Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 5 Review
Cons: Uncomfortable upper over top of foot, traction not good when wet
Our Analysis and Test Results
- Outsole and midsole remain virtually the same, both in look and feel.
- Upper is completely redesigned, feels lower volume, especially in midfoot.
- Lacing design is changed, no longer offset, but now includes very wide opening above tongue.
- Heavy rubberized protection on sides of foot replaced with lightweight film overlays that are not as extensive.
- A slightly stronger toe bumper, made of a soft fabric addition, not a hard plastic one.
- Overall weight is considerably lower, around 1.3 ounces lighter per shoe.
Foot protection is the hallmark of this shoe. Underfoot it features a sandwich of firm Phylon foam that is not soft and squishy, with a combination of segmented rockplate in the forefoot and air pod cushioning under the heel. While this description may sound similar to the midsole design of the Nike Terra Kiger 5, the fact is this shoe feels firmer and far more protective. Run over sharp and jagged rocks all you want; you will not feel much of them. The upper, while once one of the most protective, is now merely average. It has a soft toe bumper that is better than nothing, but not nearly as effective as the TPU plastic toe bumpers found on the Scarpa Spin Ultra or the La Sportiva Kaptiva. The lightweight mesh is covered in all the right places with a very thin film overlay, adding some durability to the highest wear areas.
The traction pattern and rubber compounds found on the outsole of this shoe remain unchanged from previous versions. The dual rubber compounds augment a stickier gripping rubber on the interior of the shoe, both in the front and back, with a more abrasion resistant, less sticky rubber all along the outside edges. The lugs are reminiscent of a waffle-iron: a grid pattern of square shapes. While this shoe provides great traction on dirt and grass, it is not especially sticky on rock and is very slippery if wet. The heel pattern is also not aggressive enough when going steeply downhill, with small lugs and edges that turn upward, providing less contact with the ground. Compared to the aggressive patterns found on the shoes with the best traction, this shoe is a bit inferior, but it is more than sufficient for most trail running as long as wet rocks are not part of the itinerary.
The Wildhorse 5 features an 8mm heel-toe drop, and the added counter under the heel is pretty noticeable, especially when comparing them directly to lower drop shoes. Despite that, the shoe feels fairly close to the ground, and the fit is fairly lockdown, meaning there is little slippage when cruising across side-hills or straight up or down steep grades. It is a relatively stable shoe.
There is no doubt that the fit of the upper of this shoe has changed, and while we found the old upper to be very comfortable, this one feels too small and tight. In particular, it feels as if the top of our foot is bursting out the opening covered by the tongue like there is simply not enough material to wrap over the foot. Rather than being close together, the lacing holes are a long way apart, so that the laces wrap over about half of the top of the shoe, and put way too much pressure on the top of our foot. That is simply our experience and is odd considering the last of the midsole is the exact same shape as the older version (we compared closely).
To call this upper uncomfortable may be a bit harsh and seriously nitpicky, but at the same time we have the luxury of comparing it moment by moment to countless other pairs of shoes, and by that criteria, it simply isn't as comfortable. Of course, comfort is also one of the most subjective things we could rate for, and our experience will not necessarily dictate how the shoes feel on your feet, so if in doubt, be sure to try the shoes on and not simply take our word for it.
Our pair of men's US size 11 weighed 22.2 ounces, only one ounce heavier than the Terra Kiger 5. Notably, this is well over 2.5 ounces lighter than a pair of the previous version, so these shoes are now drastically lighter. As far as we can tell, these weight savings had to come by cutting out upper material, as little else has changed, but in our opinion, we would rather have the heavier, more comfortable shoe.
This is not a very sensitive shoe. Due to the rockplate in the forefoot, impacts from sharp objects are effectively dispersed, rather than localized in the spot where the impact occurred. This is a good thing when considering foot protection, a primary function of this shoe, but means that some sensitivity is sacrificed.
These shoes retail for a relative bargain compared to the competition, are present an outstanding value. Since these shoes last for such a long time and are very protective, also having one of the lowest price tags is simply a win-win for everyone. If they were more comfortable and fit our feet better, they surely would have retained their previous Best Bang for the Buck award.
The Nike Wildhorse 5 were updated to the newest version in April 2019, but except for the upper, little has changed. These shoes do a great job protecting the foot and offer a great value due to their low price and fantastic durability. We are a bit disappointed by the different fit to the upper which didn't suit us as well, but encourage you to check them out. If they feel good, then this is one of the best value purchases you can find in a trail running shoe.
— Andy Wellman
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