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Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 4 Review

This sleek, supremely comfortable shoe was our favorite trail runner and a no-brainer selection as our Editors’ Choice Award winner.
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $125 List | $93.71 at Backcountry
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Pros:  Light, low profile, great traction, comfortable fit, great balance of sensitivity and underfoot protection
Cons:  No rock plate, minimal upper foot protection, hard outsole rubber isn’t super sticky on rocks
Manufacturer:   Nike
By Andy Wellman ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Sep 12, 2017
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73
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 17
  • Foot protection - 30% 6
  • Traction - 20% 7
  • Stability - 15% 9
  • Comfort - 15% 9
  • Weight - 10% 7
  • Sensitivity - 10% 7

The Skinny

The new and improved upper of the Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 4 vaults it into the top spot in our rankings and easily endeared it to our testers enough to win our coveted Editors' Choice Award. This shoe is a perfect blend of minimal heel-toe drop, a low profile, an incredibly comfortable and lightweight upper, and the optimal balance of underfoot protection and sensitivity. Since we already considered the last version of this shoe to be our Top Pick for Light and Fast running, we are thrilled that Nike left all of the best elements of this shoe intact, and with this update improved the upper that we didn't even think needed improvement. The result is a shoe that allows one to nimbly dance over the tops of the sharpest and most jagged rocks equally as well as it thrives when opening up the stride on flowy terrain or grinding away at endless uphills. If you want a shoe that will make you feel lighter and faster on your feet, while still offering the stability and protection needed for ultra distances, this is an excellent choice for you. Along with the Salomon S/Lab Ultra, we are happy to recommend it as the best trail running shoe you can buy.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

The Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 3 was one of our favorite shoes before its most recent upgrade in 2017, and luckily Nike chose to retain all of the best elements of this shoe almost unchanged. They made some significant modifications to the construction of the upper that we feel an improvement to an already great product. The research and design process at Nike is top notch. 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.

Performance Comparison


The Nike Terra Kiger 4 is our Editors' Choice winner because it has everything you want in a trail shoe: solid underfoot protection  light weight  great traction  a cool breathable upper  and a super comfortable and precise fit.
The Nike Terra Kiger 4 is our Editors' Choice winner because it has everything you want in a trail shoe: solid underfoot protection, light weight, great traction, a cool breathable upper, and a super comfortable and precise fit.

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 Challenger ATR 4 or as sensitive as the Altra Superior 3.5, it instead strikes a nearly perfect balance between being both protective and sensitive - two attributes that are often at odds with each other. While it isn't the very lightest rail running shoe out there, it sure feels that way when running.

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 the 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 the 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.
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.

Here is a short rundown of the changes made to the Terra Kiger 4 for 2017, and except new colors, no other changes were made for 2018. 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! The weight remains virtually the same, as do the heel-toe offset and list price.

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.
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.

Foot Protection


We gave this shoe 6 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 Speedgoat 2. 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, as 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. It does not have the burlier rubber protection found on the Nike Zoom Air Wildhorse 4.

Putting the underfoot protection to the test on sharp lava rocks. With its Nike Air pockets built into the midsole  this shoe offers a lot of protection and a very stiff feel  despite how thin and low to the ground it is.
Putting the underfoot protection to the test on sharp lava rocks. With its Nike Air pockets built into the midsole, this shoe offers a lot of protection and a very stiff feel, despite how thin and low to the ground it is.

Traction


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 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. The rubber initially feels very hard to the touch, limiting it slightly when it comes to scrambling over rocks.


As you can see above, this shoe ranks a notch below the best regarding traction. On all surfaces except for dry and wet rocks, 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 8 — while also retaining seemingly more durability. Although the design is slightly different, it is made of the same material and is almost identical to the outsole found on the Wildhorse 4.

The waffle patterned outsole of this shoe grips dry surfaces such as rock and dirt quite well  although isn't the stickiest when it comes to wetter surfaces like mud and snow. The rubber compound used in this shoe is slightly more durable and harder than the one used on the Wildhorse.
The waffle patterned outsole of this shoe grips dry surfaces such as rock and dirt quite well, although isn't the stickiest when it comes to wetter surfaces like mud and snow. The rubber compound used in this shoe is slightly more durable and harder than the one used on the Wildhorse.

Stability


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. With similar high-end stability as the Altra Superior 3.5, we noticed that it also shares 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 one of 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 we did in the Salomon S/Lab Ultra one of the other top scorers for stability.

A large part of a shoes stability score has to do with how well it effectively holds your foot in place. The double elastic sleeves inside the Terra Kiger comfortably cradle your foot without applying pressure  combining with the low profile for a very stable ride.
A large part of a shoes stability score has to do with how well it effectively holds your foot in place. The double elastic sleeves inside the Terra Kiger comfortably cradle your foot without applying pressure, combining with the low profile for a very stable ride.

Comfort


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.


Regarding its snug, form fitting upper, this shoe fits more snugly than The North Face Ultra Vertical or the Altra Lone Peak 3.5. 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 quite a bit of water in the water test after the initial dip, it helped rectify that problem by being one of the quickest to dry out.

A side by side comparison of the Wildhorse 4 in the front with the Terra Kiger 4 in the back. While both are very comfortable  we would give a slight edge to the lower heel-toe drop  lighter weight Terra Kiger for comfort.
A side by side comparison of the Wildhorse 4 in the front with the Terra Kiger 4 in the back. While both are very comfortable, we would give a slight edge to the lower heel-toe drop, lighter weight Terra Kiger for comfort.

Weight


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 6 out of 10 points, roughly comparable to the Topo Athletic Runventure 2. While it isn't among the very lightest we tested, it runs light and doesn't project the slightest hint of heaviness or clunkiness.


At 21.1 ounces these are some of the lighter shoes that we tested  but offer far more underfoot protection  vastly expanding their range  compared to most of the lighter options.
At 21.1 ounces these are some of the lighter shoes that we tested, but offer far more underfoot protection, vastly expanding their range, compared to most of the lighter options.

Sensitivity


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 an excellent balance between firmness and sensitivity. Check out this table to see how it ranked.


The underfoot protection level of this shoe was so good that we felt able to stomp right over just about anything we encountered, but was evenly balanced with an equal amount of sensitivity. There is no doubt that this shoe feels entirely different than the springy and highly cushioned shoes that many people are now used to, like the Altra Lone Peak 3.5 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 as we did with the very thin forefoot found on the New Balance Summit Unknown.

For such a thin  lightweight shoe  this one has a surprising amount of stiffness in the midsole  offering more protection than one might think  and lessening the amount of sensitivity.
For such a thin, lightweight shoe, this one has a surprising amount of stiffness in the midsole, offering more protection than one might think, and lessening the amount of sensitivity.

Best Applications


As our Editors' Choice Award winner as the best overall trail running shoe, we feel that there is not a running style 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.

We love the Terra Kiger 4 for nearly any running mission  as long as it is on the trails. Smooth  well-groomed trail like this one really allow it to shine. Due to the lightweight upper  it wouldn't be our first choice for heading off trail.
We love the Terra Kiger 4 for nearly any running mission, as long as it is on the trails. Smooth, well-groomed trail like this one really allow it to shine. Due to the lightweight upper, it wouldn't be our first choice for heading off trail.

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 real crossover 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.

Value


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.

Conclusion


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.
Trail running magic! Perfect temperatures, amazing trails, great scenery and light, and our favorite shoe - the Terra Kiger 4.


Andy Wellman