New Balance MT/WT10 v4 vs Topo Athletic MT-2 vs Inov-8 Terraclaw 220
The latest version (v4) of the New Balance MT/WT 10 has added 3mm of stack height to its underfoot protection. This has resulted in us moving the shoe from a minimal stack height classification to a low stack height classification. Low stack height trail shoes include the ASICS FujiLyte, Brooks PureGrit 4, Pearl Izumi Trail N1 v2, and the Salomon Sense Pro 2. In comparison to these shoes, the MT/WT10 v4 still feels more minimal underfoot. So while the shoe has gotten thicker, it still remains true to its Minimus pedigree in terms of feel. The fit is also consistent with the Minumus ideal of natural foot shape, as the toebox is rounded instead of pointy. Lastly, the MT/WT 10 v4 maintains the 4mm heel-toe drop found in all iterations of the MT/WT 10.
When looking for a comparison of low stack height trail shoes, the search is initially a bit challenging. A comparison shoe should be within an ounce of overall weight and plus or minus 2mm of drop. The shoe should also have a rounded toebox. The Salomon Sense Mantra 3 has a somewhat rounded toebox and 6mm drop, but it’s almost 3 ounces heavier. The Pearl Izumi Trail N1 also has a somewhat rounded toebox and a 5mm drop, but is also almost 3 ounces heavier. I normally don’t like to pick on weight, but in this case, these two shoes certainly feel like a lot more shoe than the MT/WT 10 v4. Alas, we have a competitor: the Inov-8 Terraclaw 220. It has a rounded toebox, 4mm drop and is just a little heavier. But there have to be more options, right?
Not really. However, the relatively new brand Topo Athletic has a shoe to fill the void. The MT-2 has a truly rounded toebox, 3mm drop and is 1.5 oz heavier. Granted, this is more than an ounce heavier – but let’s not nitpick, it’s close enough. Especially since there is nothing else to meet the specific criteria for this comparison. The Altra Superior 2.0 is close, but it’s a medium stack height shoe, zero drop, and 2 ounces heavier.
Now that we have our contenders, let’s get into the comparison.
The fit and the upper
While all three shoes have rounded toeboxes, the Topo MT-2 definitely has more length near the outer toes (pinky side) than the other two models. The NB MT/WT 10 V4 and the Terraclaw 220 are nearly identical in shape. In regards to toebox height, all three models skew toward the shallow side. The MT/WT 10 v4 is the most shallow, followed by the Terraclaw 220 and then the Topo MT-2. I found it odd that all three of these shoes have rounded toeboxes for natural toe splay, yet have a low height that could interfere with how the big toe lifts during stance and prior to ground contact.
Along with the lower toebox heights, the MT/WT10 v4 and Terraclaw 220 have lower midfoot volumes but can also fit a medium volume foot quite well. The Topo MT-2 has a more versatile midfoot fit. It’s a medium fit that expands nicely for a larger volume fit, yet can be tightened without bunching on a lower volume foot. The upper of the Topo MT-2 also has the ability for a refined fit. The gilly lacing loops are in an offset pattern of close then spread, which allows for a precise and secure fit. The MT/WT 10 v4 has a burrito-style tongue. The advantage is a seamless interior, which means you can go sockless. The disadvantage is the top fabric of the tongue bunches a bit as the lacing is tightened. And since it’s a thin tongue, the bunching may irritate the top of some feet. The Terraclaw 220 has an asymmetrical tongue and row of eyelets. It’s well executed, which is not always the case with asymmetrical styles. However, it only works well for low to medium volume feet. The interior is nearly seamless and soft, so going sockless is an option here as well. The more rugged upper of the Topo MT-2 is best with socks.
Speaking of the rugged upper of the Topo MT-2, let’s get into upper performance. The Topo MT-2 has a very good toe bumper built into the upper. It’s not a steel-toed shoe, but it’s a nice addition for added protection that actually works. The welded overlays provide a perimeter mud guard. Additional overlays in the midfoot provide protection from protruding objects that may rip less protective uppers. The Topo MT-2 upper is definitely built to go almost anywhere and this is why the shoe weighs a bit more than the others.
The Terraclaw 220 has the most minimal upper. As such, it is best suited to open trails. The upper of the MT/WT 10 v4 does a good job of keeping dirt and debris out, but it’s the least breathable of the three. The Terrclaw 220 is the most breathable followed closely by the Topo MT-2.
The Ride and Traction
As mentioned earlier, the MT/WT 10 v4 is thicker than its predecessors yet it still has a minimal feel under foot. The Terraclaw 22o also has a minimal feel underfoot. As such, both shoes feel like an extension of your foot. They are both nimble, flexible shoes that are great for picking your way through technical trails. The Topo MT-2 has a more cushioned feel. There is some initial give and then a well-grounded feel. If you remove the insole from the Topo MT-2, it feels very much like the other two shoes. But with the Topo MT-2 insole in place, you get a little more of a forgiving ride, that is finished with a great sense of connection to the trail. All three shoes performed well on trails with dirt over hard-packed and looser terrain. If the trail gets softer, the Terraclaw and MT/WT 10 v4 dig in better. But on hard trails and dare I say road, the Topo MT-2 is the clear favorite. The MT/WT 10 v4 does okay for short stints (500m) on harder ground and the Terraclaw is not recommended for harder ground.
Contributing to the overall feel of the shoes is weight. Perceived weight is different than actual weight. The Terraclaw 220 is a little heavier than the lightest MT/WT10 v4, but it feels the lightest on foot. The simple, minimal upper of the Terraclaw 220 feels light on the foot. The shoe also has a built-in flex plate called Dynamic Fascia Band, which seems to help with propulsion and makes the shoe feel faster. The Topo MT-2 is more than an ounce heavier than the MT/WT 10 v4, but it’s a more protective shoe. If you encounter protruding rocks where protection is welcomed, the Topo MT-2 is the shoe of choice. The MT/WT 10 v4 does feel lighter than the Topo MT-2, so if you don’t need rock protection, and you want a light, minimal feel for training, the MT/WT 10 v4 fits the bill.
The Topo MT-2 is the most versatile shoe of the three. It will fit the greatest range of feet and performs better, on average, over a broad range of surfaces. It’s more comfort-oriented but still keeps you connected to the ground. The other two shoes are a little more nimble, but not by much. The Terraclaw 220 is the most specialized of the bunch and skews toward faster running over loose to soft terrain. Even though the MT/WT 10 v4 is the lightest, it doesn’t feel as fast as the Terraclaw 220. The MT/WT 10 v4 shines as a minimalist, regular use trail shoe for loose terrain.