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Trail Running Shoes • April 22, 2019

Nike Terra Kiger 5 Performance Review

In what is probably the most-talked-about trail shoe update this year, the Nike Terra Kiger 5 arrives with more flair than Daenerys Targaryen to a backyard barbeque in Westeros. The newest update features an all-new Nike React midsole, a revamped upper, and multi-directional sticky lugs on the outsole with a forefoot rock plate. And, to point out the completely obvious—it just looks damn cool (and you know that to be true or you would not be reading this).

I took them on a mix of rainy city sidewalks, Maryland trails (dirt and creeks, some mud, continual up and down), and Pennsylvania trails (super rocky, in the dark with a headlamp), and in the last 14 miles of a 50-mile night race.

Nike Terra Kiger 5

The Good

We got a lot going on here, so let’s get to it.

I instantly felt at one with the Terra Kiger 5, and not just cause of its instant-classic design and retro 90’s colorway. About that colorway: to some it’s an exclamation point on a Krusty the Clown wardrobe; others see Zach Morris with a jacket slung over his shoulder, owning the halls of Bayside High. Personally, my heart skipped more beats than a white Soundcloud rapper when I first opened that orange Nike shoebox.

Out of the box, the lace-up feels like the upper of a soccer cleat—it’s made of perforated mesh and synthetic overlays to maintain support, but It wraps around like a symbiote looking for a warm body (that’s me!). Another comparable (but lesser-known) upper I’ve worn is the Salming OT Comp. In fact, the Terra Kiger 5 reminded me a lot of that shoe, just with more cushion and less aggressive lugs. And at 9.3 oz. for a size 9, the end result is that right off the bat you just know you’re in for a quick ride.

The tongue is thin, with two cushioned pads on top that keep the laces from digging in, and is attached to the inner bootie. Side note: I don’t know why I love the little pads on the tongue, but I do; it’s just a satisfying touch of design.

My first break-in of the shoe was actually 5 miles through a city rainstorm. They felt great and handled wet sidewalks well, and the React midsole—while not as “react-y” as the Epic React—did provide a bit of a boost. The stack height is a low 27 mm with a 4mm drop; combined with a bit of that sweet React cushion, the shoe felt better and faster on roads than half the road shoes I review.

On trails, they really flew. I love a shoe that allows me to feel the trail. Other wildly popular trail shoes like the HOKA Speedgoat just don’t do it for me because I feel like I can’t feel, which is why my therapist discourages me from wearing them. I also don’t really need that thick slab of cushion underfoot cause my trail runs are generally under 10 miles. Over 20 miles, you may want to switch out the shoe, depending on your typical level of comfort.

I had no issues with grip on rocks, and while I don’t live in the PNW, the sticky rubber outsole fared fine through the rain and wetness and mud I encountered. It’s not at the level of a Vibram outsole, but it grips well. I will update with durability once I get over 100 miles in.

To really get them wet, I actually took these essentially swimming in a creek during a run, because that counts as a shower and I’m trying to save on my water bill. While the perforated mesh upper does allow for drainage, it’s not the best, but rather, somewhere in the middle.

I did wear this shoe at the end of a 50-mile race since a good chunk of the latter miles were on fire roads. I definitely was able to crank out some faster miles, but it lacks the cushion you may want at the later stages of an ultra.

Lastly, the sizing is true.

Shop Nike Terra Kiger 5

Nike Terra Kiger 5

The Bad

If you have any semblance of wide feet, this shoe is not for you. It is snug as a bug with attachment issues. The toe box has a low ceiling, which is the same thing my first restaurant manager said on every quarterly review. Joke’s on him, I get to write about shoe drop on a daily basis. But if you like your pigglies to be wiggly, this is not the shoe for you.

While I thought the midfoot felt super secure, I felt the need to use heel-locking lacing to eliminate any heel lift. If you’re not careful, this could cause some abrasion from the heel collar in the ankle area, notably when taking turns or on uneven surfaces. I don’t exactly have great ankle strength from years of skateboarding, so I’ll shoulder some of the blame on this.

While I love feeling the trail, you also really feel the rocks. Full disclosure, I was running on Pennsylvania trails that aren’t so much trails as they are a terrible rock collection thrown upon a long clearing.  There isn’t a lot of cushion in the forefoot, and the segmented rock plate in the forefoot didn’t do much in that scenario. It could become an issue on long runs in those situations.

Shop Nike Terra Kiger 5


Nike Terra Kiger 5

Nike Terra Kiger 5 Conclusion

I think it’s pretty obvious that I love this shoe. I think it’s an iconic design for a trail shoe, namely because it actually brings some character to a running segment that lacks it in spades. I understand Nike has deep pockets and can take that sort of risk (and pay the kind of engineers who ensure it isn’t that much of a risk), but the bar is set for other companies to match in terms of design.

Of course, none of that would matter if the product itself was a failure. Which, to be sure, it is not. If you’re looking for a fast trail shoe to fall in love with, let this be the one. At $130, it’s in the normal range these days for high-performing shoes. The new (and also eye-catching) Wildhorse is considerably cheaper, but it’s meant for more of an across-the-board approach, without the same aggressive performance for which the Kiger is designed.

You can pick it up at Running Warehouse using the link below.

Shop Nike Terra Kiger 5


Nike Terra Kiger 5



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