Reviews You Can Rely On

Topo Athletic MT-4 Review

A versatile trail runner with minimalist characteristics including a wide toe box, but trail-worthy protection underfoot
Topo Athletic MT-4
Credit: Topo Athletic
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $125 List | $125.00 at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Minimalist feeling, solid traction, wide toe box
Cons:  Uncomfortable lacing system, relatively heavy for the design
Manufacturer:   Topo Athletic
By Aaron Rice ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 11, 2022
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
73
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 19
  • Foot Protection - 25% 7.0
  • Traction - 20% 8.0
  • Sensitivity - 15% 7.0
  • Stability - 15% 8.0
  • Comfort - 15% 7.0
  • Weight - 10% 6.0

Our Verdict

For those enticed by zero-drop trail runners but who may be too timid to fully commit to that style of shoe, the Topo Athletic MT-4 is a great transition option. With a stiff, dual-density midsole and an average stack height of 23.5mm, this shoe offers plenty of cushion underfoot to protect against rocks and roots. But the roomy toe box, 3mm drop, and lack of rock plate make this trail runner feel more minimal than it actually is. This specialty shoe has an even, comfortable ride across pavement and dirt, adding versatility and value. Received with accolades across the industry, the MT-4 makes a similarly sensational debut in our lineup.

Editor's Note: We added this review for the Topo Athletic MT-4 to our lineup on May 11, 2022, and included a closer look at value and suggestions for other directly comparable products.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Topo Athletic MT-4
This Product
Topo Athletic MT-4
Awards   Top Pick Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award 
Price $125.00 at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
$97.50 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
$124.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$110.79 at Amazon
Compare at 3 sellers
$99.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
Overall Score Sort Icon
73
76
75
73
70
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Minimalist feeling, solid traction, wide toe boxVery protective, roomier fit than other models from La SportivaUltralight, supportive, uncharacteristically agileWell cushioned, comfortable fit, sticky rubber grips rock very well, decent priceAffordable, comfortable ride, versatile crossover option
Cons Uncomfortable lacing system, relatively heavy for the designHeavily padded tongue results in sub-par breathabilityLoose-fitting heel pocket, lack of trail feelingHigh heel counter, not the lightestSoft upper is unstable, lacks energy, inconsistent traction
Bottom Line A versatile trail runner with minimalist characteristics including a wide toe box, but trail-worthy protection underfootThis burly mountain runner is very protective and is an excellent choice for longer outings in rocky terrainAn ultra-supportive trail runner with an agile feel that is unlike any other HOKA shoe we've ever testedA very well cushioned shoe that is optimal for heel strikers and makes for a great option for everyday training as well as ultra distancesA comfortable, consistent, and approachable shoe for those looking to crossover from roads to trail running
Rating Categories Topo Athletic MT-4 La Sportiva Karacal HOKA Torrent 2 Salomon Sense Ride 4 Brooks Divide 2
Foot Protection (25%)
7.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Traction (20%)
8.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
Sensitivity (15%)
7.0
5.0
5.0
8.0
6.0
Stability (15%)
8.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
8.0
Comfort (15%)
7.0
7.0
9.0
8.0
9.0
Weight (10%)
6.0
7.0
9.0
7.0
6.0
Specs Topo Athletic MT-4 La Sportiva Karacal HOKA Torrent 2 Salomon Sense Ride 4 Brooks Divide 2
Measured Weight (per pair) 21.6 oz (size 9.5) 20.2 oz (size EU 43) 18.3 oz (size 9.5) 20.7 oz (size 9.5) 21.5 oz (size 9.5)
Stack Height (Heel, Forefoot) 25 mm, 22 mm 29 mm, 22 mm 23 mm, 18 mm 27 mm, 19 mm 25 mm, 17 mm
Heel-to-Toe Drop 3 mm 7 mm 5 mm 8 mm 8 mm
Lug Depth 4 mm 3 mm 5 mm 3 mm 3 mm
Upper Recycled mesh, TPU Mesh Unifi REPREVE recycled mesh, TPU Synthetic mesh Mesh, TPU
Midsole Dual-density foam Compression-molded EVA/1.5 mm dual-density EVA HOKA Profly: dual-density foam Optivibe Brooks BioMoGo EVA foam
Outsole Vibram XS Trek EVO FriXion AT 2.0 Rubber Contagrip MA rubber Brooks TrailTack rubber
Rock Plate? No Yes No No Yes
Lacing Style Traditional Traditional Traditional Quicklace with garage Traditional
Wide Version Available? No No No No No
Sizes Available 8 - 13 US 38 - 48.5 EU 7 - 15 US 7 - 14 US 7 - 15 US

Our Analysis and Test Results

Topo Athletic is a new brand to our lineup and is a relatively new brand to the trail running scene, having launched its first shoes in 2013. The newly designed Topo MT-4 is making waves across the industry, and we're impressed with the performance of this rather unassuming shoe. The combination of 3mm drop and 4mm lugs provides a level of traction and sensitivity seen on minimalist runners. But the well-cushioned midsole — 25mm in the heel and 22mm in the toe — offers increased protection underfoot.

Performance Comparison


Topo Athletic MT-4 trail running shoes - shaped like a barefoot shoe, the topo athletic mt-4 carries many of...
Shaped like a barefoot shoe, the Topo Athletic MT-4 carries many of the benefits of minimalist footwear without foregoing the protections required of a genuine trail runner.
Credit: Jill Rice

Foot Protection


Don't be fooled by the appearance of this minimalist-inspired trail runner. The Topo MT-4 is supported by a dual-density midsole that stacks up 25mm in the heels and only drops down to 22mm in the forefoot. Not only does this provide an incredibly stable ride, but, on average, there is more cushioning underfoot than many of the other shoes we tested.

Topo Athletic MT-4 trail running shoes - a well-designed outsole and appropriately cushioned midsole balance...
A well-designed outsole and appropriately cushioned midsole balance to give the Topo Athletic MT-4 a well-protected ride in practically any conditions.
Credit: Jill Rice

The wide, relatively flat platform is akin to a barefoot shoe and offers a similar experience in terms of ground feel. While this allows your foot to adjust to variable trail conditions naturally, the balanced and supportive midsole will enable you to run over rocks and roots without worry.

Topo Athletic MT-4 trail running shoes - the combination of a pointed rubber rand and thick, tpu film...
The combination of a pointed rubber rand and thick, TPU film provides plenty of protection for your toes against rocks and roots.
Credit: Jill Rice

Traction


The allure of minimalist shoes is that the platform enhances the natural abilities of your barefoot. Your arches can absorb and rebound with each stride while your toes splay out and dig into the ground for increased grip and stability. The stack height of the Topo MT-4 is far too thick to qualify as a minimalist shoe, but you get a similar feeling running trails in these shoes. The ample toe box allows your toes to spread out and grip the ground — a natural feeling further enhanced by the canted 4mm lugs. The responsive Vibram XS Trek EVO outsole is the same responsive rubber Vibram uses on their legendary barefoot shoes. The result is a trail runner capable of tackling most trail conditions, regardless of the season.

Topo Athletic MT-4 trail running shoes - even though the mt-4 is still 22mm thick in the toes, the wide toe...
Even though the MT-4 is still 22mm thick in the toes, the wide toe box and neutral stance give you the feeling of running in a barefoot shoe, which helps you dig in with your toes and climb easily.
Credit: Jill Rice

Sensitivity


Similar to its zero-drop compatriots, the Topo MT-4 is designed with a minimal 3mm drop to intensify sensitivity. Increased ground feel allows your feet — and the rest of your body through proprioception — to adapt quickly to changes underfoot. But the benefit of a shoe like the MT-4 is that with its well-cushioned midsole, you have enough support to take on trail runs longer than just a few miles. This shoe's balance of sensitivity and protection allows you to move nimbly through technical terrain, like long alpine traverses, with comfort and confidence.

Topo Athletic MT-4 trail running shoes - the 3mm drop allows for a more neutral stance compared to many other...
The 3mm drop allows for a more neutral stance compared to many other trail running options, and this nearly even platform improves upon both sensitivity and stability.
Credit: Jill Rice

Stability


The Topo MT-4 is one of the few shoes in our lineup that does not feature some sort of rock plate or shank underfoot. These features are generally incorporated for added protection and provide a stable platform. To again draw on the analogy of a minimalist or barefoot shoe, the benefit of omitting a rock plate is that this shoe is much more flexible torsionally and laterally. This allows the shoe — and your foot — to mold and adapt as necessary in uneven and off-camber terrain. Although stiffer platforms tend to be more stable, the combination of a wider toe box with a narrow midfoot and flexible midsole allows this shoe to comfortably sidehill without any slippage inside the shoe.

Topo Athletic MT-4 trail running shoes - the topo athletic mt-4 has a wide toe box comparable with the other...
The Topo Athletic MT-4 has a wide toe box comparable with the other zero-drop options we tested, which allows your foot to spread out and allow for balance adjustments as this shoe bends and flexes with the terrain.
Credit: Jill Rice

Comfort


The platform of the Topo MT-4 is wide, cushioned, and flexible, all traits that point towards a comfortable ride. Although this is designed as a trail-specific shoe, its ability to pleasantly glide over pavement makes the MT-4 especially versatile. Although we explicitly don't score versatility, this is an important factor because even those of us with nearby trail access often run some amount of road to get to the trailhead. Our biggest issue with comfort on the MT-4 is in the basic lacing pattern. While the wide toe box tapers back to a more secure midfoot, the lacing pattern doesn't evenly distribute pressure across your instep. As a result, you can't lock into the heel pocket for additional stability.

Topo Athletic MT-4 trail running shoes - the lack of rock plate isn't an issue when it comes to underfoot...
The lack of rock plate isn't an issue when it comes to underfoot protection, and helps the MT-4 progressively flex in a way that isn't common among trail running shoes.
Credit: Jill Rice

Weight


We have made a lot of direct comparisons to minimalist shoes. But for all of their simplicity — and majority mesh upper — the Topo MT-4 is surprisingly heavy for its design. Tipping the scales at nearly 22 ounces per pair for a men's 9.5 US, this shoe carries the weight of other models with many more features. While the weight does come across with each stride, the thin mesh upper also allows this shoe to breathe well, which helps keep it light and airy on the feet.

Topo Athletic MT-4 trail running shoes - based on its minimalist design, this shoe is surprisingly weighty...
Based on its minimalist design, this shoe is surprisingly weighty compared to the rest of the shoes we tested, although it doesn't feel that way on your feet.
Credit: Jill Rice

Should You Buy the Topo Athletic MT-4?


The Topo MT-4 is a well-balanced blend of minimalism and rugged trail performance. The wide toe box, effectively canted lugs, and slight drop are a powerful combination, creating a stable platform that is simultaneously natural-feeling and technically savvy. This shoe is the perfect option for those intrigued by zero-drop trail runners but who don't yet want to commit fully to that specialty style of shoe.

What Other Trail Running Shoes Should You Consider?


Aside from the Topo Athletic MT-4, some of our other favorite minimal-drop shoes are the Inov-8 Roclite G 290 and Saucony Peregrine 12 that both feature a 4mm drop. If you are interested in jumping into a truly minimalist trail runner, the Altra Superior 5 is our top choice for a zero-drop trail runner.

Aaron Rice
You Might Also Like

Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.

GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.

Learn More