If you are looking for an all-around trail running shoe, the hype about the Nike Terra Kiger trail shoes is real. I’ve been running, primarily in New Balance for years due to their larger sizes and widths in minimalist trail shoes. However, recent disappointment with their trail offerings led me to try the Air Zoom Terra Kigers.
Many of the serious trail runners I know are always on the lookout for minimal heel-to-toe drop, a lightweight and locked down feel, breathability, and solid tread. After 200+ miles in the Terra Kigers on diverse terrain at short and long distance, I can say they deliver. This includes running in all weather conditions ranging from dry trails to 15″ of snow to a watery cave.
Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 5 Shoe Specs
Let’s take a quick look at the specs and then get into how the shoes performed. Nike describes some of the benefits and specs as follows:
- Zoom Air unit in the heel gives responsive cushioning.
- Perforated mesh and synthetic upper drains water and optimizes breathability.
- Sticky rubber pods on outsole delivers wet-surface traction.
- Overlays surround the forefoot for enhanced durability.
- Padded tongue helps relieve pressure from the lacing system.
- Segmented rock plate in the forefoot helps shield your foot on rough terrain.
- Multi-directional lugs have a sharp, crisp shape to enhance your grip in all conditions.
- High-abrasion rubber heel in a rugged waffle pattern provides multi-surface traction and durability.
- Weight: 10.19 oz. (men’s size 10)
- Offset: 4mm (10.5mm forefoot, 14.5mm heel)
Testing the Nike Terra Kiger 5
Eric and I have put these Terra Kiger trail running shoes through some serious trials. We started out with technical routes at a local open space on steep, gravelly, and rocky terrain.
The Terra Kiger’s aggressive lugs and low profile had no issues navigating and handling piles of crumbling rocks and even hardpack with gravel. The shoes felt nimble and responsive and there was no sensation of wasted or lost energy as experienced in less “locked down” shoes like Altras.
We each noticed a little bit of flex or elasticity in the forefoot which made us a bit nervous when descending rocks at odd angles, but so far this hasn’t been an issue.
After running the shoes through day-to-day training routines, we put the Terra Kigers through the ringer with a 23 mile Fall colors loop around a Colorado wilderness area. This included thousands of feet of gain, areas of snow, water crossings (including a watery cave) and a range of dry to muddy trails.
The day was an absolute blast and the shoes were issue free, even after intentionally soaking them in a chilly slot. Crossing through the slot did get some debris in the shoes, which were easy to dump out but this detail may matter to some racers (wear race gaiters?).
I ran my Terra Kigers through a couple more tests. One was running through two kinds of snow: deep snowpack and also icy, packed out snow.
On unconsolidated and deep snow, the shoes did very well. Warm socks (something that stays warm even when wet like Alpaca wool socks) are required since the uppers are thin and the shoes are low cut, but I had no trouble with cold feet on a 2 hour run through deep, powedery snow (be smart, don’t blame me if you go freeze your toes in slush). Traction was solid.
As with most trail running shoes, there are traction limitations when solid ice comes into play. Ice is ice, and overcoming it requires extra traction such as Kahtoola Microspikes. The Nike Terra Kiger 5 did a decent job accommodating microspikes. It’s often hard to keep spikes in place on running shoes, and the Kahtoola spikes drifted around a bit on the Kigers, but nothing too bad.
The final test was to run the Kigers on some paved and urban trail surfaces to see how they would perform when mixed, flat surfaces came into play. So I ran a half marathon with a mix of gravel and paved trails.
Thanks to their low profile, the Kigers make a reasonably efficient shoe for running mixed surfaces. As a training shoe, they work well on paved with no notable issues. For racing, there’s probably a small amount of efficiency lost by running in these heavily lugged shoes versus a lean road shoe. Eric beat me by 12 minutes wearing Nike Flyknit Lunars, but he would have done that wearing hiking boots or slippers.
Nike Terra Kiger 5 Best Features
Wide Toe Box
As a person who normally needs a size 14 2E (US), finding shoes with a wide enough toe box is typically difficult or impossible. Even finding a size 14 in the first place is out of the question with many brands.
There is a trend towards wider toe boxes thanks to brands like Altra and Lems. So I wasn’t sure what to expect when ordering a Nike trail running shoe since no widths were available. To my surprise, the shoes fit very well. Not quite as wide as most 2Es, but wide enough to fit with no hotspots.
Another benefit of a wide toe box is the feeling of sturdy and balanced forefoot strikes. This shoe doesn’t feel narrow and touchy.
Tongue and Lacing System
The Kigers have an interesting tongue. It’s thin, has a subtle rubberized feel to it, and is stitched into the upper. Personally, I love it. The tongue stays in place while running, there are no pinch points from snug lacing, and I didn’t experience the overheating and even water logging which can come with an overbuilt tongue.
Interestingly, a pair of Crossfit-like shoes — the New Balance Minimus Prevail — also feature a very similar tongue design. Nike’s is better executed.
The Terra Kiger lacing system just plain works. They are easy to snug up and generally stay that way for the duration of the run. The bottom of the laces disappear into the shoe, which is the first I’ve seen of this.
While running the 23 mile test loop, I don’t recall thinking of the lacing a single time.
Tread and Toe Protection
The Kiger 5 lugs and toe protection are excellent for an all-around shoe. The lugs are aggressive without being overbearing and do a good job of shedding debris.
After 200+ miles of running, I’m yet to encounter any issues with toe protection thanks to the nice overlays on the forefoot.
A 4 millimeter drop seems fairly common in trail shoes with minimalist leanings. Testers at Ruin Your Knees tend to prefer this as a good drop for letting the foot do the job it was designed for, creating stable and balanced foot strikes.
This really is one of the best trail running shoes we’ve tried, but two critiques are worth noting.
The first has already been mentioned: when descending steep terrain at unusual foot strike angles, the shoe occasionally seems to have a little elastic flex in the forefoot. This has only happened to me a couple of times, but it startled me and made me worry about rolling my ankle. Eric noted the same sensation. However, this has been very rare and neither of us has actually had any ill effects.
The second critique is the unusual heel which juts out from the back of the shoe and comes to an unusual point or crest. My first thought was that I might catch the back of the heel on obstacles. So far this hasn’t happened to me, but it did happen to Eric when descending a stair-like obstacle.
I’m not sure what the theory is behind the heel, but it seems unnecessary.
If you are looking for a good all-around trail running shoe with minimalist leanings, this is a fantastic shoe. If you have a big foot and often need to order a width like 2E, definitely check these out. I immediately ordered a second pair.