Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 5 Review
Cons: Pressure on top of foot and around ankle, not as comfortable as previous version
Our Analysis and Test Results
- 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.
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.
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 most heavier, burlier trail shoes, but is also not squishy and sensitive like some others. 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 among 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.
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 sticky rubber found on La Sportiva shoes, but is not as insanely aggressive as you would expect to see on Salomon shoes.
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, 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.
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. 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 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.
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, while heavier than the super light offerings, that offer less underfoot protection. On the trail, it feels light and nimble, and not at all heavy.
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.
These shoes are roughly average price if purchased at retail. 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.
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.
— Andy Wellman