By David Skinner
Topo MT Shoes $100
The Good: Ultra lightweight with plenty of protection for off-road adventure. Dual lacing options, designed for natural foot movement.
The Bad: Less padded than traditional running shoes, so it takes a few runs to re-train muscles and joints. Once wet, the material took a while to dry back out, the tread was not as aggressive as a dedicated trail shoe.
The Ugly: Having a 6 mile run make me limp for a day. Ease into the natural foot movement with short runs to allow for the change.
It takes a lot of technology to design a shoe that really performs well on pounding pavement, and even more work to put together a shoe that provides the grip needed for off-road adventure as well. Topo’s new MT (mountain trainer) kicks are designed as a hybrid runner, equally at home on blacktop and muck. Durable trail protection meshes with featherlight road materials for a seamless upper with fine mesh, and stable materials for rough terrain. The tread has a lugged grip pattern for nice flexibility on paved surfaces but also a decent amount of grip on rough trails. The lightly cushioned shoe (19mm x17mm total stack height) has a small total drop of 2mm and a wide toebox allowing the foot to spread in a natural gait.
We worked over the MTs on pavement, singletrack, and muddy race conditions, and came back impressed with the versatile tread and comfortable fit. The minimal cushioning provided a good connection with the trail, but also enough protection to avoid bruising on rocky surfaces. Long pavement runs did stress the knees, shins and foot arch, highlighting one of the primary trade-offs of a hybrid shoe. The shoe did not drain fast when submerged during a muddy trail run, but the partially gusseted tongue and fine mesh kept out the majority of gravel and sand. The gentle lugged sole was appreciated on paved runs, but a more aggressive tread would have been welcomed on the wet gravel trails during rainy conditions.
Overall this shoe is light and fast just about anywhere, and really performed well on a variety of terrain. So when adventure doesn’t stop at the pavement, this hybrid runner can keep up.