Topo Athletic MTN Racer 2 Review
As the name suggests, the Topo MTN Racer 2 is designed for quicker off-road running. In reality though, the Topo MTN Racer 2 is a lot more versatile than the name would suggest!
Like all Topo Athletic trail running shoes, the toe box is broad and rounded to give your feet the room to spread on impact. This allows you to get a good level of stability, cushioning and natural spring from your feet. The upper is now a tough breathable mesh, which is a lot softer and more breathable than the rip stop nylon used on the original MTN Racer. The reduced number of overlays, particularly in the forefoot, makes the toe box feel more roomier in comparison. If you are used to shoes with a more pointed toe box then all shoes with a rounded toe box will feel roomier. This can make the shoes feel big initially but once your feet get used being able to function in the shoes you’ll find that your previous shoes will feel restrictive.
Despite being thin, the tongue offers just enough protection from the laces and adds to the light and flexible feel of the shoes.
Although the MTN Racer 2 is roomy in the toe box, the upper does pull in around the midfoot and heel to give a secure feeling snug fit. This coupled with the flexibility of the shoes did mean that I didn’t find that I was slipping around inside the shoes even on more broken ground or running on a camber.
The shoe gives a good level of stability at the heel by having an external heel cup. The medial side of the midsole is also a little firmer than the outside. This will give a little bit of pronation support but is really designed so that the shoe stays stable and doesn’t collapse when a lot of force is put through it. This would happen when running downhill at speed. Essentially this stability guides the foot so you keep moving forward.
The heel to forefoot drop is 5mm so it doesn’t promote a heavy heel strike. The midsole is 30mm in the heel and 25 mm in the forefoot. The midsole thickness is made up of a firm EVA at the bottom and a softer more durable Zip Foam at the top. This gives the MTN Racer 2 an initially much softer feel than the original MTN Racer. In fact it feels like a well cushioned trail shoe rather than a racing shoe! I found that the Topo MTN Racer 2 was equally comfortable on an easy trail run as it was during some faster sessions.
The outsole rubber is ‘Vibram Megagrip’, which is a soft sticky rubber designed to grip well on wet surfaces. This is the same rubber used on the previous version and on the Topo Ultraventure Pro. The MTN Racer 2 was not designed for road to trail but the odd mile isn’t going to wear down the outsole too much. If your runs are 50% trail and 50% tarmac then the outsole would wear quicker than other more durable rubbers. The outsole pattern is the same as Topo use on all of their trail shoes. The lugs are well spread out to try to reduce clogging of mud in the outsole and are 5mm in depth. This is a versatile depth as I didn’t feel like I lost traction on the harder surfaces, but when the tracks got a bit muddy I got a good level of traction.
They weigh in very light at under 285 grams for the Men’s and Women’s at under 230 grams.
There is no rockplate in the MTN Racer 2 but I didn’t find this an issue, even on the very rocky paths. The cushioning offered ample protection for my feet.
I enjoyed the MTN Racer 2 and found them flexible, nimble and responsive. I have used them on a variety of terrain, including on the Moors on single tracks through the heather. On this sort of terrain the rounded toe box shoes tend to struggle as there is too much shoe for the narrow, worn paths but I managed just fine. A lot of running on the Durham Dales involves hard stony bridleways with grass fields, muddy single tracks through small, wooded areas and single tracks across the heather. The MTN Racer 2 was enjoyable enough for me to enjoy all these different types of terrain. The cushioning level was good enough for my longer runs of three hours or so and responsive enough for shorter, faster sessions.
If you are looking for a versatile trail shoes these are definitely one to consider.
Charlie @ Northern Runner Newcastle
Altra Superior 4.5: These are zero drop with a firmer more responsive ride. The grip isn’t as good in the mud and the ride is a lot more geared to quick running. So, they aren’t as versatile as the MTN Racer 2. Here is our review:
Scott Kinabalu RC: As with the Superior these aren’t as versatile as they don’t have such a soft cushioned ride. Although they do have a quicker feel. Here is our review:
VJ Maxx: A firmer ride. The rubber offer more traction in the wet but, not in the mud:
Hoka Speedgoat: Softer ride. Loose the feel for the ground and a much narrower fit. Here is our review: