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Hands-on Gear Review
Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 4 Review
Cons: Heavy, outsole not as durable as Terra Kiger 4
Bottom line: With a lower than average price tag and high durability, this shoe gives the buyer the best value
The Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 4 could very well have been called the "Workhorse 4" instead, as it is a fantastic everyday trainer that will provide months and months of comfortable protection for your feet. As one of highest overall rated shoes in this review and priced slightly lower than the majority of the competition, it is our Best Bang for the Buck Award winner. This means we think it provides better value for the money than any other shoe, and those looking for the ultimate do-everything trail running shoe should look no further. Weighing in at 24.1 ounces for a pair of size 11's, and with 8mm of heel-toe drop, we wouldn't want you to confuse it for a minimalist speedster. However, what it lacks in ultimate top end performance, it more than makes up for in attributes that matter — comfort, traction, stability, and foot protection.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Trail Running Shoes for Men of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
What the Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 4 is to low-profile, high-performance trail running shoes, the Wildhorse 4 is to everyday high-mileage shoes: simply the most comfortable and easy to love shoe we have worn. It shares many attributes with the other Nike offering, such as the waffle-patterned outsole and air pockets that provide both cushioning and protection sandwiched into the midsole. But it also comes with many notable features that the Terra Kiger 4 does not, such as a forefoot rock shield, 8mm of heel-toe drop, and rubberized protection covering the most high-wear areas of the upper.
While many of the highest performing shoes in our review might not be the most optimal or economical choice for the average trail runner, we feel that the Wildhorse 4 is an excellent choice for literally everyone. It is a great do-everything running shoe for the majority of us, an everyday trainer for high-mileage runners, and has the optimal blend of comfort, cushioning, underfoot protection, and durability that make it a fantastic choice as an ultra-marathon race shoe. The fact that it costs less than the rest just allows us to garnish it with more accolades — it is truly the Best Bang for the Buck!
Despite the fact that it features a whopping 28mm of stack height under the heel, this shoe was only slightly better than average when it came to foot protection. Its midsole is constructed mostly of Phylon foam that provides cushioning, but it also has a combination of a forefoot "rock plate" and a signature Nike air pocket in the heel. The air pocket does an awesome job of both cushioning and protecting from impact without adding weight, while we put the words "rock plate" in quotes because the forefoot of this shoe remains very flexible and relatively sensitive. While there is something in the forefoot that helps protect the foot from impacts, it most certainly is not a solid plate. The upper has fairly thick rubberized patches on both sides of the foot that do a great job of protecting both the shoe material and the feet, but the toe bumper is merely a short piece of outsole rubber stretched up to offer minimal extra protection.
We found this shoe to be ever so slightly less protective underfoot than shoes of similar character and design like the Vasque Constant Velocity and The North Face Ultra Endurance. However, we also found it to be quite a bit more sensitive than either of those shoes, so it all balances out in the end. It was a larger step down from the Hoka One One Challenger ATR 3 or the New Balance Leadville v3, two other shoes we also find to be optimally suited to ultra running. 7 out of 10 points.
The Wildhorse 4 has a similar waffle-patterned outsole as the one found on the Terra Kiger 4, although it is made of slightly softer rubber on the inside, and is only lined around the edges with Nike's super high abrasion compound. The angular front and rear lugs do a good job gripping into most surfaces but were less awesome on grass than the Terra Kiger 4 in our comparative testing, but at the same time gripped rock a bit better.
We thought the traction on this shoe was more than adequate for most trail and ultra-running, on par with the similarly purposed Hoka Challenger ATR 3, as well as the New Balance Leadville v3. There is no doubt, however, that it was a notch down from the higher overall performing shoes in this review, like the Inov-8 Roclite 290. 6 out of 10 points.
The Flywire cable grip system that integrates with the laces to hug and hold the foot on the shoe in a solid and stable position works great. Whether going down steep hills or across them as we did in our side-hilling test, this shoe held our foot perfectly stable with no slippage whatsoever.
However, there is no denying that the foot rides a fair ways off the ground, and as evidence, we cite the 28mm of rear stack height. While 8mm is not a ton of heel-toe drop, it is noticeably less stable when compared directly to the zero-drop Altra Lone Peak 3.5 or the very low to the ground La Sportiva Helios 2.0. We gave it 7 out of 10 points for stability.
You may have noticed how we have already mentioned that this shoe is exceedingly comfortable about 20 times already. Well, that's because it is! Comfort is the most highly subjective metric that we test for, as one person's foot will always fit in a shoe different than another's, but we are pretty darn confident that almost anyone will find this shoe to be as comfortable as we did. We have yet to find anyone who had anything different to say.
We found the fit to be perfectly true to size, in both length and width. It is neither wide nor narrow, but what we would call average, and fit our slightly wider than normal forefoot like a well-broken in glove. It felt snugger than the wide forefoot designs of both the Terra Kiger 4 and the Altra Superior 3.0, but was wider than the generally pretty narrow Salomon Speedcross 4 and Hoka Challenger ATR 3. Its checkerboard patterned upper mesh was simultaneously highly breathable and effective at keeping out dirt and debris, although it was merely average when it came to water absorption and shedding in our water bucket test. In the end, it tied for the highest score, 9 out of 10.
Weighing in at 24.1 ounces for a pair of men's size 11, this shoe was on the heavier end of the scale.
While it didn't exactly feel light and nimble on our feet, the extra weight was more than accounted for in the benefits derived in comfort. It received 3 out of 10 points, the same score as The North Face Ultra Endurance but was not nearly as light as the 21.5 ounces Challenger ATR 3.
While it was nowhere near the most sensitive shoe in this trail running review, we felt that it was quite sensitive for an everyday trainer. The forefoot does not have one of the Nike Air pockets in it, which we have found dampen the sensitivity a bit, and instead is cross-laced with grooves in the outsole that allows for quite a bit of flex.
While the Wildhorse 4 was a bit clunkier and lacking in trail feel when compared to its brother, the Terra Kiger 4, we found it to be noticeably more sensitive and less firm feeling underfoot than either the Vasque Constant Velocity or the Brooks Caldera. We gave it 6 out of 10 points.
This shoe perfectly fits the traditional trail running shoe mold, and will thus thrive as a high mileage, everyday trainer. For those who are fairly new to running, it is a great option that can handle all terrain types. We think it is a great ultra-running shoe and is also really comfortable for hiking in.
This shoe retails for $110, making it one of the more affordable options in an every inflating market. Since we think it is a wonderful shoe, is durable enough to last you for a long time, and is relatively cheap, it presents an awesome value. So much so that it won our Best Bang for the Buck Award.
The Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 4 is a more protective and durable counterpart to the higher performing, more minimalist Nike shoe, the Terra Kiger 4. For what it is, we feel it is every bit as excellent as that shoe, and honestly could not be more impressed with the Nike line-up in general. Whether you are in need of an everyday trainer that can withstand a ton of mileage, are a new trail runner seeking a traditional shoe, or are looking for the perfect 100-mile racing shoe, we think this shoe fits your needs. As one of the most affordable and awesome shoes we have worn, we decide to award it our Best Bang for the Buck award.
— Andy Wellman
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