Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 4 Shoe Review

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.

IN USE

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 ©

CONCLUSION

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!

 

The North Face #TNF Ultra TRII Shoe Review

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraTRII-06121

I keep saying it but TNF are really getting their act together with run shoes, no doubt the signings of Timmy Olson, Rob Krar and so on are having a huge influence in how the brand not only look at run shoes, but design them. The Ultra TRII is a shoe that has elite (or should I say fast) runners written all over it. It’s a light shoe designed to tackle long runs that can include road and dry trail trail. Ultralight, this durable running shoe has been designed with a glove-like fit and the non aggressive Vibram® soles provides excellent traction.

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraTRII-06080

The TRII is an update to the award-winning Ultra TR and the shoe has the same exceptional traction and featherlight ripstop construction that has taken influences from track shoes or a racing flat.

The TRII has an 8mm drop which for me is just perfect, I keep saying it but 8mm (for me) is the perfect all round drop and particularly when running longer, the 8mm allows for a little more leeway when technique gets sloppy with fatigue.

 

These shows feel fast before you even run in them. A neutral shoe, they are designed for runners with a good run style. When you slip them on, they feel like slippers and the tongue of the shoe is attached to the upper enhancing that glove like feel. Toe protection is minimal but the shoe has ‘Snake Plate’ and the TNF ‘Cradle’ to offer excellent protection for road or trail.

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraTRII-06087

The heel ‘Cradle’ in particular is something that TNF have used for sometime and it most certainly helps with foot positioning, support and energy return.

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraTRII-06095

The shoe has ‘Airmesh’ and is designed to keep the foot cool and thus avoid hot spots, using FlashDry™ fibres in the lining adds to the plush feel. The upper is ripstop fabric from the tent industry and it therefore should be very durable. The shoe has a suede forefoot and the black/ silver upper contrasts nicely against the brightly coloured sole.

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraTRII-06098

Cushioning is good with 8mm at the front and 16mm at the rear, drop as mentioned is 8mm. The weight is very good at 230g (UK8).

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraTRII-06110

The sole is Vibram, say no more. It works exceptionally well for its intended use; dry trail, rocky terrain or road.

In Use

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraTRII-06073

The shoe feels great the first time you slip it on and the upper is seamless and snug. The shoe feels light and fast but yet it still has plenty of cushioning for long runs.

8mm drop for me is perfect, it provides a drop that allows me to run longer and when I can’t keep my form, the extra height allows for some compensation, especially with the 16mm cushioning at the rear.

The shoe is not for muddy runs, not at all. It’s a shoe that excels of dry trail, rocky trail (wet or dry) and road. It has actually become my preferred road shoe and at least once or twice a week I have used this shoe for shorter/ faster road sessions. They feel great and actually encouraged me to run faster. Feel for the ground is great and the Vibram® full-length road-to-trail outsole engineered for optimal traction and balance really does a great job.

On trail, the shoes feel great and for example, I can see this shoe have a great influence from Rob Krar. I can almost certainly see him blazing a trail to another Western States victory in a shoe like the TRII. As mentioned, it’s a dry trail shoe and on the odd occasion when I have encountered mud, the shoe has had little grip. That is not a criticism as the shoe is definitely not designed for anything other than dry, slick or rocky trail.

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraTRII-06082

The heel box holds the foot secure with no slipping. It’s snug and reassuring. The toe box is generous but not wide, so you would need to try the shoes on if you have a wider foot. Because this shoe is designed for faster running and due to the influences from track spikes, the TRII should have a snug feel as this adds to the security when running on technical trail. It’s all about personal preferences, for me, they are spot on!

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraTRII-06099

The relatively seamless upper and sewn in tongue really holds the foot secure and has given me no hot spots, the very breathable upper obviously adds to this.

Sizing is true to size. I use a UK9.5 and this shoe fits perfectly.

Conclusion

Using the ripstop technology and minimising cushioning definitely has definitely paid off. The upper is very breathable, the laces are slightly textured and stay fastened; ideal! The Vibram sole has enough grip for the intended purpose.

It’s a great shoe for those who want something light, fast, 8mm drop and will run on road and dry trail. It’s not an all rounder and therefore if you are looking for a ‘one shoe does all’ this is not it. It’s a shoe to add to other shoes and one that you will use every now and gain for specific runs. It would make a great race shoe.

The North Face Ultra Cardiac Trail Running Shoe Review

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraCardiac-7004

In recent years, The North Face have continually been improving their run shoes. Foe me, the Ultra Guide was a stand out shoe and it was a shoe that friends and readers of this website also enjoyed. The upper held the foot well the shoe was cushioned but not too cushioned, it had an 8mm drop and it was ideal for those longer days on the trail and the grip worked well on dry trail, rocks and and muddy (not too muddy) trail/ rocks. It was a winner!

When I heard about the Ultra MT shoe for 2015 I was excited. I thought this shoe would be a step up from the Ultra Guide and the new incarnation would be even better. I have to say, when I first got the Ultra MT I was impressed. Vibram sole, tough durable upper, great toe protection, good grip and so on…. the running experience for me though did not live up to the look of the shoe or my expectations. I did several runs in them looking for that glimmer of hope but for me they just didn’t do it. Sorry TNF but I just didn’t like them. They lacked life, responsiveness and they made my runs feel flat.

I was disappointed! The Ultra Guide would no longer be made and I thought the Ultra MT was the replacement! But then I got hold of the Ultra Cardiac.

All is forgiven TNF!

The Ultra Cardiac is the shoe I was hoping for. It has taken all that was good in the Ultra Guide, tweaked and fine tuned it and what we now have is a rock solid trail running shoe with good cushioning, a grippy Vibram sole and a plush feel when running.

The Shoe

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraCardiac-7018

 

First off, this is a good looking shoe. Okay let me clarify, this is a good looking show in my opinion! Looks are personal but the Ultra Cardiac ticks all the boxes for me. Although on paper, Quill Blue and Acid Yellow may not sound appealing. Visually it works especially with the addition of a good dose of black. You can’t go wrong with black.

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraCardiac-7034

True to size, I have a UK 9 and it fits exceptionally well, holds the foot firm, hugs the heel well with no rubbing, slipping or movement and the toe box is roomy but not ‘too’ roomy. At 301g/ 10.6oz for a UK 9 (UK 8 is 272g) the shoe is certainly comparable to the competition. Cushioning is plush with 20mm at the rear and 12mm at the front. This provides an 8mm drop (difference between front and back) that is definitely becoming the ‘norm’ in the trail running world. It used to be difficult to find a 6mm or 8mm drop shoe, now you have loads to choose from and 11mm/12mm drop shoes are becoming harder to find. In principal that is a good thing but lets be clear here, although we may be (to coin a phrase) ‘Born to Run’ not everyone should be running in low drop and minimalist shoes.

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraCardiac-7009

For me, 6mm and 8mm drop shoes really do provide a sweet spot for running and particularly when running long. They allow you a more natural feel (mid to forefoot) but also allow you a more relaxed foot strike (mid to heel) and comfort when you get tired. As mentioned, there is nor shortage of shoes with 6/8mm drop so although it’s not possible to compare like-for-like you may want to consider the following:

  • Salomon Sense Mantra 3 (HERE) 15mm/ 9mm has less cushioning, 6mm drop, very wide toe box, plush ride and all the wonderfrul ‘Sense’ attributes. A favourite of mine.
  • inov-8 Race Ultra 290 (HERE) 10mm/ 18mm has been a disappointment. Initially I liked the feel of it but over prolonged running I found the shoe sloppy, it lacked feel and responsiveness and it didn’t hold my heel. I know many out in run land who love the Race Ultra in the 290 and 270 versions (I don’t like the 270 either) so it may just be me.
  • Kinabalu Supertrac (HERE) 21mm/ 29mm is a really beefy cushioned shoe with serious grip. To be honest, it’s the odd one out here as the Ultra Cardia, Mantra 3 and Race Ultra all have similar outsoles whereas the Supertrac is all about grip!

Believe me, these are not the only shoes available at 6/8mm drop, but the above will give you a start point.

I have real confidence in recommending the Ultra Cardiac to anyone. It really is a great shoe that is well suited to everyday runs, dry trail races and even some road. This is not a muddy trail shoe, it can handle some wet stuff and even a little mud in places but the Vibram outsole is all about gripping dry trail, rocks and yes, wet rocks.

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraCardiac-7011

The upper is breathable and uses Ultra Airmesh and FlashDry™ to keep you cool and dry. It works! I found on repeated runs in warm weather that my feet didn’t over heat or expand. A sure sign that the upper is doing the job it is meant too.

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraCardiac-7038

The tongue is loose and well padded. After using attached tongues in other shoes and the Salomon Endofit I am always a little wary now when I see a tongue not attached to the shoe at the sides. To me it just makes sense! Rest assured. The Ultra Guide tongue was comfortable and had little side movement.

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraCardiac-7028

The heel box is well padded, curved and holds everything in place with no rubbing. It gets a big thumbs up.

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraCardiac-7021

Toe box has some protection with the outsole extending up the front of the shoe and then you have a reinforced area of blue and black. It’s minimal protection!

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraCardiac-7036

On the side of the shoe you can see the reinforcement to hold the foot in place and this does a great job without adding any restriction. The most notable areas are the yellow sections on the sole.

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraCardiac-7025

At the front you have EVA to give that plush feel on the trail and at the rear the ‘Cradle’ is designed to keep ones heel in place. I find it hard to be objective on the Cradle. Certainly my foot was held secure in the shoe and I had a very precise and controlled feel with the ground. However, I do strike mid to forefoot and therefore the Cradle may have to do less work for me?

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraCardiac-7041

The sole is made by Vibram so it’s fair to say that it works! The sole has no cut away so effectively it is one flat piece which gives a great reassurance on the trail. What I like about this shoe is its ability to switch from road to trail easily. It isn’t a road-to-trail shoe but it does a great job. The outsole is not aggressive but it does have lugs and it works on dry trail with loose debris such as rocks, stones, shale, pebbles and so on exceptionally well.

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraCardiac-7017

On rocks, the Vibram grips and provides reassurance even in the wet. When the trail gets muddy you are going to loose grip and this is where my comparisons with the old Ultra Guide leaves me just a tad disappointed. The new ULTRA MT has a sole that was similar to the old Ultra Guide. Don’t get me wrong, this new Ultra Cardiac is a great dry trail shoe and it’s a shoe I will use a great deal. But for me, TNF can you please but the Ultra MT outsole on the Cardiac upper and then you will have two great trail shoes for mixed conditions.

©iancorless.com_TNFUltraCardiac-7044

Summary

TNF have repeatedly had a mixed reputation when it came to running shoes. The Ultra Guide changed that and many hailed that shoe as a real step forward. The Ultra Trail shoe was also well received and it’s a shoe I still use for dry fast trail. The Ultra MT was a step back (in my opinion) and I was seriously concerned after several outings in them. However, the Ultra Cardiac has changed all that. The ‘Cardiac’ (I still question that name!) is a great shoe and one that I would gladly purchase and run in regularly. The cushioning is plush and I would say that if you need some added comfort on longer runs or races, this shoe would be well worth considering. As the name suggests, it would make a great ultra shoe.

Pros:

Cushioning is excellent

Vibram sole

8mm drop

Padded heel box and Tongue

Cons:

Toe box protection is minimal

Tongue not attached to the sides

The North Face say:

Featuring a breathable FlashDry™ upper and Vibram® outsole, this lightweight-yet-protective performance trail runner delivers an exceptionally smooth ride over the toughest of terrain. With its traction and balance enhancing full-length Vibram® outsole and fast-drying and cool Ultra Airmesh upper, this trail running shoe screams speed and comfort with maximum support. Read the full product feature list below.

FEATURES

  • Ultra Airmesh and FlashDry™ keep you cool and dry
  • Zonal protection in the heel and toe
  • Pebax® heel CRADLE™ for proper heel positioning and support
  • Luxurious cushioning in the collar lining and tongue for a comfortable fit
  • 20 mm heel /12 mm forefoot
  • EVA underfoot
  • Vibram® full-length outsole engineered for optimal traction and balance
  • 8 mm offset
  • Approximate Weight: 548 g (pair) *based on Men’s 8