Topo Athletic MT-4 Trail Runner Review
I am admittedly a big fan of Topo Athletic trail shoes, both for running and long-distance hiking. I discovered the company a few years ago after the manufacturer of my preferred backpacking trail runners inexplicably decided to narrow the models I liked.
Topo features a wide toebox, though is not quite as roomy as the one remaining very roomy model by its leading competitor. The shoe is not zero-drop, but take a look at a ruler and see how little four or five millimeters is. You’ll see it’s pretty close. That said, a tiny bit of drop might be just what the doctor ordered for some hikers (I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV or anywhere else).
For running, I’ve really loved the Terraventure 2 and Mountain Racer 1 (both no longer available) and have adapted to the Ultraventure 2. For thru-hiking, I have used and liked the TV2, but for my money, the Terraventure 3 is a nearly perfect trail shoe for long-distance backpacking (see my Trek review).
Looking at Topo’s updated MT-4 trail shoe, I wondered what might be different from my preferred models for running and hiking. After using them quite a bit, I like them a lot. But I have a sneaking suspicion that they are (mostly) one of my favorite defunct models in disguise.
Topo Athletic MT-4 At-a-Glance
Style: Low-rise, dual-density, wide-toebox, low-drop, medium-cushion trail shoe
Intended purpose: Trail running, hiking
Weight: 10.7 ounces per shoe (men’s 9); 8.6 ounces (women’s 7)
Circumstances of Use
Worn for approximately 150 miles of trail and beach running.
- Roomy toebox: One of Topo’s main selling points
- Roomy heel: One competitor has inexplicably narrowed the heel on several top models, but Topo has kept its heels roomy
- Secure midfoot: Dual-density EVA midsole provides stability and fit
- Low-drop platform: 3 millimeters
- Cushioning: Moderate
- Vibram® XS Trek EVO outsole: Designed for wet and slippery conditions
- Abrasion-resistant upper
- Gaiter attachment: Compatible with Topo’s patented gaiter system
My feet are relatively short and very wide with a high arch and instep. Over the years I’ve cycled through some excellent brands for running and hiking, including Brooks, Saucony, Hoka ONE ONE, and Altra. These days, after more than 6,000 miles of thru-hiking and climbing all but one of Colorado’s 14,000-foot peaks, several Topo Athletic models are the best fitting shoes for my feet; while I ran/hiked for many years in size 8.5 and even 8, I now run in 9 and thru-hike in 9.5.
I discovered Topo a few years ago after the manufacturer of my two go-to wide-toebox models inexplicably decided to narrow the toebox. Though not quite as roomy as the other manufacturer’s most popular model for thru-hiking, as long as I order a half- or full-size up, I find both the toebox and heel in my favorite Topo models just right for my feet.
I wasn’t sure what I’d think of the MT-4. I ran in and liked previous MT models, and honestly, I perceived little difference between this model and Topo’s excellent (no longer available) Terraventure 2. But the Terraventure 3 is very different (see my review): My guess is that Topo decided to make the TV3 its go-to thru-hiking shoe, and for my money, they hit the jackpot.
Whether that’s true or not, I honestly feel like the MT-4 is basically the TV2. But if anything, the MT-4 is a tad comfier. The fit is secure but generous, the uppers breathable and flexy and the foundation nicely balanced between flexible and firm.
I’ve been running in the MT-4 almost exclusively because I really like the fit and comfort.
I think Topo’s standard Vibram soles are a real selling point for their trail shoes. One knock against using trail runners on a long-distance hike is lack of durability, but most of the best hiking boots use Vibram soles for a reason.
I’ve always found Topo’s trail shoes plenty grippy even in wet conditions, but not so much that they impede stride or speed. The tread on the MT-4 is super solid and, thanks to Vibram, durable.
I did not put the MT-4 through the ringer as I did the TV3 on the PCT in 2021, so I can’t render a definitive judgment on durability.
But in general, the Vibram soles on Topo shoes have held up incredibly well (except in one fluky instance). The uppers on the MT-4 are similar to those on the TV2. They are slightly thinner but still tough. Since I’ve never gotten a hole in a TV2 upper, I’m going to guess that the MT-4 uppers have solid durability.
Topo offers a unique gaiter system, which is both secure and easy to use. The gaiter attaches to a small metal loop at the bottom of the tongue in front, like most brands. But in back, Topo gaiters attach via metal clips to two small rubber nubs on the heel of Topo shoes.
That’s a cool innovation, but the gaiters are heavier than, say, Dirty Girl Gaiters. If you want to use a Velcro-based gaiter, you’ll have to create it yourself. Fortunately, that’s easy; you can find self-sticking Velcro at any hardware store.
While I didn’t have any complaints about the drying time for my TV3s on the PCT, the uppers on the MT-4 are clearly designed to facilitate drainage and drying. That probably comes at some cost in durability, but I was pleased with how quickly the shoes dry.
And once more, with feeling: I don’t know how they do it, but Topos laces stay tied, even without double-tying. My question: If Topo can do it, why can’t other manufacturers get this right?
Topo Athletic MT-4 – The Upside
- Excellent design for thru-hiking and trail running, wide toebox, secure heel, lacing accommodates wide range of foot shapes
- Relatively lightweight at 10.7 ounces per shoe
- Very grippy outsole
- Extremely comfortable upper
- Men can get the shoe in a “non-masculine” color, banana yellow! When did the world decide men can only wear black, gray, Navy blue, and if really daring, maybe maroon or forest green?
- Price (a bit less than many comparable models)
Topo MT-4 – Potential Downsides
- Relatively flexible sole and lack of a rock plate may not provide enough protection for some hikers
- Accommodates only Topo gaiters
- Not quite as wide as leading competitor’s most popular thru-hiking model, for those who like an extremely roomy fit
I’m looking at the MT-4 as the updated version of the Terraventure 2, a shoe I love for running especially. The Terraventure 3 seems designed with long-distance hiking and backpacking in mind. It’s my go-to for thru-hiking, but not really an ideal running shoe, so I’m glad to have a version of the “TV2” still available, disguised as the MT-4. As with every Topo shoe I’ve tried, it’s comfortable, fits my wide feet and I have every reason to believe it will prove durable. And somehow, Topo manages to keep the price below that of its leading competitors.
Weight: 10.9 ounces each
Fit: “Footshape” toebox, but not as roomy as previous versions
Weight: 10.8 ounces each
Fit: Narrow; tapered toebox
Drop: 4 millimeters
Weight: 11.7 ounces each
Fit: Medium width; tapered toebox
Drop: 8 millimeters
The Topo Athletic MT-4 was donated for the purpose of review.
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