Article by Jeff Beck
NIKE AIR ZOOM WILDHORSE 5 ($110)
Jeff: After several years of re-releasing the Nike Zoom Air Wildhorse 4 in new colorways, Nike has finally given it an update and is releasing the Wildhorse 5 on April 1. While Nike opted to completely change every aspect of its more popular and sleeker sibling Terra Kiger, the Wildhorse 5 update is largely an upper overhaul. The Wildhorse continues to be a force on the trail, combining Phylon EVA foam, an Air Zoom unit in the heel,and a rockplate in the forefoot with a rubber outsole, and the result is a very smooth running trail shoe that keep the foot well protected over a number of very rocky miles. The all new upper helps shave noticeable weight off of the shoe, and makes a great running trail cruiser even better.
- More traditional/symmetrical upper should appease more feet than the 4
- Good foot protection from rock plate and EVA foam
- Same great ride as Wildhorse 4, but more than an ounce lighter on the scale
- Actually has a toe bumper this time around
- Phenomenal value at $110
- Traction still suspect in damp, muddy, or wet conditions
- Pink/purple/baby blue/yellow/green/white color way may have a limited audience (namely my five-year-old daughter), and gets very dirty quickly.
- Toe bumper does limit toe space
Mens US 9 Official Weight – 10.2 oz/289g
Men’s US 10.5D - 10.7 oz/302g
Men’s US 8.5 D - 9.7 oz /275g
Estimated US 9 D - 10 oz /275g
Wildhorse 4 men's US 11: 12.1 oz/342 g
20mm forefoot /28mm heel, 8mm drop
$110. Available April 2019.
First Impressions and Fit
Jeff: It’s the elephant in the room, and let’s just get it out there. This shoe’s looks are very polarizing. I’m not one to care that much about a shoe’s aesthetics, especially to bicker over colorways, but this one is really out there. I can’t knock it too hard though, because there are two other more traditional colorways (black on white and red on red) so if you aren’t a fan of pink, purple, and baby blue on your white trail shoes, then you have options. That said, if those colors are your jam, then you are in luck. My daughter literally grabbed my pair, hugged them, and ran upstairs screaming “I want to keep these forever!” No other pair of shoes I’ve tested has warranted even close to that response.
All that said, in many ways the 5 is a return to normal.
The Wildhorse 4 upper went some interesting places with asymmetrical lacing and a midfoot stretchy band that was supposed to lock your foot down. Personally, I had zero issues with it, but I know folks with narrow feet could have some problems, and the more traditional upper of the 5 should curb those issues. In the 4 I wore a size 11, but in the 5 I have a true to size 10.5 - and surprisingly, the smaller size still works well, providing a full thumb’s width from the end of my big to the end of the shoe. Most Nikes I advocate adding a half size up, but I wouldn’t in the Wildhorse 5.
Jeff: We have known for a few months that the upper is where most, if not all, of the changes to the Wildhorse 5 would show up, and it does not disappoint.
The The upper is a very comfortable mesh that is much softer than its predecessor, and is largely covered with "skin overlays" that give the shoe additional structure and are also supposed to provide additional durability in high wear areas.
While the 4 used a more coarse mesh with some rubber cladding around the midfoot that acted like armor, the 5’s overlays are far more plentiful but also less substantial in thickness.
The toe bumper up front does infringe just a bit on the extraordinary toe box, but even with that the shoe still has lots of room for your toes to spread out. It is no Topo or Altra, but it is close enough unless you have legitimate Hobbit feet.
The tongue is well-padded without being overly thick, and it is attached to the rest of the upper on both sides by a thin piece of material that almost creates a bootie for your foot to slip into. The result is a very comfortable shoe that looks and feels much softer than a trail crusher should. But, it still holds the foot well enough to take onto technical trails, provided it hasn’t rained recently.
The upper is far more symmetrical than the 4, however, the overlays are much more built up on the lateral side. Where the 4 used rubber armor cladding to the 5’s thinner and more pliable overlays, the 5 does wrap the foot with a slight bias to the outside. That said, it is a subtle shift, compared to the 4, which was spaced somewhat awkwardly.
Jeff: From what I can tell, there have been zero to minimal changes underneath the foot of the Wildhorse 5 from the 4. As a result, you’ve got a nicely cushioned shoe that is approaching the protection of a high stacked maximal shoe with none of the inherent instability.
The rockplate under the forefoot does a terrific job of muting any rocks you land on, while the 20mm/28mm stack really puts the shoe in a good place for many runners to take the distance. It is a stiffer shoe for sure though, The midsole is primarily Nike’s Phylon, which is an EVA based foam, with a Zoom Air unit in the heel. As a midfoot striker, that language always put me off on the Wildhorse because I like a well cushioned forefoot, but the Wildhorse does not leave you wanting more up front. The midsole is soft without putting it into the sluggish territory. My most recent run was scouting out a technical trail I’ll be racing in another week at the Dam Good Run nearby Lake Pleasant, and there was a short section of downhill on the road. As my pace picked up the shoe might as well have disappeared and I realized that if I was going to do hill repeats on dirt, the Wildhorse 5 would likely be my top choice, and will almost certainly be on my feet come race day.
Jeff: I have good news and bad news.
Like the midsole, the outsole of the Wildhorse 5 has not changed in any meaningful way from the Wildhorse 4. We have sticky rubber in the center (pink) and high abrasion rubber (black around the edges) for durability. And that means that the shoe is a rockstar in dry dirt, and an actual liability when you encounter mud or rain. The tread is fine, but not what I would consider robust (especially compared to the recent Saucony Peregrine ISO), and it is definitely weighted toward front grip.
The lugs on the back half of the shoe are much smaller, and most of them are pointed outward in an odd angle in a largely unusable pattern. I’d envision them coming into play if you were sliding down a muddy hill, but this is among the last shoes I’d recommend if a muddy hill is going to be a part of your run. Not to say that the Wildhorse is an exclusive to the American Southwest, but that definitely seems to be its natural home.
Jeff: I can keep banging this drum all day long. The Wildhorse 5 rides very similarly to the Wildhorse 4, and that’s a great thing. While the Wildhorse 5 claimed weight is only about a half ounce lighter than the 4, my apples to apples/real world comparison had them closer to an ounce and a half difference, and as a result the even lighter weight 5 is just that much more fun to run in. The 4 ran smoothly despite its hefty 12+ ounce bulk in size 11, and the 5 is even smoother. The shoe has plenty of protection, so you don’t need to be that agile on technical trails, but if you are among the fleet footed agile trail runners, you’ll like the shoe too. It doesn’t have to be a bulldozer, it reminds me more of one of the super sporty SUVs out there. Call it the shoe version of the Audi SQ5.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Jeff: With minor changes, the Wildhorse 5 got just a little bit better. The upper became more traditional and lighter weight, while the rest of the shoe stayed the same. It might be more accurate to think of this shoe as the Wildhorse 4.5, because there is a lot of shared DNA with the 4. It still has problems when it is wet outside, and that’s disappointing - a new rubber compound or different outsole design could have fixed that flaw, but underneath the foot nothing really changed.
The lack of change can be a serious benefit to a number of runners, however. If the 4’s asymmetrical lacing and midfoot strap worked for you, then you can save yourself substantial coin and stock up on the old style.
If you have a more narrow foot, if every ounce matters, or you have a serious hankering for a pink and purple shoe, then the 5 is right up your alley. Either way, it is a versatile trail shoe that shines on long runs, ideally in the rockiest parts of the desert, that way you avoid any wet and you play into the shoe’s strengths. The improved toe bumper is a nice addition, as is the softer and more comfortable upper. The 5 is a subtle improvement over the 4, but is largely the same shoe with a different look.
My Score 9.75 out of 10
-.25 for wet traction, or lack thereof
Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 5 vs Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 4 (RTR Review)
Jeff: The 5 weighs a little less and has a more traditional upper, the 4 has just a little more room in the toebox due to the new toe bumper on the 5. Otherwise, they are very much the same shoe. Narrow footed runners will likely find the 5 more accomodating fit-wise, but most runners will find the 4 just as good, and likely on a nice discount.
Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 5 vs Brooks Caldera 3 (RTR Review)
Jeff: The weight loss of the Wildhorse 5 has it neck and neck with the Caldera 3 weight wise. Caldera 3 has a traction advantage, Wildhorse 5 has the foot protection/toe box advantage. Unless it’s raining, I’ll take the Wildhorse.
Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 5 vs Topo Athletic Ultraventure (RTR Review)
Jeff: The Topo wins in the massive toebox contest, as well as traction (especially wet), but the Wildhorse’s firmer midsole and rockplate makes it better when the trail gets rocky, and it runs smoother as well. Unless it’s rainy, I’ll take the Wildhorse.
Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 5 vs Saucony Peregrine ISO (RTR Review)
Jeff: Peregrine has a mountain of traction in all conditions, and while it feels more uptempo it weighs nearly a half ounce more than the Wildhorse. The Peregrine has plenty underfoot to take it long distance, but the more technical the trail the brighter it shines. Anything wet, short, or super technical, take the Peregrine. Longer or smoother runs favor the Wildhorse.
Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 5 vs Hoka One One Challenger ATR 5 (RTR Review)
Jeff: Neck and neck in weight, the Challenger has a bit more stack, no rockplate, and better wet traction, the Wildhorse has more overall rock protection, a more secure upper, and better dry traction. The Hoka is more comfortable, the Nike is more stable. I’d draw the line at 20 miles, anything north of it take the Hoka, 19.9 or less, I’d go Nike. Can’t miss either way.
Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 5 vs Hoka One One EVO Mafate (RTR Review)
Jeff: These two shoes line up very well across from each other. Nearly identical in weight, they play off of each other well. The EVO Mafate has more cushioning and a plusher ride, as well as better traction (especially when wet), and a more secure foothold via the upper. The Wildhorse 5 has a much roomier toe box, its upper is much more comfortable, and it costs $110 vs the $170 Hoka. So which should you choose? If you have narrow feet and can stomach the extra $60, the Hoka is the better performing shoe. If you have wide feet and don’t run much in wet or muddy conditions, save the cash and rock the Wildhorse.
The Wildhorse 5 releases early April 2019
|Back: Wildhorse 5 colors Front: Kiger 5 colors|
The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the author's.
Comments and Questions
Please Like and Follow RoadTrailRun
RoadTrailRun receives a commission for purchases at the stores below.