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Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 6 Review

One of the burliest trail shoes you can buy, but which runs very well
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Price:  $130 List | $97.79 at REI
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Pros:  Solid foot protection, good traction, drains water very well, heel collar keeps out debris
Cons:  A tad heavy, not super sensitive, narrow forefoot
Manufacturer:   Nike
By Andy Wellman ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 12, 2020
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74
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 19
  • Foot protection - 30% 9
  • Traction - 20% 8
  • Stability - 15% 7
  • Comfort - 15% 8
  • Weight - 10% 3
  • Sensitivity - 10% 5

Our Verdict

The Nike Wildhorse 6 is a rugged and burly trail shoe that is a perfect choice for both long distances, as well as tackling the rockiest, roughest terrain. The newest version of this shoe, updated in March 2020, underwent a major overhaul that has catapulted it up our overall rankings. This shoe is a tad on the heavy side, but offers a ton of foot protection in the form of underfoot React foam and a durable upper. If your dream trail runs involve steep, rocky, rooty, wet, or off-trail terrain, these shoes are an excellent choice.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Wildhorse 6 fills out the heavy and burly end of the Nike trail running shoe lineup. We think of it sort of like a Jeep, compared to a sedan (Pegasus) or sports car (Terra Kiger). It combines a lot of underfoot foam, offering both protection and springiness, with a very burly upper that protects the foot well and somehow manages to top the charts in our water drainage tests. The final piece is the aggressively lugged outsole that features lugs that manage to wrap up and around the heel on the sidewalls of the shoe, giving you a shoe that will stomp through any sort of terrain.

Comparing the old Wildhorse 5 on the left in black with the new colorful 6 version on the right. The main difference noticeable here is the tongue is not only minimally padded  and the upper itself wraps more of the foot  with a higher volume fit. The mesh used is also different  as are most aspects of this shoe.
Comparing the old Wildhorse 5 on the left in black with the new colorful 6 version on the right. The main difference noticeable here is the tongue is not only minimally padded, and the upper itself wraps more of the foot, with a higher volume fit. The mesh used is also different, as are most aspects of this shoe.

Changes from previous version 5
While the overall purpose and intent of the shoe remains the same, almost everything else about this shoe is different. The old waffle patterned outsole is replaced with larger lugs that are spaced further apart. In the midsole, the old Phylon foam combined with air pockets has been ditched in favor of a React foam combined with a segmented rock plate in the forefoot. The fit of the upper is quite different as well, with a bit of a narrow forefoot, but much more space vertically through the forefoot and midfoot. The tongue is no longer padded, and is instead now a thin strip with tiny lace pads. Most noticeable is the collar around the ankle that effectively keeps out dirt. Taken as a whole, we think the new version is a massive upgrade over the last one.

Performance Comparison


The Wildhorse 6 are almost completely redone since the last version  with a new midsole compound made completely of foam  traction lugs that wrap onto the heel  a higher volume upper  and a gaiter-like collar around the ankle opening that does a great job keeping debris out of the shoe and isn't really noticable (in a good way) while running.
The Wildhorse 6 are almost completely redone since the last version, with a new midsole compound made completely of foam, traction lugs that wrap onto the heel, a higher volume upper, and a gaiter-like collar around the ankle opening that does a great job keeping debris out of the shoe and isn't really noticable (in a good way) while running.

Foot Protection


Foot protection is without doubt the strength of this shoe. Underfoot you will find a thick layer of Nike's React foam, which we think feels a little bit stiffer than the EVA foam found in Hokas, but which also lends a bit of springiness to the stride. There is an 8mm heel-toe drop, so heel strikers have that extra counter of foam to ensure that they can land with impunity. While there is a segmented rock plate in the forefoot, designed to offer some protection while still being flexible, we admit that we found it hard to notice. Regardless, the effect of the thick foam underfoot is that these shoes make a great choice for pounding down long steep descents without worrying where you land.

Gone is the Air pockets  and the underfoot protection provided by this shoe now comes in the form of firm but springy React foam combined with a minimal  segmented rockplate in the forefoot. This combination allowed us to stomp down rocky trails as fast as our legs could spin  and the upper is highly protective as well.
Gone is the Air pockets, and the underfoot protection provided by this shoe now comes in the form of firm but springy React foam combined with a minimal, segmented rockplate in the forefoot. This combination allowed us to stomp down rocky trails as fast as our legs could spin, and the upper is highly protective as well.

The upper is made of breathable mesh in the front and thick ripstop in the whole back half of the shoe. Overlaying much of the mesh is thin film that protects the most high wear spots. It also has a fabric collar around the heel and ankle opening, designed to help keep out debris. We've tested other shoes that attempted a similar design, and have found that this one works better than all others. We were pleasantly surprised at how much we liked this feature.

Traction


We think the new tread design on this shoe is a significant improvement from the previous version. It now uses a combination of high wear rubber in the heel, with a slightly softer and stickier version in the front. Spaced throughout the sole are cleat shaped lugs that vary in size depending on their location, with sharp edges for added bite, that do an effective job of preventing the buildup of mud. The lugs are roughly 5mm deep, and have a tangible flat surface on top, for added friction on hard surfaces. While there are many reports online of Nike's rubber not sticking well on wet surfaces, we tested these shoes during months of low precipitation in desert and mountain climates, and so can't report well on their grip on wet rocks. What we can say is that they bite well on soft mud, snow, and grass, and for us perform every bit as well as most of the top contenders.

Comparing the traction on the newer version 6 on the left with the previous version 5 on the right. You can see that the lugs are now larger and more spread out with greater distances between. The yellow rubber in the back is a harder  more durable blend than the white and red rubber on the front and middle of the shoe.
Comparing the traction on the newer version 6 on the left with the previous version 5 on the right. You can see that the lugs are now larger and more spread out with greater distances between. The yellow rubber in the back is a harder, more durable blend than the white and red rubber on the front and middle of the shoe.

We thought the large cleat-like lugs on the bottom of this shoe were quite effective at biting into soft surfaces like this snowfield  and the mud that surrounded it.
We thought the large cleat-like lugs on the bottom of this shoe were quite effective at biting into soft surfaces like this snowfield, and the mud that surrounded it.

Stability


This shoe has an 8mm heel toe drop, and a fair amount of foam underfoot, distancing your foot from the ground that it is landing on. Perhaps it's no surprise that we don't find it to be the most stable shoe out there, and in particular the high heel has us worried about rolling ankles. Overall the landing platform is not the widest, and the edges of the heel are even rounded off, worrying us a bit. The good news is that we found the fit to be snug and excellent at keeping our feet securely positioned in place, with no sloppy slippage while running downhill or across angled slopes.

Stability is critical when bombing downhill over uneven rocky terrain like the standard route on Grey Butte in central Oregon. With an 8mm heel-toe drop and a fair amount of React foam in the midsole  these shoes ride a little high  and are not a super stable low to the ground option. With a little extra attention though  this proved little problem on our test runs.
Stability is critical when bombing downhill over uneven rocky terrain like the standard route on Grey Butte in central Oregon. With an 8mm heel-toe drop and a fair amount of React foam in the midsole, these shoes ride a little high, and are not a super stable low to the ground option. With a little extra attention though, this proved little problem on our test runs.

Comfort


This is a comfortable shoe if you have narrow feet, and even works pretty well for average width feet. We find the length to be spot on size wise, but wish that the forefoot was a bit wider. Our average width feet required some loosening of the front few rows of laces to allow for a little more relaxed fit up front, otherwise we felt the upper squeezing us after 30 minutes or so.

A big issue we had with the Wildhorse 5 was the low volume fit on top of the feet, where the padded tongue and tight design had our feet bursting out of the tops of the shoe, and feeling squished by the laces running over them. That effect is now completely gone, with the vertical volume feeling spot on. We experienced no discomfort from the laces running over the tops of our feet, even with a very thin and minimally padded tongue.

A critical aspect of a shoes comfort is how little water it absorbs and how quickly it sheds it. The Wildhorse 6 is the top competitor when it comes to our tests  making it ideally suited to runs where you end up crossing many creeks.
A critical aspect of a shoes comfort is how little water it absorbs and how quickly it sheds it. The Wildhorse 6 is the top competitor when it comes to our tests, making it ideally suited to runs where you end up crossing many creeks.

With so much material in the upper, we were surprised to find that these shoes crushed our water bucket test, where they were easily the top scorers when it came to water retention. If you are like us, and love to stomp through the creeks and streams without breaking stride, these shoes will suit you well.

Weight


Our pair of men's size 11 shoes weighed in at 23.9 ounces on our independent scale. This is an increase of roughly 0.8 ounces per shoe, and they are now one of the heavier designs in our review. The math is backed up on the trail, where they feel a bit heavy and noticeable, and so won't be the first choice for those who only appreciate the most nimble shoes.


These shoes gained some weight with the new redesign  and are now one of the heavier models in this review. This photo gives you a good close up view of the ankle collar  a feature we really liked.
These shoes gained some weight with the new redesign, and are now one of the heavier models in this review. This photo gives you a good close up view of the ankle collar, a feature we really liked.

Sensitivity


You shouldn't expect to feel a lot of trail beneath your feet while running in these shoes. In fact, we recommend you simply stomp on whatever happens to fall beneath your feet, cause that's where these shoes will shine. That said, they still allow for a bit more trail feel than the even thicker Hokas. The they tip the scale way more in favor of underfoot protection.

Testing the trail feel  and the soft surface traction  on this muddy trail in Oregon in the spring. These shoes are far heavier on protection  and aren't very sensitive overall.
Testing the trail feel, and the soft surface traction, on this muddy trail in Oregon in the spring. These shoes are far heavier on protection, and aren't very sensitive overall.

Value


The price of these shoes has crept upwards slightly in the last few versions, although they still retail for the exact same price as the other Nike trail shoes, and fall in the middle of the spectrum — roughly average — for trail shoes today. Since they are protective and durable, and perform fairly high in our overall rankings, we think they present a solid value.

Despite the fact that the price tag has increased a bit with this new version  we think these shoes present good value with enhanced longevity and high quality construction. Putting in the miles on the first melted out trails in the San Juans in May.
Despite the fact that the price tag has increased a bit with this new version, we think these shoes present good value with enhanced longevity and high quality construction. Putting in the miles on the first melted out trails in the San Juans in May.

Conclusion


The Nike Wildhorse 6 has been completely redesigned, but retain their same basic character. These shoes are a fantastic choice for those who value foot protection above all else, and like to run on rugged trails without having to worry about damaging their feet. They are comfortable, secure, and drain water really well, and now have an outsole that will keep you gripping the ground, even off trail.

On the summit of Grey Butte with distant views to the Three Sisters volcanoes in Central Oregon. The Wildhorse make for a great everyday trainer  especially on rocky terrain.
On the summit of Grey Butte with distant views to the Three Sisters volcanoes in Central Oregon. The Wildhorse make for a great everyday trainer, especially on rocky terrain.


Andy Wellman