Monday, March 23, 2020

Nike Wildhorse 6 Review


Article by Jeff Beck


Nike Wildhorse 6 ($130)
Stats
Weight:: men's 10.5 oz  / 298g (US9) :: women's 9 oz / 255 g (US8)
  Samples: 11.4 ounces / 323 grams Men’s 10.5D 
Wildhorse 5 10.2 oz / 289 g (US9)
Stack Height: 22mm Forefoot / 30mm Heel
Available Now. 
MSRP: $130 (Currently 25% off in cart Running Warehouse here, Backcountry $83.97 here )

Introduction
Jeff: The Wildhorse 6 is a massive overhaul to the biggest shoe in the Nike Trail lineup. Last year we saw the Terra Kiger get the same treatment as the Wildhorse 5 got a flashy new upper, and nothing else. Fast forward a year, and everything on the Wildhorse has changed. Most striking is the upper, now with an integrated gaiter and expansive heel - complete with lugs on the side (yup, the side) of the midsole. Most significant however, has to be the change in midsole material from Phylon and Zoom Air pockets in the heel to React surrounded by Cushlon in the heel. Not to be left out, the outsole is completely changed, and now has fewer but larger lugs throughout the shoe versus the Wildhorse 4 and 5 more and smaller design. Any time a shoe is 100% changed the running world is left wondering: Is it a 100% improvement? As is the usual case...not exactly.

Pros
  • upper has an integrated gaiter that works surprisingly well, 
  • midsole change to React (with 2mm more cushioning) gives the shoe more underfoot protection, 
  • outsole grip seems improved.

Cons
  • weight increase of ~.7 ounces in my size
  • React midsole contributes to stability issues, 
  • segmented rock plate doesn’t protect as well, non-segmented rubber in heel also can contribute to stability issues.

Tester Profile
Jeff is the token slow runner of the RTR lineup as such his viewpoints on shoe and gear can differ from those who routinely finish marathons in three hours or less. Jeff runs 40 miles per week, both roads and desert trails in Phoenix, Arizona. He has a PR's of 4:07 marathon and 5K at 23:39. In December he raced his first 50 mile trail ultra. 

First Impressions and Fit
Jeff: Wow. Some first impressions are muted and blase, and then others are the opposite end of the spectrum. This is one of the most striking shoes to be released in years. And based on the YouTube comments section of my first run initial impression video, many runners are not pleased. 
But that’s all just aesthetics, and the first step into the shoe was without equivocation a step up and forward. I’m not a massive React fan, though I want to be, but it is a breath of fresh air after the very long in the tooth Phylon and Zoom Air midsole of the previous version. Beyond the material change, the 6 also got an extra 2mm of stack height in both the forefoot and heel (20 to 22 and 28 to 30) but it feels like even a little more than that. The upper, also visually striking, works well. 

The toebox might be ever-so-slightly narrower than its predecessor, but it also is slightly taller. It doesn’t hurt that the reinforced toe bumper that lines the front of the shoe isn’t as restrictive as the previous version’s blue wrap. 

And the integrated gaiter gave me concern before the shoe showed up, I couldn’t imagine how the shoe would achieve solid lockdown - but Nike gave the shoe a very solid lip on the inside of the heel collar, so it functions very much like a normal upper. Fit wise my pair is a true-to-size 10.5, and I wouldn’t recommend sizing up or down. For the last few years nearly all of my Nike shoes needed to go up a half-size to 11, but it seems like Nike is getting back to traditional sizing, as my Pegasus Turbo 2 and React Infinity Run have both been true-to-size.

Upper
Jeff: The Wildhorse 6 upper works well together, even though it doesn’t really seem cohesive when you examine each element individually. The toe bumper has a reinforced but flexible coating that keeps the shoe’s shape very well. Similar to last year’s design, this toe bumper has a little more flex and a lot more vertical space, which is appreciated. The majority of the upper is a breathable mesh upper that transitions to a thicker, more built-up material around the heel. Above the heel collar is an integrated gaiter, that might not be enough for one of those stage races through the great deserts of the world, but it’s effective enough for slightly damp or super dry Phoenix trails. Inside the heel collar they built up the lip, still giving plenty of grip to avoid heel slip. 
The tongue is padded just enough so I could crank down the laces without experiencing any lace bite, but not too much to resemble a mid-90s basketball shoe. In case you were curious, the latitude and longitude printed on the tongue brings you to Wildhorse Lake in southern Oregon, clearly a nod to the shoe’s name. Lastly, the heel pull tab exists, which is nice, but for me it’s just a touch too small to be effectively used. I don’t mind if a pull tab is vertical or horizontal, this one is horizontal, but if I can’t get a finger in it, then it doesn’t really help. 

Then there’s the aesthetics. “We’re gonna do a light gray, with lots of mint green, some off white and mustard yellow, then cap it off with an orangish red pull tab in the back to really tie it together.” 
Okay, so the color scheme wouldn’t be my first pick, but it isn’t a deal breaker either - mostly because I don’t spend any time looking at my feet while I’m on the trail. And it’s not just because I’m social distancing, most of my trail runs are done solo, so I’m not worried about what others think. There are two more colorways coming in April, a black/gray/white and dark green/gray/blue/orange - though this mint/gray/yellow has grown on me over the 30 miles I’ve spent in them.


Midsole
Jeff: After years of Phylon with Zoom Air pockets, the Wildhorse finally got called up to the Show and was given a React midsole. And that’s a very good thing (with a caveat in the Ride portion) because it gives the shoe a lot more pop to it. Also, the protective nature of React is better than I thought. Nike continued putting a rock plate in the Wildhorse, though this version went to a segmented rock plate, somewhat similar to the Kiger 5. Though the Kiger 5 segments meant I was never sure if I was about to get some pain in the forefoot when runny rocky trails, the Wildhorse 6 protection has largely been good. I’ve only experienced two jarring landings that stung the forefoot right in the gap of the rock plate - but it really begs the question why. This shoe has already gained .7 ounces from the last version, it wasn’t going to be a super lightweight shoe. And you can feel where the rock plate ends and starts up again, adding coverage for the ~1.5 inch gap wouldn’t make this shoe a lumbering behemoth while it would take out any of the guesswork. 
As for the built up yellow heel, I still don’t quite get it. The extra material on the sides isn’t pervasive enough to give the shoe a bucket-like feel that some of the bigger Hoka trail shoes achieve - where you feel like your foot is in the midsole rather than simply resting on top of it. Instead it just feels like there’s some extra rubber wrapped around your heel, and it likely adds far more weight than a completed rock plate would. 

Outsole
Jeff: The Wildhorse 6 overhaul continued to the outsole, reducing the overall number of lugs for much bigger and robust lugs in every part of the shoe. Gone is the ring of smallish lugs lining the perimeter with a centralized series of identical lugs lined up like soldiers at attention, now we have an almost organic feeling set of different sized and shaped lugs covering the shoe. 
The big knock on Nike Trail shoes has been that they can be downright hazardous in wet and slippery conditions, and unfortunately, I can’t speak much to if this shoe breaks the streak. My initial run in the WH6 was 12.5 miles following a four day long rain storm - but by the time I hit the trail there were a few mildly muddy places. Not nearly the slop I was hoping to encounter. That said, in the mud they seemed great, with zero slip whatsoever. 

And like most shoes, they provide really solid traction on dirt and dry rocks. However, the massive rubber slabs underfoot can bring some problems as well. I’ve found I have rolled my ankles more in these shoes than any other I’ve worn, and I don’t believe it is the upper’s fault - it’s predominantly the outsole with some aiding and abetting by the midsole. The lack of flex in the thick rubber slab means that if you land off-kilter on a rock, the shoe isn’t really conforming to the rock. Not a deal breaker, but definitely shapes the type of trail runs the Wildhorse 6 should be used for. I have mild durability concerns. At only 30 miles, several of the lugs are already showing a lot of wear. It could be one of those things where there’s a lot of wear early and then it balances out, but something I’ll keep an eye on as I continue to run in them.

Ride
Jeff: The React midsole makes the 6 much more lively than previous Wildhorse. It really is a quantum leap forward for a shoe line that has felt a little behind the times. There’s plenty of cushioning for longer runs, and it feels good enough that if things level out and you want to drop the hammer this shoe works well for that too. That said, after ~20 miles, it feels like the midsole has softened some in the forefoot. After an easy six mile loop at my local trailhead, I found I was having issues keeping my balance as I did heel drop calf stretches on the curb. The platform width could also contribute to the general instability of the shoe - when matched outsole to outsole with the Hoka One One Speedgoat 4, the Speedgoat is 3-5mm wider at every point of the shoe. Luckily, this doesn’t mean they are trashed and inappropriate for any trail use. Instead it means they are great for mild trails more so than technical trails, but I had already thought that was the case due to the outsole construction. If your trail is something a mountain goat would have to pick their way through, avoid the Wildhorse, but if it is a lot of dirt with some occasional rocks, this could be a solid shoe for you. 

Conclusions and Recommendations
Jeff: The Wildhorse takes two steps forward and one step back. The upper and midsole are great updates, though the midsole instability will limit its technical appeal - but it’s outsole was already doing that with its solid slab of rubber outsole limiting its technical prowess. But it is a solid trail shoe with good cushioning, solid but not amazing rock protection, and a lively ride. Aesthetics are polarizing, but the more I see them the more I like them. A $130 price tag seems pretty good considering how many options are substantially more, but I do have some long term durability concerns.
Jeff’s Score 8.4 out of 10
Ride: 8 (50%) Fit: 9 (30%) Value: 8 (15%) Style: 10 (5%)

Comparisons Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Nike Wildhorse 5 (RTR Review)
Jeff: Both fit-true-to-size 10.5. The Wildhorse 6 has an improved midsole and upper, with a different outsole that provides better traction. 
The toebox in the 6 isn’t quite as wide as the 5, but it has more vertical room. While the 5’s rock plate is more comprehensive, the 6’s modern midsole is more than enough to give it the win.

Brooks Caldera 4 (RTR Review)
Jeff: Both fit true-to-size 10.5. While the Caldera has a higher stack, they are also lighter and have had a similar recent overhaul. Both have seen a major change from previous versions that had only slightly made revisions before (the Caldera 2 and 3 were largely the same, same for the Wildhorse 4 and 5). While the Wildhorse wins in the looks department, I’d give the nod to the Caldera otherwise. The Brooks shoe has a roomier toe box, better rock protection, and an outsole that is more versatile. While it isn’t my top choice for technical trails, they can handle them, while the Wildhorse is out of its league when things get nasty. Give me the Caldera all day.

Hoka One One Speedgoat 4 (RTR Review)
Jeff: Both fit true-to-size 10.5. Another shoe with more cushioning underneath, but a very similar weight, the Speedgoat excels on technical trails just as much as it can handle the easy trails the Wildhorse calls home. The Wildhorse toebox wins by a country mile, but otherwise the Speedgoat takes the cake. I’d take the Hoka without hesitation, unless you’ve got wide toebox requirements.

New Balance Fresh Foam Hierro v5 (RTR Review)
Jeff: Both fit true-to-size 10.5. The Hierro tips the scales nearly two ounces heavier than the Wildhorse, but doesn’t provide much more in the way of protection - and the lack of rock plate makes the Nike better suited for the trails. The Hierro also has a heavily lugged outsole, made of Vibram rubber, but it feels even more ill-suited for trails than the Wildhorse. The Hierro seems best paired with jeans for casual Friday, save $5, lots of weight, and go Wildhorse 6.

Topo Athletic UltraVenture (RTR Review)
Jeff: Both fit true-to-size 10.5. The Topo wins the toe box battle (no surprise there) and it’s upper fit is a little more dialed in. I also prefer the UltraVenture outsole to the Wildhorse, though it’s lack of rock plate hurts its overall performance. The big difference is that the UltraVenture can be used on any trail, albeit not perfect for technical trails, but if you are nimble it could happen, and I really wouldn’t suggest it for the Wildhorse. I’d give the Topo the nod.

Topo Athletic Mtn Racer (RTR Review)
Jeff: Both fit true-to-size 10.5. Very similar to it’s brother UltraVenture, the Mtn Racer feels very similar and gives a more dialed in upper fit, comparable cushioning, and much better traction than the Wildhorse. The missing rock plate again hurts cruising potential, but nimble footed runners can use the Mtn Racer in any condition, and that isn’t the case for the Nike. Smooth cruising or approaching ultra distance? Go Wildhorse. Anything else? Take the Mtn Racer.

Read reviewers' full run bios here
The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are the authors'.
Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

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17 comments:

Jesse said...

Thanks for the review-when will you guys be providing a Topo Trailventure review?

rms said...

Awesome review and spot on with my own impressions thus far. The side-by-side comparisons also are identical with my own (of the shoes I have). You have a good reviewer here, Sam. Pay him more!

Sam Winebaum said...

Next day or so for Trailventure review. Very very roomy and ideal for wide high volume feet

Sam Winebaum said...

Thanks RMS! Jeff is fantastic!

Bobcat said...

I like the React foam in the Kiger, but that's a low stack shoe. I think it's going to be too wobbly with this higher stack. Looks like they put that yellow collar in to try stabilize it.

Sam Winebaum said...

I bet you are right Bobcat!

Morgan said...

I wonder if the kiger 6 will be much of an update? And it will be interesting to see if they bring out a Peg trail 2 love. that shoe!

Bobcat said...

I don't think there will be a Peg trail 2 yet: they just released new colorways for it. New Pegasus 37 will have to be released first in June then maybe in Autumn we will see the Peg trail 2. Just a guess.

Marauder said...

Hi!!! You say that Stack Height is: 22mm Forefoot / 30mm Heel. Nike official web say 14,5 mm Forefoot , 22,5 mm Heel. ¿Who is right???
Thanks for the review!

Sam Winebaum said...

Jesse,
Our just posted Topo Trailventure review is posted here: https://www.roadtrailrun.com/2020/03/topo-athletic-trailventure-review.html
Morgan,
We are testing Kiger 6 now. Mainly upper update
Marauder,
I believe Nike site is midsole only stack. We typically use Running Warehouse stats which are all in outsole, midsole, etc...
Sam, Editor
Thanks for reading Road Trail Run! See our page with links 100’s of in depth shoe and gear reviews HERE. You can also follow RoadTrailRun on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram where we publish interesting run related content more frequently as well as links to our latest reviews.
Shopping through links on articles help support RoadTrail Run and is much appreciated!

Jeff said...

RMS,

Thank you! I truly appreciate it - and Sam I promise I don't know this person! :D

Bobcat,

You are spot on. Just goes to show that designing shoes is a lot more than just plug and play - certain midsole materials work well at different thicknesses and poorly at others. My LRS owner loved the Triumph 17 as much as I did (my 2019 Shoe of the Year winner), but said the Freedom 3 was DOA for their store. He felt that PWRRUN+ works great above a certain stack height, but less than that it felt lifeless. You just never know.

Marauder,

For some reason Nike's stats (when they disclose them) are usually way off. Like Sam said, they frequently just focus on the midsole, which isn't even close to the whole story. Outsole, insole, strobel board - all underneath the foot but not midsole.

Chris said...

I just got back from my first run with the WH6, 5 miles of Vermont trails and then 2.5 on the road home. While there were some things I liked about it ultimately I knew as soon as I took them off, they would be likely going back to the store for credit. And after wearing v3 (loved), v4 (the fit was weird but I managed) and not V% because it was way too tight, I was excited for this major update. For what it's worth, here I go:

PROS:
-Love the new React on the trail! Bouncy and soft and almost wish there was slightly more on the Kiger.
-In some late spring sloppy, slushy, mnuddy Vermont trails the traction is MUCH better than the old versions. Not nearly as solid as my Sense Ride 3, but an improvement and I didn't slip it all, though from past WH experience avoided the wet rocks and roots.
-The colors weren't as bad in person and after one run they didn't look anything like the did when I put them on.
- Finally like the Kiger 6, it's a Nike that fits true to size! The forefoot opened up a bit on the run too.

CONS:
-I'm not sure what terrain Nike made these for, but the stability is very questionable. Rolled my ankle once and for the rest of the run was very hesitant to push it anymore. Actually, while I sit here writing this, I'm fully aware of how sore my ankles are, something that never happens after a run. And while Vermont trails may not be as SUPER technical as some trails, they are not buffed out by any means and this isn't a shoe I would pick for dirt roads.
-The heel counter/cup is just not that comfortable. I'm not willing to test if it breaks in as it breaks my body in.
-Ankle cuff? No thanks. It keeps stuff out but the heat that built up in the shoe (because they are not that breathable at all) on a 50-degree day does not bode well for hot summers and humidity. I do not see this show drying well on your foot. And for me to have MORE stability and hold, you have to tighten things down and I just don't like that pressure on my ankle.
- This likely falls with stability, but the hard rubber outsole makes the shoe very tippy.
- Not great on the road. Hard and sloppy and a heel that seems to not function in tune with the mid and forefoot which do better.
-The mint toothpaste color and overall design while not a deal-breaker just makes these things look like something Nintendo designed. I have the Kiger 6 in the same color pattern, but it works so much better without that terrible blue.

Ultimately I'm not sure what Nike was going for with this shoe and for me, it was a COULD HAVE BEEN. It seems way more gimmicky and I don't see how Nike Pros would choose this for racing, This shoe would scare me to death in rocky terrain. For comparison, I've been putting in more and more miles with the Sense Ride 3 which I like MUCH more than previous versions. While not as nimble, it's been more cushioned, more protective and a beast on all trail. ANd handles the road well enough.

For Morgan. The Kiger 6 did get a slight update. The upper was changed slightly and for me has a much better fit and hold. More comfortable and a better lockdown. And a heel tab :) But other than that from what I can tell, the same.

Bobcat said...

@Chris Do you think the Kiger 6 wet grip has improved over the 5?

Chris said...

@Bobcat seems like the same to me? Maybe a little better but that could totally be in my head because the fit is more secure for me and so my foot in more locked in. It’s pretty wet and mucky here now so even my Salomon Sense 3 has to work a bit.

Bobcat said...

@Chris, yeah it certainly looks the same. Maybe also in my imagination, but I think the color of the outsole also makes a difference.
Even with Vibram megagrip, I found the green version worse than the red or black. Go figure.

Unknown said...

Wished I read this review earlier. Firts run in my new WH 6 semi technical trails and rolled my ankle badly for the first time in 5 years. Scared to put them on again.

Bobcat said...

IF you bought from Nike then just return them for free.
I did this with the Zoom Fly 3