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Trail Running Shoes • May 24, 2024

Nike Zegama 2 Review: Monster of the Mountains

nike zegama 2 - feature 1

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What You Need To Know

Weight

10.8 oz. (306 g) for a US M9,

9.4 oz. (266 g) for a US W8

Stack Height / Drop

39 mm in heel, 35 mm in forefoot (4 mm drop)

Best For

Tackling fire roads and wide trails at top speed

Key Features

Vibram Megagrip outsole, ZoomX midsole, SR02 carrier foam

On The Run
Super-speedy ZoomX midsole Highly secure upper Fairly unstable
Price / Availability

Available now for $180

nike zegama 2 - medial midsole

Introduction to the Nike Zegama 2

TAYLOR: Nike is always under the microscope — and it 100% should be! It’s a self-made instrument that (for better or for worse) everyone in the industry peers into. With a history that ranges from treacherous to terrific, Nike sets the tone.

Nike Trail, a much more modest counterpart to the juggernaut, isn’t exempt from the eager eyes. While it doesn’t garner the same headlines as the Pegasus Premium or Alphafly, we’re always waiting on standby for the smallest updates. The Swoosh trained us well, apparently.

Case in point: Nike’s Zegama 2. At first glance, the black and white colorway looks nearly identical on the first and second versions. Zoom in, and you’ll notice subtle differences that will, hopefully, equal the marginal performance boost that we shoe gurus want from this shoe. The original Nike Zegama carried a lot of intrigue. It was Nike’s first true dive into the max cushion trail category. We drooled over the thought of ZoomX (the same Pebax midsole material used in the road racers) on the trail. But we also didn’t know what to expect because of its name, taken from a famously technical and rowdy trail race in the Basque Country of Spain.

Even though we were generally pleased with the original Zegama, a few things stood out as improvements. For example, don’t even think about using this shoe for Zegama (the race) — stability was an issue. Also, the outsole was iffy, as we had come to expect from Nike.

That said, I’m pretty convinced that Nike expertly forecasted this one. They knew we would pick out those previous blunders and successes, and they already had the next version waiting in the shadows. Updates to the new version address stability with a slightly lower stack. ZoomX foam was received well, and now we have a higher ratio of ZoomX to the carrier foam. The upper is more dialed. Most importantly, like the Nike Ultrafly, the Nike Zegama 2 also has a Vibram outsole.

I recently commented that the NNormal Tomir 2.0 might be in line for update of the year accolades; however, if the Nike Zegama 2 performs as hoped, it too will be a stout contender for the prize.

REESE: In 2022, Nike made waves in the world of ultra trail running with the debut of the Nike Zegama, a trail shoe that promised a fusion of durability and maximum cushioning, thanks to the game-changing ZoomX foam hitting the trails for the first time. Now, fast forward two years, and Nike is back at it with the Nike Zegama 2, a refined version of its predecessor, designed to take athletes’ performance and comfort to the next level on rugged trails.

I’ll admit, I was jonesing to give this shoe a whirl, partly to see if Nike could outdo itself after my first (and only) romp with their trail lineup, the Nike Kiger. But let’s be real, there’s just something about Nike shoes that sets them apart — that certain flair, that je ne sais quoi… that “rizz,” as the kids say. They have this ability to transform your run (or golf game, or dog walk) into a whole experience, like slipping into a different persona. And hey, sometimes that’s exactly what you need to spice things up in your life. I rarely, if ever, possess rizz, and definitely not while running on trails. Disheveled is the word that comes to mind.

nike zegama 2 - vertical - both shoes flowers

MICHAEL: Over the past few months, I’ve become a real big fan of NPR’s This American Life. The sometimes entertaining, always interesting podcast takes the boring edge of long drives and hours of busy work in between meetings during the workday. As it is with most older, beloved entertainment (I just watched Seinfeld for the first time two years ago), discovering rerun episodes from the early 2000s is a joy.

One such rerun, The Human Spectacle, was particularly fantastic — spoilers ahead. You see, in act three of the show, Ira Glass introduces a lovely couple, both actors, who began their married lives trying to make it big in Hollywood and getting by with little gigs in bars and clubs around LA. In a truly wild turn of events, their manager somehow gets them a spot for a skit on the Ed Sullivan Show, and without realizing it, get this, they show up to NYC completely oblivious to the fact that they are going to share the stage with The Beatles, who were performing that night for the first time in America. Arguably, this unassuming couple had the single biggest break in the history of show business. Like, half of America was watching — and they totally blew their act. It was a disaster. For the rest of the 1960s, every time this sweet couple heard The Beatles, they cringed.

nike zegama 2 - tongue

Up until recently, such has been the case with Nike trail shoes. With all of the technological resources available to them on the biggest stage of performance footwear, somehow Nike still winds up putting out shoes that just have a hard time finding their way to our annual Best in Gear lists, and even if they do end up there, it’s usually with some fairly serious caveats. But of course, times are changing, and Nike is beginning to release some seriously high-quality models as of late. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed my review of the Wildhorse 8, and other reviewers have had lots of great things to say about the Ultrafly and the Kiger as well.

With all this potential building, our expectations for the Zegama 2 were pretty stinking high, especially once we saw that neon yellow Vibram poking out on the outsole of the shoe when it was first leaked. A high stack of ZoomX goodness promises soft, responsive landings for miles on end, and the shoe’s styling is, of course, absolutely fantastic. Let’s see how this stack of ZoomX, well, stacks up.

nike zegama 2 - zoomx

What we like about the Nike Zegama 2

TAYLOR: I’m here to settle the souls of those who have lost so much on account of Nike’s blemished history of outsoles. Vibram is all I need to say. *Cue a collective sigh of relief.* The Zegama 2 is the second shoe in Nike’s lineup to rock a Megagrip Litebase outsole. The lug shape and depth are already an improvement. The rubber compound itself is tacky and durable over a range of conditions. It’s a huge boost of confidence for this particular package over version 1.

Moving up, the Nike Zegama 2 boasts another true gem of the running world — ZoomX. Active cushioning is the best way I can describe it. As soon as you slide your foot into the shoe, you can feel the softness of the foam. It certainly has some bounce factor, too, that settles into a cushioned and moderately reactive midsole.

Those who have run in any of the road shoes that boast ZoomX know that it’s counteracted by a firmer carrier foam. Think of it as a regulating mechanism. The more durable outer layer brings some needed stability and durability to the equation, which is marginally increased from the previous version. Even though there’s less stack overall, the ratio of ZoomX to carrier foam difference allows the Nike Zegama 2 to retain a highly cushioned feel. When talking about pillowy midsoles, this one might just be my favorite.

Up top, security is improved as well. A booty-like engineered mesh upper gives a very nice fit throughout the foot, and it’s one of those fits that almost sucks your foot in and holds on. There’s a built-in gaiter, much like what was used in the Wildhorse 7, which initiates the foot hug from the top and seeks to keep out debris. A fully gusseted tongue continues that hug through the midfoot.

Nike boasts that this is a wider fit in the toe box, which is true compared to other Nike models, but it feels more standard than “wide.” It’s a positive to accommodate most foot widths; however, the overall volume is still pretty low. If you’re taking this the long haul, the general half-size-up should give a little more relief, but don’t expect it to be roomy at any rate.

In a lot of ways, the Nike Zegama 2 is a perfect training companion if your race shoe of choice is the Nike Ultrafly.

nike zegama 2 - vertical - heel

REESE: For me, the midsole is the shining star of the Zegama 2. Nike didn’t rest on its laurels but rather built upon the success of the ZoomX midsole, which if you’re not familiar, is Nike’s incredibly lightweight and responsive midsole foam. The Zegama 2 introduces a thin, durable SR02 carrier that encapsulates the soft foam, providing superior protection against the rugged terrain while maintaining cushioning and (some) stability. The extra foam underfoot enhances the overall comfort and responsiveness, making long-distance runs feel effortless. Responsiveness is too plain of a term. It felt like there was a figurative and literal spring in my step.

While the midsole stole the show, the outsole is nothing to sneeze at. It’s pretty darn robust and grippy. Partnering with Vibram, Nike has developed an all-new rubber outsole pattern for the Zegama 2, using our beloved Megagrip. This outsole features multi-directional lugs inspired by the iconic waffle design. The result is an outsole that, as the name implies, is pretty mega grippy and durable. Even on the kitty litter trails in Colorado, I felt like the shoe offered significantly more traction than most trail shoes.

MICHAEL: Let’s start things off here with what is likely the most notable upgrade to the Zegama 2 — the Vibram Megagrip outsole. So much has already been written about this stuff on other shoes, so I’m going to try not to go on and on about how great the compound is. For Zegama’s application of it, however, it’s worth noting that this is a better lug configuration than most. Thoughtfully designed chevron lugs, complete with Vibram’s “traction lug” detailing, offer substantial purchase and grip on soft trails while maintaining a large contact patch on pavement and slick rock (these lugs aren’t talon-y, but rather have a large flat bottom to them, boosting grip on more than just wet terrain). I found this outsole to be a joy over a variety of conditions, from gravel fire roads to slick, technical rocks and roots of North Alabama.

Moving up from the outsole, the Zegama 2’s ZoomX midsole is pretty much everything one could hope for from a high-stack, long-day-out-there workhorse. Landings are soft and responsive, and the significant rocker shape of the shoe creates a forgiving, comfortable ride. Like its roadie cousin, the Invincible 3, there is significantly more foam in the heel than the forefoot.

While I would typically prefer to have more material underneath the forefoot for added protection and bounce, the subtle rock plate did a great job protecting my feet whilst picking through technical single track and extemporaneous chunks, and the shoe’s drop helped to keep me on my toes. Overall, this midsole exudes what I might like to call capable comfort in both its materials and construction, as well as geometry and tooling. it provides tons of plush cushion that feels unobtrusive when running through the occasional rock garden.

Moving up further, the Zegama 2’s upper continues the plush storyline started in the midsole. Ample cushioning around the shoe’s throat pairs well with engineered mesh material throughout, resulting in a form-fitting fit and ample security throughout the heel and midfoot. Of course, it also looks amazing.

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What we don’t like about the Nike Zegama 2

TAYLOR: As much as this shoe has improved, it’s still not the shoe to tackle “steep ridges and jagged rocks,” as Nike claims. A lot of companies have really understood that if you go higher in stack you need to go wider at the base. The North Face Altamesa 500, Speedland GS:PGH, Brooks Caldera 7, Topo Athletic Ultraventure 3, and Craft Xplor Hybrid are all great examples of this. The Nike Zegama 2 has a wider footprint compared to the Wildhorse 8 or Terra Kiger 9. It also has taken that advice for the back half of the shoe. From the midfoot forward, the Nike Zegama 2 is simply not wide enough for the set-and-forget-it mentality you want over an ultra distance.

Also, the 39/35 mm stack is way up there. I found that I needed to do a little of “mindful running” to keep my big toe down on the single track. My first run in the shoe quickly reminded me that the Zegama really likes to roll outward toward the pinky toes. It is a combo of the stack height and more aggressive narrowing of the forefoot’s overall footprint. This type of roll is the most common way that trail runners, soccer players, and rugby players break an ankle or snap a metatarsal (I know from experience).

Besides the constant mental reminders, a runner’s loop actually helped to add a little stability. Prior to the runner’s loop, the heel would get a little shifty once I rolled through the forefoot. Dialing in the fit gave less movement and more security, physically and mentally, to run freely.

The upper also has some drawbacks. I do like what they’ve done with the place. Some of it feels overdone, though. Even though it’s a single layer of engineered mesh, there’s a thicker liner that isn’t as adaptable to conditions. For starters, it holds onto water for quite some time. After a couple of stream crossings, my feet were not like walking waterparks, but they were saturated for a long time. In fact, my shoes typically dry out within a few hours of sitting outside in the Colorado high-altitude dryness. The Nike Zegama 2 took more than 24 hours of sitting outside to feel dry to the touch.

You could probably guess that this amount of material feels warm, too. Whether wet or dry, you’re gonna want a cool day to lace up the Zegama 2.

nike zegama 2 - vertical - side
nike zegama 2 - vertical - vibram

REESE: The Zegama 2 claims to have a wider, more stable platform than its predecessor, but I’m not sold. In my experience, I’ve twisted my ankles in this shoe more often than in nearly any other I’ve run in. RIP my ankles. Whether it’s making quick movements, hopping from rock to rock, or dodging unexpected obstacles, avoid at all costs. It’s a danger zone.

The shoe also felt surprisingly narrow or low volume to me. I’ve never had an issue with my entire foot feeling squeezed in a shoe, but there’s a first for everything. The shoe technically fit me (I usually need to go down a half-size in Nike), but it didn’t fit. Looking down at the shoe, the laces made it look like my foot was busting out of the seams, which was fair enough because it felt like that. I found it challenging to get through a run or even a walk without my feet feeling sore and a little cut off from circulating blood, which I hear is important to have.

MICHAEL: While I absolutely enjoyed the Zegama 2’s fantastic ride, comfort, and capability, potential buyers should be wary of a few things.

First, a little pet peeve — I can’t stand when shoe laces slip back through the eyelets when you’re tightening a shoe. It makes it really difficult to get a super dialed fit and, for me, results in an ever-tightening fit at the top of the lacing chain and an ever-loosening fit at the bottom of the lacing chain over the course of a run. Granted, some people tie their shoes a bit looser and do not have this same problem, but for me, it results in a forefoot that feels a little loose and insecure over the course of the run.

Couple the slippery lacing chain with a high stack of ZoomX foam and, well, you’re bound to have some stability issues. Such was the case for me in the Zegama 2. Within the first 15 minutes of running in the shoe, I proceeded to twist my ankle twice on one technical trail I was particularly familiar with and eventually twisted that same ankle once or twice by the time of writing this review. Are my ankles weak? Absolutely. Do I think that the Zegama 2 is particularly prone to twists? Also absolutely.

Ultimately, I think the carrier foam that Nike employs to house that ever-luxurious pod of ZoomX is just not firm or substantial enough to contain the radioactive isotope nature of the ZoomX. Of course, this is no reason not to buy the shoe; it’s just a bummer because, for me, it means the shoe isn’t quite as well suited to technical terrain as I would have hoped.

In comparison to other high-stack shoes I’ve reviewed recently, these instability issues place the Zegama 2 a notch below the Brooks Caldera 7 on the technical trail capability scale for me. Weight is also an issue here, and it only further nudges the Zegama 2 toward the “plush easy day” category and further away from the “high-stack ultra race day ripper” category.

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Final thoughts on the Nike Zegama 2

TAYLOR: Gee dangit, the Nike Zegama 2 is a real conflicting son-of-a-gun. Nike really brings it in a few departments and causes some worry in others. Overall, this is a very similar shoe to the previous model, with increases in performance in every aspect. This does pose the issue that the Zegama also maintained some of the same negatives.

The tongues say, “All Day and All Night.” That’s a very true statement, and you will be able to do it in comfort. The ZoomX core does a fantastic job at bringing repeated comfort and liveliness that any runner looking for a cushioned ride will swoon over.

Adding a Vibram outsole is equally integral to the Zegama’s dependability to take you the distance over a variety of terrain. Just know that this isn’t your shoe for highly technical pursuits; otherwise, you’ll be dragging your ankles back to the trailhead. This one does best on easy to moderately technical trails.

REESE: Ah, Nike. This shoe, and many others in its lineup, often feels like that adorable pet that occasionally misbehaves. Despite its flaws, you just can’t bring yourself to scold it because, well, it’s just so darn cute. I want this shoe to work for me. I really do. It just doesn’t. Not for running anyway. Form over function. The shoe looks cool. And I’m willing to put up with the chance I’ll roll my ankle on a walk.

The individual aspects of the shoe are, in fact, great, but when it all comes together, it doesn’t work well for me. I wish the shoe had a slightly more volume across the whole shoe, a wider toe box, and a wider platform in general to provide some stability. The outsole is great, and the Vibram rubber and the 4 mm lugs are incredibly nice to have on the technical trails of Fort Collins, CO. Nike, you’re on the right track. But for now, I’m wearing this shoe casually while I walk my dogs that misbehave and get away with it.

MICHAEL: The Zegama 2’s nimble yet cushioned midsole and superb, capable outsole elevated this shoe for me 5 notches above the rest of the max-cushion competition, and then the instability lowered back down another 3 notches. To be honest, though, I don’t care – this is a level of comfort and fun that I’ll be willing to risk my ankles for on more and more runs, especially those on milder terrain. If you’re looking for an easy day cruiser or high-mileage crusher that can sort itself out in sticky situations with capable grip and also look incredible, the Zegama 2 is a fantastic choice.

You can pick up the Nike Zegama 2 for $180 at Nike using the buttons below.

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Comments

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  1. Michael Young says:

    Recently ran the Ultra-Trail Australia in the Zegama 2. This course has every type of terrain a trail runner could possibly come across and the Z2 was so good I paid no attention to my shoes. The “instability” mentioned I did not experience on any of the course, the grip was brilliant and the comfort was first rate. I ran with the original Zegama in the OCC at UTMB last year and as good as they were these are a brilliant step up.

  2. Nick Gomez says:

    What shoes would you put in that “high-stack ultra race day ripper” category?

  3. Kristian Joergensen says:

    Wonder how they are compared to Asics Trabuco Max 3

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Authors

taylor
Taylor Bodin
Lead Trail Reviewer
  • Strava
  • Instagram

Taylor Bodin is a trail and ultra runner living in Estes Park, Colo., with his wife and daughters. Trail running is pretty much the only hobby he can manage right now and loves it. Every so often, he will pop off a race or FKT attempt because competition is pure and the original motivator for him getting into running anyways. When not running, Taylor is a 1st grade teacher, running coach (track & field, Cross Country, and Trail/Ultra athletes), and volunteers at his church.

More from Taylor
Shoe Size

10.5

Fav. Distance

100K

PRs
  • 27:03

    100M
  • 13:40

    100K
  • 7:42

    50M
  • 4:34

    50K
reese ruland - bio
Reese Ruland
Colorado Trail Reviewer
  • Instagram

Reese Ruland is a Fort Collins, Colorado-based ultra trail runner with over 15 years of competitive running experience. She has a penchant for PopTarts, a gear addiction, and is always taking photos of her two French Bulldogs, Loaf and Oatie. In addition to her athletic endeavors, Reese serves as an ambassador for Project Heal, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting accessible mental health care for those affected by eating disorders. She’s also one of the fastest women ever to run R2R2R (7:59).

More from Reese
Shoe Size

7.5

Fav. Distance

Any

PRs
  • 5:06

    50K
  • 3:45

    Marathon
  • 1:33

    Half Marathon
  • R2R2R

michael bio photo
Michael Loutzenheiser
Southern Trail Reviewer

An engineer living with his wife and cat in Birmingham, Ala., Michael loves chill morning runs in the neighborhood, but especially enjoys soaking up long miles of technical southeast singletrack. Occasionally, he’ll get a racing itch and actually string together some “organized” training for a trail race or FKT. In his free time, Michael enjoys books, backpacking, and hanging out with friends.

More from Michael
Shoe Size

9.5

Fav. Distance

13.1 (Trail)

PRs
  • 4:48

    50K
  • 1:16

    Half Marathon
  • 16:45

    5K
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