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Hands-on Gear Review
Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 4 Review
Cons: Lightweight mesh upper lacks abrasion resistance of other shoes.
Bottom line: Running fast on difficult terrain has never been so easy as with these shoes.
The Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 4 is our Top Pick for Light and Fast running because it successfully combines a low-profile, minimalist heel-toe drop, and lightweight upper with the underfoot protection and cushioning needed for running fast on the gnarliest trails. While we love the incredibly sensitive feel of other low-profile models in this review like the La Sportiva Helios 2.0 and the Altra Superior 2.0, our feet, and those of other runners we have talked to, cannot survive running our fastest on rocky, rooty, mountainous trails for long distances. The Terra Kiger 4, on the other hand, has one of the firmest and most protective rock plates we have tested, and combined with its snug and form fitting upper, allows one to nimbly dance over the tops of the sharpest and most jagged rocks. No other lightweight and low-profile shoe can handle any type of terrain like this shoe, which is why it is our Top Pick.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Men's Trail Running Shoes of 2017 - Side-by-Side Tests
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The world's largest and most recognizable athletic shoe brand — Nike — only just entered the trail running shoe market a few years ago, with mixed reviews. In its third version, we think that Nike has combined all of its incredible history and experience to create one of the best trail running shoes we have ever worn with the Zoom Terra Kiger. In short, it has a nearly perfect blend of the best attributes for an optimal performance trail running shoe — low profile, light weight, lots of underfoot protection, snug form-fitting upper, excellent and durable traction. While it doesn't necessarily "win" any of these categories when compared to the competition, it's hard to conceive of a more perfect blend of attributes for fast trail running. If low-profile shoes are your preference, or you like to push your speed on the trails, then this is certainly the shoe we recommend for you.
We gave this shoe 8 out of a possible 10 points for foot protection. While it is one of the most protective underfoot due to its very hard and stiff rock plate, the lightweight mesh upper leaves the foot a bit vulnerable compared to the competition. We loved how this shoe protected underfoot, using an opposite technique to that of the ultra-cushioned HOKA ONE ONE Challenger ATR 2. Instead, it includes an adequate amount of cushioning in the heel and forefoot, but also uses a rock plate that can take direct shots from the sharpest of rocks while barely passing on the slightest hint of a blow to the underside of the foot.
In that way it is similar to stiffness offered in the Brooks Cascadia 11, or older versions of the Saucony Peregrine (although not this year's model). While the underfoot protection is ideal in our mind, the toe bumper is lacking, and the very minimal TPU overlays on the entirely mesh upper are sufficient only for slight abrasion resistance; it does nothing to protect the sides or top of the foot from branches, roots, or rocks should your foot slip off a wet rock or a muddy embankment.
The "waffle" patterned outsole on this shoe is made of high-abrasion rubber that is both very durable and sticky enough to tackle rocky scrambling. The lug pattern really does look like it was pressed out of a waffle iron, but therefore offers a ton of deep, aggressively incut square lugs that cover the entire sole. While the rubber initially feels very hard to the touch, we found that it is also sticky enough to scramble over rocks when we tested them on a huge scrambling mission up the never-ending North Ridge of Mt. Gladstone, a teetering pile of granite talus.
Whether smearing on slabs or hopping from pointy rock to pointy rock, the traction on these shoes stuck to everything. They have not shown the slightest hint of tearing or even abrasion after months of testing, an impressive feat. Comparable shoes in terms of traction were the Saucony Peregrine 6 and the Montrail Caldorado.
This sports a low 4mm heel-toe drop and a low stack height, ensuring that it runs closer to the ground than most of the shoes we tested. While it is not quite as stable as the Altra Superior 2.0, it does share a similar forefoot design that is very wide compared to the heel, allowing the forefoot to splay out to its natural width upon landing, thereby increasing stability.
We loved how snugly the upper gripped our foot, holding the foot still and stable within the shoe. The great stability in this shoe allowed us to feel more sure-footed while running in it than any other shoe we tested, increasing our confidence greatly.
Comfort is such a subjective metric, as everyone has a different shaped foot, and therefore standardized shoes will naturally feel different to everyone. That said, this shoe is easily one of the most comfortable we have ever run in. The upper may be the best fitting of the entire group, with the Dynamic Fit system and burrito-like top of the foot wrapping tongue perfectly and comfortably hugging the foot. Underfoot, this shoe is much firmer and stiffer than most of its foam cushioning heavy counterparts, but it still offers nice padding for a smooth ride.
In terms of its snug, form fitting upper, this shoe is most similar to the La Sportiva Helios 2.0, and fits more snugly than either the Editors' Choice award winning Pearl Izumi EM Trail N2 V3 or The North Face Ultra Endurance. While it is unfortunately one of the shoes that absorbed the most water in the water test after the initial dip, it helped rectify that problem by also being one of the quickest to dry out.
At 21.6 ounces for a pair of size Men's 11, this is certainly a light shoe, but nowhere near as light as the lightest in our review. We awarded it 8 out of 10 points, roughly comparable to the Saucony Peregrine 6. While it isn't among the very lightest we tested, it runs very light, and doesn't project the slightest hint of heaviness or clunkiness.
With such a stiff rock plate underfoot, it suffered in the sensitivity department. In fact, we thought it was the least sensitive shoe in this test, on par with the La Sportiva Wildcat, and a little worse than the Brooks Cascadia 11 or HOKA Challenger ATR 2.
While we like our shoes to be sensitive enough to have an intimate feel with the trail, we weren't bothered by the lack of sensitivity in this shoe. The protection level was so good that we felt able to stomp right over just about anything we encountered, which allowed us to run very fast in such a low-light shoe. Where usually very sensitive shoes inspire us to dance along the trail, running nimbly, with this shoe we really liked just blasting right through, and so didn't regret the loss of sensitivity.
We awarded this shoe our Top Pick for Light and Fast running, and so obviously feel that would be its best application. While we are often limited in the distance we can run in low-profile shoes, this shoe is supportive enough for ultra distances without problem. Certainly this is a shoe that will excel as a race-day specialist. That said, there is actually not a single type of running that we can think of that we wouldn't be happy undertaking in this shoe.
At $125, this shoe sits smack in the middle of the standard price range for quality trail running shoes. Since is such an awesome shoe, and can't imagine that you wouldn't love it, it is a great value. This sentiment is further validated by the fact that they have been very durable for our tests, and internet reviews seem to back up this claim.
This is one of our favorite shoes that we tested in this 2016 review and incorporates a winning combination of all the features we love to see in a trail running shoe. At times, nothing can feel more liberating or refreshing than running fast on trails, and this is a shoe designed to accomplish that very purpose. But it is also engineered to be durable and supportive enough to tackle very long distance ultras as well. It is among the best we have ever tried, and so are happy to award it our Top Pick for Light and Fast running.
Other Versions and Accessories
Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 4 - Women's
— Andy Wellman
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