First Look: Topo Athletic MT-4 Trail Running Shoes
Topo Athletic’s MT line of shoes may historically be the best representation of the brand at large. The shoe has a minimalist feel that preserves natural biomechanics, with just enough protective elements and performance characteristics to make it suitable for just about anything. The MT fits into the Topo lineup as a hybrid road-track shoe for light hiking or running, but it also works well as a high mileage trainer or as a running shoe for those more used to minimalist footwear. The latest iteration of this line, the MT-4, has top-to-bottom updates, while maintaining the same geometry and classic Topo fit that so many customers love.
The upper of the MT-4 is made of a new lightweight breathable mesh with thin overlays that seem more decorative than functional in the posterior direction, as they obviously do not anchor into the sockliner. Fortunately, the anatomical fit of the Topo shoes has always been adapted and we had no problems with our feet moving in this shoe. The men’s version of this shoe lets you choose between two aesthetic extremes: a subtle, understated, barely noticeable gray, or an electric fluorescent yellow that turns heads. We tested yellow, which paired perfectly with our retro Bob Ross socks.
Moderate padding at the tongue and around the ankle collar provides a comfortable all-around feel, and an Ortholite footbed maintains good cushioning and breathability directly underfoot. Ortholite is the top of the line when it comes to foot sole construction and Topo is in the process of including them with all of their shoes in 2022. Another complete upgrade to the product line seen on the MT-4 is the inclusion of Attachment ports for the Topo gaiter system on all trails models advance. Small drainage holes at the base of the liners on the medial and lateral sides help speed up water drainage and drying time.
The most significant updates to the MT-4 are located under the foot, starting with a new dual-density midsole that combines a softer, cushioned EVA layer with a firmer layer for responsiveness. The high creates a cushioned impact in the back of the foot, a smooth transition to the forefoot, and more energetic propulsion than the previous compound provided. In keeping with its minimalist nature, the MT-4 has no rock plate, allowing for maximum flexibility and ground feel, especially in conjunction with the relatively modest 25/22mm stack heights. We were pleased with the shoe’s ease of acceleration, which is usually a function of the lightness and responsive midsole platform.
Also new to the MT-4 is the Vibram XS Trek EVO outsole. This compound is engineered by Vibram to provide the optimum balance of traction and durability, and the grip is only slightly less secure than Vibram’s famous Megagrip compound. However, the durability is greater which is what you want if you split your mileage between dirt and asphalt. The rubber compound and the 4mm studs are still able to handle all but the most difficult terrain; we had no problem using these shoes on stream crossings and on steep gravel descents. The rubber cover is quite extensive on the undersurface except for a few flex grooves, ensuring that you will have adequate traction on uneven terrain regardless of your foot strike pattern. This shoe comes with a slight increase in weight (0.4 oz) compared to the previous version.
Best of all is that none of the updates to this model affect the overall fit and feel that makes the MT-4 (and Topo shoes in general) so fun to run. If you were a fan of this model in the past, you are sure to be impressed with the new improved version.
The Topo Athletic MT-4 will be available in early January in men’s and women’s versions on www.topoathletic.com.
Features and Specifications:
- Weight (Men / Women): 10.4oz / 8.6oz
- Pile height (heel / toe, in mm): 25/22
- Heel-toe drop (mm): 3mm
- Ortholite insole
- Upper: breathable mesh with TPU overlays and medial and lateral drainage holes
- Midsole: Dual density EVA for a soft landing and propellant energy return
- Outsole: Full-length Vibram XS Trek rubber
- MSRP: $ 120