The Topo Athletic MT-3 is a low-riding crossover worthy shoe with a surprising amount of underfoot protection. It features a minimal 3mm heel-toe drop and a flat and stable landing platform that feels more minimalist than the 25mm of underfoot stack would suggest. Like all Topo Athletic shoes, it has a wider toe box than one might expect, although this model fits a bit small, so size up. With an outsole that effectively combines sticky traction but with a crossover/hybrid lug pattern, this is a shoe for all types of runners, especially those who don't like high stack heights and large heel counters.
Topo Athletic MT-3 Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Stable, inexpensive, sensitive
Cons: Not super protective, tongue not very comfortable, fits short
Manufacturer: Topo Athletic
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Topo Athletic MT-3 feels almost like a zero drop shoe, even though it has a 3mm drop between the heel and toe. Like most zero drop shoes, this one rides low to the ground and emphasizes sensitivity and stability over underfoot protection. Most people we talked to who had worn these shoes found them to be quite comfortable, although they are sized a bit short, and on their website, Topo even recommends sizing up half a size from what you normally buy.
Our head tester was a little disappointed by the fit of the tongue and the construction of the lacing attachment points to the upper, where pressure points formed on the top of his foot. This shoe easily holds its own on almost all types of trails, but the tread design suggests that it is also a solid crossover option for running on both dirt and pavement.
In our comparative testing, we took these shoes out to the largest boulder fields we could find and ran back and forth over jagged rocks to test how well they protected the bottoms of our feet. There is no doubt these shoes, which lack a midsole rockplate, are more sensitive than they are protective. We were able to take shots to the heel, with its added 3mm of foam counter, a bit easier than to the forefoot and the arch area. Worth mentioning is that over the course of many training runs, on all types of trails, we didn't notice any collapse or packing out of this firmer foam, which was nice.
The upper of this shoe offers decent protection and durability in the form of ripstop nylon material, in contrast to the lightweight mesh that most shoes are made of, which can easily tear. The toe bumper is reasonably firm and protective against stubbing the toes, and there are rubberized overlays that protect the highest wear and most likely to degrade areas.
The outsole of this shoe features multiple pieces of rubber glued on, with a fair bit of midsole foam remaining exposed. There are a ton of square and rectangular-shaped lugs roughly 4mm deep and with sharp edges, offering potentially more friction from the raised lugs than negative space in between. Although the rubber is fairly sticky, it was not the best performer on rock, and also struggles compared to shoes with wider spaced lug patterns when running on slippery surfaces like snow, mud, or steep grass. We found the traction to be durable, and plenty sufficient for almost all types of trail running, while also solid on hard paved surfaces.
This is a stable shoe. The foot feels very low to the ground while running, and the 3mm heel-toe drop is also minimal compared to the competition. The forefoot platform is designed to be extra-wide, in the same way that Altras are, which aids even further in the feeling of stability when landing and pushing off. We found that the lacing system and upper holds the foot firmly in place, another great aid in stability, with virtually no sloppiness or movement through the running stride. Stability is surely one of its strongest attributes.
This shoe fits slightly short, enough so that Topo Athletic recommends sizing up half a size. We ignored this advice and went with our regular size and were plenty happy; we didn't suffer from banging our toes against the front of the shoe. Copious amounts of padding around the ankle opening and over the heel, as well as a heavily padded tongue, add to the comfort of this shoe. Our one complaint was a slight bit of pressure focused on some points on top of the foot where the laces attach to the upper, an issue that we have also had with other Topo shoes. Made with ripstop nylon rather than breathable mesh, we felt this shoe was a bit on the warmer side. It features drainage holes on each side of the shoe, under the arch, where water can quickly and easily escape, and this design seemed to work fairly effectively as they scored in the top half of our water test for both absorption and draining.
Our pair of men's size 11 US shoes weighed in at 21.1 ounces, which is certainly light but compared to the competition, roughly average. In general, other low riding low drop shoes tend to be a bit lighter than these, although they are by no means among the heaviest or burliest choices you can purchase.
This shoe is a great choice if you like to feel the trail beneath your feet, but you don't want to compromise and run in a shoe that is too flimsy. We noticed that there was a fair bit more impact protection in the heel than under the arch and forefoot, where we felt most of what we were running over acutely.
Compared to the rest of the shoes we have reviewed here, this one is relatively inexpensive. It is a solidly built shoe that should last many miles due to its durable upper and outsole, and at a reasonable price, we think it offers solid value.
The Topo Athletic MT-3 is a low-riding and stable trail shoe with a wide forefoot and a comfortable, if slightly short, fit. While it isn't designed to provide the best traction on the slipperiest and most technical terrain, it is instead a great crossover shoe that can handle any sort of hard-packed trail with ease.
— Andy Wellman