Gear Review: Topo MT-2

Last summer, I reviewed the Runventure; what I considered to be the first serious trail running shoe from new, upstart running shoe company Topo Athletic.  Short of a few very minor tweaks, I found this shoe to already be one of the favorites in my closet for anything under 20 miles.  I was surprised that such a young company could nail a trail running shoe with their version one release, then again, maybe I shouldn’t have been given the experience of their founder Tony Post.  My one major complaint as an ultrarunner is that I struggled to use it over really long distances without my legs feeling hammered.  I, like most others, prefer a bit more cushion with those longer distances.  Enter the MT-2, which Topo released in November, 2015.  Let’s take a look and see if they were better!

DISCLAIMER: I purchased the MT-2s and began crafting this review prior to joining, however, I am now a member of the 2016 Topo Athlete team.

Product Description
If I was to try and describe the MT-2 in one sentence, I would call it the long-distance version of the Runventure.  As you pull the shoe out of the box, you will immediately notice the similarities with the Runventure.  It still emphasizes the wide toe-box with a snug, tapered midfoot and heel.  It also sticks to the natural running approach with only a slight 3mm heel-to-toe offset.  Despite the added cushion, the MT-2 is actually 0.3oz lighter than the Runventure, likely due to changes to the foam and the absence of the rock plate.

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Specs
Weight: 8.5 oz (size 9)
Drop: Heel: 23mm / Toe: 20mm / Drop: 3mm
Fit: True to Size
Price: $100

Outside of the Shoe
I have included pictures of the upper and outsole above to give you an idea of what they look like. The upper and outsole are basically the same as the Runventure; here is a recap:

  • The upper is a breathable mesh material which looks good and has a durable feel to it.
  • A standard lacing system.
  • The tongue and heel cup offer a good amount of padding while still providing a minimalist feel. It fits well enough to keep debris out of the inside of the shoe.
  • The lug pattern on the outsole provides good coverage and grip. The lugs are shallow enough to preserve ground feel, but deep enough to provide great grip in varying conditions. You will also notice a couple breaks in the lugs that allow the shoe to bend at all of the natural flex points.

Inside of the Shoe/Fit
One of the things that I love about what Topo is doing with their shoes is the consistency of their fit across models.  There is no guess work like with many other brands as to whether or not you should size up or down based on the particular model you are buying.  If you have worn a Topo shoe before and found your ideal size, you can pretty much guarantee that trying a different model will have the same type of fit.  As to what that fit is, I stick by my belief that Topo offers the most anatomically correct shoe on the market.  The wide forefoot offers ample room for proper toe splay and freedom of movement, while the midfoot and heel taper a bit to offer a more secure fit through the rest of the shoe.  The result is a shoe that allows the foot to function as it was designed without sliding around in the shoe and causing blisters.

For initial fit, MT-2 removes the rock plate and adds cushion, which adds 4mm to the stack height in the heel and 3mm to the forefoot versus the Runventure.  This results in a noticeably softer feel.

In Action
As far as trail running is concerned, I have been using the MT-2s almost exclusively since picking them up in December.  Partly for this review, and partly because I really love this shoe.  The added cushioning and softer feel makes a HUGE difference over longer distances.  My longest distance during the review was just under 20 miles and aside from normally expected fatigue, my legs still felt fresh and strong.  I didn’t notice any significant loss of responsiveness with the added stack height.  In terms of the elimination of the rock plate, it didn’t cause any foot protection issues.  The added thickness of the shoe provides more than enough protection, making it unnecessary in the MT-2.  As far as traction, it mimicked the excellent performance of the Runventure.  Unlike my review of that shoe over the summer, I have been able to add in some snow running time with the MT-2 and it is great.  Running on the snow is a breeze.  I really can’t complain too much about traction in this shoe; it provides the maximum level of confidence.

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My Final Thoughts
The MT-2 is the second shoe in the Topo trail line and is a great complement to the already successful and proven Runventure.  With only two shoes in their line, they have focused on making an all-purpose product that is adaptable to all terrains.  In training, the durability of the shoe ensures you can log lots of miles in them before replacement.  In racing, the low weight and responsiveness ensures that you will be able to move quickly.  This works well for most runners, especially if you can’t afford to keep a closet full of specialized shoes.

Pros

  • Here is a copy and paste from my Runventure review because the message is the same and one that needs to be reinforced.  My favorite aspect of these shoes is the fit. The toe box had plenty of space to let my toes splay naturally, but the mid foot through the back of the heel still had a snug fit that kept the shoe from sliding all around. This is my favorite aspect of the shoe and the Topo brand overall.
  • They nailed the cushioning in this shoe, enabling longer distances without really sacrificing weight, protection, or underfoot feel.
  • Proves itself as a durable shoe that will last.
  • Price.  As shoe prices continue to climb, you can get the MT-2 for $100.  For what you get, this shoe definitely gives you the most bang for your buck.

Cons

  • I know you will have a hard time believing me here, but I sat and thought about this for a long time and honestly couldn’t come up with anything significant.  They could certainly toy around with different designs to see if they can make it better (and I am sure they will).  Maybe try different lacing or a different tongue design, but ultimately, that would be nitpicky at this point.

Recommendation

Score: 4.9 of 5

Look, everyone is different and I get that, but this review is about my experience afterall and this has become the single best shoe, FOR ME, that I have worn (unseating the Salomon Sense Mantra).  I have always been reluctant to commit to a single shoe brand because of how picky I am, but it was this shoe that ultimately convinced me to join the 2016 Topo Athlete team.  Because everyone is different, I can’t say that this shoe will be as perfect for you, but I can say that Topo is at least worth a very hard, serious look…you might be exceedingly pleased.  If you decide to follow my advice, you can give them a try AND get 10% off at topoathletic.com with code TOPODEANJ10…there, what do you have to lose?

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