Nike makes a lot of running shoes. Like, a lot, especially for the roads.
Their trail running lineup however is limited albeit a one-two punch, which works well for the global brand. Nike has the Wildhorse and the Kiger, the latter of which is geared more towards racing and performance while the Wildhorse is meant for the more rugged off-road adventures.
We tested out the Kiger 4, officially known as the Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 4. The current model is a trickle-over from 2017 and into 2018. In our trail special, the shoe earned best performance shoe among this year’s lineup of running shoes.
Neutral performance trainer
4 mm (24 mm/20 mm)
Women’s 224 g (7.9 oz.) Men’s 275 g (9.7 oz.)
Immediately, you can tell the Kiger 4 is a simple build, which significantly reduces the weight of the shoe and makes it a solid performance shoe over 50K to 50 miles. (Although it may affect its durability as the outer material is not as tough as competing trail shoes.) The upper is simple flymesh that feels snug and soft thanks to the sock-lining that adds a thin layer between the foot and the upper. Slits in the upper offer some breathability when the trail racing season ramps up, which is typically around the time that weather warms in Canada.
Through to the sole, the Kiger 4 has relatively aggressive lugs and traction for a performance shoe. This would be particularity good for off-road races on crushed gravel, dirt or relatively non-technical trail. Interestingly, the tread extends up onto the heel slightly to ensure ground control when descending.
RELATED: 2018 trail shoe guide.
Note that the Kiger 4 does not feature a rock plate amidst its Nike Zoom cushioning, which is the brand’s traditional material used in most of its training shoes (like the Nike Pegasus, for example). This means that the trail shoe basically feels like a road shoe, with the major difference being added traction with the Kiger 4. Nike Air Zoom is known for being responsive and relatively firm, which is the case for the Kiger.
The lacing system testers found to be a bit problematic. The system doesn’t hold its tightness like some of the other Nike footwear and the looping holes are exposed and susceptible to damage depending on terrain.
Another feature that may be a stumbling block for some – keep in mind its a performance-geared shoe – is that the heel counter is soft and flexible. Plus, the style of the shoe is low-cut, meaning there’s no ankle support laterally.
Excerpt from the 2018 Trail Special
This shoe, now mature in its design and only making subtle changes from the previous version, is Nike’s lighter, more race-friendly model.
The Flymesh upper doesn’t just look slick, but also performs quite well and can take a significant beating. Nike’s Flywire lacing system works well enough in the Kiger, but isn’t quite as snug and specific a fit as Flywire can be in their other models. Regardless, our testers had no complaints about the fit or hold of the shoe on the foot. It’s also got a nice, wide toe box for toe splay, and a comfy sock-like inner lining, which makes the Kiger a really well-rounded trail shoe for neutral runners.
The structure of the Nike Kiger 4 is that of a neutral cushioned shoe, designed for runners who don’t overpronate excessively or underpronate. So, there’s no medial support on the arch of the shoe and the heel stack is basically in line with what Nike’s road running shoes offer.
At $170, this performance trail running trainer/hybrid racer is ideal for the mid-tier ultra distances or trail races shorter than a marathon. Its rugged sole and traction control makes it a good choice on non-technical terrain and its simplistic design means it’s one of the lightest trail shoes on the market, although that may come at the Kiger 4’s life expectancy.