For the past several months, I have been rotating through lightweight racing shoes with my self-imposed “nine ounces or less” rule. There are some incredible shoes in this aggressively light class, but what you get in pure performance is offset by a lower level of comfort, protection, and enjoyment. Time trials and races? Great! Long, easy-paced adventure runs on many types of terrain? No thanks.
It’s too bad the Topo Mtn Racer 2 ($145) is just an ounce too heavy for this lightweight racing category because for all but your fastest efforts up steep mountains, I’d sacrifice the weight and wear this shoe for racing and most training runs through the week. The men’s size nine weighs in at 10.1 ounces (287 grams).
Like its predecessor, the Topo Mtn Racer, it still has a five-millimeter drop, with stack heights of 30 millimeters at the heel and 25 millimeters at the toe. The two key changes from the original Topo Mtn Racer are in the midsole and the upper.
The midsole uses what they call ZipFoam, a foam with two different densities that give two levels of cushioning: soft against the foot, and firmer and more responsive against the ground.
The other change to the Mtn Racer 2 is the upper. Runners loved the original Mtn Racer’s durability, but found it to be a bit hot. This new version is more breathable and drains better.
The company changed to a different style of mesh from the less breathable ripstop nylon that it used in the original Mtn Racer. Both areas have added weight to the Mtn Racer 2.
Many people describe the fit of Topo shoes to be similar to that of Altra, with the exact same adjectives like “foot-shaped” and “toe splay,” and I’ve found this to be true. Zero drop is not for me, so thankfully the rest of the shoe’s build has more in common with models like the Nike Pegasus 2 than Altra signature shoes. I found the fit to be extremely comfortable with just the right amount of structure in the midfoot for control.
Topo Mtn Racer 2 Upper
The proliferation of custom lacing options in trail shoes, like BOA dials or the Quicklace system, makes the Topo Mtn Racer 2 upper a satisfying nod to the past. The upper is made for wide feet, and I would caution narrow-footed runners to be prepared for some rubbing or bunching from the mesh. I have wide feet with the added joy of bunions on both sides, so I found the roominess and fit to be perfect.
We all have a shoe that, despite average appearance or performance, we reach for day after day because running in it just feels so good. This is that shoe for me, but it underlies a peculiar point. I was so used to thinking that wide shoes are less performance-oriented that over the first couple of months of testing, I was consistently surprised to realize — usually mid-run — just how capable the Mtn Racer 2 is at going fast, while still being so much more comfortable than more nimble shoes.
My summer running season was generally either slow adventures in the Colorado mountains or fast workouts on the trails around my home in Boulder, Colorado, and this shoe did both kinds of running admirably.
The ripstop nylon upper in the original Topo Mtn Racer was reliable and durable, but slightly hot. This upper is more breathable, but maintains excellent durability and very good venting.
Talus rock is typically the death of all uppers, but after running through many stony fields in the Indian Peaks and some southwestern Colorado 14ers, there are no tears in the medial or lateral aspects of the shoe. It’s truly a shoe built to withstand mountain environments.
To the naked eye, the mesh upper looks quite stiff, possibly due to the ink lines that mirror what Topo calls the “internal skeleton lining,” which helps to lock and secure the upper to the foot. It’s certainly not glove-like comfort, but I found the mesh to be balanced.
The upper is nicely tapered from front to back, giving the toebox roomy comfort while contouring precisely through the midfoot and heel. The upper is gaiter-compatible with hooks on the heel and toebox, but unfortunately, I didn’t have the opportunity to test this feature.
Topo Mtn Racer 2 Midsole
The midsole is really what separates the Topo Mtn Racer 2 from being just another wide shoe. Like the Topo Ultraventure Pro — check out our Topo Ultraventure Pro review — the midsole of the Mtn Racer 2 uses ZipFoam, which is Topo’s proprietary midsole material. And just like the Ultraventure Pro, Topo uses three different densities of foam, with the softest closest to the feet and firmest closest to the ground.
There’s also a bit of firm foam on the medial side of the shoe to add structural support. I found the entire ZipFoam package to be well-conceived and springy, with the shoe’s shape adding some of that rockered forward propulsion that you want on race day or for a fast training effort. There is no rock plate, but the foam is beefy enough to offer light protection underfoot.
Topo Mtn Racer 2 Outsole
The Topo Mtn Racer 2’s outsole is Vibram Megagrip, and it is hard to beat this classic compound. It does everything really well, from wet to dry, and from smooth to rocky. The lugs are spaced very widely, which helps shed mud and snow.
Trust is something earned in shoes when running steep downhills on dry terrain. I’ve spun out several times going around corners in some sub-nine-ounce lightweight trail shoes and can’t always trust my landing. This has never been an issue with the Topo Mtn Racer 2.
Topo Mtn Racer 2 Overall Impressions
The Topo Mtn Racer 2 is a very well-built shoe with high-quality components at a race-worthy weight. The wide toebox and burly components belie the shoe’s ability to go fast. It’s rare to find a trail running shoe that can go to the mountains and then back to smooth town trails with equal ability.
This is the first Topo shoe I’ve tested and by my near-universal approval of the Mtn Racer 2’s features, I’m excited to see how this line might evolve. Some might prefer a rock plate or to get the weight back down to less than 10 ounces, but for now, this is a very engaging shoe that works across a variety of terrain, specifically for us wide-footed runners.
Call for Comments
- Do you have any experience with the Topo Mtn Racer 2? If so, what are your thoughts on it generally?
- And how about details of the Mtn Racer 2, what do you think of them?
- If you’ve worn both the original Mtn Racer and now this second version, share your thoughts on model updates.
[Editor’s Note: If you’re affiliated (i.e., an employee, ambassador, etc.) with a brand, please share your relation in each of your comments on this article. Thanks!]
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