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Topo Athletic MT-5: Versatile Trailin'
By Matthew Klein

While David may be known for taking road shoes on trail, I have been known to take trail shoes on road. Having shoes that are versatile enough to handle a variety of surfaces is important in the area I live, where transitions between road and trail are common if you want to do interesting routes. The majority of surfaces are road here in Monrovia, CA, but the trails can get quickly technical depending on recent rainstorms. Thus, my favorite shoes recently for transitioning been these surfaces have been Road/Trail Hybrid shoes. This unique class of shoes typically features additional upper reinforcements, sturdy outsoles and lugs. However, the lugs are often smaller to handle road. The Topo Athletic MT-5 is a solid example of this, with a vibram outsole, smaller lugs and good reinforcements throughout an anatomic upper. Several updates bring this shoe a little closer to mainstream footwear concepts, while a more traditional stack height helps this shoe stand out as something different among the towering shoe stack heights commonly seen today.

Topo Athletic MT-5
Price: $129.99 at Running Warehouse
Weight: 9.3 oz, 264 g (men's size 9), 7.7 oz, 218 g (women's size 8)
Stack Height: 28 mm / 23 mm
Drop: 5 mm
Classification: Moderate Stack Height Road/Trail Hybrid Shoe





RUNNING SHOE SUMMARY

The Topo Athletic MT-5 is a durable, anatomic fitting, moderate stack height road/trail hybrid for those who want a lighter but slightly firmer ride on a variety of non-technical surfaces. The fit is slightly wider throughout with an anatomic toe box and a slightly long fit for those who want to spread their toes. The ride is slightly firmer with a moderate stack height and lighter weight which makes the shoe feel quite nimble. A durable and mildly lugged outsole provides excellent grip and durability on a variety of non-technical surfaces. Best for moderate-to-longer distance efforts depending on your ability to handle a moderate stack height and moderate to lower drop, the Topo MT-5 provides a fairly versatile package for those who want surface options when they run.

SIMILAR SHOES
: Altra Outroad 2

FIT


The Topo Athletic MT-5 fits me slightly long in my normal Men's US size 10. The toe box is anatomic and on the wider side. The volume is normal-to-slightly above average and I had plenty of wiggle room. I did have to tie down the laces to get a secure fit but did not have too much trouble after. There is additional length in the shoe which made it great for easier efforts and walking but not when trying to pick up the pace. This was slightly solved with thicker socks but made the midfoot fit a little snug. The midfoot fits normal in width but felt lower volume as I had to lock down the laces. There is a gusseted and moderately thick tongue. Tying down the laces did not bother the top of my foot and I did not have to lace lock the shoe to compensate. The heel fits normal-to-slightly wider. There is a flexible heel counter and the heel collar cushioning is moderate to mild. Those with heel sensitivities may be aware of the counter but it did not bother me even when I used this as an all-day standing/walking shoe. The inner liner is fairly comfortable in the rearfoot but does have some inner structure at the first medial Metatarsophalangeal (MTP) and in the toe guard that can cause some running. For that reason, despite the long fit, I would encourage the use of socks with this shoe.



PERFORMANCE

The Topo Athletic MT-5 is a lighter weight, moderate stack height road/trail shoe. The full-length Zipfoam midsole feels slightly firmer, which combined with the lighter weight (for a trail shoe) makes it feel fairly nimble. There is a new 5mm drop, which took some of the stress off my calves from the previous 3mm drop. The 5mm drop does not get in the way, although the small posterior heel flare does make for a slightly early initial contact (landing). Zipfoam does feel like it is slowly getting softer in Topo's line, so fortunately the heel bevel does offset the slight posterior flare. On trail, the heel transition is smooth and fairly normal. This transitions through a somewhat stiff midfoot and mildly flexible forefoot. The slightly long fit is something I tend to notice at the beginning of runs and less so later into a run. Despite the slightly stiffer and lighter ride, I have found this shoe to work far better for longer, slower efforts than faster. Someone who gets a true-to-size fit may feel differently, but the set-up seems to work best on longer efforts. The midsole is not super responsive, but isn't too dull either. I have also found it to be an excellent shoe for all-day wear.

Traction and durability-wise the MT-5 has been excellent. I have 25 miles on my pair with more than half on trail and not including weeks of wearing these all day casually. I have not seen any wear on the vibram outsole after this despite my normal mechanics. The traction has been great on a variety of surfaces. This is not a shoe for aggressive terrain, but the lugs easily handle road, hard packed dirt and mildly soft dirt. The lugs are not deep enough for slick mud but do well on most other surfaces.


STABILITY

The Topo Athletic MT-5 is a neutral shoe with some mild guidance elements. The heel and forefoot feature a decent amount of sole on both the medial and lateral sides while the midfoot has sole flare on the lateral side. The sole overall is on the wider side and the midfoot does not narrow compared to the heel. The medial midfoot does feature a slightly higher arch for those that like that. However, there are flex grooves cut in the medial aspect of the midfoot outsole which slightly increases flexibility there. The lateral sole flare and higher arch seem to work together but the sole flare pushes me a little more medial in the midfoot while running. It isn't major, but those with lateral guidance needs in the midfoot AND who want a higher arch will do best in this shoe. The forefoot and heel are fairly centered with the sole flare and decent centered heel bevel. Those who need a neutral ride or one with sole flare in these areas will do best with the Topo Athletic MT-5.



Thoughts as a DPT: Shoe Sizing and Kinethiesia/Proprioception
By Matthew Klein

Sizing in shoes is an important decision depending on your use. It is common in ultramarathon distance efforts/races for individuals to choose shoes that are a half or full-size up to accommodate for the normal lower extremity swelling that occurs during longer efforts. During trail runs, this can also be helpful as the variations in elevation, climbing and descents can cause some natural sliding in the shoe no matter how well your feet are secured. This can stave off pressure-type dermatologic injuries, including blisters, pressure sores, etc which can become problematic over longer, repetitive efforts. 

On the other hand, you do not want a shoe to be too long as that can put you at risk for tripping. Your body has something called proprioception, also known as body awareness, that allows it to know where exactly each of and each part of your limbs are. This is the counterpart to kinesthesia, which is your body's ability to detect your limbs/body in motion. Your body can only detect to the end of your foot/toes as that is as far as your proprioceptors, or the mechanosensory neurons that are primarily located in your joints, muscles, ligaments and tendons, can provide information. Anything beyond that your brain will have to figure out through trial and error. There is some level of accommodation that you can figure out and adapt to, but you will always revert to your "normal" or the actual end of your foot. For this reason, having a shoe that is too long does create a tripping hazard. This can be particularly challenging on technical or rocky terrain, which already requires a high level of attention for appropriate footing and landings. 

Based on the above, each individual will need to think about their needs when choosing a shoe's length. On longer, slower efforts, a slightly long shoe may be beneficial to avoid pressure-type injuries. On shorter to moderate efforts where the pace may be picking up, a shoe that is true to size may be best to avoid catching it on something and falling. This is another example of how shoes are tools and sizing is an important consideration depending on what you are using the tool for.




RECOMMENDATIONS

While I did get the minimum number of review miles for the Topo Athletic MT-5, I especially enjoyed it as an all-day/walking shoe. The slightly longer fit accommodated foot swelling and the slightly higher arch was great for longer standing. For running, the slightly long fit was a bit annoying and did cause me to trip frequently. For that reason, my biggest recommendation would be to fix the length and try to make it more true to size. For those that are between sizes, I would definitely go down a half size or stay at your normal size if you want a little extra room (see DPT thoughts). Outside of the fit, I have enjoyed this shoe and it functions well for its intended purpose. 

WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR


The Topo Athletic MT-5 is for those who need a shoe with some surface versatility with an anatomic fit and a moderate stack height. The outsole does a great job on both road and non-technical trail, making transitions between the two relatively seamless. The slightly and anatomic long fit is great for all day wear and longer efforts, but limits the shoe from being something that can pick up the pace. The moderate stack height is great for those sensitive to aggressive, high-stack rockers. This provides a now unique product in a world of maximally cushioned trail shoes.


GRADING

Matt
Fit: (Comfortable anatomic fit although slightly long which can cause tripping at quicker paces)
Performance: 
B+ (Slightly firmer midsole best for easy longer efforts despite lighter weight)
Stability: B+ [Neutral] (Fairly natural ride with a slightly higher arch in midfoot)
DPT/Footwear Science: B (Nothing new or innovative here. Sizing does need to be fixed as runners should be able to choose that for themselves. Does make it more comfortable for all day/longer wear. )
Personal: B (Comfortable shoe but I prefer more stack height for running)
Overall: 

SHOP | SUPPORT DOR

Topo Athletic MT-5
Price: $129.99 at Running Warehouse

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FURTHER READING: Trail Shoes of 2023

Brooks Divide 3 - A surprisingly solid trail runner at $100
Brooks Divide 4 - A light trail runner on a $100 budget
La Sportiva Cyklon Cross GTX - Winter ready running in every way possible
Reebok Floatride Energy 5 Adventure - A road-to-trail trainer for those who want a narrow fit
Salomon Glide Ride 2  - A solid moderately stacked trainer for the trails
Salomon Sense Ride 5 - A lower cushion, well-riding trail shoe that can do a bit of everything
Saucony Blaze TR - Surprisingly light trail running for $100
Saucony Peregrine 13 (and ST) - The lightest, yet also most cushioned model in the trail line
Topo Athletic Terraventure 4 - An excellent walking, hiking option for runners and hikers alike
Xero Shoes Scrambler Low - A minimalist trail trainer with a generous fit

Find all Shoe Reviews at Doctors of Running here.

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Editor's Note: As always, the views presented on this website belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts. This website should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking medical care. If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your local running physical therapist. If you are in the Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Danbury and Stevens Point areas, we am currently taking clients for running evaluations.

***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the people at Topo Athletic for sending us a pair.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We systematically put each type of shoe through certain runs prior to review. For trainers and performance trainers, we take them on daily runs, workouts, recovery runs and a long run prior to review (often accumulating anywhere from 20-50 miles in the process). For racing flats we ensure that we have completed intervals, a tempo or steady state run as well as a warm-up and cool down in each pair prior to review. This systematic process is to ensure that we have experience with each shoe in a large variety of conditions to provide expansive and thorough reviews for the public and for companies. Our views are based on our extensive history in the footwear industry and years testing and developing footwear. If you are a footwear rep looking for footwear reviews or consultations on development, we are currently looking to partner with companies to assist, discuss and promote footwear models. Partnership will not affect the honesty of our reviews.

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