Photo by Ian Corless Photography, iancorless.org

Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 5 – Running Shoe Review

A good shoe or just pretty?

The Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 5 was released earlier in 2019 and it looked incredible! The bold colour way of White, Blue and Pink making it stand out from the crowd.  Even the other colourways released looked funky and eye catching.  So, on looks this shoe certainly passes. Do they feel good though? Of course, they do! Or do I just think that because they look so good? 

I bought a pair, admittedly, partly because they look incredible and partly because I did think they felt good when I tried them on.  But the question lingered, are they a good shoe or are they just pretty? So, I’ve put them through their paces along flowing trails, muddy grassland, technical ridges and threw a few scrambles in for good measure.

It has a nice balance of enough cushioning for longer distances but doesn’t feel heavy or too built up when running on technical trails.

Robbie Simpson

Fit, feel & ride

First of all, the Nike Terra Kiger 5 definitely feel good to run in.  They have a sleek design which hugs the foot closely so you know where your foot and the shoe is going on every step.  They have low stack height (4mm) giving a great feel for the terrain under your foot.  Along with this they have excellent cushioning which absorbs the landing smoothly when cruising at an easy pace and is super springy when you up the tempo. 

I found they had a good fit.  They have a wider toe box than many of Nike’s shoes allowing the toes room to splay.  The toe box isn’t particularly deep but the upper does move with the foot very well so shouldn’t cause any issues.  Across the midfoot the shoe narrows slightly but the laces should loosen to accommodate most foot shapes and give a secure lockdown.  The heel cup hugs low around the ankle and comes just high enough up the achilles to give that secure feeling. Once the laces are tied your foot certainly feels securely locked in, with no chance of the heel slipping.  They do still have the extra eyelet so those who like using the heel lock knot can still tie them that way.

Taking the shoe further off the beaten track

On to the terrain! This shoe felt great on the trails with a great feel for the ground, good grip and super springy to get the speed up and dart around comfortably. 

Taking this shoe further off the beaten track though does begin to highlight the Nike Terra Kiger’s weaker side.  I’ll go all out and say as soon as you hit mud, this shoe is woeful.  The lugs on the sole just aren’t deep enough to give a sure footing and your foot quickly slides away from you.  To be fair to Nike though, the Terra Kiger was certainly not designed around smashing boggy Scottish mountain. I therefore suggest looking at the more aggressive Inov8 Mudclaw or a Salomon Speedcross if you know you’re going to be nailing the muddy terrain.

the Terra Kiger was certainly not designed around smashing boggy Scottish mountain.

Taking the shoe higher and on to ridges I actually found them pretty good.  When running solo on exposed ridges you’re naturally slowing down and being more cautious as the implications of getting injured are more serious.  However, once you get up high, you usually lose the boggy terrain and you’re back on what almost replicates a technical trail.  The ground becomes more like gravel with a lot of sharp grippy rocks to navigate round/over.  This almost put the shoe back in its prime and it felt great! 

The ridges included a few scrambling sections and again when solo, you’re really trying to minimise risk and make sure you’ve got good foot holds.  In this shoe I never felt uncomfortable scrambling both up and down sections of the ridge and each foot hold felt pretty solid!

Putting the shoes to the final test on wet rocks

The thing all trail shoes seem to hate: wet rocks! One of my runs included a reasonable amount of climbing up wet steps and I did find my foot slipping reasonably often.  I went out again up another mountain in horrific weather and the first climb was up a lot of slabby rock (I may have been way off the path) and getting traction was difficult.  I have been asking myself whether they are actually any worse on wet rock than most other trail/fell shoes and I’m not convinced they are.  They certainly aren’t good on wet rock, but I think they can just be added to a long list of trail shoes which are bad on wet rock.  Most brands do tend to release a model that does perform on wet rock.  If you’re covering a lot of this terrain then the Hoka One One Speedgoat 3, Salomon S/LAB Amphib 2 and Inov8 shoes using their Sticky Grip would be a few of the best ones to go for.

They would be my shoe choice for long distance ultras like the West Highland Way – when you don’t need anything aggressive.

Debbie Martin-Consani

Team GB’s feedback: Robbie Simpson and Debbie Martin-Consani

Team GB mountain runner Robbie Simpson has been wearing them to race this season having worn them for the European Mountain Running Championships, the famous Sierre-Zinal Race and locally in Scotland when breaking fellow GB athlete, Rob Sinclair’s Pressendye Hill Race course record!  This is what he had to say about the Nike Terra Kiger 5:

I think the shoe feels responsive and fast on a mixture of terrains. It has a nice balance of enough cushioning for longer distances but doesn’t feel heavy or too built up when running on technical trails. It grips well on a variety of surfaces but in wet conditions the rubber compound struggles to grip rocks and the lack of a more aggressive tread is noticeable in deeper mud.

Another Team GB athlete, Debbie Martin-Consani, an ultra runner who has competed in various World and European 24 hour Running Championships as well as winning notable races closer to home such as Devil O The Highlands, the North Downs Way 100 and the South Downs Way 100.  Debbie, like me, admitted to buying them as they were pretty but has been smashing the miles out in them over summer and had this to say:

I love these shoes. The fact that they are so pretty is just an added bonus. They are cushioned and protective enough for long days on the trails and lightweight and responsive enough for racing too. They would be my shoe choice for long distance ultras like the West Highland Way or South Downs Way – when you don’t need anything aggressive.  Plus, the wide toe box protects the toes from bruising. I do think Nike size a little bigger, so it might be worth going down half a size compared to other brands. They are worth trying for the colours alone. Shallow, but true. Expect to shed a tear the first time you get them dirty though.

A good shoe!

So, to answer the question, is the Nike Terra Kiger 5 a good shoe or just pretty?  I’d definitely say it’s a good shoe!  And it sounds like the pros like it too! It might not be the best on mud and wet rock but it’s not really what it’s designed for.  If you’re like me and have a collection of shoes for every surface and every purpose, then this shoe fits in brilliantly for smashing trails!  Alternatively, this shoe would be great for someone on the hunt for inner city trails.  Having lived in Edinburgh, this shoe would be great for Braids, Arthurs Seat and Corstorphine Hill.  Around Aberdeenshire it would be great on Bennachie and the Fungle trails behind Aboyne.  It’s super comfortable, gives a great feel for the ground and springy for running fast!  If you’re running true trails then the Nike Terra Kiger 5 is superb and I would definitely buy this shoe again!

Thanks to Robbie Simpson and Debbie Martin-Consani for their contributions!