The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 5 Review

An excellent lightweight shoe that still offers a surprising amount of protection.
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Price:  $130 List | $94.98 at Backcountry
Pros:  Stable, low to the ground, sticky updated traction
Cons:  Pressure on top of foot and around ankle, not as comfortable as previous version
Manufacturer:   Nike
By Andy Wellman ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 1, 2019
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72
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 20
  • Foot protection - 30% 6
  • Traction - 20% 8
  • Stability - 15% 9
  • Comfort - 15% 6
  • Weight - 10% 7
  • Sensitivity - 10% 8

Our Verdict

The Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 5 is one of two trail-specific shoes in the massive Nike lineup, providing the lightweight, lower to the ground, more sensitive counterpart to the Nike Wildhorse 5. These shoes are newly updated as of April 2019 and have undergone a fairly major revision, detailed below. While the previous versions of these shoes were among our absolute favorites and garnered Best Overall awards through multiple testing sessions, the new versions we found to be slightly less comfortable, and not quite as overwhelmingly impressive compared to the competition. They are still a great shoe, one that many will love. If you like shoes with a lower heel-toe drop (4mm), a ride that is close to the ground but still quite protective, and a lightweight, minimalist upper, this is a shoe you should check out.


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Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award 
Price $94.98 at Backcountry$179.95 at Backcountry$139.00 at REI
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Pros Stable, low to the ground, sticky updated tractionVery protective midsole and upper, sock-like fit, grippy traction, lighter than previous versionPrecise fit, very grippy on rock, comfortable upper effectively keeps out debrisGreat traction on soft slippery surfaces, extremely comfortable, no increase in priceVery protective, stable, comfortable straight out of the box, good traction, wider fit
Cons Pressure on top of foot and around ankle, not as comfortable as previous versionExpensive, durability concernsNarrower than average, a bit pricey, not the lightestMidsole foam compresses out over time, easily collects rocks and debrisA bit heavy, expensive, not very sensitive
Bottom Line An excellent lightweight shoe that still offers a surprising amount of protection.The shoe that best balances foot protection and sensitivity, all while providing an incredibly fine-tuned fit.A well-rounded shoe offering high performance for short or long distances.Our Best Bang for the Buck winner for great comfort and traction with a price lower than the other top scorers.A great choice for ultras or long distance training due to the excellent foot protection.
Rating Categories Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 5 Salomon S/Lab Ultra 2 La Sportiva Kaptiva Saucony Peregrine ISO Scarpa Spin Ultra
Foot Protection (30%)
10
0
6
10
0
10
10
0
8
10
0
5
10
0
9
Traction (20%)
10
0
8
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
7
Stability (15%)
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
7
Comfort (15%)
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
10
10
0
9
Weight (10%)
10
0
7
10
0
6
10
0
6
10
0
5
10
0
4
Sensitivity (10%)
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
0
5
10
0
8
10
0
4
Specs Nike Air Zoom... Salomon S/Lab... La Sportiva Kaptiva Saucony Peregrine... Scarpa Spin Ultra
Weight (per pair, size 11) 21.3 oz. 22.7 oz. 22.3 oz. 23.1 oz. 23.9 oz.
Heel-to-Toe Drop 4 mm 8 mm 6 mm 4 mm 6 mm
Stack Height (Heel, Forefoot) 24 mm, 20 mm 26 mm, 18 mm 17 mm, 11 mm 22.5 mm, 18.5mm Not disclosed
Upper Flymesh Mesh Sock-Like knit IsoFit Mesh, TPU
Midsole Phylon Compressed EVA Duel-density EV PWRFOAM, Everun Compressed medium-density EVA with low density EVA inserts
Outsole Sticky rubber Premium Wet Traction Contagrip FriXion XF 2.0 PWRTRAC Vibram MegaGrip
Lacing style Traditional Kevlar Quicklace Traditional Traditional Traditional W/ lace garage
Wide version available? No No No Yes No
Sizes Available 6 - 15 4 - 13 38 - 47.5 8 - 14 40 - 48 EU

Our Analysis and Test Results

With its release in April 2019, the Nike Terra Kiger 5 is massively changed from the previous Terra Kiger 4, which we called our Best Overall Trail Running shoe. We will detail the changes as we see them below, but overall the idea remains the same: a low to the ground, low drop (4mm) shoe, with a minimal upper and relatively protective feel underfoot. Here are the individual changes:
  • The lug pattern and rubber compound of the outsole has changed to a dual pattern of sticky on the front and high abrasion on the back.
  • The forefoot of the shoe is slightly narrower than before by 1-2mm.
  • While the air pocket in the heel remains, there is now softer React foam underfoot in combination with a segmented rock plate in the forefoot.
  • There is now a hard plastic heel counter.
  • The tongue is now unpadded but remains attached to the sock-like inner sleeve.
  • Padding and cushioning around the ankle opening and over the heel is firmer and has been reduced.
  • Lacing system has been cosmetically changed.

The new Terra Kiger 5 in black on the right  with the old Terra Kiger 4 in white on the left. Virtually everything about these shoes has changed with this update  except their low to the ground ride that is both stable and protective. For us  the upper of the old shoe was a bit more padded and comfortable  especially on the top of our feet around the tongue and laces.
The new Terra Kiger 5 in black on the right, with the old Terra Kiger 4 in white on the left. Virtually everything about these shoes has changed with this update, except their low to the ground ride that is both stable and protective. For us, the upper of the old shoe was a bit more padded and comfortable, especially on the top of our feet around the tongue and laces.

There may be more subtle changes than this, but these are the ones we notice. The overall effect for us is that the upper of the shoe is less comfortable. Specifically, we experience more pressure and greater discomfort on the top of the foot where the laces cross over the tongue, and around the ankle opening. The forefoot rubber is stickier on rock, while the entire feel of the midsole is subtly different. It feels softer, and a bit more cushioned and sensitive, and doesn't feel as firm as before.

Performance Comparison


Summit sunshine! The Nike Terra Kiger 5 are one of our favorite shoes for everyday runs  offering surprising protection on a light  stable  and sensitive platform. They are almost completely redone from their previous version. Summits are one of the great joys of trail running!
Summit sunshine! The Nike Terra Kiger 5 are one of our favorite shoes for everyday runs, offering surprising protection on a light, stable, and sensitive platform. They are almost completely redone from their previous version. Summits are one of the great joys of trail running!

Foot Protection


This shoe offers a solid balance between underfoot protection and sensitivity, not emphasizing one over the other while highlighting both. It is nowhere near as protective as the Salomon S/Lab Ultra 2, or the Nike Wildhorse 5, but is not nearly as squishy and sensitive as the Saucony Peregrine ISO. The feeling underfoot is firm, but less so than the last version, but once again, don't expect squishy, soft foam. The rock plate is noticeable as it protects the forefoot, yet allows the entire shoe to bend and flex with ease. There is plenty of protection for running over the top of jagged rocks, something that is not common amongst lightweight shoes. That said, the upper is not super protective, with a lot of exposed lightweight mesh, little in the way of supportive film overlays, and a small toe bumper compared to many.

As you can see  this is a shoe that will allow you to feel what you are stepping on  bending and morphing to the terrain. Despite this  the midsole is a combination of compressed EVA foam  segmented rock plate  and air pocket in the heel. It is not quite as firm as the previous version  and strikes a refreshing balance between protection and sensitivity.
As you can see, this is a shoe that will allow you to feel what you are stepping on, bending and morphing to the terrain. Despite this, the midsole is a combination of compressed EVA foam, segmented rock plate, and air pocket in the heel. It is not quite as firm as the previous version, and strikes a refreshing balance between protection and sensitivity.

Traction


The traction pattern on this shoe is completely changed from the last version, and it now features sticky rubber on the front of the shoe, with a much harder and more durable rubber covering the heel. While this sticky rubber grips rock reasonably well, and better than the waffle pattern of the Terra Kiger 4, the abrasion-resistant heel is not sticky at all. The lug pattern features many triangular and rectangular lugs set at different angles, which are roughly 4mm deep. The lugs are limited to the forefoot and the heel, while a rather large area under the arch is left completely smooth, which in our opinion helps prevent an excessive buildup of mud, giving it nothing to stick to. The overall performance is on par with the La Sportiva Kaptiva, but is not as insanely aggressive as the Salomon Speedcross 5.

Showing the new traction pattern on the left compared to the old pattern on the previous version. The darker grey rubber on the front of the shoe is quite sticky and grips well to rock and other surfaces  while the light grey rubber under the heel is more durable  but very hard  and does not stick to rock nearly as well. Overall the new traction pattern is quite effective across all surfaces.
Showing the new traction pattern on the left compared to the old pattern on the previous version. The darker grey rubber on the front of the shoe is quite sticky and grips well to rock and other surfaces, while the light grey rubber under the heel is more durable, but very hard, and does not stick to rock nearly as well. Overall the new traction pattern is quite effective across all surfaces.

Stability


This is a very stable shoe, and this attribute is probably the best that it exhibits. With a low 4mm heel-toe drop, the lack of pronounced heel counter, especially compared with the Wildhorse 5 or S/Lab Ultra 2, is very noticeable. It rides low to the ground, with little to no likelihood of tipping or rolling. The upper locks the foot securely in place, so we experienced no slippage when traversing hillsides, or heading steeply up or down. The excellent stability adds to this shoe's ability to handle technical terrain, making it a solid choice for off-trail travel.

Running down steep and loose hillsides requires a stable shoe  and the Terra Kiger 5 is one of the most stable. It rides low to the ground and only has a 4mm heel-toe drop  and this combined with its wide forefoot make it a confidence-inspiring shoe to push it in.
Running down steep and loose hillsides requires a stable shoe, and the Terra Kiger 5 is one of the most stable. It rides low to the ground and only has a 4mm heel-toe drop, and this combined with its wide forefoot make it a confidence-inspiring shoe to push it in.

Comfort


Comfort is subjective, which is why we weight it lower than other metrics described above. But we were disappointed with this new version, feeling that it has not maintained the minimalist comfort that we loved about its predecessors. In particular, we find the unpadded tongue to be insufficient for protecting the tops of our feet against the laces that run over it, and even a small amount of cushioning here has proven more than enough in the past.

We also noticed that the padded cushioning around the ankle opening and over the Achilles tendon area of the heel is small and very firm; it simply isn't very soft. While we felt this shoe was quite comfortable out of the box, we felt like it lost comfort points the further we ran in it. Compared to the unbelievably plush feeling of the upper in the Saucony Peregrine ISO, or even the minimalist comfort of the previous version (which we compared it closely against), the upper of this shoe is lacking; this could just be our experience, however, and not the experience that everyone will have, so don't let this advice dissuade you from checking them out if you are very interested. At the same time, we always want to tell it like we see it, so there you have it. We think it fits pretty much true to size and is of average width.

Showing the cushioned padding on the inside of the upper. Notice the tongue  which except for a very thin sliver in the middle  is completely un-padded. We wish there was at least a bit of padding here  because the pressure from the tightened laces could be felt across the tops of our feet.
Showing the cushioned padding on the inside of the upper. Notice the tongue, which except for a very thin sliver in the middle, is completely un-padded. We wish there was at least a bit of padding here, because the pressure from the tightened laces could be felt across the tops of our feet.

Weight


Our pair of men's US size 11 weighed 21.3 ounces on our independent scale, which is virtually the same as the last versions weighed. This places it lighter than the more heavily protective shoes, such as the Scarpa Spin Ultra, while heavier than the super light offerings, such as the Altra Superior 4, which offer less underfoot protection. Interestingly, it weighs roughly the same amount as the Hoka Speedgoat 3, a shoe which could not be any more different than it. On the trail, it feels light and nimble, and not at all heavy.

At a mere 21.3 ounces per pair for a men's size 11  these are an impressively light shoe considering they feature air pockets and a rock plate in the midsole.
At a mere 21.3 ounces per pair for a men's size 11, these are an impressively light shoe considering they feature air pockets and a rock plate in the midsole.

Sensitivity


Like one would expect from a low to the ground shoe, this one feels pretty sensitive. It offers a fantastic balance with foot protection, though, since the sensitivity is not due to overly squishy foam that easily bottoms out, but is instead due to how well the shoe flexes and bends, and how thin the firm foam, air pockets, and rock plates are underfoot. The sensitivity greatly adds to trail feel, while not risking bruised feet as a trade-off.

Running the last few meters to the summit of Grey Butte in central Oregon  while avoiding the surrounding rain showers. The Terra Kiger 5 offers a nice balance between foot protection and sensitivity  ensuring that one can still feel a bit of the terrain underfoot  like this scree  but that it won't damage the foot to push the speeds.
Running the last few meters to the summit of Grey Butte in central Oregon, while avoiding the surrounding rain showers. The Terra Kiger 5 offers a nice balance between foot protection and sensitivity, ensuring that one can still feel a bit of the terrain underfoot, like this scree, but that it won't damage the foot to push the speeds.

Best Applications


These shoes are uniquely suited to all types of terrain and running, and are a lighter and less durable counterpart to the Nike Wildhorse 5. The upper may tear if you travel off-trail too frequently, but for any sort of on-trail running, smooth and fast or slow and rugged, they are a good fit.

The Terra Kiger 5 are a shoe optimized to running you best and fastest on a variety of terrain  whether that means chasing personal bests  or fleeing from hard charging wild puppies!
The Terra Kiger 5 are a shoe optimized to running you best and fastest on a variety of terrain, whether that means chasing personal bests, or fleeing from hard charging wild puppies!

Value


These shoes retail for $130, which has become roughly average among quality trail running shoes. Essential in the value assessment will be how comfortable they feel for you. If the upper is like a dream, then we think they present excellent value. If they put pressure on your feet the way they did with ours, then that's a hefty amount of money to pay.

Conclusion


The Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 5 is a lightweight, low to the ground shoe that is simultaneously protective and sensitive. In the past, they have been among our very favorites, a testament to the experience of Nike and the input of their top-notch and highly competitive trail running team. We found this version to be slightly less comfortable than in the past, knocking them down our rankings a bit, but still encourage you to try them out, as our experience may be different than yours, and they are an excellent shoe.

Running on glorious single track in the evening next to the Metolius River  near Sisters  Oregon  while wearing and testing the Nike Terra Kiger 5.
Running on glorious single track in the evening next to the Metolius River, near Sisters, Oregon, while wearing and testing the Nike Terra Kiger 5.


Andy Wellman