The Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 3 was one of our favorite shoes of last year, and luckily Nike chose to retain all of the best elements of this shoe almost unchanged. They made some major modifications to the construction of the upper that we feel is an improvement to an already great product. Clearly, the research and design process at Nike with its trail running team is absolutely top notch, as we feel that in their fourth iteration both of their trail shoes — the Terra Kiger 4
as well as the Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 4
— are among the best shoes available on the market today. Read on below for a complete rundown of the changes made to this newest version.
Check out the chart below to see how the Terra Kiger 4
stacked up against the competition. As our highest scoring trail running shoe, it was a no-brainer to call it the Best Overall.
Showing the waffle pattern outsole made of recycled rubber, as well as the newly redesigned upper. We like the mellow color scheme.
Compared to the rest of the competition, we feel that the Terra Kiger 4
manages to hit home runs on most of the attributes we look for in a trail shoe. While it is not as protective underfoot as the Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3
or as sensitive as the Altra Superior 3.0
, it instead strikes a nearly perfect balance between being both protective and sensitive, two attributes that are often at odds with each other. It is certainly on the lighter end of the spectrum, almost the same weight as the Saucony Peregrine 7
. Compared to the Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 4
, which uses many similar design elements, it is lower riding to the ground, with a smaller heel-toe drop, and is noticeably more flexible underfoot. What this shoe certainly lacks is loads of EVA foam cushioning underfoot that has become quite trendy in the trail shoe market these days, but Nike's air cushioned ride doesn't disappoint, and likely won't compress out nearly as fast. For those who want supreme comfort without paying a price in clunkiness, this is the shoe for you.
This shoe is a dream for running on any sort of surface, including trail running in the mountains. Here having fun and testing shoes on the switchbacks of the Bear Creek Trail in the San Juan Mountains, with Mt. Abrams behind.
For 2017, Nike has replaced the Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 3
with the Terra Kiger 4
. The lace system is upgraded as part of the Dynamic Fit technology, providing midfoot support and lockdown with fewer Flywire cables but a new inner sleeve that assimilates a sock-like fit. These augmentations contribute positively to the comfort factor, which is always a good thing in our books! There are also snazzy new color options available for the spring season. The weight remains virtually the same, as do the heel-toe offset and list price.
Here's a full summary of the updates for the newest version:
- Dynamic Fit Technology — The new version of this shoe features the Dynamic Fit system with only two Flywire cables at the top of the shoe, as opposed to five on the old version.
- Inner-Sleeve Construction Update — The lower Flywire cables were replaced with an inner-sleeve construction for a snugger, sock-like fit. We can confirm that this system effectively holds the foot in place and is super comfy. It also helps keep debris out of the upper.
- Updated Flymesh Upper — The upper has been modified but remains very light, thin, and airy. A new rubberized toe bumper was added to protect this fabric.
- Gusseted Tongue — Instead of the "burrito-style" tongue used in the last edition, Nike has replaced the tongue with a gusseted design that has stretchy nylon holding it in place on both sides, also helping to hug the foot.
The Terra Kiger 4 on the left, with the old version on the right. The mesh pattern of the upper was changed, and the solid grey toe bumper was added. The lacing system was also changed with the Flywires largely replaced with an inner sleeve.
We gave this shoe 7 out of a possible 10 points for foot protection. It feels stiff underfoot, due to the combination of the Phylon foam material and the Nike Air pods in both the heel and forefoot. Despite this stiff feel, it does not have a rock plate, and surprisingly retains a decent amount of sensitivity, not cutting the runner off from his connection to the trail. We appreciated this stiff and supportive underfoot feel, which is in direct contrast to the cushy and springy ride that one feels on shoes that have a lot of EVA foam in the midsole, like the Hoka Challenger ATR 3
or the Brooks Caldera
. Check out the chart below for an idea of how it stacks up to the competition.
While the underfoot protection is nearly ideal in our mind, the lightweight mesh upper remains vulnerable, even after all the new upgrades. The new toe bumper is a thin rubberized overlay, replacing the minimal TPU overlays of the Terra Kiger 3
. The entirely mesh upper is sufficient only for slight abrasion resistance; it does nothing to protect the sides or top of the foot from branches, roots, or rocks should your foot slip off a wet rock or a muddy embankment and does not have the heavier rubber protection found on the new Nike Zoom Air Wildhorse 4
This shoe is low profile but clearly has enough material underfoot to offer solid protection. The upper on the other hand in very lightweight and offers almost no protection to the foot.
The "waffle" patterned outsole on this shoe remains the same from previous iterations. It is made of a combination of high-abrasion rubber around the edges that is very durable combined with the sticky waffle patterned middle made at least partially of recycled material. The lug pattern really does look like it was pressed out of a waffle iron, but therefore offers a ton of deep, aggressively incut square lugs that cover the entire sole. While the rubber initially feels very hard to the touch, we found that it is also sticky enough to scramble over rocks or even scramble our way up steep sandstone slabs in the desert as we did one day while searching for native ruins.
As you can see above, this shoe ranks right up there with the best in terms of traction. We found that it performed just as well as those shoes with the most aggressive lug patterns — the Salomon Speedcross 4
and the Saucony Peregrine 7
— while retaining seemingly more durability. Although the pattern is slightly different, it is made of the same material and is almost identical to the outsole found on the Wildhorse 4
Testing the sticky rubber traction while scrambling up the side of a large sandstone dome in far western Colorado, hunting for native ruins. The rubber was fine, and we are happy to report we didn't slip off and die!
This shoe sports a low 4mm heel-toe drop and a low stack height of 20mm in the forefoot, ensuring that it runs closer to the ground than most of the shoes we tested. While it is not quite as stable as the Altra Superior 3.0
, it does share a similar forefoot design that is wide compared to the heel, allowing the forefoot to splay out to its natural width upon landing, thereby increasing stability. The chart below shows that it is up there with the best when considering stability.
We loved how snugly the upper gripped our foot, holding the foot still and stable within the shoe. This is a product of the new inner mesh liner combined with the stretchy elastic of the gusseted tongue. The landing platform and secured upper foot feel every bit as stable as when running in The North Face Ultra Endurance
, one of the other top scorers for Stability.
Showing the three layers of the new upper that hold the foot in place, making for a stable ride. The grey mesh on the outside is heavily perforated and highly breathable. Sandwiched in the middle is the neon yellow inner sleeve, which joins the lacing grommets to the midsole and hugs the foot as the laces are tightened. On the inside is the stretchy grey gusseted tongue, keeping debris out, the tongue in place, and further hugging the foot.
Comfort is such a subjective metric, as everyone has a different shaped foot, and therefore standardized shoes will naturally feel different to everyone. That said, this shoe is easily one of the most comfortable we have ever run in. The upper may be the best fitting of the entire group, with the multiple layers of the Dynamic Fit system perfectly and comfortably hugging the foot. Underfoot, this shoe is much firmer and stiffer than most of its foam cushioning heavy counterparts, but it still offers nice padding for a smooth ride.
In terms of its snug, form-fitting upper, this shoe is most similar to the La Sportiva Helios 2.0
, and fits more snugly than the The North Face Ultra Endurance
or the Altra Lone Peak 3.0
. If anything, with the removal of the old burrito-style tongue, there is now less upper material, ensuring an even closer fit. While it is, unfortunately, one of the shoes that absorbed the most water in the water test after the initial dip, it helped rectify that problem by also being one of the quickest to dry out.
Showing the Terra Kiger 4 on the top and the Wildhorse 4 on the bottom. Both of these shoes are supremely comfortable! The Wildhorse is essentially a slightly beefier, more protective shoe with a larger drop and stiffer ride.
At 21.3 ounces for a pair of size men's 11, this is certainly a light shoe, but nowhere near as light as the lightest in our review. We awarded it 8 out of 10 points, roughly comparable to the Saucony Peregrine 7
and Brooks Caldera
. While it isn't among the very lightest we tested, it runs light, and doesn't project the slightest hint of heaviness or clunkiness.
While this shoe does not have a rock plate sandwiched into the midsole, at times we found it to be stiff enough that it almost felt like it did. There is no doubt that the combination of the Phylon midsole foam with the dual Nike Air pockets feels firm
. However, we still found that we were able to feel the little bumps and protrusions of the trail if we paid attention, offering a great balance between firmness and sensitivity.
While we like our shoes to be sensitive enough to have an intimate feel with the trail, we weren't bothered by the lack of sensitivity in this shoe. The protection level was so good that we felt able to stomp right over just about anything we encountered, which allowed us to run very fast in such a light shoe. There is no doubt that this shoe feels totally different than the springy and highly cushioned shoes that many people are now used to, like the Altra Lone Peak 3.0
amongst others, but we will admit to preferring this more natural-feeling ride. We also appreciated how it wasn't so sensitive that we felt like we had to be careful to protect our feet, like we did with the very thin New Balance Vazee Summit Trail v2
Testing the sensitivity, underfoot protection, and stability of this shoe by running downhill over the most jumbled and rocky terrain.
As our Editors' Choice Award winner as the best overall trail running shoe, we feel that there is not a type of running that this shoe does not excel at. While we are often limited in the distance we can run in low-profile shoes, we found this shoe to be supportive enough for ultra distances without a problem.
With its low drop and low to the ground ride, combined with its very durable traction that can stand up to the repetitive motion on the roads, we feel this shoe is a great cross-over for both road and trail running.
We will admit that the lower profile and firmer ride of this shoe will have some people looking for a more standard trainer. However, we think this is a shoe that can be run in every day, and also has good cross-over potential for dirt road running. This is a shoe that will excel as a race-day specialist, but is also versatile enough to be a quiver-of-one.
Testing on the loose sand, rocks, and dirt of the southwest desert country, an ideal spring and fall getaway while its not too hot. This is an obscure trail near the Dolores River in Colorado.
At $125, this shoe sits smack in the middle of the standard price range for quality trail running shoes. Since it is such an awesome shoe, we feel that it also presents a great value. This sentiment is further validated by the fact that they have been very durable for our tests, and internet reviews seem to back up this claim.
The Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 4
has been one of our favorite shoes for the past couple of years of testing, and the new modifications to the upper, while leaving the fantastic midsole and outsole unchanged, vaulted it to the top of our rankings. It has a nearly perfect set of attributes for a high-performing trail running shoe — comfort, stability, low weight, great traction ¬– and is also supportive and durable enough to be used as an everyday shoe. For those reasons and more we happily award it our Editors' Choice Award.
Trail running magic! Perfect temperatures, amazing trails, great scenery and light, and our favorite shoe - the Terra Kiger 4.