Sunday, April 16, 2023

Topo Athletic MTN Racer 3 Multi Tester Review: A Joyful, Comfortable and Most Versatile Ride! 9 Comparisons

Article by Dominique Winebaum, Jeff Valliere, Renee Krusemark, Mike Postaski, Alex Tilsley, and Allison Vallliere

Topo MTN Racer 3 ($150)


Jeff V:  The 3rd iteration of the Topo Mountain Racer features a new Zip Foam 2 midsole foam that is lighter, softer, better cushioned (adding 3 more mm of stack), more protective and more responsive.  The upper has also been retooled and the outsole remains the same featuring the super sticky Vibram Megagrip.


Comfort, cushion: Jeff V/Dominique Renee/Alex/Mike P/Allison

Traction Jeff V /Dominique/Renee/Alex/Mike P/Allison

Balance of trail feel and protection Jeff V/Jeff V/Alex/Mike P/Allison

Versatility, durability make it a and good value Jeff V /Dominique/Mike P/Allison

Lightweight for all that it offers Jeff V /Dominique/Mike P/Allison

Added 3mm of stack while losing 2 grams Jeff V /Dominique/Mike P/Allison

Roomy toe box yet with good security Jeff V / Dominique/Mike P


Foothold is not quite as good as previous Jeff V/Renee

My ice/blue color is pretty but not a great color for...dirt paint Dominique/Allison

Trouble getting the lacing to feel secure around the ankle: Alex


Official Weight: men's 10.1 oz  / 286g (US9)  /  women's 8.3 oz / 235g (US7)

     Samples: men’s 10.5 oz  / 297 g US 10

women’s 8.57oz/243g US7.5

Stack Height: men’s 33 mm heel / mm 28 forefoot. 5mm drop

Expected June. $150

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Dominique:  Back in 2019, I tested the MTN Racer 1. It was my first introduction to TOPO Athletic.  I ran trails in them in Park City and peaked bagged the New Hampshire 48 4000 footers.  I basically ran them to the ground! I typically run easy trails and hike arduous terrain when in New Hampshire, and do plenty of walking in between and have done some of  all of the above in the MTN Racer 3 for this review.

In 2022, I tested the Trailventure 2 WP (RTR Review) TOPO’s hiking boot , lightweight, yet very protective and extremely comfortable.  I initiated quite a few friends to the TOPO brand in the process, including recommending the Trailventure 2 to my friend, Annie, for the Tour du Mont-Blanc (100 miles) as she needed the trademark wide TOPO toe box and has neuromas. 

I am excited for the MTN Racer 3 as I get to experience many of the features of the Trailventure 2  - the new ZipFoam 2™ midsole foam and more of it,  Vibram Megagrip outsole, and a 33/28 mm stack height - in a trail shoe.  

Indeed, the new ZipFoam™ formula is lighter and softer, including a higher stack height (+3 mm) than its predecessor, translating into an enhanced overall underfoot experience.  What’s more, the low heel to toe drop at 5 mm is another reason I like my TOPO footwear – no surprise there either as it is an integral part of the “TOPO DIFFERENCE.”  

The fit is true to size, which I can always count on in TOPO, along with their signature roomy toe box.  Likewise, the fit is extremely comfortable as well as quite secure in the midfoot and the heel.  I received mine in ice/blue and enjoyed the cool and clean look of the mesh while it lasted.. along with the darker blue of the midsole.  No worries in terms of durability and performance, the tightly woven mesh is very protective against the elements and very breathable too.   

In comparison to the MTN Racer 2, and to reduce the weight of the shoe, the mesh features fewer overlays/underlays.  

The heel counter does an excellent job of keeping the foot locked in place along with the shoelace system and the generously padded collar.  The partially gusseted tongue (it is attached to the upper sides and not around the arch of the foot) is well padded and protects the top of the foot comfortably.  

The two small central lace loops on the top of the tongue (dark above) add another layer of hold for a secure fit.  

Jeff V:  Out of the box, the MTN Racer 3 is quite reminiscent of the 2 and even now, after running in them for a few weeks, I have to examine them closely to figure out which is which (mainly because they are both yellow).  

Stepping into the 3 is sublime and in my opinion, comfort here is only rivaled by the Nike Pegasus Trail 4.  The upper consists of a tightly woven mesh that is abrasion resistant and gaiter compatible.  The mesh is very similar (if not the same as the 2), however the overlays are slightly different than before, configured slightly differently and less obvious.

There are a few key changes to the upper and the most notable difference for me was that the 3 has a more roomy toe box, is slightly wider, but overall clearly more volume.  

I personally found the 2 to be perfect for my somewhat narrow, low volume foot and found that it struck the perfect balance of roomy and accommodating with security for rough trails.  The 3 with its additional room I think will accommodate a wider range of feet and be welcome on longer runs where room for swelling and splay will be key, though will be a bit of a detriment to those with narrow feet and look for more security for technical trails.  

That said, I have run plenty of steep, technical trails and sometimes fast in them and while I do feel a bit more movement than I did with the 2, it is controlled, not excessive and I feel confident and well planted.

The 3 on the left is notably wider than the 2

The second change is the lacing, whereas the 2 had punched eyelets,  the 3 now has sewn loops.

the 3 on the left and the 2 on the right

The 3rd notable change is that the 3 now has a thicker tongue, which is great, as I noted that with the 2 that I got a bit of lace pressure when I snugged up the laces and this  was especially noticeable on the downhill.  The thicker tongue here eliminates the concerns that I had with the previous version.

The  3 on the right has a much thicker tongue.

Topo makes a gaiter specific for Topo shoes (sold separately) that fits perfectly and securly

Overall fit is true to size, though it feels that the 3 is just ever so slightly longer than the 2, but still I would still suggest staying true to size here.

Renee: Jeff V and Dominique have a great recap of the upper and fit. I’m between half sizes and usually wear a women’s size 8. In Topo, I’m a solid 7.5. The MTN Racer runs true-to-size for a Topo. For runner’s between half sizes, I suggest the shorter half size. The fit is a bit longer and less secure as compared to the MTN Racer v2.

[v2 to the left; v3 to the right]

My first impression was that the shoe felt like a max cushion trail shoe, a departure from the v2, which had a good ground feel. My first runs were during big weeks of 75 miles (more than my typical 50-60), and I found myself wanting a lighter, less cushioned shoe. I had a better appreciation for the shoe once I ran on fresh legs. Don’t let that cushion fool you: the shoe has some pep!

Alex: I’ve run many Topo road shoes but fewer in their trail line – my only comparison is the Ultraventure 3. Compared with the Ultraventure, the MTN Racer felt downright minimal when I first put it on. But walking around, it was clear there was some sneaky cushion. Though the stack height is only 2mm less than the Ultraventure, the MTN Racer does not feel as high off the ground, and the structured outsole gives it more of a feel of sitting in the shoe, rather than on it. 

As always with Topos, the fit is secure through the midfoot and generous around the forefoot. I had some trouble getting the shoe to feel secure around my ankles, and also developed a hotspot just below the ball of my foot, in the arch. (I developed a blood blister here running in an old pair of Topo Zephyrs, and so I think the hot spots are less the fault of the MTN Racer and more the fault of the Zephyrs and my perhaps needing to size up.) I think the MTN Racers run roughly true to size, but as a between-sizer myself, I feel like I should have sized up. 

Finally, as Dominique mentions, I loved the look of these in the box, but questioned how the white/ice blue would hold up on the trails. Alas, it took only two runs before they turned brown.

Mike P: I received my test pair later then others, so I’ve had some time to put some miles into them. The others have already covered the main details of the shoe itself, so throughout the review I’ll just try to focus on my main observations. 

As others have noted, the v3 forefoot width (left above) is much roomier than V2. The MTN Racer 2 was one of Topo’s more streamlined fits, but now the V3 is in line with the more roomier toeboxes of recent models I’ve tested. The Pursuit, Ultraventure 3 and now the MTN Racer 3 are all now similarly wide across the forefoot. Not quite Altra level wide, but wider in comparison to their previous model versions. 

Midfoot hold remains the same though, and the additional space, for me, is welcomed. Also in comparison to V2, I notice just a touch more room length-wise. V2 felt maybe ¼ size short to me, and I worried about taking them out for very long runs. But V3 now feels right in my true-to-size US 9.5. 

One of my main gripes with V2 was the very thin tongue - lace bite was noticeable and bothersome. As Jeff V mentions, this issue is completely resolved in V3. The tongue is now nicely padded from top to bottom, no more issues.

Allison:  I have not run in the MTN Racer since version 1, which was one of my favorite shoes, so was eager to see how the shoe has progressed since.  Out of the box, I am struck by how improved the shoe looks over the first version, with thinner, softer materials which appear to lend to a better foot hold .  I love the white/ice blue colorway, even though I realize they get dirty quick, but they look really nice and classy.  

Stepping in, the comfort and fit is off the charts, very soft, supportive underfoot with a secure heel and midfoot, and a roomy forefoot.  I have a narrow, low volume foot and find that if I wear a thicker sock (just not my most thin running socks), the fit is good enough for most of my smooth running trails. 

On steeper, more technical trails, though the traction is amazing , I do experience a bit of foot movement.  On less steep technical trails though, I appreciate the roomy fit for comfort, splay and swelling on long days.


Jeff V:  While I found the Zip Foam midsole of the 2 to be well cushioned and energetic, the all new Zip Foam used in the 3 is softer, lighter, is 3mm thicker and even more responsive and energetic than before.  The added cushioning is notable, as is the softer composition that makes the MTN Racer 3 better suited for longer distances and more protective.  There is no plate, but with the added cushion it is not a problem and allows for a very good balance of trail feel without ever feeling over rock sensitive or beat up, even on rocky trails.

Response is excellent, as they feel quick, responsive and lively uphill, downhill and over a wide variety of terrain.  While the foam is softer, there is no penalty in stability, predictability or performance.  Also, Topo has eliminated the medial post that was found in the 2, likely because of the improved Zip Foam and can’t say I miss it.

Dominique:  I am in familiar territory with TOPO’s Zip Foam midsole, whose level of cushioning and protection has been enhanced in the MTN Racer 3 with a higher stack height (+3mm) along with being lighter and softer.  I trail run on smooth trails but do hike steep and rough terrain and the stability of the shoe has not been compromised by the increased stack height, removal of the firmer medial post or new softness.  With the hiking season just getting started, I appreciate the new composition of the midsole which leads to more overall comfort for my feet when wearing them for long hauls.  

Renee: Jeff and Dominique wrote the details. The added stack as compared to the v2 make the MTN Racer a better choice for long distances, but it does reduce the ground feel. 

Alex: I have written before about how much I love the new Zip Foam. Still true here. It is responsive while still providing protection, and it feels less plush here than in the Ultraventure 3, which is mostly a good thing for most of the running I do. I have taken these on mostly rocky trails, and have never felt beat up, but also never worried about twisting an ankle as the midsole wraps weirdly around a rock. 

The midsole is soft underfoot, which is felt while walking or hiking. My first runs were with tired legs during big mileage weeks. Once I ran with recovered legs, I was surprised that the midsole felt energetic and responsive, especially for its stack height. 

Mike P: Gen 2 Zipfoam is again a big improvement here. As with the Ultraventure 3 which I tested, it feels lighter and a bit more energetic. I tended to describe V1 Zipfoam as dense and a bit dull feeling - the new version is noticeably better. 

Again focusing on my main observations - another gripe I had about V2 was that it just felt a bit thin under the forefoot, especially for longer distances in more rugged terrain. Topo has added 3mm more underfoot, and it is mostly noticeable under the forefoot. It feels like just the right amount (without adding a protection plate), to keep the shoe feeling both cushioned enough and stable enough. 

Also gone is the firmer medial post/insert. I was hoping that would be removed, so I’m happy to see it gone. In both V1 and V2, it felt noticeable to me, and it made the rear of the shoe feel a bit too stiff for my liking. With Topo’s more narrow heel platform, it just seemed unnecessary to me. Now that it’s gone, the heel feels a bit more adaptable, which is a plus for me when running in uneven terrain. 

Allison:  As the others have described, the Gen 2 Zip Foam is so plush, soft and comfortable with a very light, quick and responsive feel, is supportive and appropriate for every scenario I have encountered, any trail type, condition or as fast/slow as I want to go.  Protection is very good, while allowing just enough ground feel.  The versatility here is really remarkable and the MTN Racer 3 is the most comfortable trail shoe I have worn.


Jeff V:  The Vibram Megagrip outsole remains unchanged and is one of the best out there, with exceptionally good wet traction and is also quite versatile.  I have put them to the test in all conditions, on all types of terrain and I always feel confident.  

I have 175 miles on my MTN Racer 2 (an unusual amount of miles for me on any shoe) and they show hardly any wear (photo below, the older 2 is on the right).

Dominique: In complete agreement with Jeff V.  Little wear on my Vibram Megagrip outsole on my TOPO Trailventure 2W P after much hiking in the White Mountains.  Likewise, the traction is excellent on all types of terrain along with being very protective.   

Very secure on the “monorail” hiking Mt. Roberts (NH) this past Sunday – no gaiters and no spikes as we did not expect to find snow up on top!  

Renee: Not much to add to Jeff and Dominique’s notes. The Vibram outsole is durable and protective. The lugs are big enough to provide good traction on gravel and woodland debris. I ran in the rain/mud and thought the outsole shed mud quickly. The outsole is best for trail terrain. While the shoe is okay on gravel or mellow surfaces (thanks to the comfy midsole), it’s best on a true trail. 

Alex: I’ve tested this outsole on rocks and mud and dry gravel and have yet to find conditions it can’t handle. It’s clearly designed for mountains and would be too much on more mellow trials, but for rocks and roots and other technical conditions, it’s perfect.

Mike P: Topo sticks with the tried and true rubber and outsole pattern here, as it just works. It’s durable, gives good traction, provides some protection, and has enough grooves to allow good flex and contour. There’s really no reason to change unless they are really looking to shave some weight but going with a Litebase construction. Perhaps something for future versions. 

I will note here that the outsole is the main differentiating factor between the Ultraventure 3 and the MTN Racer 3. While the UV3 also has more stack underfoot, there is a lot of overlap between the two shoes - if you are sticking to easier or light trails. If you don’t need so much cushion, you can easily run the MTN Racer 3 everywhere you would take the UV3. But the MTN Racer 3’s outsole really expands its range into more moderate-technical terrain, which the UV3 can’t handle nearly as well.

Allison:  Traction here is quite impressive everywhere I have run, be it mud, wet, dry trails, off trail, gravel, rocks, roads, I always feel confident.  Durability is amazing too, with no real signs of wear.


Jeff V:  The ride of the MTN Racer 3 is joyful, as they are very well cushioned, comfortable, stable and energetic.  While not a featherweight shoe, they run lighter than their weight, and are quick and responsive.  One of the more notable assets of this shoe is the remarkable combination of cushion/protection with trail feel, never feeling sensitive underfoot, even when rocky, yet always feeling grounded and in touch with the earth beneath your feet. Topo’s motto is “Move Better” and that is best exemplified here.

Dominique:  The MTN Racer 3 has an enjoyable ride for sure that is also very protective and stable. 

I like the versatility of the MTN Racer 3 as I can leisurely run trails or hike more hazardous terrain with them.  Sometimes I don’t feel like wearing a higher top boot when hiking so it  is a great option for me, especially when wearing a light pack.  

Renee: The ride is cushioned and soft, and thanks to the outsole it runs stable. The ground feel is not as great as the v2, but v3 offers more underfoot for comfort and distance. The shoe is not super light, but it’s not heavy for what it offers in the outsole and stack height. I wasn’t super thrilled about the stack height and ride during my first miles in the shoe, but I was running high volume mileage on tired legs. During a recovery week, with fresh legs, I was surprised at how responsive the shoe can be, even in mud. The forefoot and midfoot flex are great for the stack height. 

Alex: The combination of the Zipfoam and the rubber outsole combined for me to create a cushioned but stable ride. These are comfy when you’re cruising at easy pace, but also respond to quick steps over technical terrain. They don’t feel overly cushioned – there is little feeling of sinking in – but they do protect you from small rocks and roots, while maintaining some snappiness. Without the hot spot issue I mentioned, I would choose these in a heartbeat for longer adventure races or big days where I’m going to be on my feet for a long time but not trying to move super fast.

Mike P: The MTN Racer 3 is my favorite Topo trail shoe ever. Jeff V pretty much sums it up - “well cushioned, comfortable, stable and energetic”. I love that they have not added a rock plate here - and the shoe now runs so smoothly with the addition of 3mm of lighter and more energetic Zipfoam underfoot. 

If I’m undecided about which shoe to take out on a run (of any type), the MTN Racer 3 is an easy default pick. The ride is smooth and comfortable on anything easier, yet the nice wide forefoot, and solid outsole provides great stability in rougher terrain. It’s truly a do-it-all trail shoe. If I had to pick one thing that stands out as far as enhancing the ride, it would be the new Zipfoam. It just has that lightweight feel on foot - easy to pick the feet off the ground and keep up leg turnover.

Allison:  The ride is plush, stable, predictable, energetic, versatile, responsive, energetic and fun.  The MTN Racer 3 is such a great all rounder shoe that does everything quite well and a shoe that always leaps to the fore of my preferences no matter what I am doing.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Jeff V:  The MTN Racer 2 was one of my favorites and the 3rd iteration is even better.  I am appreciative of the added 3mm of Zip Foam cushioning, which is lighter, softer and more responsive, plus I am happy that they added padding to the tongue, which adds to the comfort of the fit.  

The room in the forefoot has been expanded some, which for my foot and preferred terrain, I am split on, as I prefer a bit more security for technical terrain, but even so, I find foothold and stability to be adequate for all but the most extreme terrain.  

That said, for less extreme running, I like the added comfort and room.  Those with wider feet, or just simply looking for more room will be very pleased here, as I think Topo might be cutting into Altra’s share of the pie, (though IMHO, Topo does it way better with overall superior fit and resultant trail competency (also great that there is 5mm drop here vs. zero always for Altra)).  The MTN Racer 3 is exceptionally comfortable and for sure one of the most comfortable trail shoes available, perhaps only rivaled by the Nike Peg Trail 4.  This is one of those shoes to leave in your car that will be ready for any run you choose, be it training or even racing, as they are incredibly versatile and good on any terrain or any pace.

Jeff V’s Score:  9.6/10

Ride: 9.5 - The new Zip Foam is fun, energetic and a joy to run in

Fit: 9.5 - The added room, while still maintaining security is remarkable.  Comfort is exceptional.

Value: 10 - durability, quality and longevity is notably good.

Style: 9 

Traction: 10 - very very good on all surfaces and in the wet

Rock Protection: 9.5 - no plate, but the plush cushioning absorbs the impact


Dominique: Jeff V.’s comments on the expended width of the forefoot are valid, namely a tighter fit would be more secure on technical terrain.  Likewise, the fewer overlays/underlays are perhaps impacting the foothold in comparison to the MTN Racer 2.  Those are just observations and have not been an issue for me given that I don’t tackle technical terrain when trail running, and only at a slow paces when hiking.  It was a given that my “ice/blue” MTN Racer 3 would not hold well to the dirt painting so my recommendation would be to go with a darker color.  

Please take note how my friend's well seasoned TOPO Trailventure 2 WP in the center are looking “fresher” than mine, after only a few wears in the picture above.  

With an excellent level of comfort and a smooth and enjoyable ride that is extremely reliable and versatile, I am very pleased with this new edition of the MTN Racer and would definitely recommend it!  It is not all about racing up and down the mountain as the versatility of the MTN Racer 3 makes it a great companion for many outdoor adventures on the run and otherwise.

Dominique’s Score: 9.5/10


Renee: The Topo MTN Racer 2 is a decent weight trail shoe with a comfortable midsole and trail-specific outsole. I think it walks the line between max cushion and performance. The upper is comfortable and relatively secure, albeit not as secure as the v2 was for me. Runners who have wide and high volume feet will appreciate the fit. The shoe runs okay on rolling gravel terrain , but feels best on moderate to technical trails because of the outsole. 

Renee’s Score: 9.0/10 (-.50 upper security/width, -.50 loss of ground feel)


Alex: The MTN Racer 3 is a cushioned shoe that can handle tough terrain. I agree with Renee’s assessment that it walks the line between max cushion and performance. For some, the ZipFoam will make this a long run shoe ; for others the responsiveness and snappy outsole will make it a race shoe. For those who regularly run technical terrain and like the Topo fit, the MTN Racer 3 could be the perfect blend of cushion and responsiveness. 

Alex’s score: 9.54/10 (points off for the hot spots, the ride being great but not perfect, and the color)


Mike P:  Right now this is one of the best trail shoes on the market in terms of versatility. You can literally take this shoe out every day in all terrain. Topo has done an amazing job paying attention to feedback and always evolving their models from version to version. Main improvements here - better foam, improved tongue padding, more cushioned under the forefoot, removed firmer medial post/insert. Topo took every single one of my gripes about V2 and resolved them. Great job and thank you !

Mike P’s Score:  9.68/10

Ride: 10 - Just great for everything aside from extremely technical

Fit: 9.5 - Secure, yet leaning towards comfort. Could be too wide if your foot is narrow up front

Value: 10 - You can do every trail run in this shoe

Style: 9 - The yellow is ok, but I do love the white

Traction: 9.5 - Great in almost all scenarios

Rock Protection: 9.5 - As good as it gets without a plate


Allison: The MTN Racer 3 is incredibly comfortable, well protected, with amazing fit, traction, cushion, stability, is reasonably light and energetic. I would recommend it for just about any type of run, be it short or long, slow or fast.  My only reservation is on steep technical trails or off trail because of the wider forefoot being not as secure as I would hope for on such terrain, but I did find that a thicker sock helps with this.  For everything else though, the MTN Racer 3 is a top pick.

Allison’s Score: 9.6/10


9 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Topo MTN Racer 2 (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  Compared throughout, but to summarize, now we have 3mm more cushioning, Zip Foam is lighter and more responsive, tongue has been improved with more padding, toe box has been expanded, outsole is the same and weight is about the same (though by my scale, the 3 is 2 grams lighter actually).

Renee: Jeff has it covered. Version 3 has more stack and comfort underfoot while v2 offers a more secure fit and better ground feel. 

Mike P: I really wanted to like the MTN Racer 2, but I really just use it casually now (I have the white version). The forefoot just felt too thin for me for extended runs and I didn’t like the stiffness under the heel from the medial post. As we all noted - the additional tongue padding is also greatly welcomed. V3 is the complete opposite for me - I feel like I can take them out for every trail run if I wanted to. Jeff V perfectly sums up the differences.

Topo Ultraventure 3  (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The UV3 has 2 more mm stack and has a more maximal feel. I think it would be a better shoe for longer days on less technical terrain, whereas the MTN Racer 3 is much better suited for technical terrain, with better foothold, stability and far superior traction.

Alex: UV3 for gravel roads or super buffed out single track. MTN Racer 3 for everything else. 

Mike P: UV3 feels super cush and comfortable - there’s more stack, and the upper material is less dense and there’s possibly just a touch more volume in it. It’s a great all day cruiser shoe, and certainly an ultra distance option on light-moderate terrain. I’ve used them as my backup drop bag, comfort shoe at a number of races already. The outsole is also expressly designed for light trails - so has less versatile traction than the MTN Racer 3.

Topo Pursuit  (RTR Review)

Mike P: The Pursuit seems to be the zero drop alternative to the MTN Racer 3. Notably, the Pursuit uses the original Zip Foam formulation. It does feel denser and less energetic. Th upper material is the same or similar, but like the UV3, the Pursuit does seem a touch wider than the MTN Racer 3. The Pursuit has the same Megagrip outsole design as the MTN Racer 3, and I found it performed well in technical terrain - and is more capable than the UV3's outsole. In general I prefer the MTN Racer 3 of the 3 shoes, but the Pursuit is a good option for those that prefer zero drop.

Brooks Catamount 2 RTR Review

Mike P: I’d put the Cat 2 in the same category of a do-it-all trail shoe. Extremely versatile, it’s another shoe that I could do pretty much all of my trail runs in. The Cat 2 feels a bit firmer underfoot and is also a bit faster. The Sky Vault plate gives a bit of protection but also a bit of propulsion. The Cat 2 is a great race day shoe, whereas the MTN Racer 3 is more of an everyday option. You could also race the MTN Racer 3 - it contours a bit better over technical terrain so choosing between the two would be based on personal feel. 

Hoka Speedgoat 5  (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Speedgoat has a comparable stack, but is a bit lighter.  Both shoes are very responsive, lively and versatile, with excellent durability and longevity.  I think the fit is the biggest determining factor here, with the Speedgoat narrower (and better in technical terrain), where the MTN Racer 3 is wider, more accommodating and for most would be a determining factor for longer days.

Renee: The Speedgoat 5 is more narrow overall, including both the toebox and midfoot. The rocker on the Speedgoat 5 makes it less traditional in my opinion in terms of ride. I find the midsole firmer (maybe better for some technical terrain), while the MTN Racer 3 midsole is softer with a bit more liveliness. I wore a 7.5 in both (half size shorter than my usual). The MTN Racer 3 has a bit more length and of course a much roomier toebox. 

Hoka Challenger 7  (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Challenger has a more narrow fit and platform and while they actually have 2mm less stack they are not as stable as the MTN Racer 3.  The MTN Racer 3 is more versatile, given the superior traction and stability, and is better on more technical trails.  The Challenger is much lighter however and a great choice for less technical terrain.

Renee: What Jeff said. The Challenger is okay on trail, but it doesn’t have the aggressive trail-specific outsole of the MTN Racer 3. The Challenger rolls nicely on mellow surfaces and hilly gravel terrain, and it’s much lighter. I wore a 7.5 in both shoes; the MTN Racer 3 has more width throughout, especially the toebox (of course!). Both have a good amount of stack underfoot.

Salomon Ultra Glide 2  (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The MTN Racer 3 is more roomy in the forefoot, lighter, more responsive, has 3 more mm stack height, is softer underfoot and has superior traction, although the UG2 has a little better rock protection in the forefoot.

Mike P: Definitely more roomy in the forefoot - the regular width version UG2 is a bit too tapered for my taste as well. But they do offer a wide version. The amount of cushion underfoot feels about the same, but the Topo does feel a little bit softer as Jeff mentions. The UG2 feels tall to me, so I’m a bit uncomfortable taking them in moderate or uneven terrain. I think the Topo is an overall much better and versatile shoe - I’d choose it 100% over the Salomon.

Saucony Xodus Ultra 1 and 2  (RTR Review)

Renee: I ran the Xodus Ultra v1 (not v2) and think the shoes are in a similar category. Both are max cushion trail shoes with performance rides. Both have soft, comfortable midsoles. The upper of the XU v1 fits long and loose at first to account for swelling during ultras, but I found it secure. The MTN Racer 3 upper has a roomy overall fit generally, but perhaps a little less secure for narrow/low volume feet. The XU v1 runs better on firmer surfaces, and feels good for forefoot striking. The MTN Racer 2 has good flex too, although I think it feels better for anyone who heel strikes. The XU v1 is best for true ultra distances, while the MTN Racer v2 is fine for easy short runs too. I wore a women’s size 8 in the XU v1 as compared to a 7.5 in the MTN Racer v3. 

Alex: The Xodus Ultra 2 is softer than the MTN Racer 3, and of course more form fitting. I find the MTN Racer a little bit more stable feeling and better for walking and hiking, and it’d be my choice for training days where I anticipate a mix of hiking and running, or a lot of time running on rock faces. The Xodus Ultra 2 is probably my preference for most true runs.

Scarpa Spin Infinity  (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The MTN Racer 3 is an ounce lighter, more responsive, more roomy and comfortable, with more plush cushioning and a superior outsole.  The Spin Infinity is a bit more secure and protective in technical terrain.

Saucony Peregrine 13   (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Peregrine 13 has less cushion (but still very good), with better protection underfoot. I has more aggressive lugs for loose terrain, is lighter and has a more secure fit for technical terrain.

Renee: The Peregrine 13 is a lighter, less cushioned shoe. For faster paces and better ground feel, the Peregrine 13 is my choice. The upper is more secure and I find it has enough underfoot for distance runs. For a softer feel and wider upper fit, the MTN Racer v3 might work better for some runners. I wore a half size shorter in the MTN Racer as compared to the Peregrine 13. 

Tester Profiles

Jeff Valliere loves to run and explore the mountains of Colorado, the steeper and more technical the better. He has summited all of the 14ers in the state and can be found on mountain trails daily, no matter the weather, season, conditions or whether there is daylight or not.  On the side he loves to ski (all forms) bike and hike, often with his family, as he introduces his 12 year old daughters to the outdoors. Jeff was born and raised in New Hampshire, but has called Colorado home for over 25 years. He is 5’9” and 145 lbs.

Dominique has run for over 40 years, consistently about 25 miles per week at paces between 10 and 11 minute miles and once a week down in the mid 9 minute miles. She races rarely, but always surprises more hard core runners in her age group when she does. She has a 1985 marathon PR of 3:16 in her second marathon which at the time put her on the top 10 Swiss women’s lists. She is the mother of two grown children, both runners post college, and also enjoys nordic and alpine skiing, tennis, hiking and trekking, and gardening. 

Allison Valliere is a 5th generation Coloradan who is passionate about the outdoors and has been hiking, backpacking, skiing, snowshoeing and running in the mountains since she was young.  She has completed all but 5 of the Colorado 14ers (a dozen or so in winter), has many hundreds of year round ascents of 14ers, 13ers and other peaks in Colorado and the West.  Allison has also traveled the world and trekked to over 18,000 feet in the Himalayas, to high altitudes in Ecuador and has worked for the National Park Service mapping plants in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California .  Her almost daily routine involves runs/power hikes in the foothills above Boulder, or 4-5 mile flatter runs at 8-10 minute mile pace if schedule necessitates.  But what really keeps her on her toes is working as a nurse and taking care of her 12 year old twin daughters who are also growing to share her love for the outdoors.

Mike Postaski currently focuses on long mountainous ultras - anywhere from 50K up to his favorite - 100M. 5'10", 138 lbs, midfoot/forefoot striker - he typically averages 70 mpw (mostly on trails), ramping up to nearly 100 mpw during race buildups. A recent 2:39 road marathoner, his easy running pace ranges from 7:30 - 9:00/mi. In 2022 Mike won both the Standhope 100M and IMTUF 100M trail ultras within a 7 week period - both extremely rugged Idaho mountain races. Mike's shoe preferences lean towards firmer, dense cushioning, and shoes with narrower profiles. He prefers extra forefoot space, especially for long ultras, and he strongly dislikes pointy toe boxes.

Renee is a former U.S.Marine journalist, which is when her enjoyment of running and writing started. She isn’t that awesome of a runner, but she tries really hard. Most of her weekly 50-60 miles take place on rural country roads in Nebraska, meaning mud, gravel, dirt, hills, and the occasional field. She has PR’s of 1:30:59 for the half marathon and 3:26:45 for the marathon.

Alex Tilsley is a displaced trail runner, currently living in DC and finding dirt wherever she can. Alex discovered running in college and was a happy 3-miles-a-day hobby jogger until her mom tricked her into running a 10k and it was all downhill from there. She has since run several marathons (PR 3:38) and dabbled in triathlons, but her true love is the trails, whether running, mountain biking, orienteering, or long-distance backpacking. When she’s not running or riding, Alex works full-time in education policy and part-time putting on trail races with EX2 Adventures

The MTN Racer 3 will be available June 2023

The samples were provided at no charge for review purposes.RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased via shopping links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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Stan said...

Great review. I have come to really like Topo. The roomy toe box is great and glad to see that version 3 has added to the toe box. Just wondering how the width compares to that of the Ultraventure3. Thanks for your input and advice. Really looking forward to the Phantom3.

Freelancer said...

Thanks for the review. As a current user of Ultraventure 3, I would also like to know whether MTN Racer 3 is wider than UV3, especially about the toe box. Thank you!

Martin said...

Thanks for early review! What about fit comparison between Topo Pursuit ant Mtn racer 3? Thanks!

Mike P said...

I'm working on my review now - I received my test pair late. Really loving them so far after 35 miles.

Stan, Freelancer- I'd say the width is just a touch narrower than the UV3, but it's definitely expanded compared to the previous version. The mesh upper of the UV3 is also slightly looser and less dense, also giving the toebox a slightly more roomy feel.

Martin - Like the UV3, I'd say the Pursuit also feels just a touch wider than the MTN Racer 3. Even though the Pursuit has a similar mesh upper as the MTN Racer 3, it feels a little looser to me.

The MTN Racer 3 feels just a little bit snugger than those two and a bit more secure in general. (But to reiterate - still more spacious than MTN Racer V2)

rms said...

I'm worried about the mtnr3 deleting the medial post. It was a bit obtrusive at first, but I find it serves very well in keeping my knees aligned and tracking straight. Though I've only a few miles in the UV3 I very much notice the lack of a post in that shoe in decreasing stability. Since the MTNR3 looks like a 'lite' version of the UV3, this could be a red flag for me -- please address it in your reviews.

rms said...

Oh one comment on fit: I had to size down in the MTNR2 to the same size as I wear in Altra, that is 1/2size smaller than any other brand. Sounds like the MTNR3 has even more length and volume?

Mike P said...

rms- The removal of the post was actually something I was hoping for. I found it too noticeable and felt like it made the heel a bit harsh/stiff for my taste. The MTN Racer 3 does feel like something of a 'lite' UV3 - and in that sense you do get a bit more ground feel. I think the removal of the medial post would be less of a factor in comparison to the UV3. It's also wider under the forefoot (compared to V2), so I find that most of the stability comes from that wide forefoot area, making the medial post less necessary.

I found the MTN Racer 3 true to size for me - it's definitely wider and more volume in the forefoot compared to V2. Lengthwise, at least the same, if anything maybe 1/4 size longer.

Unknown said...

how would you compare the MTN racer 3 with the VJ ultra 2?

Mike P said...

VJ Ultra 2 vs. MTN Racer 3
I'd say both shoes target the same terrain and distance/duration, and both are good. The VJ gives you a bit more protection from sharp hits with the rock plate introduced in V2. It also gets the edge in grip and traction, although not by much - MTN Racer 3's Megagrip is more than capable enough.

Big difference in fit though - the MTN Racer 3 is much more comfortable and overall the upper and materials are a bit more refined. Foothold may suffer a little, but only in very technical terrain - you've got more space up front so you're trading a bit of foot squeeze and security for comfort.

MTN Racer 3 is also far more versatile and can be used for any type of trail run, but the VJ is not as smooth outside of the rocky, technical, mountain stuff.

Big difference in sizing (VJs run small) - I wear US 9.5 in MTN Racer 3, and US 10.5 in VJ Ultra 2 and they fit comparably.

David said...

How does the MTN Racer 3 compare to Terraventure 3 regarding fit, cushioning, responsiveness, breathability?
I have Terraventures and I have troubles running longer distances at slow pace with them

acroboy said...

Which midsole compound is softer? MTN Racer 3 or Trabuco Max 2?

Mike P said...

Acroboy- I have not tested the new Trabuco Max but it does have way more stack. I don't think I'd be going out in a limb saying that you have much more ground feel with the MTN Racer 3. In fact, the great quality of V3 is that they packed in as much cushion as they could while maintaining good ground feel.

Rob said...

How is the MTN Racer 3 on pavement? I do about half my trail runs running from my front door about a mile to the trailhead. Currently run in Topo UV2 and have been okay with using it on pavement for this short-ish interval. Any thoughts on MTN Racer 3 for a door-to-trail run. (I've looked at the UV3 and think it may be stacked a bit too high with lugs that are a bit minimal for the kinds of trails I enjoy). Thanks!

Mike P said...


MTN Racer 3 should be good on pavement. There's no rockplate, so the shoe is nice and flexible and the lugs are not too pronounced to be an issue on pavement. You wouldn't want to wear them out too much though, but short segments like you mention are no problem.

You'll definitely find the MTN Racer much better for real trails than the UV3. The outsole is a big improvement, and you're close to the ground with much better ground feel. It also has a tighter upper and less-wide toebox. I like both shoes, but only use the UV3 for mellow runs/terrain.

HRH said...

I'll start by saying I'm a big Topo fan. Have run in a number of their road and trail shoes...and love the fit.

That said, I have suffered serious ankle sprains in both the MTN Racer 2 and 3. I haven't heard of others with similar problems, so maybe it's just me and my gait, but both times, I've stepped on a rock the wrong way and it felt sprung into a lateral ankle sprain.

Any thoughts on what could be causing this? I wouldn't think of the foam as stiff, but maybe something about the structure catches the wrong way and just pops my ankle over. I also notice the sidewalls are maybe a little low.

Or...just bad luck on my part! Thanks for the great reviews.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear. Could it be the toe box is too wide for you? Upper to relaxed? Especially going fast on more technical terrain. Sam , Editor

Rob said...

How’s the heel counter? I’ve loved the heel counter on UV2 and have found that it provides a lot of stability and prevents me from either over pronating or rolling my ankle. Would love your thoughts

Mike P said...

HRH - I just went for a run in them yesterday, and it's definitely not an issue of foam stiffness. 105M in my pair so far and the newer Zipfoam still feels great. After putting them on for the first time in a while they actually felt quite bouncy, but that's probably relative to other stuff I've been running in.

I never had ankle issues with them. In fact, quite the opposite, I normally pick them when I want to feel nice and stable in more moderate(+) terrain. They've been a solid go-to for me when I *don't* want to worry about ankle rolls.

Do you normally run with shoes that have a wider platform up front? That's the only thing I could think of because you do have a nice, broad landing pad which could be different if you're used to something narrower. I do think V3 feels a bit wider than V2 as well.

There's no rock plate either, so that wouldn't be an issue causing tippy-ness.

Mike P said...

Rob - Heel counter feels moderate to me. It's noticeable when I press it with my hand, but unnoticeable on the run. Not overly stiff. For me, it's unobtrusive and feels just right.

Anonymous said...

Hi team,
Love the comments and feedback from runners

I heard from one reviewer that these MTN Racer 3s dont breathe so well and feet get very hot and humid. Especially when running in the rain/through water?

Any feedback on this would be great.

Anonymous said...

Can you elaborate on the breathability of these shoes.
Some reviewers tell me that they stay wet for very long time after humid/rainy runs

HillRunner said...

I upgraded from my MT4's versions of Topo's and was highly disappointed on my first run. I slipped and fell twice due to a lack of lateral stability inside the shoe and stack height, and the excessive protruding edge from the sole. Very slow to respond. My foot was swimming around from left to right. I have run these trails for 15 years; rain, snow, and mud and never wiped out due to the shoe. I have certainly tripped on roots and rocks but not a loss of control inside the shoe. The MTN Racer 3 are designed for flat, non technical trails. They are definitely softer and stacked higher. Too high and too soft. Maybe it's my foot mechanics but these are going back to the store. I am hoping to find a new pair of the MT4's. Don't want to stop running in Topo's

Mike P said...

HillRunner- Do you think they are too wide for you now? They definitely got both softer and wider from V2 to V3. For me a big improvement, but I could see that combo being an issue if the space is too much for someone's feet.

I'm currently testing the Pursuit 2 - it has about the same width but it's firmer underfoot, plus it has their new TPU insole. Could be something to pay attention to - if you're ok with zero drop. Come to think of it - swapping a firmer midsole into your MTN Racer 3's may help you. I find Ortholite insoles do tend to dull ground feeling.