Been a long time since I slipped on a pair of Nike!
The last time? Well, some Lunarglides, I used them when road running and for trail? I think it was probably a pair of Trail Pegasus.
Be honest, who at some point in their run life didn’t have a pair of Pegasus?
Nike moved into the trail scene some time ago and very much built a solid hardcore team that included Zach Miller, David Laney, Sally McRae and so on. I had anticipated that Nike would attack the trail scene with an aggressive plan of trail domination… It didn’t really happen. For sure, the runners on the team all did really well gaining prestigious results but the team stayed small and compact – not what I imagined!
A new team needs new shoes and Nike set to the task of creating shoes that could really cut it on the trails and in the mountains.
I picked up a pair of Wildhorse last-year but I wasn’t convinced on the fit. I found the heel cup didn’t hold my foot securely and I found the lacing didn’t hold my foot secure. I put them back in the box and back on the shelf.
However, this September I grabbed hold of the Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 4.
WHAT A REVELATION!
Neck on the line, THIS SHOE is currently my favourite trail shoe and yes, it is up there as one of my favourite shoes of all time. This is a bold statement.
All my worries and niggles from the previous model are gone and what we have now is an absolutely wonderful shoe for hard-pack, rocky, dusty, sandy, gravel and mountainous terrain.
First things first.
- Neutral shoe.
- 8mm drop.
- Cushioned 28mm rear and 20mm front.
- Wide toe box.
- Fits true to size.
OUT OF THE BOX
The Wildhorse 4 comes in some serious colour options! Many just a little ‘too’ much for me but after one run and a good dose of dirt, dust and mud and they will look great. I chose the grey/ black pair with a hint of green. Apparently, Nike describe this as: Dark Grey/Black/Stealth/Wolf Grey.
Other options: Images by Nike©
Cerulean/Aurora/Pure Platinum/Laser Orange
Port Wine/Tea Berry/Pure Platinum/Sunset Tint
Sport Fuchsia/Racer Pink/True Berry/Hydrangeas
I take a UK9.5 and the shoe is light – not the lightest, but light at 275g.
Immediately the outsole grabs your eye and then the cushioning. The upper is very impressive with layers mesh/textile that make a durable and breathable upper. The most important aspect though is right in the middle of the shoe. The laces are held within a reinforced section that on first looks appears to be over the top.
However, when you slip your foot inside the shoe, you immediately notice the level of comfort and support this area gives. It is the best of any shoe I have tried – it is a dream! This is also enhanced by gusseted tongue and sock like fit. I have often said that Salomon set the bar with the ’S-Lab Sense’ for foot comfort, this has now been surpassed by the feel of the Air Zoom Wildhorse 4.
The toe box is wide and allows the foot to splay. I like this for long runs when the terrain is not too technical. However, the Flywire Cables that work in conjunction with the laces are so good, that I found technical running a breeze. There is no stitching or seams in the toe area, so, I had no issues with rubbing, abrasion or blisters. A reinforced area protects all the toes and it works extremely well. It is not as robust (hard) as other trail shoes I have tried but it is adequate and caused me no issues on very rocky terrain.
The heel box is just so comfy! It’s padded, supportive and holds the foot firm giving 100% confidence when changing direction. No heel slip and no rubbing.
The outsole is ‘waffle’ construction made up of square lugs that cover the whole sole, the exception coming in the middle. Two rubber types are used – a lighter grey area in the middle and a darker area that runs the perimeter of the shoe that is harder wearing.
In the forefoot area, you can see a coloured area under the outsole (this colour area is different depending on which colour way of shoe you have), on my model it is a yellow/green.
This is the rock plate (called Stone Shield) and this provides awesome protection from rocks, stones, debris and sharp objects – I felt nothing coming through! Notably the outsole curls up around the heel of the shoe – more in this later!
Cushioning is wonderfully plush without losing a feel for the ground. Don’t get me wrong here, it’s not Hoka plush – I hate that marshmallow feel. This is cushioning with some rigidity that on technical trail keeps the shoe doing the job it is meant to do, propelling you forward – not losing energy by running into the ground as the cushioning keeps sinking and sinking.
It has been a long time since I felt that Zoom Air feel and it took me back. It is really great. In particular, I found the heel cushioning so comfortable when landing with a full foot and when walking. This would be a great shoe if walking is a big part of your training/ racing. Phylon foam is used in the midsole and equally this provides a wonderful ride, it’s a little firmer than other options but I loved the feel and durability is very good.
Slipping the shoe on for the first time you immediately feel the sockliner, gusseted tongue and new lacing system holding your foot. Loosen the laces, stand up and move your foot around a little and let them settle in the shoe. Then lace up and tighten as required. This is one of the secrets of this shoe and it is a secret weapon. The Flywire lacing holds the foot so secure that running technical trails is a dream. In addition to the firm hold, it offers protection. For me, it’s the best in its class and THE most comfortable upper of any shoe I have used. I want ALL my shoes to feel like this.
The heel box wraps around, is plush and just holds everything in place. Climbing a 1000m vertical of rock, scree and grass and at no point was my heel slipping or trying to pull out of the shoe as I powered up very much on my toes.
The toe box is roomy and allows the foot to splay. If I was running long and relatively non-technical trail this would be my toe box of choice. If I was running for less time on technical trail I would normally choose a shoe with a more precision fit so that I have no sloppiness or indecision when changing direction. In the Wildhorse 4 this is not an issue, although my toes were splayed, the Flywire and lacing does such a good job that I had no issue over my ability to navigate rocks, boulders, snow, mud etc.
With 28mm rear cushioning, 20mm at the front and 8mm drop, this shoe is designed for running long with comfort. It is one of the most comfortable shoes I have used. The Air Zoom pod in the heel really is quite special – I had forgot how special! When landing with a flat foot you feel the pod in the heel compress and push you forward but most notably, this was incredible when walking. Trust me, if walking is a part of your training/ racing, the Wildhorse 4 should be on your list of shoes to test out. I have done some big walking days in these in mountainous terrain covering well over 30km’s and 2500m of vertical gain and descent and the Wildhorse 4 was a pleasure. It’s a shoe that would work so well in long races and multi-day races such as Marathon des Sables.
Importantly, when walking, the outsole wraps up and around the heel providing incredible grip – you need to try it to appreciate it. The remaining cushioning comes from Phylon which in conjunction with stone shield protection provides a comfortable and protected ride with durability. It’s a real winner.
It may come as no surprise, but these shoes run really well on the road. They are comfortable and the miles pass with no worries or concerns that you are in a trail shoe. Of course, too much road and the outsole will wear out quicker than normal. It’s important to know though that these shoes switches between different terrains seamlessly.
The waffled outsole on the Wildhorse 4 is not aggressive, so, it’s never going to cut it if running in mud – they are just not aggressive enough. If mud is your thing you need to look for a different shoe with an aggressive outsole such as the inov-8 Mudclaw or the VJ Sport IRock2. The small waffle squares cover the whole shoe with a small space in the middle and they extend up towards the front of the shoe to the toes and up and around the heel providing great 360 grip.
Two different compounds in theory cover all surfaces and challenges and the darker rubber is more durable. On dry trail, rocks, gravel, mountain paths, boulders and so on, I had complete confidence. The grip in conjunction with shoes hold and cushioning have made the Wildhorse 4 ‘my’ trail shoe of the year. They make me want to put them on and run. The only time I have felt any compromise is in mud – the sole is not aggressive enough but I knew this before I entered the mud. And on wet rocks the outsole is just a little firmer and less soft than some of the competition.
Images by Nike ©
Please note these shoes were not provided by Nike. They were purchased from TC Running in Minnesota.
The Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 4 has blown my socks off. I never thought that a Nike trail shoe would do this but it has. It is now my ‘go-to’ trail shoe and one that I take with me everywhere as they allow me to run long, run short, be cushioned, be comfortable, be secure and all with an 8mm drop.
There are so many positives to the Wildhorse 4 that I am really struggling to find negatives. It is a shoe that I would recommend to anyone as I think it does so many jobs so well that if you only wanted one pair of trail shoes, the Wildhorse 4 would be my *recommendation. (*recommendation based on neutral gait and 8mm drop). In particular, walkers should take note of the comfort benefits this shoe brings.
I have run through rocky, stone and desert trails of the UAE, ran groomed trails in the USA, climbed variable terrain in the Pyrenees and I have walked and walked in them when working on race coverage. They have been perfect!
Are there negatives? Yes, of course.
It’s not a shoe that can handle mud. It can take mud sections as part of a drier trail run but if running in wet and muddy terrain I would use a different shoe. I also felt that the grip on wet rock was not as good due to the rubber compound of the outsole.
Ultimately though, the Wildhorse 4 is a winner!