’s: 11oz  / 311 grams US10, 11.05 oz /312g US10

Stack Height: 25mm heel /22mm forefoot, 3mm drop

Available Dec. 2021 $120, Jan. 2022 $125


First Impressions and Fit

Peter: Fit is sublime. The foot-shape accommodates my weird (and getting weirder) feet really well. Other “foot shaped” shoes require me to size up, but I’m true to size in the Topo Mt-4. Lockdown is good and the laces easily secure my foot. All-in-all an excellent first impression. 


Canice: A classic low drop (3mm) shoe with a roomy toe box that feels good on foot right out of the box. I was immediately struck by how secure my feet felt in the topo MT-4. The shoe also feels light on foot.


Canice: My size 10 MT-4’s felt true to size and though they have a roomy toe box they feel secure and stable. The shoe looks good but if I am to be honest flat shoes with wide toe boxes always have a bit of an orthopedic shoe look to them. They’re hard to make look fast.


Jeff V:  Out of the box I really like the overall look and style of the MT-4, with a really classy grey upper, blue highlights along the midsole/outsole and sharp yellow eyelets and logos that really pop.  


Weight feels to be about what one would expect, light enough for a daily trainer without feeling dense or bulky.  Fit is very good and even my narrow, low volume foot has no trouble with this wider toe box/foot shaped upper.  

Side note, Topo has really really perfected this well!  At least for my foot, no longer does a foot shaped shoe have to be overly short and stocky at the toe, nor does it have to be overly roomy or like some other well known foot shaped brands, does not have to be downright loose and sketchy in technical terrain.  While I never find myself longing for a foot shaped shoe, it goes unnoticed and without consequence with Topo, as I just put them on and do not notice any awkward variance, but instead just a roomy, comfortable fit with hardly any compromise in security. 


So, for the MT-4, fit is true to size with a secure heel, midfoot and a roomy, but still well held toe box.


Jana: My very first run in them felt slightly weird, as I am not used to a wide toe box. I don't have narrow feet, rather I am a mid width so I normally don't need a wider shoe. I felt sloppy running on trail at first.  A few runs later, I started to feel more stable, and as temperatures dropped I added a thicker/wool sock and felt pretty comfortable and secure even on technical trails.



Upper

Peter: The upper is made of a breathable, lightweight mesh that seems to dry pretty quickly. The tongue is nicely padded and attaches to the sides of the shoe at about ⅓ of the way down the tongue--helping the tongue stay solidly in place and keeping debris out. The ankle collar is well padded with very soft and smooth padding, adding to a nice comfortable foot hold. 

There’s an overlay that protects the foot all the way from the medial side of the arch, around the toe and to the lateral side of the arch. The rubber from the outsole of the shoe curls up on the toe and helps protect the toe from bumps--sort of makes it a double toe bumper. 


The insole, an Ortholite, is very comfortable and adds some nice cush to the step in.  Finally, the shoe is fitted for the Topo gaiter system if that’s your thing. 

Canice: The upper has a breathable mesh that is comfortable and well protected by overlays to give the shoe plenty of durability. I found the fit to be great for a medium to low volume foot, and the MT-4 has a traditional flat lace and a well padded tongue. Overall the upper is very nice.

Jeff V:  I agree with Peter and Canice about how nice, light, breathable and comfortable the MT-4 upper is.  The materials are soft, flexible, comfortable, yet simultaneously protective and secure.  Breathability is very good, airy, but not overly so.  The gusseted tongue is great and makes sliding into the MT-4 a pleasure, adding to comfort and security.  Lacing is very secure with a once and done pull without having to fight them, with very good lace/eyelet integration.


Jana: As previously mentioned, the upper feels very comfortable, with a well padded tongue. The ankle collar has enough cushioning to keep the heel securely in place and is well padded. Breathability is great, even when running in wet snow/muddy terrain. I had no problems with chafing, nor felt like I was running with "extra weight" from shoes being soaking wet.

As far as lacing goes, I have had zero issues or any need for re-lacing them during my runs. They held my feet securely in place, for the entire time on each run. 



Midsole

Peter: The midsole is dual density EVA.. The layer immediately next to the foot is 10% softer than the layer farther away from the foot (and closer to the ground). It’s a very nice ride, although it doesn’t bounce like some of the newer foams do. There’s a solid and stable feel to it that is really nice on rocks and trails. It’s totally capable on jeep road too, but not quite as fun. 


Canice: the midsole of the MT-4 is comfortable but it has a dense feel that provides stability as opposed to spring or bounce. Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of cushion here, it just has a flat feel to it. I ran my MT-4’s through lots of tight rocks and the midsole foam has held up incredibly well.


Jeff V:  The dual density midsole falls into solid middle ground for me, not particularly sporty or responsive, but not necessarily sluggish either.  Cushioning is adequate for most trails and conditions, though can feel a touch thin under foot when running on rocky, technical trails for extended periods.  Trail feel is very good, with a nice balance of flex and protection, but again, more geared toward moderate to less technical trails.


Jana: I have not much to add to what Jeff, Canice, and Peter say above. MT-4, for me, is not a shoe I would use for a very technical terrain, as I prefer a more snug toe box,  nor for a race as they lack energy return. If you prefer a ground feel while running, MT-4 is cushioned just enough to give you enough protection, with a solid and stable feel.

Outsole

Peter: The Topo MT-4 has  a Vibram XS Trek EVO outsole. There is very good overall grip and surprisingly good protection from rocks and other debris. There are several well placed grooves that add a good amount of flexibility. 


Canice: The Vibram® outsole provides plenty of traction and thanks to the liberal use of rubber which also adds another layer of protection. The outsole has grooves which allow the shoe to flex nicely and the combination of flexibility and protection are in balance.

Jeff V:  Agreed with Peter and Canice, the Vibram XS Trek EVO provides excellent grip on a wide variety of surfaces, such as slabby rock, technical trails and in wet conditions, though I found when running over steep, loose, off trail, I longed for a bit deeper lugs, but a minor complaint, as the MT-4 is not made specifically for that.  


Otherwise this tread is quite versatile, performing well all around and door to trail with reasonable shorter distance road performance as well.  Durability has thus far proven to be average to above average.


Jana: The Vibram XS Trek EVO has performed well for me. Snow, mud, road, trail - it delivered a stable ride, with excellent grip and protection. I had no issues with mud/snow being stuck to it, as the lugs are spaced apart enough. After logging over 100 miles on mainly hard packed trails and road, I can see only a very minor wear on the outsole. 


Ride

Peter: The MT-4 rides like a lighter shoe. The whole shoe works together to make for a pretty nimble feeling package that dances nicely over rocks both big and small, and feels really good when you get some open dirt to speed up on. I had no issues with grip through some wet stuff and they dried pretty quickly considering they got wet in pretty cool temperatures. I wouldn’t want to do too many road miles in them, but they felt fine on approach roads and really solid through hours of trail work. 


Canice: For me the ride feels flat and stable which in technical terrain is great. The MT-4 is at home on tight technical mountain trails and will feel great to a mid foot strike runner. If you heel strike (you’re not alone) you may find enough foam to reduce the impact but it’s minimal.


Canice: I would love a little more bounce in the ride but other than that it’s a great shoe to run in.


Jeff V:  The MT-4, while not a fast or particularly lively shoe, is fun to run in and strikes a nice balance of being a natural type of foot shaped trail feel sort of shoe, with a shoe that is well cushioned, comfortable and adequately protected from all but the most rocky, technical trails.  As Peter mentions, the MT-4 for me runs lighter than the measured weight would suggest.


Jana: Light, quick drying, with enough protection while maintaining ground feel, they deliver a comfortable and stable ride and work well for me.



Conclusions and Recommendations

Peter: The Topo MT-4 just works for me. The fit is great, they’re at a good weight, float through the trails and already look like an old friend sitting in my closet. I might not take them for super long distances, but they handle the road/trail transitions well and are very comfortable. I’d highly recommend giving them a shot. 

Peter’s Score 9/10. A really solid shoe all-around. I agree with Canice about the bounce, 


Canice: The MT-4 is a comfortable shoe that is at home on mountain trails (I live in Park City, UT), provides lots of stability and is a pleasure to run in. Give me a little more bounce or pop and it would take the shoe to the next level. For my part I feel comfortable running the MT-4’s at any distance but will likely keep them in the 15 to 20 mile range. After that I like a little more cushion.




RIDE

FIT

VALUE

STYLE

Traction

Rock Protection

Overall Score

Percentage of Total

30%

30%

10%

5%

15%

10%

 

Score

9

9

9.5

8.5

9.5

9.5

9.2


Jeff V:  The MT-4 is a great middle distance, door to trail trainer for moderate to less technical trails, though can easily handle shorter bits of technical trails, but just would not be my first pick for extended rough terrain. I can easily see 10-20 miles in this shoe, but for my preference, I would want a bit more cushion/protection underfoot for longer distances than that.

Jeff V’s Score:  9/10

Ride: 9, Fit: 9, Value, 9.5, Style: 9.5, Traction: 9, Rock Protection: 8


Jana: MT-4 is my very first Topo shoe. I am pleased with how they feel and respond. They are a omfortable and stable daily trainer (up to 20 miles for me), but are not shoes for long distance adventures. 

Jana's score: 9.05 /10

Ride: 9; Fit: 9; Style: 9.5; Traction 9.5; Value 9; Rock Protection: 8.5


6 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE


Topo MT-3  (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The MT-4 has a much improved upper, a new dual density midsole and a new Vibram outsole, plus attachments for Topo’s proprietary gaiters.  While not radically different in overall use and performance, the new and improved MT-4 in my opinion has a bit more protection underfoot, better traction and a more breathable, refined, flexible upper.  All of these improvements however have resulted in a bit of a weight gain, nearly an ounce in my size 10.


Topo MTN Racer 2  (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The MTN Racer 2 is far superior in my opinion, at least for my use, with 5mm more cushion in the heel and 3mm more in the forefoot, with a 5mm drop vs. 3mm, is half an ounce lighter in my size 10.  The MTN Racer 2 also has a bit better foothold and perhaps slightly better protection, though the MT-4 is a little more breathable and flexible overall.


Hoka Torrent 2:  (RTR Review)


Peter: I really like the Torrent, but when I put it on side to side with the MT-4, I much prefer the Mt-4. My foot feels like it has more room to breathe in the Topo and I feel equally nimble on the trails and quick on the roads in both. The Topo wins on comfort.


Jeff V:  I find both the Torrent 2 and MT-4 share some similar characteristics, but each have their pros/cons when compared to one another.  I find the Torrent 2 to be more responsive and feels notably lighter and quicker, more of a race shoe, where the MT-4 has a more casual feel, appropriate for moderate running, vs racing.  While the Torrent 2 has good traction, the MT-4 is better and has a wider toe box.


Hoka EVO Speedgoat EVO  (RTR Review)

Peter:  Hard to compare. The Hoka is softer and eats up rocks better, would probably pick it to go longer, but the Topo is great for shorter stuff. 


Jeff V:  I would not really even put either the Speedgoat 4, or the Speedgoat EVO in the same category given the difference in stack height and overall performance, with both Speedgoats being more geared toward faster, more performance running.  The MT-4 has of course a wider toe box, lower to the ground feel and better proprioception.


Inov-8 Terra Ultra  G270 (RTR Review)

Peter:  My forefoot gets a bit worn out in the Inov-8. I like the grip and enjoy running in them, but would pull the Topo out first these days. 


Jeff V:  The G270, while an overall universal hit, just did not strike me the same as my peers.  I found them to be a bit thin underfoot, the upper did not hold as well as I hoped/expected and I don’t really jive with zero drop.  The G270 is lighter and more responsive, but speed over distance and especially on technical trails was a bit of a wash.  Given that, I would for sure pick the MT-4 over the G270 for just about any of my runs.


Altra Superior (RTR Review

Canice: I feel like the MT-4 is a superior version of the Superior. Fits me better, protects my forefoot better, better traction. 

The Topo Athletic MT-4 will be available December 2021

Tester Profiles

Canice is a 2 x finisher of the Wasatch 100, the Bear 100, Moab 100, Western States 100, and Leadman as well as many other ultras. He regularly competes in Expedition Length Adventure races with his longest race to date 600 miles as well as in traditional road races and triathlons.


Jeff Valliere runs mostly on very steep technical terrain above Boulder often challenging well known local FKT's. 


Peter lives in Austin, Texas and has been a sub 3 hour marathoner as well as a 1:25 half marathoner in recent years. He recently completed his first 50K trail ultra.


Jana Herzgova took up running in 2016, after a back injury. Prior to that she was a speed skater, but due to back pain and doctor's recommendation, she transitioned into running. Since then, starting with shorter ultra distance races she quickly evolved into an avid long distance and unsupported mountain runner. She also loves to take on challenges/races in arctic and subarctic climates, mainly in unsupported and semi-self supported style. She runs about 100 miles per week: 40 miles on road and 60 miles trail mostly at high elevations. She currently lives in Utah/Wyoming.

Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes others. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content

The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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9 comments:

Jeff Valliere said...

Following

Julien said...

For information, how is the sizing between topo and altra? I usually wear 14 in Altra. Thanks.

Jeff Valliere said...

I have not run in Altra in a year or two, but my experience with Altra is that they have run short in my normal size, where I feel my toes right up at the front of the shoe. Topo used to sort of be this way, but this years models all have felt much more "normal" to me, just a little wider than a normal shoe, but not stocky like the Altras I am familiar with or previous Topo.

Dean said...

Thank you for the great reviews! Would they fit more like the MTN2 or UV2? I would like to order them if they are closer to an MTN2 fit. Wearing a US Men's 12 in MTN2, same for these? Thanks, Dean

Julien said...

Thanks for the answer.

Marduk said...

Real love the new upper. Any comparison ride-wise with the Terraventure 3? Which is better for alpine terrain and which for door-to-trail use?

Jeff Valliere said...

Dean, I just tried the MTN 2 and the MT-4 side by side and they are very similar (UV2 is very good, but IMHO, the aforementioned are better even).

Marduk, I did not run in the TV3, but would suggest looking at the MTN Racer 2 for Alpine terrain and door to trail.

Alberto said...

I would love to try one of the Topo shoes cause I like his "footshape" and the vibram outsole, BUT I always heard that is very firm, and I need softer midsoles, (mainly in the forefoot).

What of the Topo trail shoes do you think has more and softer cushion in the forefoot?

Thanks!

Jeff Valliere said...

MTN Racer 2 is the best of the bunch. Cushioning is firm, but not harsh and feels the most substantial underfoot (most cushion/protection), while maintaining a light weight and great feel.