Monday, April 05, 2021

Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 7 Multi Tester Review: on the trail to max cushion, ultra distance territory!

Article by Dom Layfield and Jeff Valliere

NIke Air Zoom Terra Kiger 7 ($140)

Pros:

Dom/Jeff V: Across-the-board excellence

Dom/Jeff V: Enough protection to go long distances

Dom/Jeff V: Compared to previous version: More cushioned forefoot

Dom: Compared to previous version: Looser fit

Dom/Jeff: Compared to previous version: Improved traction & outsole desgin.

Jeff V: More roomy, yet still very secure fit.

Jeff V:  Excellent ground feel with no compromise in protection.


Cons:

Dom/Jeff V:  Weight has continued to creep up

Jeff V: Sizing might be tricky.


Tester Profiles

Dom 48, trains and competes mainly on trails in Southern California running about 3000 miles and 500k ft of vert per year.  In 2017 he was 14th at Western States 100 and in 2018 finished 50th at UTMB and 32nd at the 2018 Los Angeles marathon in a time of 2:46. 2019 was a quiet year, with his only notable finish at the multi-day Dragon’s Back race in the UK.

Jeff V. runs mostly on very steep technical terrain above Boulder often challenging well known local FKT's. 


Stats

Approx. Weight: men's 10.4 oz /  295g (US9)  /  women's / (US8) 

Samples: men’s 308 g / 10.9 oz (US M10)

Terra Kiger 6 weighed 292 / 10.3 oz (US M10)

Stack Height: 30/26 mm (measured by Dom) 

Available now. $140  


First Impressions and Fit

Dom: When I first tried on the (previous generation) TK6, I was somewhat startled that Nike had shrunk the shoe.  A size 10 abruptly felt like a 9.5.  With the new TK7, it appears the shoe has been unshrunk.  The fit of the TK7 has reverted to the penultimate TK5.   

Dom:  The other immediately obvious aspect of the new shoe is that it has got thicker and heavier.  The forefoot is more cushioned, with about 3 mm of extra thickness (measured with calipers), and the outsole rubber has more coverage.   What was previously a mid-weight, mid-protection shoe has moved up to the light-heavyweight category.


Jeff V:  I had the same first impressions as Dom and frankly was shocked at how the shoe had grown from a slim, light-ish weight race feeling shoe, to a larger, I’m not sure what niche type of shoe, but definitely one built with more cushioning, a roomy fit and a more all day, sub-maximal feel.  I guess because I was expecting a shoe that was more streamlined and lighter, I was honestly a bit let down and skeptical with a strong sense that I should have sized down by a half size.  

Length is definitely long and I noticed a lot of room between the tip of my big toe and the front of the shoe, but I was able to snug the laces adequately and achieve good midfoot hold and heel hold.  While the toe box feels roomy, security is good.


Upper

Dom:  Compared to the previous generation, nothing major to report.  Once again, Nike have opted for a striking, high contrast colorway.  

The engineered mesh has seen numerous small tweaks, but (apart from the notable size unshrink) the overall feel of the upper is similar.   When the current mesh, introduced with TK5, first appeared, it felt flimsy and I was skeptical about its durability.   

In this regard, I’m happy to be wrong: time has proven that the lightweight mesh is tougher than it looks!

Dom: There are some minor changes worth noting: Nike have ditched the unusual lace arrangement of the TK5 and TK6 (with extra eyelets anchored on the forefoot) and reverted to something more conventional, just allowing the lace collar to extend further forward.   


The heel construction has changed from a regular padded heel collar, to a more modern type with foam laminated to the inside.   

The new heel is slightly softer than before, but still on the high, stiffer end of the spectrum.

Jeff V:  Dom describes the specifics of the upper well.  Materials/structure are overall similar to the TK 5 and 6, though with ever so slight modifications to the lacing.  

I never had any issues with the heel on the TK 5 or 6, either with fit, feel, security or stability, though the new heel design and more squared off design at the rudder is notably more stable when running fast over technical terrain.

Jeff V:  Despite the added room in the forefoot and also the fact that for faster running, especially in technical terrain, I prefer a more dialed in race fit, I was really impressed at how well Nike has managed to strike such a balance of roomy accommodation with confidence inspiring security.  

Despite my initial reservations on sizing, I came to appreciate the added space and see how this would be a great advantage for longer runs (which is clearly what Nike is aiming for now with the Kiger), yet even when running fast through corners, moving quickly on steep fall line descents, sidehilling and moving fast through rocky terrain, my foot never once wavered within the shoe. 


I think ultimately sticking true to size here, despite the extra room, will be the best choice for most people, but if you are borderline on sizing down anyways, definitely drop a half size.



Midsole

Dom:   I don’t have official guidance from Nike, but as near I could tell from measuring with calipers, overall stack height has increased by about 3 mm.  

The TK7 feels noticeably different underfoot than its predecessors with a plusher feel than before.

Dom:  Apparently the Zoom Air pod in the heel of previous shoes has been relocated to the forefoot. 


Dom:  Also worth noting is that Nike have changed the footbed material in the TK7.  The previous insole was firmer and slightly thicker.  The new insole is made from a different, shiny blue foam, and is softer and squishier.  

TK7 insole (top, blue) vs TK6 (below, gray).  Thickness is similar, but new insole is much softer

Jeff V:  As Dom mentions and confirms with measurements, the Kiger 7 for sure feels as though it has added cushion under foot and substantially so at 3mm.  This is very apparent upon first try on, but even more apparent out on the trail.  Cushioning is soft and compliant, without feeling the least bit mushy or unpredictable.  

The air pod in the forefoot creates a somewhat obvious, bulbous bubble under foot that you can feel just standing in place and then even more apparent while running.  I actually cannot recall ever running in a shoe that strikes such a fine balance of having all day, couldn’t-want-for-more cushioning, with such good ground feel and contouring over rocks/terrain underfoot and with such confidence inspiring, predictable precision.  While there is not a lot of spring or pop at toe off, I find the Kiger 7 to still be a fast and responsive shoe, where the sum of all it’s parts integrate so well that it is just as happy hiking or jogging as it is pushing hard for a PR.


Outsole

Dom:   Not only does the TK7 get more midsole, it gets more outsole too.   The updated outsole has more coverage, ditching the quirky diamond-shaped insert previously under the midfoot.  

New outsole in TK7 (right) has better coverage and grip, and more consistent stiffness.

Lugs are now broader (across the shoe), but of similar height and fore-aft length as before.  Also gone are the tiny outsole cutouts, through which one could glimpse the forefoot stiffening elements (i.e. segmented rockplate).   This is possibly mostly to reduce risk of puncturing the air pod, which I have actually experienced in an older version of the TK.

Dom:   Another noticeable difference is the softer outsole in the heel.  In TK5 and TK6, Nike used a different, stiffer rubber for the heel outsole.  I never liked this, complaining in my reviews of both releases that the heel felt way too stiff, causing the shoe to feel alarmingly tippy on steep, technical descents.   


Just as an ideal automobile suspension deflects to absorb discontinuities of the terrain, rather than causing the entire vehicle to tilt, a good trail shoe needs to conform to irregularities.  If the sole is too stiff, then every little rock causes the shoe to lean over, which is the problem I experienced with the TK5+6.  Happily, the TK7 is better in this regard.  While it is possible that the update may be a regression in some conditions, (descending wet grass, perhaps?) on the dry, rocky trails that I typically run, I appreciated the change. 

Jeff V:  Dom nails the outsole description.  I was fine with the outsole in the TK 5 and 6 and never had any real issues with traction or stiffness, but would have liked to see tread throughout the entire length of the shoe, now delivered in the 7.  


The rubber, or at least the ability of the rubber to flex and contour has been improved and having that added tread under foot has improved traction, most notably in looser trail conditions, loose off trail, on snow and uneven, unpredictable surfaces.  I felt confident running in just about every condition, from packed dirt, loose dirt, steep off trail, snow packed trails, mud, rock scrambling, slab rock, rock hopping, etc….  My use in truly wet conditions was limited, but would say the wet sections I did run indicated average to slightly above wet traction.


Ride

Dom:  For some reason, I was initially predisposed against the TK7.  I didn’t see why Nike would make the shoe beefier, since that appears to be the role of the Nike Wildhorse.  However, I found myself enjoying the shoe.  I liked that Nike had reverted to the generous sizing of earlier incarnations.  (And I’m pretty sure the snugger race-orientated fit can still be replicated merely by dropping down ½ size.)   I enjoyed the extra forefoot protection of the thicker midsole and outsole with greater coverage.


Dom:  In recent iterations of the TK, I have complained that the excellent forefoot (striking a nice compromise between protection and ground feel) felt mismatched with the overbuilt, over stiff heel.  


With the TK7, Nike have significantly beefed up the forefoot, and (slightly) softened the heel.   As a consequence, the new shoe feels better balanced.  However, each generation drifts further from the “fast and light” philosophy of the early Terra Kigers and into burly ultradistance territory.

Jeff V:  I was able to run in the TK 7 over a variety of terrain, from my usual technical mountain trails in Boulder, but also on buffed out desert paths in Saguaro National Park in Tucson, AZ, as well as a technical hike/climb on Picacho Peak in AZ with plenty of scrambling.  The ride is superb, plush, smooth, predictable and almost cloud-like in the forefoot, with good response and well rounded performance.  The ride of this shoe feels just as good on technical rocky trails as it does buffed out dirt or even short bits of road.


Conclusions and Recommendations

Dom:  In version 7, the Terra Kiger gets significantly beefier.  Overall it is a nicely-cushioned, well-protected shoe that will enable you to run long distances over almost any terrain in comfort.  Fit is excellent, grip is excellent, ride is excellent.   One minor disappointment from my perspective is that this shoe has now moved up into max cushioning territory.  Nike are stretching the truth somewhat when they describe the TK as “fast and light”.  Nevertheless a very fine shoe.

Dom’s score:  9/10


Jeff V:  Despite my initial reservations about the roomy fit, larger physical size and added weight, I was really surprised at how much I came to like the TK 7.  I feel as though I can run every bit as fast as I could in the TK 5 or 6 despite the gain and under many circumstances, where added traction, ground feel, stability and cushioning would be an advantage, even faster.  I even re-claimed a local Strava ascent CR and set a 30 second PR in the process wearing the TK 7.  


The all day cushion, combined with the roomy, yet secure fit, improved traction, predictable and stable ride, responsive performance, underfoot protection and trail feel, make the TK 7 a great pick for just about any trail run or any distance.  I would not hesitate to race in this shoe, but it would likely be best for me for distances half marathon or longer.

Jeff V’s score:  9.5/10

Ride: 10 

Fit: 9.5 

Value: 9 (I question how long the air pod in the forefoot will last, especially if punctured, which I think could easily happen)

Style: 8 (I don’t mind it, but colors/styling here could be polarizing). 

Traction: 9.5

Rock Protection: 9.5 (despite feeling soft and contourable under foot, rock protection is awesome).


Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE


Terra Kiger 6 (RTR Review):  

TK7 (left) vs TK6 (right).   TK7 is significantly more cushioned, and has roomier fit.


Jeff V:  The Kiger 6 feels a bit more nimble and agile, with a more precise fitting upper. However the improvements to the TK 7 in many ways justify the added weight/bulk for the majority of running scenarios, where the added cushion, protection, traction under foot all conspire for a better overall running experience.  I think sizing down in the TK7 by half a size could certainly reduce the added size/weight/bulk and provide that more race like fit.

TK7 (left) compared to TK5 (right)  In terms of fit, the TK7 is very similar to TK5.  The TK6 had a snugger fit that can likely be reproduced by sizing down in TK7.


Dom:  Differences between TK7 and earlier versions are described above, but to summarize: TK7 is heavier, more cushioned than TK6, with a looser overall fit comparable to the TK5.  TK6 is more forgiving and more suitable as an ultra distance shoe.  As long as you’re not upset by the change in character, the TK7 is a better shoe.  I agree with Jeff that if you like a slimmer fitting shoe, sizing down could be a useful option.


Topo MTN Racer 2 (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The MTN Racer 2 is very close in stats, but I find the TK7 to be more plush, with better protection underfoot, and is more responsive and overall a faster shoe.


Salomon Sense Ride 4 (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Sense Ride has a superior upper which fits my foot as if nearly custom, however the TK7 feels much better cushioned and responsive and is not as firm as the SR4.


Saucony Mad River TR 2 (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  MR2 is a value at $110 and its fit is excellent, as well as its traction and all around performance, however I find the TK7 to be a much more forgiving shoe with a superb ride and is slightly lighter.


Saucony Peregrine 11 (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Peregrine is perhaps a better shoe for more dedicated off trai use, above treeline or on loose terrain with its more aggressive tread, although the Peregrine has a very firm ride and is not as much of an all around shoe with not nearly as good a ride.


Saucony Xodus 10 (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Xodus 10 is heavier, but does not feel it.  Xodus PWRRUN+ TPU cushioning, while plush, seems a bit firmer than the TK7’s React foam. Xodus in not as quick, though the Xodus performs better on roads.


Hoka Speedgoat 4 (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Speedgoat 4 has a more narrow, tapered fit, more cushioning overall and a bit heavier, but with the TK7, I never longed for more cushion.  Protection underfoot is comparable, both are very stable shoes, but feel more confident in the TK7 with the added ground feel.

Dom:  The Speedgoat is only a little heavier (+3%), but is significantly more protective, placing the foot in a foam “bathtub” that you may or may not like.  For everyday running, I far prefer the feel of the TK7, which as Jeff says, provides more ground feel.  The new Kiger is more cushioned than before, usefully extending its range.  The crossover point for me would be around 100 km.  Beyond that, SG is king.  Also, worth mentioning is grip on wet rock: the Vibram Megagrip rubber in the SpeedGoat is unparalleled.


Hoka Torrent 2 (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Torrent 2 is lighter and more nimble, but not as well cushioned or nearly as protected.

Dom:  I’ve only tested the first version of the Torrent.  Compared to that,TK7 is heavier but better cushioned, particularly under the forefoot.   


Brooks Catamount (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Catamount is lighter and more responsive, much faster on non technical trails or even roads, but when the trails get technical, the TK7 is superior.


Brooks Caldera  5 (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Caldera is a more plush cushioned shoe and has excellent fit, performance and door to trail versatility, but the TK7 is a bit more agile and performance oriented.


Brooks Cascadia (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Cascadia is a great choice for all around versatile use and excels in rocky, rough terrain with amazing foothold and protection, although the TK7 has a smoother, more plush ride and better ground feel.


Inov-8 Terra Ultra G 270 (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The TUG270 does not have as good of fit or protection for me, but both shoes have very good ground feel.  The Graphene outsole of the TUG270 is grippier, but I could never adapt to the 0 drop.  I much prefer the TK7.

Dom:  Inov-8 TUG270 is usefully (10%) lighter, while Nike TK7 has more protection, particularly under the forefoot, and a wider shallower toe box.  I’m a big fan of the TUG270 (and have no problem with the zero drop) but the shape of the TK7 suits my foot better.  In terms of grip, maybe the Inov-8 has the edge, but there’s not much in it. On race day, I’d pick the TUG270.  For training, the TK7.  Both are excellent shoes.


Altra Lone Peak 5 (RTR Review)

Dom: With the increased protection (compared to previous generation) the TK7 and the Altra Lone Peak 5 ought to be neck-and-neck.  The low-drop (4 mm) Kiger is close enough to the Altra unless you’re a zero-drop fanatic.  Unfortunately the LP5 sizing is way off the mark: there’s a fine line between a roomy fit and a shoe that is simply too big.  The Altra crosses the line for me.  As-sized, a clear win for the Kiger.  The comparison with a down-sized Lone Peak might be tighter.


Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. No other compensation was received by RTR or the authors for this review from Nike. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.
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9 comments:

Jeff Valliere said...

Following

Anonymous said...

I don´t like the way trail shoes are evolving. The look more and more like very lightweight hiking boots.

chris said...

Very disappointing to see Nike continuing to ruin my Goldilocks shoe. Bring back TK 3/4! There already is the Wildhorse for a heavy trail runner.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review. How does it compare to the Wildhorse 7?

Jeff Valliere said...

Chris, yeah, I had the same thoughts as you initially, as the TK line is drifting from the light and somewhat minimal mold, but the TK 7 has quickly risen to become one of my favorites. Still a quick shoe!

Anon, unfortunately, none on our team have run in both the TK 7 AND the WH 7, so am not sure. I would guess the WH 7 is not as quick/agile, heavier and a bit more cushion.

zak said...

I'll probably end up trying this and liking it, but the TK 5 and 6 were so close to perfect for me that I'm sad to see the shoe get beefier and heavier- the TK5 was a shoe that was fun enough for a 10 mile fast trail run and comfy enough for 100 miles (for me), and the cushion was still good at 400-500 miles (though the outsole was pretty smooth by that point). Wish they would put this new outsole on the TK6 without the other changes. I don't understand why this shoe doesn't get 8mm drop and sold as the Wildhorse 7.

Jeff Valliere said...

Zak, yesterday and today I ran one of my favorite test loops that has a bit of everything. A pavement approach, a gradual buffed singletrack climb that gets really steep, followed by a very steep off trail descent with pine needles, dirt, grass, hidden rocks and cacti. Then an off trail ascent with the same aforementioned surfaces, followed by a very steep, rough, rocky technical trail descent that eventually leads to a steady dirt road downhill for about a mile and a half where you can open it up. Yesterday I ran in the Skechers Razor Trail, which weigh 3oz. less and are certainly more responsive (weight and midsole), but on this particular loop, I ran faster today in the TK 7, easily. For these varied surfaces, the TK 7 with a more secure upper, better protection, traction and predictable trail feel and stability were for sure an advantage that led to a faster time. If less technical, the Razor Trail would have been the better shoe, so it all depends on the runner and terrain. Could I do this loop faster in the TK 5 or 6? I don't think so. Despite being lighter and more streamlined, traction and protection is not quite as good and I think the TK 7 does it better. Sizing down a half size as mentioned may help, but the more I run in them, I feel good with wearing true to size (could go either way I think and be fine). Hope this helps.

Carl said...

I am particularly interested in grip on dry (slab) rock. Dom notes megagrip is better on wet rock, Jeff says Inov-8's graphene is "grippier", so perhaps that's my answer, but any dry rock comparison to megagrip?

Thanks, I really find the Dom/Jeff V trail reviews fantastically useful!

Jeff Valliere said...

Thanks Carl. I would say on dry slab, the K7 is comparable to MegaGrip, at least I have never had any slipping or hesitation with either. I did do some proper scrambling and have run fast on steep, rocky, slabby terrain in the K7 and they were quite good.