Our Review: A simple, predictable, durable and comfortable shoe for long trail runs that is versatile enough to become your new every-day, every-surface shoe.

Surface:
Trail
Pronation:
Netural
Stack Height:
Moderate

It’s not very often you get to try out a shoe model that is not only new to you but is also from an entirely new-to-you shoe company. That happened to me recently with Topo Athetic’s MT-3s.

If you don’t know anything about Topo Athletic, here’s a quick preview: They’re going for a “natural” running shoe by keeping a low heel-to-toe drop, giving the toebox plenty of space, and keeping it light. It’s a worthwhile mission I’m personally drawn to, especially since they’re not limiting themselves to any specifics around stack height, ranging from zero to 5mm.

After a number of recommendations to check them out, I finally gave in and got my hands on a pair of Topo Athletic’s MT-3, which fills Topo Athletic’s moderately cushioned, everyday grinder spot in their somewhat small line-up.

They’re not going for anything fancy, but trying to produce a shoe you can trust on the trail.

The Specs

Weight
8oz (women) 9.9oz (men)
Offset
3mm
Midsole
Single-density EVA foam blend
Outsole
Lugged carbon rubber with exposed EVA flex grooves
Upper
Rip-stop mesh with printed overlays and drainage ports
Price
$110.00
Topo Athletic MT-3
photo: Doug Hay

100 Miles In: The Review

First impression out of the box was they looked a bit bulkier than I anticipated—more padding and material around the heel than seems necessary—but somehow, they still felt light and flexible. Slipping them on, it was immediately clear they were just as roomy and comfortable as advertised.

But of course, how they feel in the comfort of my living room isn’t nearly as important as how they feel on the trail. So, how did they hold up?

Topo Athletics takes pride in a secure fitting heel and midfoot, and the MT-3’s Ghillie lacing system that ties into overlay straps does a great job at preventing unwanted movement, while still allowing the feeling of ample space.
After countless miles through mud and trail, I’m happy to report that the ripstop mesh upper breathes and drains well, but more importantly, held up great. After 100 miles, I saw virtually no wear on the upper, including in the predictable spots I experience with most shoes.

Even after more than 250 miles (I like these shoes so much I’m still running in them regularly), I can only see a few spots where the upper is fraying slightly. Nothing unexpected or of concern.

While Topo Athletics has a number of gnarly shoes with Vibram soles, the MT-3 has more modest traction. Because there’s enough surface area touching the ground with each foot strike, it feels like a trail shoe you can comfortably use on the road or smooth paths without much issue. Perfect for someone who doesn’t run roads often, or someone like me, who runs a mile of road on each end to get to my home trail system.

Topo Athetlics trail running shoe, the MT3, in profile, on a trail with a forest in the background.
Photo credit: Doug Hay

There’s the Rub

The biggest (and really only) complaint I have with the MT-3 came from the lack of a rock plate. That was an intentional design feature—one they actively point out on the website—in order to keep it light and flexible. On the rocky, rooty trails I frequent in the mountains of North Carolina, however, running sans rock plate leaves you a bit vulnerable.

Even with plenty of cushion, more than once I had some sharp jabs at the bottom of my foot causing major discomfort, and one time even bruising my heel for a few days after.

Still, the moderate stack height of the sole and the Ortholite insole provide a nice cushion in most conditions. While I wish there was some additional protection, it hasn’t caused me to leave the shoes at home.

TL;DR

In a world where it seems like every new running shoe is trying to outdo the others with a fancy technology that doesn’t really make a difference, it’s a breath of fresh air to find Topo Athletic’s MT-3s. They’re predictable, comfortable for long trail runs, and versatile enough to become your new every day, every surface shoe.

And at $110, the price is right.

If you’re looking for a new everyday shoe that can reliably take a beating on the trail and still leave your feet happy, check out the MT-3s.

Topo Athletic MT-3

photo: Doug HayDoug Hay is a trail and ultra runner, father, and vegetable lover from Black Mountain, NC. Find him at Rock Creek Runner and as the co-host of No Meat Athlete Radio.