The extra-wide toe box will be very appealing for many trail runners, but needs a little more cushioning and protection for longer runs over rocks and roots. Best for soft, muddy and grassy trails.
Super-wide toe box
Comfy fit straight from box
Great Vibram grip
Promotes a natural, responsive ride
Debris gaiter attachments
Only one color
Only compatible with Topo gaiter (£30)
Lacks cushioning and protection
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Topo MTN Racer 2: first impressions
The exciting thing about the Topo Mtn Racer 2 is its extra wide toe box. For any runners constantly in pain from squashed toes, you must give these a try. The toe box is fantastically wide and it really provides a much more natural shape for the toes to splay out.
• RRP: £140 (UK) / $140 (USA)
• Weight (pair UK 6.5): 498g / 17.6oz
• Colors: Men’s: Yellow; Women’s: Green
• Drop: 5mm
• Compatibility: Wide-foot runners on soft terrain and muddy trails
If you Google natural toe splay you’ll see plenty of images coming up showing feet that look kind of triangular with the toes spread out, and then other images showing how traditionally shaped shoes cause the big toe and little toes in particular to bend worryingly inwards.
If you feel like regular trail running shoes are doing this to your feet, then the Topo MTN Racer 2s may well come as a breath of fresh air… especially around your toes. (You may also find our feature How should trail running shoes fit? useful.)
Having said that, these may not be the best shoe for every runner at every distance. The ZipFoam padding is fairly minimal, making it fantastic if you’re an experienced barefoot-style runner with strong feet – you can really feel and respond quickly to the terrain underfoot. However that does mean that your foot feels all the harder parts of the trails, like rocks, roots, the odd road section or gravel path.
There’s not as much protection here as in the more padded trail running shoes. The Vibram Megagrip outsole with widely spaced 4mm lugs is great for mud. This shoe is definitely best for soft, muddy and grassy trails rather than a lot of rock and road.
Topo MTN Racer 2: on the trails
We quickly became addicted to the wide toe box of the Topo Mtn Racer 2s and now any other shoes we test seem to be squashing our big and little toes unnecessarily inwards!
The fit is so comfy with that extra room up front, and the laces lock the foot down nicely so it doesn’t zoom forwards into the space at the toes.
We started doing shorter runs in these as with a 5mm drop it’s sensible to transition slowly if you’re used to using shoes with a higher heel stack, and the grip was fantastic, and the minimal cushioning meant we could feel the sun-hardened mud under our feet very well.
There’s a very natural feel to running in these. However, that does make it harder work for your feet. On a longer eight-mile run my feet really started to become tired of feeling everything underfoot so well, and I longed for more cushioning and protection.
It would be amazing if Topo could make a more padded shoe for those transitioning to a more natural, minimalist style of running – or for those who run on hard-packed trails more than muddy, grassy ones.
The co-founder and former editor of Trail Running magazine, Claire now runs the YouTube channel Wild Ginger Running, creating films packed with trail- and ultra-running content. An award-winning journalist, writing for outdoor and adventure sports magazines and websites, her first book The Ultimate Guide to Trail Running 5k to 50k is out in January 2021. Claire also speaks and presents at events and races.