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Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 5 Review

An excellent lightweight shoe that still offers a surprising amount of protection
Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 5
Photo: Nike
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Price:  $130 List
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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  • Foot protection - 30% 6
  • Traction - 20% 7
  • Stability - 15% 9
  • Comfort - 15% 6
  • Weight - 10% 7
  • Sensitivity - 10% 8

Our Verdict

The Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 5 is one of the small selection of 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 saw their last revision in April 2019, 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, and are uniquely suited to all types of terrain and running. The thin 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.

Our Analysis and Test Results

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...
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...
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 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.

As you can see, this is a shoe that will allow you to feel what you...
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.


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.

Showing the new traction pattern on the left compared to the old...
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.


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.

Running down steep and loose hillsides requires a stable shoe, and...
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 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.

Showing the cushioned padding on the inside of the upper. Notice the...
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.


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.

At a mere 21.3 ounces per pair for a men's size 11, these are an...
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.


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...
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.


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 Terra Kiger 5 are a shoe optimized to running you best and...
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 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...
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

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