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Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 5 Review

A durable and protective shoe at a very reasonable price.
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Price:  $110 List | $109.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Lower weight, great underfoot protection, good value
Cons:  Uncomfortable upper over top of foot, traction not good when wet
Manufacturer:   Nike
By Andy Wellman ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 1, 2019
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67
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#12 of 20
  • Foot protection - 30% 9
  • Traction - 20% 6
  • Stability - 15% 6
  • Comfort - 15% 5
  • Weight - 10% 6
  • Sensitivity - 10% 5

Our Verdict

The Nike Wildhorse 5 makes up one half of the Nike trail running offering, and where the Nike Terra Kiger 5 is lightweight, low to the ground, and feels slightly minimalist, the Wildhorse 5 features a larger heel-toe drop, much more underfoot protection, and is a bit more affordable. This is an excellent shoe for runners who want their shoes to absorb the impact from the rocks they land on and is surprisingly lightweight, considering that it has a midsole rock plate. The shoe was updated from its previous version in April 2019, but except for the design of the upper, little has changed from the excellent value found in the Wildhorse 4. Sadly, we found the upper to be less comfortable than we had come to expect, and it scored a bit lower in the overall ratings than it previously has, when we called it our Best Bang for the Buck winner.


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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Lower weight, great underfoot protection, good valueVery protective midsole and upper, sock-like fit, grippy traction, lighter than previous versionPrecise fit, very grippy on rock, comfortable upper effectively keeps out debrisGreat traction on soft slippery surfaces, extremely comfortable, no increase in priceVery protective, stable, comfortable straight out of the box, good traction, wider fit
Cons Uncomfortable upper over top of foot, traction not good when wetExpensive, durability concernsNarrower than average, a bit pricey, not the lightestMidsole foam compresses out over time, easily collects rocks and debrisA bit heavy, expensive, not very sensitive
Bottom Line A durable and protective shoe at a very reasonable price.The shoe that best balances foot protection and sensitivity, all while providing an incredibly fine-tuned fit.A well-rounded shoe offering high performance for short or long distances.Our Best Bang for the Buck winner for great comfort and traction with a price lower than the other top scorers.A great choice for ultras or long distance training due to the excellent foot protection.
Rating Categories Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 5 Salomon S/Lab Ultra 2 La Sportiva Kaptiva Saucony Peregrine ISO Scarpa Spin Ultra
Foot Protection (30%)
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
8
10
0
5
10
0
9
Traction (20%)
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
7
Stability (15%)
10
0
6
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
9
10
0
7
Comfort (15%)
10
0
5
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
0
10
10
0
9
Weight (10%)
10
0
6
10
0
6
10
0
6
10
0
5
10
0
4
Sensitivity (10%)
10
0
5
10
0
6
10
0
5
10
0
8
10
0
4
Specs Nike Air Zoom... Salomon S/Lab... La Sportiva Kaptiva Saucony Peregrine... Scarpa Spin Ultra
Weight (per pair, size 11) 22.2 oz. 22.7 oz. 22.3 oz. 23.1 oz. 23.9 oz.
Heel-to-Toe Drop 8 mm 8 mm 6 mm 4 mm 6 mm
Stack Height (Heel, Forefoot) 28 mm, 20 mm 26 mm, 18 mm 17 mm, 11 mm 22.5 mm, 18.5mm Not disclosed
Upper Mesh Mesh Sock-Like knit IsoFit Mesh, TPU
Midsole Phylon Compressed EVA Duel-density EV PWRFOAM, Everun Compressed medium-density EVA with low density EVA inserts
Outsole Rubber Premium Wet Traction Contagrip FriXion XF 2.0 PWRTRAC Vibram MegaGrip
Lacing style Traditional Kevlar Quicklace Traditional Traditional Traditional W/ lace garage
Wide version available? No No No Yes No
Sizes Available 6 - 15 4 - 13 38 - 47.5 8 - 14 40 - 48 EU

Our Analysis and Test Results

In the past, we honored the Wildhorse 4 with our Best Bang for the Buck award, due in large part to their long-lasting design and low price tag, but the newly updated version did not strike us as quite so award-worthy. In particular, for us, the fit of the upper has changed drastically, so that it is not as comfortable, especially where the laces loop over the top of the foot and tongue. If this shoe fits you comfortably, then we still consider it to be among the best values you can buy. Here are the changes that we noticed to the Wildhorse 5 that came out in April 2019:
  • Outsole and midsole remain virtually the same, both in look and feel.
  • Upper is completely redesigned, feels lower volume, especially in midfoot.
  • Lacing design is changed, no longer offset, but now includes very wide opening above tongue.
  • Heavy rubberized protection on sides of foot replaced with lightweight film overlays that are not as extensive.
  • A slightly stronger toe bumper, made of a soft fabric addition, not a hard plastic one.
  • Overall weight is considerably lower, around 1.3 ounces lighter per shoe.

Comparing the old Nike Wildhorse 4 on the left (blue)  with the newest version  the Wildhorse 5 (black) on the right. You can see that the lacing system is completely redesigned  with a much wider opening on top of the foot in the new shoe. This shoe is also significantly lighter  but for us this new upper lacked a little bit in comfort.
Comparing the old Nike Wildhorse 4 on the left (blue), with the newest version, the Wildhorse 5 (black) on the right. You can see that the lacing system is completely redesigned, with a much wider opening on top of the foot in the new shoe. This shoe is also significantly lighter, but for us this new upper lacked a little bit in comfort.

Performance Comparison


The Nike Wildhorse 5 are a firm  highly protective shoe that can handle a ton of miles and come at a very reasonable price. They are much lighter than their previous version  but we found the upper to be a bit less comfortable for our feet.
The Nike Wildhorse 5 are a firm, highly protective shoe that can handle a ton of miles and come at a very reasonable price. They are much lighter than their previous version, but we found the upper to be a bit less comfortable for our feet.

Foot Protection


Foot protection is the hallmark of this shoe. Underfoot it features a sandwich of firm Phylon foam that is not soft and squishy, with a combination of segmented rockplate in the forefoot and air pod cushioning under the heel. While this description may sound similar to the midsole design of the Nike Terra Kiger 5, the fact is this shoe feels firmer and far more protective. Run over sharp and jagged rocks all you want; you will not feel much of them. The upper, while once one of the most protective, is now merely average. It has a soft toe bumper that is better than nothing, but not nearly as effective as the TPU plastic toe bumpers found on the Scarpa Spin Ultra or the La Sportiva Kaptiva. The lightweight mesh is covered in all the right places with a very thin film overlay, adding some durability to the highest wear areas.

Despite riding relatively low to the ground  the Wildhorse 5 is supremely protective underfoot  a product of its winning combination of segmented rock plate  air pockets in the heel  and dense compressed EVA foam. It makes travel through terrain such as talus fields a breeze on the feet.
Despite riding relatively low to the ground, the Wildhorse 5 is supremely protective underfoot, a product of its winning combination of segmented rock plate, air pockets in the heel, and dense compressed EVA foam. It makes travel through terrain such as talus fields a breeze on the feet.

Traction


The traction pattern and rubber compounds found on the outsole of this shoe remain unchanged from previous versions. The dual rubber compounds augment a stickier gripping rubber on the interior of the shoe, both in the front and back, with a more abrasion resistant, less sticky rubber all along the outside edges. The lugs are reminiscent of a waffle-iron: a grid pattern of square shapes. While this shoe provides great traction on dirt and grass, it is not especially sticky on rock and is very slippery if wet. The heel pattern is also not aggressive enough when going steeply downhill, with small lugs and edges that turn upward, providing less contact with the ground. Compared to the aggressive patterns of the Saucony Peregrine ISO or the Salomon Speedcross 5, this shoe is a bit inferior, but it is more than sufficient for most trail running as long as wet rocks are not part of the itinerary.

The waffle patterned outsole remains the same from the previous version. The grey rubber in the middle is stickier than the more durable black rubber around the edges. While this pattern does well gripping dry terrain  especially dirt  it suffers a bit on wet terrain like wet rocks and mud and snow.
The waffle patterned outsole remains the same from the previous version. The grey rubber in the middle is stickier than the more durable black rubber around the edges. While this pattern does well gripping dry terrain, especially dirt, it suffers a bit on wet terrain like wet rocks and mud and snow.

Stability


The Wildhorse 5 features an 8mm heel-toe drop, and the added counter under the heel is pretty noticeable, especially when comparing them directly to lower drop shoes like the Terra Kiger 5. Despite that, the shoe feels fairly close to the ground, and the fit is fairly lockdown, meaning there is little slippage when cruising across side-hills or straight up or down steep grades. It is a relatively stable shoe.

The 8mm  of heel-toe drop on the Wildhorse 5 is pretty noticable  especially the raised heel counter in the back of the shoe. However  they remain relatively stable due to a wide platform and a secure fit.
The 8mm of heel-toe drop on the Wildhorse 5 is pretty noticable, especially the raised heel counter in the back of the shoe. However, they remain relatively stable due to a wide platform and a secure fit.

Comfort


There is no doubt that the fit of the upper of this shoe has changed, and while we found the old upper to be very comfortable, this one feels too small and tight. In particular, it feels as if the top of our foot is bursting out the opening covered by the tongue like there is simply not enough material to wrap over the foot. Rather than being close together, the lacing holes are a long way apart, so that the laces wrap over about half of the top of the shoe, and put way too much pressure on the top of our foot. That is simply our experience and is odd considering the last of the midsole is the exact same shape as the older version (we compared closely).

While the wide opening on top of the foot cuts down on materials  and weight  it also means that tightened laces traverse the entire upper half of the foot  not a common design for running shoes. We found that the tongue was simply not quite padded enough to relieve the pressure from the laces in this position.
While the wide opening on top of the foot cuts down on materials, and weight, it also means that tightened laces traverse the entire upper half of the foot, not a common design for running shoes. We found that the tongue was simply not quite padded enough to relieve the pressure from the laces in this position.

To call this upper uncomfortable may be a bit harsh and seriously nitpicky, but at the same time we have the luxury of comparing it moment by moment to countless other pairs of shoes, and by that criteria, it simply isn't as comfortable. Of course, comfort is also one of the most subjective things we could rate for, and our experience will not necessarily dictate how the shoes feel on your feet, so if in doubt, be sure to try the shoes on and not simply take our word for it.

The inside of the upper is extremely well made  with virtually no seams. Here you can see the padding around the ankle opening and on the tongue  which is moderately thick  but fairly firm compared to some other shoe designs.
The inside of the upper is extremely well made, with virtually no seams. Here you can see the padding around the ankle opening and on the tongue, which is moderately thick, but fairly firm compared to some other shoe designs.

Weight


Our pair of men's US size 11 weighed 22.2 ounces, only one ounce heavier than the Terra Kiger 5. Notably, this is well over 2.5 ounces lighter than a pair of the previous version, so these shoes are now drastically lighter. As far as we can tell, these weight savings had to come by cutting out upper material, as little else has changed, but in our opinion, we would rather have the heavier, more comfortable shoe.

With a combined weight of 22.2 ounces  these shoes are far lighter than their predecessors  and considering how much protection they offer  there is little trade-off for added weight.
With a combined weight of 22.2 ounces, these shoes are far lighter than their predecessors, and considering how much protection they offer, there is little trade-off for added weight.

Sensitivity


This is not a very sensitive shoe. Due to the rockplate in the forefoot, impacts from sharp objects are effectively dispersed, rather than localized in the spot where the impact occurred. This is a good thing when considering foot protection, a primary function of this shoe, but means that some sensitivity is sacrificed.

The dense compressed EVA foam in the midsole  combined with a segmented rock plate and air pockets in the heel  ensure that this is one protective shoe underfoot. Not surprisingly  it doesn't get high marks for its sensitivity  which is a bit lacking  especially compared to the Terra Kiger 5.
The dense compressed EVA foam in the midsole, combined with a segmented rock plate and air pockets in the heel, ensure that this is one protective shoe underfoot. Not surprisingly, it doesn't get high marks for its sensitivity, which is a bit lacking, especially compared to the Terra Kiger 5.

Best Applications


The Wildhorse 5 are great everyday trainers, and also make for great long-distance shoes. Our extensive experience has shown that these are very durable shoes, especially the midsole, so lots of tough miles are not too much for this shoe. As noted, their weakness is slippery, wet conditions, so if you run predominantly on terrain like this, you may consider something else.

The Wildhorse 5 are an ideal shoe for running long distances  for logging tons of training miles  or for running ultra races. They perform best on dry trails  such as this one above Wychus Creek in central Oregon.
The Wildhorse 5 are an ideal shoe for running long distances, for logging tons of training miles, or for running ultra races. They perform best on dry trails, such as this one above Wychus Creek in central Oregon.

Value


These shoes retail for $110, which is an outstanding value. Since these shoes last for such a long time and are very protective, also having one of the lowest price tags is simply a win-win for everyone. If they were more comfortable and fit our feet better, they surely would have retained their previous Best Bang for the Buck award.

Conclusion


The Nike Wildhorse 5 were updated to the newest version in April 2019, but except for the upper, little has changed. These shoes do a great job protecting the foot and offer a great value due to their low price and fantastic durability. We are a bit disappointed by the different fit to the upper which didn't suit us as well, but encourage you to check them out. If they feel good, then this is one of the best value purchases you can find in a trail running shoe.

Running in Wildhorse 5 with the wild puppy  Rishi  on the Alder Creek trail  exploring the high deserts of Oregon.
Running in Wildhorse 5 with the wild puppy, Rishi, on the Alder Creek trail, exploring the high deserts of Oregon.


Andy Wellman