A common complaint I hear on the trails from fellow runners is that they absolutely love a certain trail shoe but they are not sure that it will keep them comfortable for 50 milers and above. I even find myself saying, “This is a great shoe, but I couldn’t wear it for more than 50k on technical trail,” and then falling back on the older, bulkier mainstays come race day. Many minimalist shoes have a very firm cushioning, especially in the forefoot, and can leave you pretty beat up at the end of a long run. As my feet get older and training gets more focused on back-to-back long days, this often rules out minimalist-feeling trail shoes.
Enter the Nike Terra Kiger ($125).
In my review of the Wildhorse, the Terra Kiger’s slightly heavier-duty big brother, I commented that Nike entered the trail-shoe market with both of these models dialed in. The Terra Kiger further proves that Nike’s bid into the trail running world is as seriously good as their team’s racing at the recent Lake Sonoma 50 Mile.
The first thing I noticed about the Terra Kiger was a slipper-like fit. I highly recommend sizing up a half or even a full size, and a size 10.5 U.S. worked very well for me with midweight Merino wool socks. Considering that I usually wear a 9.5, this was quite surprising to me, and the only way that I could pull this off was due to the form fit of the upper, which seems to conform to any foot. If you have never tried Nike’s current trail uppers, they feel a bit like a stretchy but durable sock on your foot. Combine this with Flywire which wraps the midfoot and incorporates into the lacing system and the fit is absolutely phenomenal. The fit, in my opinion, is similar to the original Brooks PureGrit as well as the New Balance MT110 with a snug midfoot wrap which opens up to a wide and rounded toe box. The only other shoe that hugs my foot this way is the Salomon Sense Ultra.
The Terra Kiger has a wrap tongue which also seems to give the foot a very secure feel, and it keeps the tongue in place and debris out. The heel collar and cup are secure but soft, and nowhere on the Terra Kiger is there a hard edge or feeling of plastic. I wouldn’t guess that this is a durable shoe, but after about 170 miles through dirt, rocks, and a lot of snow, my Kigers look pretty fresh and the upper, surprisingly, doesn’t even show wear.
The one criticism I would give the upper is that it stays wet a bit longer than other shows after running through snow or a creek crossing. When wet, the material maintains its integrity and doesn’t loosen up at all, but I did experience colder feet on snowy mountain runs in this shoe than in more traditional trail shoe uppers.
The Terra Kiger is made for fast-paced running and racing, and as such it feels light and agile. I found it hard to wear these on easy runs due to the Zoom Air in the heel and forefoot which absolutely begged for a faster cadence. At a svelte 8.3 oz (men’s size 9), and with a low stack height and 4 mm heel drop, I wasn’t expecting the amount of cushioning that the Kiger has. A full-length Phylon midsole, which is one of Nike’s firmer midsole foams, is paired with the aforementioned Zoom Air pods in the heel and forefoot and it simply feels fantastic. For minimalist runners who feel that the New Balance MT110, Montrail Rogue Fly, La Sportiva Vertical K, or the Adidas Adios is too firm then the Terra Kiger may be your ticket. Forefoot runners will really appreciate the Zoom Air in the forefoot and I noticed that my feet were less beat up after long runs in the Kiger than other minimalist shoes.
What’s missing from the Terra Kiger’s spec sheet is a rock plate. Instead Nike used a full-length outsole with small diamond-shaped lugs. I tried to test the Kiger on fairly gnarly terrain to see if rocks would poke through, but I didn’t have any issues. On dry, rocky, technical trail this is a great shoe for rock hopping and picking your line without worrying too much about protection. On wet rock the Kiger holds its own and in muddy conditions I slid around quite a bit but the one-piece outsole sheds mud fairly quickly. I also really liked the minimally lugged outsole which didn’t seem to get in the way on the technical downhills and kept ground feel very accurate. The outsole is beveled around the heel with additional, smaller diamond-shaped lugs. This seemed to help on cambered and technical trail and I didn’t have any issues with rolling ankles.
I didn’t want to be impressed with this shoe, thinking that the upper would easily tear or feel sloppy on anything more technical than a crushed gravel bike path. But, the Terra Kiger plays as a minimalist trail runner which babied my feet on long runs better than any other minimalist trail shoe I own. I think that the Terra Kiger will appeal to many trail runners as a racing shoe and a shoe to wear for faster trail running. However, after my initial trepidation about the appearance and feel of a road shoe, I’ve come to accept that it works great for daily training as well, regardless of pace. The Terra Kiger would be a phenomenal crossover shoe for runners hitting the tarmac as well as trails on a typical training run, and it is plenty of shoe for most ultra races up to 50 miles. Due to the very minimal lugs, lack of toe bumper and protective rand, I would not take this shoe on a highly technical ultra-trail race.
So, if you’re looking for a lightweight trail shoe with great flexibility, ground feel, and agility with a surprising amount of cushioning for the longer distances, the Terra Kiger is a must try. Just remember to size up!
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- Have you run in the Nike Terra Kiger? If so, what do you think?
- If you’ve worn ’em, do you think you could wear them beyond 50k?