By Jason Robertson
After my block of 50 milers in July I was ready to explore a new shoe. I had run the Devil's Lake 50 miler in the Nike Zoom Streak XC3s on July 13th. Two weeks later, I competed in the Voyageur 50. In this race I tried the La Sportiva Vert K and switched into the XC3 about 20 miles into the race. The upper on the Vert K was just too loose, allowing for a lot of forward foot movement on the downs. I'm sure this is why my two big toes have black nails. I love the XCs, but they just aren't built for the long, technical terrain that the Voyageur dished out.
|Nike Zoom Streak XC3: Not quite a 50 mile shoe...|
Towards the end of the Voyageur, I came up to a guy wearing the Nike Zoom Terra Kigers. Chris Beck had sent me some info on these a few days before the race, so I was pretty excited to spot these shoes out on the course. I initially passed him about mile 38ish, not noticing his footwear. However we came to a steep downhill leading into the Chamber's Grove aid station and he quickly caught me, then passed me upon our exit from the station. I managed to catch him a little later and we started chatting shoes. He had purchased the Kigers the day before the race and he stated that they were great, right out of the box. I had noted his downhill prowess in the shoes and thought I should try them out.
What is this new line?:
The new Nike Zoom Terra line derives from an old 'Earthy' line of, what I think, was a cross country shoe line. Nike pulled the name Kiger from a breed of wild Mustang native to the Oregon area. Two shoes exist as of now in this line: The Terra Kiger and The Wildhorse. The Kigers have Nike Trail printed on the insole, so I do believe the company is entering the foray of low-drop, lightweight, trail racers. And in my opinion, have entered in a crushingly, fantastic way.
Enter the Kiger:
The Kiger is NOT a new shoe. The Kiger is pieced together from several other Nike shoes and a brand new sticky rubber outsole has been added. According to Nike the last is taken from the Free 5.0. In my opinion, the entire shoe reminds me of the Free 3.0 v.3. With its half-tongue (think New Balance road 00) and buttery smooth inner with a beautifully loose (no heel counter allowing for a flexible but still supportive heel, it is hands down the most comfortable trail shoe I have. The Brooks Pure Grit comes close with its satin-like heel material. But, the award for the most comfortable upper now belongs to the Kiger. This didn't surprise me, I loved the Free 3.0 and this shoe is a direct blood relative.
|Very nice heel fit, soft yet supportive|
The fit of this shoe is not overly wide like the Altra Lone Peak, but not as narrow as the XC3. Overall, sizing is comparable to the MT110, I wear a size 10 in both of these shoes. There is no rockplate but because the shoe has a full length rubber outsole, the protection is somewhat comparable to the peregrine. Runningwarehouse has the stack height at 23mm in the heel and 19mm in the forefoot. The shoe feels very flexible and has a nice amount of energy return.
|Lacing system and shoe|
The lacing derives from the new Flyknit system, where little string eyelets are looped to receive the laces. This system performs the midfoot lockdown, and does this quite well. While the upper and the last of the Kiger is not new, the outsole has not been seen before.
|all new outsole- the colors create a bullseye to reveal where the zoom air units are located, good stuff!|
Initial findings out on the trail:
Socks or no? I decided the very first run with these would be sockless. The upper feels great on the skin. Satin on the heel/achilles area, seamless construction throughout- out of the box, sockless run- no problems, no blisters. If you've ran in the Frees and felt good, you'll like this upper. This is one of the nicest uppers of the trail shoes that I have worn. However, it did loosen a little on my initial run. I have a foot length discrepancy: my left is a full size bigger than my right. I size to my left foot, which puts me in a 10. My right would fit nicely in a 9. On my right foot, the shoe did slip a little, especially after the water crossing. I simply tightened it up, and on my way I went. No major issues, but I did read a few initial reviews about how the Kiger's upper was too loose for some tastes, so I wanted to take notice. The shoe drains nicely, laces stay put, and there is good mid-foot lockdown. The upper is not as responsive as, say a 110. It gives a little, but I did not think it squirmed too much on the tight, twisty mountain bike course where I was testing.
Is the outsole good enough?:
Ok, this was my dilemma. The Brooks Pure Grit were the most comfortable shoes in my quiver. However, if I even thought of running when a little moisture was present, the shoe became downright dangerous. After slipping on the Kiger, I immediately thought of the Grit's comfort and hoped this thing hooked up on the slicks. Sure enough, at least my initial findings, this thing grips just fine. The trail was relatively dry, but I went through the stream twice and with a wet bank on either side. The shoe gripped going up and down, no slippage. Took the Kiger over a wet, wooden bridge, no problems. I'm thinking the shoe will hook up well, but until I run through a slop-fest, rain-dance, I'll be slightly cautious. It seems the outsole patterns itself similarly to a Cascadia. It has a similar lug pattern around the outside of the shoe and little blocks/pods in the center switching directions just after the arch creating a multi-directional system.
This is a beautiful shoe. I had wished back in 2010, when I had worn the XC2 for Stumpjump and the Free 3.0 for a few long trail runs, that Nike would create a trail specific shoe that would hang with the likes of the New Balance 100/101. I think their first shot at this is successful. I think they waited until the ultra-minimal phase was over and then jump in with both feet. The shoe is not uber light, but the company did not false advertise: a male size 10 is 8.6 oz, just as mentioned on the Nike site. The 4mm midsole drop shoe is VERY comfortable and so far, does a good job on hooking up on the trails. The shoe is pricey at $125 U.S., but with Salomon's Sense line toping out at $180-200, nice trail shoes are going to put you back a little.
Just on a side note - I think this is a great direction for trail shoes to be headed. "Minimalist" shoes such as the 110 just don't have enough protection and cushion for a lot of us, yet personally I still desire something with a low drop and relatively light weight. The Kiger achieves both these things, while also providing adequate protection. Nike has been a long time coming in entering this arena, but I think this shoe not only performs great, but also represents the direction consumers (and thus the industry) are desiring.