Despite being a staple on the roads Nike has been quiet in the trail running scene the last few years, but its current line has a solid performer in the Zoom Wildhorse.
I ran about 75 miles on varied trails in Oregon, Arizona, and Illinois, and the Wildhorse ($110) was a pleasant combination of comfort, durability, and responsiveness.
The Wildhorse is also available in a Gore-Tex waterproof version, the GTX.
What The Wildhorse Does Right
The Wildhorse lugs are pretty much the “Goldilocks porridge” of trail lugs, not too intense and not too subtle — just right. The forefoot has a grid pattern of rectangle lugs that provide a firm grip when climbing and descending, but not catchy to prevent torquing ankles on roots or rocks.
The heel has reverse-oriented lugs down the middle for traction on descents. The outside edges have very low-profile tread to prevent the aforementioned ankle wrenching. With fairly shallow lugs throughout, the Wildhorse feels comfortable on the roads, too.
A 4mm drop (23-19mm heel-to-toe) is nearly flat and close to the ground. The Wildhorses definitely felt nimble on technical terrain. A compression-molded midsole provides cushioning, resulting in a soft but fairly stable ride.
The Wildhorse uses the Nike Free foot shape mold, and it cradled my foot comfortably without any sliding or hotspots. The gusseted tongue prevents small debris from working into the shoe and the tongue length was short enough to prevent becoming a gravel funnel.
The single layer rip-stop mesh upper kept the shoe light (size 9 men’s is 8.4 ounces), breathable, and free of debris — all while feeling plenty tough.
The Nike Wildhorse’s main body snugness allows for a nice, wide toe box. The toe guard is beefy enough to protect your digits without feeling clumsy or obtrusive.
What The Nike Wildhorse Doesn’t Do Right
While the outsole’s relatively soft foam never felt squishy or sloppy, it does make me wonder how long the lugs will hold up. Softer soles wear down faster and the relatively shallow lugs don’t have much depth to spare.
Speaking of Shallow Lugs
They do present a few problems, especially in mud where I suspect they’ll fill up and flatten out very quickly (though I haven’t tested this).
The lugs dig into dirt and normal trails well, but they do slip a bit on flat rocks.
The Wildhorse has been awesome so far. They handle extremely well over a variety of terrain and feels like a racing shoe in a snug and durable package. There are a few minor imperfections, but I’ve yet to find a shoe that doesn’t have at least a couple.
If you’re looking for something edging toward minimalist, but still with ample protection and stability, this one’s worth a shot.
—Tim Murphy is a road runner of 17 years with a serious and worsening trail running problem. Since 2010 he’s completed a number of trail races, including two 50 mile ultra marathons this fall. He works in tech and real estate in Chicago.