Summary

We spent 6.3 hours reading reviews from experts and users. In summary, this is what runners think:

7 reasons to buy

  • The Topo Athletic MTN Racer is significantly lighter than other running shoes from the brand, according to some reviewers.
  • The outsole has been praised by many wearers because of its incredible traction on wet rocks and mud surfaces. 
  • Some users find the MTN Racer to promote a fast speed during runs. Additionally, other runners noticed a snappy ride even on sloped mountain trails.
  • The shoe is lightweight but still well-cushioned, several buyers mentioned.
  • The upper is effective in keeping dirt out, as stated by several runners. Also, the upper is praised for its quick-drying capability.
  • Many wearers agree that the firm cushioning of the midsole justifies the lack of a rock plate.
  • The shoe has less bulk compared to other trail running shoes, which makes for an easy break-in period, as reported by various runners.

3 reasons not to buy

  • Some users have felt the upper material to shrink when drenched with water.
  • The shoelaces get untied easily, according to a few wearers.
  • A number of reviewers claim that the firm midsole of the MTN Racer provides low-level protection from sharp rocks and other rough elements of the trail.

Bottom line

The MTN Racer from Topo Athletic proves itself to be a worthy purchase, with a name that is fitting for how it performs. The shoe effectively delivers outstanding ride on the trail with the help of its features that reflect comfort and functionality. In contrast, some buyers criticize a few of the shoe’s structural elements that contribute to their bothersome running experience. Overall, the Topo Athletic MTN Racer is not perfect, but considerably good, and definitely a fantastic companion for the trails.

Facts

Terrain: Trail
Arch support: Neutral
Weight: Men: 9.3oz | Women: 7.7oz
Heel to toe drop: Men: 5mm | Women: 5mm
Pronation: Neutral Pronation
Arch type: High arch
Use: Jogging
Material: Vegan
Strike Pattern: Midfoot strike
Distance: Daily running | Long distance | Marathon
Heel height: Men: 30mm | Women: 30mm
Forefoot height: Men: 25mm | Women: 25mm
Release date: Jun 2019
Brand: Topo Athletic
Type: Low drop | Maximalist
Width: Men: Normal | Women: Normal
Price: $140
Colorways: Red
Size
Small True to size Large
See more facts

Expert Reviews

Experts are runners, who post reviews at youtube, directly at RunRepeat or at their own websites. Each expert is categorized from level 1 to level 5 based on expertise. See stats on expert reviews and how we calculate scores here.

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88 / 100 based on 13 expert reviews

  • 80 / 100 | Kory Mueller

    Topo Athletic MTN Racer: Home on the tough stuff, but can it do more?

    More photos

    The MTN Racer is a trail running shoe that is at home on mountainous and technical terrain. The Vibram outsole provides plenty of traction and true to Topo's other models. This shoe is a low drop shoe and has a roomy natural feeling in the toe box.

     

    Plenty of traction 

    The MTN Racer is outfitted with a grippy and durable sole from Vibram. As with all Vibram sole, I would expect nothing less. Their soles are always top-notch no matter the brand of shoe. 

    The outsole felt best on rocky, muddy, or technical terrain. The lugs are deep and substantial, thus providing plenty of grip. However, it does make this shoe feel overbuilt for more tame trails or road running. In fact, they feel just plain awful on the road. 

    The grip was great no matter the conditions - wet, dry, rocky, rooted, muddy. The MTN Racer is one of those shoes that inspires confidence on the toughest trails.

     

    Fit

    For starters, the fit was perfect. The shoe is true to size. The toe box is roomy, providing plenty of space for your toes to splay naturally.

    The midfoot and heel felt snug, but not too tight, keeping my foot in place on the technical trails. The heel cup was my favorite part of the shoe's fit. It is padded and flexible, but not overbuilt.

    Build quality

    The MTN Racer is a truly quality shoe. The materials are top-notch. The upper is a tough mesh with plenty of welded overlays. The tongue is lightly padded and gusseted to keep out the unwanted debris. 

    While the outsole is just fantastic for the trails, as stated above. The jury is still out of the midsole, but after about 100 miles, the cushion still feels great. I expect these shoes to pass the test of time.

     

    Weight

    At 9.3 ounces for a size 9, this is a great shoe. The MTN Racer not only is light on the scale, but also feels light underfoot, at least on the trails. Continue to the "Why Not?" section for more.

    Why not?

    Overly built

    Yes, the MTN Racer is well constructed and durable, but this does make the shoe feel overly built for many situations. The upper is extremely hot. I am not exaggerating; at the end of an hour-long run on a hot day, so much sweat had built up inside the shoe - felt squishy. 

    The lugs on these shoes are also overly built, which is great for technical and mountainous trails. However, these definitely hurts performance on less technical trails and roads.

     

    Versatility

    A versatile shoe almost always earns high marks from me. The MTN Racer, however, is built for one purpose. The shoe excels on those tough trails, but really nowhere else.

    On the roads? They feel cumbersome and overbuilt.

    Easy trails? Again the MTN Racer is not a great option.

    On the road on less technical trails, the shoe loses that lightweight feel and suddenly feels much heavier than 9.3 ounces. If you live near some truly technical trails, the MTN Racer may be for you. For me, I need a shoe that can do more than one job.

    Conclusion

    I give credit to Topo for creating a shoe true to their brand. As promised, the MTN Racer has a low drop and a natural fit.

    This shoe would be great at mountain races and trail runs. It is named appropriately. However, I was left wanting more.

    In my opinion, versatility is the most important quality in a shoe, and MTN Racer was lacking.

    This expert has been verified by RunRepeat. Reviews are neutral, unbiased and based on extensive testing.

  • 89 / 100 | Scott Roman

    Meet your new cold weather trail shoes: The Topo Athletic Mountain Racers

    More photos

    These shoes feel really well made. When I first picked them up, I was surprised by how little they weighed despite being so sturdy. Topo did a lot of things right, mainly the ride and grip, which are both superb for high mileage days on rough terrain. 

    These shoes also have a high amount of cushioning thickness, but they don’t look like they are 30mm of foam in the back and 25mm in the front, which I think is a good thing. I’m not really going for looks or style points on when I’m trail running, but I think it’s a plus that these shoes don’t look like platform shoes.

     

    Mountain Racers after 80 running miles and not much cleaning.

    Usage

    As of July, I’ve put 82 running miles on these shoes, plus another 10-15 miles of hiking. Of the running miles, about 25 of them were on trails of some sort, including a sprint up the rocky “Stairmaster” approach in the Gunks of New York, lots of crushed limestones, and a long and muddy trail run on a single track.

    Upper

    The upper is made out of a thin but durable nylon material. I read another pre-release review that said it was ripstop nylon, but can’t confirm that, nor do I have a good idea of what exactly that means. 

    Regardless, the upper is thin, durable, but not waterproof or especially breathable. To test how “breathable” it is, I tried to put my mouth to the upper and tried to breathe or suck any air through, and there was little to no air getting through the upper.  

    I would call it “splash proof,” as it was great at keeping my feet feeling dry when running through puddles, but it also was great at pooling sweat when the temp was above 75F (24C).

    If it’s cool, then the upper is great, as it keeps dust, mud, and splashed water out. When it’s hot, I’d really prefer the uppers to be mesh.

    Midsole & outsole

    A little more midsole than I typically get on a shoe, but I like it. It’s not overly cushy, which makes the shoe surprisingly responsive and sturdy while still being reasonably flexible. 

    The thicker midsole also makes the shoe protective against sharp rocks. I don’t know if this shoe has a rock plate, but if it doesn’t, then it doesn’t need one, as the thickness of the sole alone suffices.  

     

    Even though there is a lot of foam in that midsole, they really don’t look that tall.

     

    The outsole is nothing short of incredible; definitely a huge selling point of the shoes.

    Not a single time have my feet slipped while wearing these shoes. The lugs are thick but not too obtrusive, and you don’t feel them if you’re running on pavement.

     

    Whoever made this outsole, really knew what they were doing. Kudos to you, my friend!

    Ride & comfort

    Responsive and reliable, yet forgiving enough to not hold you back on higher mileage runs. Surprisingly stable, but that compromises on the toe-box comfort, making it feel slightly more constrictive. 

    Overall, the ride is superb. The ludicrous grip combined with the responsive midsole and sock-like upper makes the shoe feel natural despite the taller stack height. These shoes give me the confidence to push my limits on the trails, which make a run that much more fun.  

    There are two very small issues I have with the comfort:

    1. The toe feels a little too lifted like the shoe is forcing your toes upward. I mostly notice this when I’m first putting the shoes on, though, and the feeling goes away after I get a few steps into my run.
    2. The toe-box is slightly too restrictive, which takes away from the comfort. I think this is a trade-off for the responsiveness of the ride, as the shoe stays true and underfoot even on tight turns, but I think this is an area that could be improved.

    Protection & durability

    Very good protection on the upper due to the ripstop nylon, and great protection from rocks due to the thick but responsive midsole.  

    I have noticed some of the seams between the upper and midsole that is coming undone, and that shouldn’t be happening on a rugged trail shoe that only has 80 miles on them. 

     

    The seam between the upper and midsole coming unglued. This started happening after ~50 miles.

     

    I have the slightly less rugged Topo Athletic Runventure 2, that have had no issues with the build quality, so I’d chalk this issue up to this being the first iteration of these shoes. I’m confident that in the second version, Topo will figure out how to make sure all the seams stay together. 

    That said, this issue has had no effect on the way these shoes run and is currently just cosmetic, but it is concerning nonetheless. To emphasize this point, I didn’t even notice the build quality issues until I really examined the shoe while writing and filming my review.

     

    Same issue on the other side of the shoe.

    Weight

    Impressively lightweight. I wear a size 12, and these shoes feel like they should weigh at least 2 ounces more given how sturdy they feel. Like I said before, when you see these in the store, be sure to pick them up so you too can be amazed by how light and sturdy they feel!

     

    The Men’s size 12 Mountain Racers weighed 11.4 ounces (324 grams) out of the box.

    Features

    If it weren’t hot out when I was testing these shoes, I might have lauded the nylon upper as a great feature for keeping the water, mud, grime, and snow out. If running in adverse conditions in cold weather is your idea of a good time (I know it is for me!) then I think you would join me in calling the nylon upper a notable feature.  

    The other thing to note about these and other Topo Athletic trail shoes is that they have gaiter attachments built into the shoe. I do not own, nor have worn the gaiters, but I’ve read good things about them, and I bet they would make these shoes practically bomb-proof for winter or muddy hiking/trail running.

     

    Gaiter attachment points.

    Fit

    I wear a size 12 in most shoes, and these are reasonably true to fit, but I could probably go a half size up and be fine. If you are in-between sizes, I’d recommend going a half size up.  

     

    Most Adidas shoes 12
    Saucony Kinvara 5,6 and 7 12.5
    Brooks Pureflow 6 & 7 12.5
    Altra Escalante 12
    Saucony Freedom ISO 2 12

     

    Value

    I’ve read that these will be available for $140. I generally compare Topo Athletic most directly to Altra, as both brands really emphasize the low drop, more natural shoe

    At this price, they are a little more expensive than the Altra Lone Peaks or the Timps, but not by much, and I think you are getting just a little more shoe than the Altra options.  

    If you scroll through all the other trail runner options, they are solidly in the mid-range of prices.  Assuming the build quality issue is just cosmetic, I would say these are definitely worthwhile shoes.

    Pros

    • Sturdy
    • Comfortable - I will wear these shoes for my next trail race or ultra marathon, given it’s not too hot
    • Good protection from rocks
    • Durable sole
    • Toe box is appropriately sized for comfort, but not too big to allow the foot to move around too much, ideal for responsiveness and inspiring confidence when turning sharply or stopping quickly
    • A ludicrous amount of traction 

    Cons

    • Toe feels a little lifted
    • Not great breathability, I would not consider wearing these shoes if it’s >80F (>26.5C)
    • Toe-box is slightly constrictive, but I also feel like this is a slight tradeoff for having a form-fitting and responsive trail shoe. That said, I think the comfort can be improved

     

    I think if I had received these shoes in January, my review might be 3-5 points higher. As much as the shoes excelled on the trails, they just weren’t super enjoyable to lace up in the heat of the late spring and summer due almost entirely to the lack of breathability through the upper. 

    The lack of breathability and the potential build quality concerns were the main two issues I had with these shoes - the comfort and lifted toe issues were very small and more meant as a challenge to Topo for something they could improve for the next iteration.  

    Now that I have finished testing of these shoes, I’ll probably be keeping them in my closet until fall rolls around, but I’m very excited to get them back out again to tackle some leaf-covered trails.

    I will probably be running in these shoes exclusively through the winter, as they can probably grip ice and snow far better than anything else I own!

    Would I recommend to a friend?

    I would, without a doubt, recommend these to an ultra runner who is planning on running when it is cold outside, which is pretty much every ultra runner I know.  

    They also make excellent hiking shoes that I would happily lace up for almost any hiking or backpacking trip. If you are an avid hiker, especially fast-packer or any other sort of backpacker who is looking to cover some serious ground, then these would also be an excellent option for you.

    Disclaimer

    I’ll say up front that I received these shoes for testing by RunRepeat.com, but my intentions are pure and my biases as in-check as possible. No additional compensation was provided. 

    This expert has been verified by RunRepeat. Reviews are neutral, unbiased and based on extensive testing.

  • 90 / 100 | The Ginger Runner | | Level 5 expert

    [The Topo Athletic MTN Racer has] a really good balance of everything that makes Topo great, and it works in a variety of scenarios.

  • 89 / 100 | Sam Winebaum | Level 2 expert

    Topo has characterized this shoe as a trail racing and speed hiking shoe; I definitely [agree].

Become an expert

- Topo Athletic presents a new running gear in the form of the MTN Racer. As the name implies, this shoe offers an outstanding performance that is aimed at trail racing and speed-hiking. 

- The upper of the MTN Racer provides appropriate coverage while also maintaining optimal breathability. The other elements that surround the two-layer mesh also contribute to protecting the foot from debris, as well as water.

- Meanwhile, the shoe’s sole unit is comprised of technologies that contribute to a natural sensation when running. It also provides the runner with the necessary cushioning, traction, and durability to ensure a problem-free ride no matter how rugged the trails are.

The Topo Athletic MTN Racer is constructed with medium dimensions in the heel, midfoot, and toe box. The height of the toe box also falls under the average measurement. Additionally, because the MTN Racer is a neutral running shoe, the arch has a moderate-to-low height to accommodate the high arches of neutral pronators.

The main outsole component of the Topo Athletic MTN Racer is the Vibram Megagrip rubber compound. This material is known for its durable and slip-resistant qualities that help maintain the high performance needed in trail running, especially on wet surfaces.

A set of multidirectional lugs are found across the length of the outsole. These lugs are spaced wide enough from each other, providing an adequate surface area for traction. The sufficient space between each lug allows for a proper release of mud and snow.

A three-piece injected ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) foam makes up the bulk of the MTN Racer’s midsole unit. The material has a structure that promotes high-rebound in all areas of the shoe. The foam unit is divided into two parts: soft on the lateral side for a cushioned foot-strike, while firm on the medial side to maintain a secure and comfortable fit.

Accompanying the EVA foam is a piece of Ortholite insole. This brand of sockliner is popular for its anti-microbial property.

The upper of the Topo Athletic MTN Racer is made of ripstop mesh that is constructed using a stitchless design to keep the foot secure. The mesh is installed with drainage ports on the lateral and medial sides to allow water to escape quickly, as well as letting air inside to dry the shoe.

The upper is aided by accessories, including a gusseted tongue that prevents dirt and debris from entering the shoe. The New Balance 890 v6 sports a similarly designed feature. The tongue is incorporated with lace guides, which augment the secure fit of the shoe.

An anatomical toe box in the shoe’s forefront allows the toes to spread naturally and comfortably. This feature is consistent among many running shoes of Topo Athletic.

Comparison