The MT line of shoes from Topo Athletic might historically be the best representation of the brand writ large. The shoe has a minimalist feel that preserves natural biomechanics, with just enough protective elements and performance features to make it suitable for just about anything. The MT is positioned in the Topo lineup as a hybrid road-trail shoe for light hiking or fitness running, but it also works well as a high-mileage trainer or race day shoe for those who are more accustomed to minimalist footwear. The latest iteration of this line, the MT-4, has updates from top to bottom, while preserving the same geometry and classic Topo fit that so many customers love.
Uppers of the MT-4 consist of a new, lightweight breathable mesh with thin overlays that seem more decorative than functional in the posterior direction, as they don’t obviously anchor into the footbed. Fortunately, the anatomic fit of Topo shoes has always been dialed in, and we haven’t had any problems with our feet moving around in this shoe. The men’s version of this shoe makes you choose between two aesthetic extremes: a subtle, understated, hardly noticeable grey, or an eye-popping, head-turning electric neon yellow. We tested the yellow, which happened to pair perfectly with our retro Bob Ross socks.
Moderate padding at the tongue and around the ankle collar provide a comfortable feel all around, and an Ortholite footbed maintains nice cushioning and breathability directly underfoot. Ortholite is top of the line in footbed construction, and Topo is transitioning towards including them with all of their shoes in 2022. Another full product line upgrade seen on the MT-4 is the inclusion of attachment ports for the Topo gaiter system on all trail models moving forward. Small drainage ports at the base of the overlays on the medial and lateral sides help speed water shedding and drying time.
The most significant updates to the MT-4 are located underfoot, starting with a new dual density midsole that combines a layer of softer cushioned EVA with a firmer layer for responsiveness. The effect creates a cushioned impact in the rearfoot, smooth transition to the forefoot, and a more energetic propulsion than the previous compound provided. In keeping with its minimalist nature, the MT-4 does not have a rock plate, which allows maximal flexibility and ground feel, especially in conjunction with relatively modest stack heights of 25/22mm. We were pleased with the shoe’s ease of acceleration, which is typically a function of light weight and responsive midsole platform.
Also new on the MT-4 is a Vibram XS Trek EVO outsole. This compound is designed by Vibram to provide an optimal balance of traction and durability, and the grippiness is only slightly less secure than Vibram’s famed Megagrip compound. However, the durability is greater, which is what you want if splitting your mileage between dirt and asphalt. The rubber compound and 4mm lugs are still capable of handling all but the most challenging terrain; we had no problem using these shoes on stream crossings and on steep gravel descents. Rubber coverage is quite extensive on the bottom surface aside from some flex grooves, ensuring that you’ll have adequate traction on irregular terrain regardless of your foot strike pattern. This shoe does come with a slight (0.4oz) increase in weight compared to the previous version.
Best of all is that none of the updates to this model affect the overall fit and feel that makes the MT-4 (and Topo shoes in general) so enjoyable to run in. If you were a fan of this model in the past, you’re certain to be impressed with the new and improved version.
The Topo Athletic MT-4 will be available in early January in men’s and women’s versions at www.topoathletic.com.
Features and Specs:
- Weight (men’s/women’s): 10.4oz / 8.6oz
- Stack Height (heel/toe, in mm): 25/22
- Heel-Toe Drop (mm): 3mm
- Ortholite footbed
- Upper: Breathable mesh with TPU overlays and medial and lateral drainage ports
- Midsole: Dual density EVA for soft landing and propulsive energy return
- Outsole: Full length Vibram XS Trek rubber
- MSRP: $120