Topo Athletic Mtn Racer 2
Test Locations: Logan, Utah
Test Duration: 383 miles
Stated Stack Height (Midsole + Outsole): 30 mm (heel) / 25 mm (forefoot)
Stated Heel-to-Toe Drop: 5 mm
- Proprietary ZipFoam midsole compound which is springier than EVA and offers more rebound over the life of the shoe
- Multi-density midsole allows you to access two levels of cushioning: soft against the foot and firmer/more responsive against the ground.
- Vibram outsole provides unparalleled grip and traction and durability from the leaders in technical outsoles.
Size Tested: US Men’s 11.5
Stated Weight per Shoe (US Men’s Size 9): 283 g / 10.0 oz
Blister Measured Weight per Shoe (US Men’s Size 11.5):
- Shoes + Laces: 315 g (left) & 315 g (right)
- Insoles: 24 g (left) & 24 g (right)
- Total: 339 g (left) & 339 g (right)
Reviewer: 6’1”, 145 lbs / 185 cm, 67 kg
When I tested the original version of the Topo Mtn Racer last year, I was impressed, but not necessarily blown away. While the Mtn Racer was impressively stable and protective on technical terrain for a higher stack-height shoe, I thought that its fairly firm cushioning didn’t give the shoe a particularly comfortable or efficient feel.
So when I saw that Topo had updated the Mtn Racer 2’s midsole to their new ZipFoam midsole compound, I was pretty excited to give the updated version a try. And after 300 miles in the Mtn Racer 2, I’m happy to report that the shoe addresses many of the critiques I had of its predecessor — and makes it an excellent shoe for extra-long mountain runs and races as a result. Here I’ll break down why I think the Mtn Racer 2 excels in long-distance mountain settings, and of course, since no shoe is perfect, I’ll also discuss the areas where the Mtn Racer 2 still has some room for improvement.
Topo Athletic Mtn Racer vs. Mtn Racer 2
As I just mentioned, one of the biggest changes to the Mtn Racer 2 relative to the original version is the switch to Topo’s ZipFoam midsole material. Like the original version of the shoe, the Mtn Racer 2 features a triple-density midsole, with areas of softer and firmer cushioning to provide a mix of cushion and support. But rather than the standard EVA foam used in the Mtn Racer’s midsole, the Mtn Racer 2 features Topo’s (allegedly) softer and springier ZipFoam EVA compound.
The Mtn Racer 2 also features a completely redesigned upper. The original Mtn Racer used a fairly thick, rip-stop nylon upper material, but the Mtn Racer 2 features a more traditional-looking mesh upper with synthetic overlays for extra support. Topo also added an external rigid heel counter to the Mtn Racer 2 to provide a more secure, locked-down fit in the heel.
As per usual, we highly recommend trying on the Mtn Racer 2 in person if possible. With that in mind, I’ll provide some context on how the shoe fits my fairly narrow, low-volume feet and on how it compares to similar shoes from other brands.
I wear a US Men’s 11.5 in shoes from most brands, and the Mtn Racer 2 seems to fit true to size — an 11.5 provides plenty of room in the toe box without being overly long or sloppy. Aside from sizing, the Mtn Racer 2 fits very similarly to the first version of the shoe. Like all of Topo’s shoes, it has a wide, rounded toe box that provides much more room for toe-splay than the more pointed toe boxes on shoes like the Hoka One One EVO Speedgoat. As with the original Mtn Racer, the Mtn Racer 2 feels very similar to the Altra Timp 2 or Superior 4.5 as far as toe box width is concerned.
Also like the previous version of the shoe, the Mtn Racer 2 has a fairly secure midfoot and heel — particularly considering how wide the toe box is. This shoe still doesn’t feel as locked down as a narrower shoe like the adidas Terrex Speed Ultra, but the Mtn Racer 2 is secure enough to keep my feet from sliding around in the shoe on off-camber terrain. As I mentioned in the previous section, the Mtn Racer 2 also has a new external TPU heel cap that supposedly makes for an even more secure fit than the first version of the shoe. To be honest, I can’t feel much of a difference in the Mtn Racer 2’s fit through the heel relative to the first version of the shoe — but the extra heel counter certainly doesn’t hurt.
The Mtn Racer 2 is fairly average as far as weight is concerned — there are plenty of lighter shoes available with fairly similar specs, but the Mtn Racer 2 isn’t the heaviest mid / high-cushion shoe around, either. For a more direct comparison, here’s how the Mtn Racer 2 compares to similar shoes from a few other brands (all stated weights are based on a US Men’s size 9):
258 g / 9.1 oz — Hoka One One Torrent 2
269 g / 9.5 oz — Brooks Catamount
272 g / 9.6 oz — Altra Timp 3
283 g / 10 oz — Topo Athletic Mtn Racer 2
292 g / 10.3 oz — Salomon Sense Ride 4
309 g / 10.9 oz — The North Face VECTIV Infinite
320 g / 11.3 oz — adidas Terrex Two Ultra
So while the Mtn Racer 2 doesn’t necessarily stand out as an exceptionally light shoe, it is fairly comparable to other shoes in its category. More importantly, the Mtn Racer 2 feels light on trail — thanks in no small part to its fairly secure fit. Unlike heavier shoes like the adidas Terrex Two Ultra, the Mtn Racer 2 never feels like it’s slowing me down because of its weight. At least for my preferences, the Mtn Racer 2 is plenty light enough for everything from training runs to interval workouts to long races.
As I touched on earlier, the Mtn Racer 2’s upper uses a 2-layer abrasion-resistant mesh in place of the ripstop nylon material used on the previous version of the shoe. And in my opinion, that new upper material is a major upgrade from version one. The original Mtn Racer’s upper was fine, but it was noticeably thicker / hotter than the mesh uppers on most other shoes — and that’s coming from someone who generally runs in fairly cool weather and isn’t usually bothered by slightly less breathable shoes. The original Mtn Racer also felt like it had lots of extra material in the upper, which led to lots of awkward creasing and folding when I cranked down the laces. I never got any hot spots from those creases / folds, but I could definitely see how they’d be problematic for some folks.
So with that in mind, I’m very happy with the Mtn Racer 2’s simple, much more minimal mesh upper. The 2-layer abrasion-resistant mesh still seems to be super durable (more on that later), but it breathes way better than the upper on the previous version of the shoe. It also feels much thinner while still providing enough structure to keep my foot locked down — which gives the shoe a much lighter feel (and gets rid of those obnoxious creases).
My only remaining critique of the Mtn Racer 2’s upper is that the tongue still uses the same extremely minimal, almost completely un-padded design as version one. That might sound pretty minor, but the tops of my feet get noticeably more sore in the Mtn Racer 2 after multiple hours in the shoe than they do in any other shoe I’ve run in recently. That issue could easily be solved with just a little extra padding, and it’s not enough to keep me from choosing the Mtn Racer 2 for long runs (over 2 hours) — but it’d still be much appreciated if Topo could address it in version 3.
The Mtn Racer 2’s midsole also got a fairly major update relative to the previous version of the shoe. It still uses the same 3-piece construction as the original Mtn Racer, but version two uses Topo’s softer ZipFoam in place of the more rigid traditional EVA used on version one. One of my main critiques of the original Mtn Racer was that its midsole was just a little too firm for my preferences, so I think the switch to the softer ZipFoam midsole in version two is a major upgrade.
The Mtn Racer 2’s midsole still doesn’t feel quite as plush and springy as a shoe like adidas Terrex Two Ultra or Hoka EVO Speedgoat, but it does feel noticeably softer than the original Mtn Racer did. Overall, I’d say the Mtn Racer 2 feels most like the Altra Timp 2 cushion-wise. It provides enough cushion to keep my feet from getting overly sore on long runs, but not so much that it feels inefficient or pillowy underfoot. I also appreciate the denser midsole material Topo uses under the Mtn Racer 2’s heel and midfoot — like the original Mtn Racer, I think the shoe’s multi-density midsole makes it feel much more stable and supportive on rocky, technical terrain than the Timp 2 does. So long story short — the Mtn Racer 2 feels softer and more cushioned underfoot than its predecessor, but it definitely still falls more into the mid-cushion than the truly maximal category. That might be a plus or a minus depending on what you’re looking for, but for my preferences, the Mtn Racer 2’s midsole pretty much hits the sweet spot between cushion / protection and flexibility / ground-feel.
The Mtn Racer 2 uses the same Vibram outsole found on the first version of the shoe, with moderately aggressive, widely-spaced lugs. And as with the previous version of the shoe, I think the Mtn Racer 2’s outsole performs very well on a wide variety of terrain. Sure, it doesn’t provide much grip in deep mud (no surprise there), but it’s got way more traction than a shoe like the Altra Timp 2 or adidas Terrex Two Ultra. It provides solid grip on everything from dry / rocky terrain to wet rocks and shallow mud.
For the majority of running I do, that makes the Mtn Racer 2 extremely versatile — its outsole is grippy enough for almost any conditions I’ll run into on-trail, but isn’t so aggressive that it gets in the way / feels super inefficient on smoother terrain. Sure, shoes like the La Sportiva Cyklon or Hoka EVO Jawz provide better grip in certain settings (e.g. deep mud or super steep / loose terrain), but the Mtn Racer does just fine on pretty much everything else.
Over the last couple of months, I’ve used the Mtn Racer 2 on everything from long mountain runs and races to short recovery runs on super mellow terrain around town. And while it does pretty well in all of those settings, I think the Mtn Racer 2 stands out the most on exactly the type of runs that its name implies — long runs and races on technical mountain terrain.
With most shoes, I feel like I have to make a tradeoff between comfort and fit security when deciding which shoe to wear for a multi-hour mountain run or race. While that’s still the case to a certain extent with the Mtn Racer 2, I think it strikes a much better balance between the two than most other shoes I’ve run in recently. The Mtn Racer 2’s wide toe box makes it way more comfortable (for my preferences, anyway) than even slightly narrower shoes like the adidas Terrex Speed Ultra. The Mtn Racer 2’s new softer midsole also feels much more forgiving than the original Mtn Racer did after multiple hours in the shoe. At the same time, the Mtn Racer 2 fits much more securely and provides better traction than the Altra Timp 2 or adidas Terrex Two Ultra.
Taken together, the Mtn Racer 2’s wide toe box, more cushioned ride, secure fit, and solid traction have me coming back to the shoe every time I have a long mountain run or race on the calendar. While I still like the adidas Terrex Speed Ultra a bit better than the Mtn Racer 2 for faster paced runs and/or extremely steep / technical terrain, the Mtn Racer 2 is much more comfortable on full-day adventures.
Of course, there’s always room for improvement — and in the case of the Mtn Racer 2, I think most of that room is in the design of the tongue. As I mentioned in the “upper” section, the Mtn Racer 2’s extremely thin / minimal tongue doesn’t provide much protection from the lacing system, which does get pretty annoying after multiple hours in the shoe. Still, that’s a fairly minor complaint in the grand scheme of things, and it hasn’t prevented the Mtn Racer 2 from becoming one of my go-to shoes for long mountain runs and races.
I put over 500 miles on the original version of the Mtn Racer without any major blowouts, and so far the Mtn Racer 2 seems like it’s on track to hold up just as long — which is pretty awesome for a 10 oz (283 g) shoe. The Mtn Racer 2’s upper shows no signs of wear after over 380 miles in the shoe, and the outsole is holding up equally well. The lugs in particularly high-wear areas (e.g., the front of the forefoot) have worn down a bit, but not enough to impact the shoe’s performance. The Mtn Racer 2’s softer midsole is also holding up impressively well — it hasn’t packed out noticeably, and still feels just as cushioned as it did out of the box. I’ll be sure to update this section later on if I run into any durability issues with the Mtn Racer 2, but at the moment it seems like it’ll last as least at long as its predecessor.
Who’s It For?
I think the Mtn Racer 2 could be a great shoe for runners who want a mid-cushion, comfortable, grippy shoe for long mountain runs and races — particularly if you haven’t really clicked with shoes from brands like Altra or Hoka. I think the Mtn Racer 2’s mid-level cushion and fairly middle-of-the-road 5 mm drop could work well for a wide variety of runners, especially if you like shoes with wider toe boxes. If you’re looking for a truly maximal shoe, you’d probably be better off with something like the Altra Olympus 4.0 or Hoka Challenger ATR. But if you’re looking for a balance of cushion, comfort, and stability for long runs on demanding terrain, I’d definitely give the Mtn Racer 2 a closer look.
As I said at the beginning of the review, the Topo Athletic Mtn Racer 2 addresses almost all of the critiques I had of the first version of the shoe — which is both awesome and surprisingly rare. In my opinion, Topo did an excellent job of addressing the feedback they got on the first version of the Mtn Racer to produce a shoe that retains all the good parts of version one while improving on some of the original Mtn Racer’s weak points. And as a result, the Mtn Racer 2 is definitely in contention to be my favorite long-distance mountain running shoe of the year. Now I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that version three will have a little extra padding in the tongue.