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Topo Athletic MT-3 Review

A good crossover or moderate trail runner for those who prefer less drop and more stability.
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Price:  $110 List | $110.00 at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Stable, inexpensive, sensitive
Cons:  Not super protective, tongue not very comfortable, fits short
Manufacturer:   Topo Athletic
By Andy Wellman ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 17, 2019
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66
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#16 of 25
  • Foot protection - 30% 5
  • Traction - 20% 6
  • Stability - 15% 8
  • Comfort - 15% 8
  • Weight - 10% 7
  • Sensitivity - 10% 8

Our Verdict

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.


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This Product
Topo Athletic MT-3
Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award Best Buy Award 
Price $110.00 at REI
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$134.96 at Backcountry
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$139.00 at REI
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$104.99 at Amazon$119.95 at Amazon
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Pros Stable, inexpensive, sensitiveVery protective midsole and upper, sock-like fit, grippy traction, lighter than previous versionPrecise fit, very grippy on rock, comfortable upper effectively keeps out debrisIncredible protection for a zero drop shoe, comfortable, sensitive, extremely durable and sticky tractionGreat traction on soft slippery surfaces, extremely comfortable, no increase in price
Cons Not super protective, tongue not very comfortable, fits shortExpensive, durability concernsNarrower than average, a bit pricey, not the lightestExpensive, absorbs water easilyMidsole foam compresses out over time, easily collects rocks and debris
Bottom Line A good crossover or moderate trail runner for those who prefer less drop and more stability.The shoe that best balances foot protection and sensitivity, all while providing an incredibly fine-tuned fit.A well-rounded shoe offering high performance for short or long distances.One of our favorite shoes that is notable both for its zero drop platform and the excellent traction.Our Best Bang for the Buck winner for great comfort and traction with a price lower than the other top scorers.
Rating Categories Topo Athletic MT-3 Salomon S/Lab Ultra 2 La Sportiva Kaptiva Inov-8 Terraultra G 260 Saucony Peregrine ISO
Foot Protection (30%)
10
0
5
10
0
10
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
5
Traction (20%)
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
9
Stability (15%)
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
9
Comfort (15%)
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
10
Weight (10%)
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
5
Sensitivity (10%)
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
0
5
10
0
7
10
0
8
Specs Topo Athletic MT-3 Salomon S/Lab... La Sportiva Kaptiva Inov-8 Terraultra... Saucony Peregrine...
Weight (per pair, size 11) 21.1 oz. 22.7 oz. 22.3 oz. 20.9 oz. 23.1 oz.
Heel-to-Toe Drop 3 mm 8 mm 6 mm 0 mm 4 mm
Stack Height (Heel, Forefoot) 25 mm, 22 mm 26 mm, 18 mm 17 mm, 11 mm 17 mm, 17 mm 22.5 mm, 18.5mm
Upper Mesh Mesh Sock-Like knit Kevlar, mesh IsoFit
Midsole Ortholite Compressed EVA Duel-density EV EXTERFLOW PWRFOAM, Everun
Outsole Rubber Premium Wet Traction Contagrip FriXion XF 2.0 Graphene Grip PWRTRAC
Lacing style Traditional Kevlar Quicklace Traditional Traditional Traditional
Wide version available? No No No No Yes
Sizes Available 8 - 15 4 - 13 38 - 47.5 4-15 8 - 14

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 still 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, although not as egregiously as with the Topo Athletic Runventure 2, a shoe he found almost prohibitively uncomfortable. 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.

Performance Comparison


The Topo Athletic MT-3 are a minimalist feeling  low riding  stable shoe with a mere 3mm heel-toe drop. They are comfortable and sensitive  but still have a decent amount of firm foam underfoot.
The Topo Athletic MT-3 are a minimalist feeling, low riding, stable shoe with a mere 3mm heel-toe drop. They are comfortable and sensitive, but still have a decent amount of firm foam underfoot.

Foot Protection


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.

You can see the more than adequate amount of foam cushioning that forms the midsole of this shoe and offers pretty good foot protection for how sensitive it also is. The ripstop upper material is also on display  along with the drainage holes under the outside middle of the foot  which are also present on the inside under the arch  which are pretty effective at helping the shoe not take on too much water.
You can see the more than adequate amount of foam cushioning that forms the midsole of this shoe and offers pretty good foot protection for how sensitive it also is. The ripstop upper material is also on display, along with the drainage holes under the outside middle of the foot, which are also present on the inside under the arch, which are pretty effective at helping the shoe not take on too much water.

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.

Traction


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.

Showing the traction on the Topo Athletic shoes  the Runventure 2 on the left (yellow) and the MT-3 on the right (red). As you can see  the lug pattern and outsole design is exactly the same for both models  and lends itself more toward moderate trail running  running on pavement  but has too many lugs grouped too closely together to be the most effective on slippery or loose surfaces.
Showing the traction on the Topo Athletic shoes, the Runventure 2 on the left (yellow) and the MT-3 on the right (red). As you can see, the lug pattern and outsole design is exactly the same for both models, and lends itself more toward moderate trail running, running on pavement, but has too many lugs grouped too closely together to be the most effective on slippery or loose surfaces.

Stability


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.

These shoes feel super stable on any type of terrain  and are a joy for running on variable surfaces  like this log bridge in the forests of central oregon.
These shoes feel super stable on any type of terrain, and are a joy for running on variable surfaces, like this log bridge in the forests of central oregon.

Comfort


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.

If we could change one thing about these shoes this would be it. Hard to see here  but where the laces thread through the upper  or the red attachment is sewn into the upper  it is extra thick and hard. This overlap is not adequately cushioned by the tongue  and actually rubs into the tops of our feet in an uncomfortable way.
If we could change one thing about these shoes this would be it. Hard to see here, but where the laces thread through the upper, or the red attachment is sewn into the upper, it is extra thick and hard. This overlap is not adequately cushioned by the tongue, and actually rubs into the tops of our feet in an uncomfortable way.

Splashing through shallow streams to test the water absorption and drainage. The drainage holes in the sides of these shoes did a good job of facilitating  as they were among the top half scorers in our comparative water test.
Splashing through shallow streams to test the water absorption and drainage. The drainage holes in the sides of these shoes did a good job of facilitating, as they were among the top half scorers in our comparative water test.

Weight


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.

At a mere 21.1 ounces per pair for men's size 11  these shoes are on the lighter side compared to the everyday trainers that we have tested  but are by no means the lightest shoes you can buy.
At a mere 21.1 ounces per pair for men's size 11, these shoes are on the lighter side compared to the everyday trainers that we have tested, but are by no means the lightest shoes you can buy.

Sensitivity


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.

Despite its nearly 25mm of underfoot cushioning  this shoe feels sensitive  and allows for optimal trail feel. We enjoyed it incredibly for runs like this one on loamy forest trails.
Despite its nearly 25mm of underfoot cushioning, this shoe feels sensitive, and allows for optimal trail feel. We enjoyed it incredibly for runs like this one on loamy forest trails.

Value


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.

Affordable and durable  the MT-3 offers good value for one who is looking for a trail runner or crossover shoe for moderate trails  and isn't likely to spend the majority of their time bombing down gnarly technical mountain trails.
Affordable and durable, the MT-3 offers good value for one who is looking for a trail runner or crossover shoe for moderate trails, and isn't likely to spend the majority of their time bombing down gnarly technical mountain trails.

Conclusion


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.

These shoes are low riding and stable  and offer good trail feel  which is appreciated when blissing out in the forest!
These shoes are low riding and stable, and offer good trail feel, which is appreciated when blissing out in the forest!


Andy Wellman