Nike ZoomX Zegama Review: Frankenstein… But Beautiful
Weighs 11.2 oz (317 g.) for a US M10 / 9.3 oz. (265 g.) for a US W8
One for the beauty seekers (whether in nature or running shoes)
Mile-high ZoomX brings the comfort
Same old, same old in the outsole department
Available now for $160 at Nike
TAYLOR: There’s a saying in the trail racing world that goes, “Zegama is Zegama.” There’s nothing quite like Zegama. If you’re not one of the .0002% of the world that follows trail racing, you’re probably already asking what the heck is Zegama. The short answer is that it’s a small town. However, when the time is ripe, this sleepy town in Basque country grows into a madhouse of thousands of fans cheering on 600 runners during a one-loop mountain marathon with over 16,000 ft of gain. To name something after one of the world’s most widely acclaimed and competitive trail races is to assume that one understands the sentiment. Therein lies the significance of the all-new Nike ZoomX Zegama.
This trail shoe has held a lot of anticipation since we got word of it. After all, it’s the trail debut of the same ZoomX midsole foam found in the Alphafly and Vaporfly, the most premium of all Nike running shoes. Why’s that important? Long story short, there simply is nothing like ZoomX. Many brands have tried, some have come close, but it’s still the bounciest foam on the market and offers a feeling that has yet to be replicated by the competition. To have it on the trails could be a game changer.
That said, I should note that the Zegama isn’t equipped with a full ZoomX midsole (it would be highly unstable on the trails if that were the case). Instead, it employs a carrier system of SR02, Nike’s softest midsole foam, which wraps around and encases the ZoomX under the foot.
At 11.3 ounces in a US M10.5, the Zegama is “average” in the weight department. Thankfully, other specs like 37mm midsole (with a 4mm drop), a new outsole configuration, a light mesh upper, and a booty-like collar bring a lot to the conversation.
MATT: 2022 has produced a larger-than-average list of hyped trail models, and sitting firmly among that group is the Nike ZoomX Zegama. People pay attention when Nike decides to add a brand new model to its established line-up. We’ve had more than enough time in the Pegasus Trail, Terra Kiger, and Wildhorse, so when you layer in the promise of the heralded ZoomX foam, the hype train is immediately at full steam.
Given our familiarity with the Swoosh’s trail offerings, we’ve come to expect two things: The design and colorways will be straight fire, and the outsole rubber will be hot garbage in wet conditions.
A first look at the shoe confirmed that the first point would again be true, but now it’s time to see if the Zegama can avoid Nike’s classic pitfall.
TAYLOR: Let’s let that ragged cat out of the bag. People want to know, is this the same formulation of ZoomX as in the super shoes? No. Sorry. A plate adds a lot to that sensation in the racing shoe, plus this has a carrier foam so it’s not full-on ZoomX. So it’s unfair to compare this against the road options. Why is this in the “good” section? Well, because it’s still a very satisfying experience underfoot.
As mentioned, ZoomX is notable for having both a lightweight, soft cushion and responsiveness on lock. You get more of the first in the Zegama, but the shape and resiliency of the foam are great, and it rolls oh-so-smoothly along any surface. It’s firmer than pillowy, but it offers a lot of satisfying cushion for the long run. I’d compare it to a higher stack version of Altra’s Mont Blanc or the Saucony Xodus Ultra. On so many levels, the underfoot feel is delicious. If nothing else, it’s a fantastic walking shoe, much like the Pegasus Trail 4.
The overall footprint of the Zegama is wider than any of the other Nike offerings. It’s an original Hoka move, where the wider outsole adds moderate natural stability that’s much appreciated over the long haul. Overall, the ZoomX Zegama is the best Nike offering for ultra-distance trail runs, simply because of its max cushion status. In fact, it’s a solid option compared to any current max-cushioned offering — even the Brooks Caldera 6, Hoka Mafate Speed 4, and Altra Timp 4.
What the Zegama does better than both the Mont Blanc and Xodus Ultra is create a more secure environment up top. The upper is an amalgamation of other Nike trail shoes. Around the heel, the Wildhorse’s influence is apparent. (In fact, at first glance this could even pass as the next version of the Wildhorse.) The booty-like collar is very comfortable (especially over time) and keeps out debris nicely. The bulge of padding and structure around the heel initiate the secure hold while the midfoot and forefoot, most similarly shaped to the Kiger, continue the secure trend. Add in the gusseted tongue and light, airy mesh, and this security comes with comfort.
Foot security is obviously a big deal for technical terrain. The Zegama is not quite up there with the Speedgoat, though, for its stack height, it can handle more than I initially expected. The secure fitting upper and added stability make this a great contender for all-day comfort on various terrain.
Flip this thing over, and you’ll find a new outsole pattern for Nike. Maybe a third is exposed foam, and the rest is a mix of shapes and depths of lugs for multidirectional traction. I found that it dug in nicely on soft, dry terrain. As expected, you’ll also hear from us in the next section of this review about the outsole.
A couple more notes of appreciation go to the rubber toe cap. It’ll save you from losing a couple of toenails in the long run. Aesthetically, this one is a beauty. It’s equal parts trail and taste, and it’s just amazing. Nike’s design team knocked it out of the park again, and the other colorways of this shoe are flat-out stunning.
MATT: As mentioned above, I love the style and design of the Zegama. Nike killed it once again. The shoe does feel like some Nike lab-created Frankenstein monster, borrowing parts from the Wildhorse, Kiger, and Invincible.
As Taylor mentioned, the back half, including the boot-cut gaiter and high stack, feel very much like the Wildhorse, while the front half has the nimble and secure fit and feel of the Kiger. So maybe less Frankenstein and more Centaur. KigerHorse? WildKiger?
No matter the combination, it works very well together. The upper fit is secure yet comfortable, and the ride is smooth and cushioned while not to the extent of being muted by extreme bounce like you might find in the Endorphin Edge.
I loved the feel of the ZoomX cushioning in the Zegama. I was concerned about how the foam that has gained its popularity on the roads would translate to the trails, and I think the answer lies in the fact that, while it is ZoomX, it’s held in a more stable version of carrier foam — and that’s not a bad thing. The ZoomX underfoot still gives off a plush feel and one that gave me confidence that I could go very long in these shoes.
The Zegama really shines when you can open things up on long stretches of flats and rollers, but what was also great was that with the more subtle version of ZoomX, descending still felt relatively stable and secure, something that was missing with models like the Endorphin Edge or the Altra Mont Blanc (non-BOA version).
Shop Nike ZoomX Zegama – Women
TAYLOR: Seriously, Nike? SERIOUSLY!? Suck your pride through a little straw and get a viable outsole compound. Bigger, better lugs mean almost nothing if the rubber sucks this bad.
A quick illustration: I just finished pacing duty at Leadville. The trails were in relatively good condition. The Zegama was a very comfortable and surprisingly agile choice for the distance, but I was walking — yes, WALKING — through a paved parking lot after a drizzle of rain and slipped. SERIOUSLY!? More miles in the shoe confirmed that any wet conditions need to be run with caution.
We’ve determined that this shoe could be an excellent ultra-distance option. One of the issues is that a few minor discomforts within the package could limit time spent in the shoe. For me, the low-volume toe box started to feel smaller after a few hours of trail jaunting. Room to swell is important when putting many hours on your feet.
Along the same vein, the thinner tongue and slim laces became bothersome over the long haul too. I had some definite constriction near the ankle collar, even though I purposefully left the laces a little looser for the technical terrain.
This last point is me being nitpicky. I feel like this shoe is one of the few that could benefit from some sort of plate. I’m not necessarily saying carbon, just something. The plate (even if it were a subtle nylon rock plate) would give a little more reaction to support toe-off and an efficient roll. I do feel like I can get lost in the overall stack. A slightly more reactive underfoot feel would go a long way in making this a next-level ultra-distance racer.
MATT: I actually loved everything about the Zegama after my first two runs in the shoe, but one main character in this story had yet to arrive: rain.
Nike claimed that the outsole compound was new and improved, and at first glance, it seemed to be accurate, a promising development. That claim was proven to be insufficient after one wet and muddy run. The rubber may be different, but it still was horrible in damp and slippery conditions. I almost lost my balance on a wet root and tip-toed every stream crossing from that point, hoping to prevent a repeat trip to the ER (thanks, Terra Kiger 6, my permanently crooked wrist serves as a nice reminder).
At this point, it’s just become a joke. Why design a fantastic shoe top to bottom that can only be used in dry conditions? Can we just slap a layer of Vibram Megagrip on there and sell a million pairs? Or, alternatively– you have all the money in the world, you have labs that rival the NIH and NASA, just… make something, anything, that is different from what is on your trail shoes right now.
Shop Nike ZoomX Zegama – Women
TAYLOR: I think the marketing team had too much fun at a summer soiree. The result was a practical joke where they mixed up the names between this and the Ultrafly. And when things got wild, they decided to slap on their “notable” outsole.
I don’t think anyone in their right mind would pick up the Nike ZoomX Zegama to run Zegama, but there are plenty of other reasons to do so. The Zegama is actually the most distance-oriented trail shoe from Nike and in the better half for running varied terrain. A pile of ZoomX with a secure fit are the main two reasons one would pick this up.
On foot, this one melts into the trail as you run in superb comfort and solid handling. If your foot is generally comfortable in Nike shoes, the Zegama should be one of the leading contenders for anything from the day-to-day to your next trail ultra. This would be Thomas’ gateway drug back into running ultra-trail races. It will serve you well on a wide variety of terrain. Be wary of the wet, though.
MATT: Once again, a Nike shoe that checks almost all the boxes gets disqualified because you might kill yourself running in the rain.
If you live out west and primarily race and run dry trails, this shoe will be lovely. It’s also a damn good-looking sneaker, so if you need something to run in on the dry days and then wear out casually for post-run drinks, you’ll get some compliments. If you’re searching for that all conditions, all-day race shoe, I think you will be let down, however.
You can pick up the Nike ZoomX Zegama for $160 at Nike by using the shop link below.
Shop Nike ZoomX Zegama – Women
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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.
All-time favorite shoes: Hoka Tecton X, Speedland SL:PDX, Merrell MTL Long Sky 2.More from Taylor
Matt is a recovering triathlete who fell in love with running and left the dark side behind. Trail and ultra running are where he is most in his element, but he can still be found routinely running the streets in and around Baltimore with the Faster Bastards. Aside from running, he is a lover of coffee, mezcal, beer, and 90s country music.
All-time favorite shoes: Nike Epic React, Atreyu The Artist, Speedland SL:PDXMore from Matt
I have about 100kms in mine and am really enjoying them. My running is all rail trails and rural gravel roads so this is perfect for cruising long miles. The Vancouver island rain is going to make for some slipping come fall though. Come on Nike, fix your grip.
Yeah great shoe for all-around comfort, but that grip is a joke.
Come on Nike, get a grip 😉
Super comfy shoe but this grip is a million times worse than the Wildhorse.
I fell on my ass when I stopped to stand on a rock this morning. It wasn’t even raining, just misty. Fell again on a damp log. Pretty much had to crawl down the mountain fearing for my bones.
Sorry, a lack of wet grip is tolerable if you run fireroads only, but in this terrain in dry I can wear a road shoe. Therefore there’s no point in buying those, as road shoes are lots lighter and no need for protection gravel..