Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 3 Review

   We have another review today from the great Dr. Nathaniel S Kollias DVM, MPH.  He now has access to an incredible number of trails over in Ithaca, NY and has been putting several trail shoes to the test.  First of the group we have the Nike Zoom Terra Kiger 3.  Read on for more!


This review is going to be looking at pair of shoes from the sports apparel and foot wear giant, Nike.  Yes, I know Nike, the big horrible company Nike…or maybe you are in the mindset of “all their shoes are just life style shoes, they don’t make real running shoes,” or maybe even you are a Nike fanboy/girl and you know what…that’s ok.  (Editor's Note: Nike has been making quality running specialty shoes since they began.  I CANNOT vouch for their lifestyle shoes as I have not worn them or evaluated them.  If anyone from Nike is reading this, we don't think you're a big horrible company) I am here to tell you one thing and that is how Nike started something interesting in the year of 2012. This year is when the company began researching and developing trails shoes via input from elite trail runners and pioneers of off road running.  Here’s a nice little article that gives a nice summary (LINK).  The funny thing is though, I never thought Nike as a company could or would even think about making trail shoes.  Why would they?  When you have/had trail running shoe companies like Salomon, Montrail, Altra, Hoka One One, Inov8, and La Sportiva dominating the trail shoe market.  Well as you will read below, the other companies have some competition.  I was pleasantly surprised - this is coming from a guy who swore he would never wear a pair of Nikes.  For warning, I never ran in the previous iterations of the Kiger and/or the Wildhorse, so my feet were virgins to this line of shoes.  So let’s get to it shall we?  Here is my review of the Nike Terra Kiger 3!

Stats: (thanks to Running Warehouse®)

Heel to Toe Drop – 24mm heel 20mm forefoot
Weight – 9oz men’s size 9, 7.2oz women’s size 8 (LIGHT for a pair of trail shoes!)
Price – $125 (this still baffles me, because the Wildhorse which is the beefier shoe (i.e. more materials) is cheaper at $110…meh)

Colorways –

MEN: Red Reef, Black, Crimson/Red, Blue/Blk/Cncd/Ornge, Trail Pack Collection
WOMEN: ember glow, black, blue/black, trail pack collection, bone/rio teal, grey/volt/black, violet/crmsn/ornge


Alright you can hate on Nike all you want, but you can NOT argue with their design department.  Honestly, that is one thing that Nike never fails!  I really have no qualms with any of the colorways, but my favorite is the bright Orange and the new “Trail Pack Edition” Purple colorway scheme.  (If you have read my previous posts you know how much I like purple and orange colorways on shoes).  The look is simple, but with a little bit of a throwback to the 1990’s with the bright colors.  These shoes will catch people’s attention and is a nice safety feature (your feet will be seen miles away…. which could be good or bad depending on what you are going for).    

Fit and Upper:

The upper material is made up of Nike’s flymesh, which I am thankful for, as I feel that it is more breathable then the knit uppers that Nike utilizes in some of their other shoes (granted this is from me just trying on shoes with that type of upper in the store, but I could appreciate my feet already getting warm from just slipping those shoes on).  This upper material holds the foot wonderfully with a secure fit that is non-irritating to one’s feet.  They also utilize flywire, which is a fancy name for how the shoe laces are incorporated into the upper. This allows the whole upper to act as a whole unit, versus focal points along the top of the foot. I can appreciate this sock like wrap as there is no bunching of the upper, which I have seen on other shoes that use traditional lacing.  It reminds me a little of quick laces in that it is secure, but offers a dynamic hold.  In other words, it allows the upper to have a little bit of flex (similar to quick lace systems) without losing midfoot security and holding it down to the midsole unit of the shoe – which the burrito tongue style (Also utilized in the Kiger) also aids in achieving.  Also Nike THANK YOU!  I feel that this is the first shoe that I have tried that utilizes the burrito tongue appropriately. Brooks running has used this tongue in the past, but I personally feel that they failed in the execution (Pure Line series comes to mind). 

Now in terms of the last, it is on the narrower side, but the flymesh upper allows some wiggle room for wider feet (again if you have read other reviews by me, I have narrow feet) and most people shouldn’t have issues. The toebox is the best part of this shoe in that it follows the shape of the human foot wonderfully. Nice taper on the lateral (outside) part of the shoe and a little bit extra space for the big toe. The heel is snug without unnecessary bulk around the heel collar and the toebox is low but gives just enough height to prevent any rubbing issues and room for your toes to swell (plus the flymesh is very forgiving).  One huge dock on this shoe though is there is very little protection of your toes!  So if you are on super rocky terrain be forewarned, you will bruise your toes (or potentially break them).  Thus if you are running in the mountains, I would choose a different shoe with superior toe protection.  (Editor’s Note: The trade-off with the lack of a stiff toe-guard is improved flexibility of the upper.  So if you need a little extra stretch to accommodate foot swelling during longer distances, the kiger’s upper is great). 

Midsole/Outsole and Ride:

Nike utilizes their patented Lunarlon midsole material, which has excellent cushioning scores, but is definitely on the mushier side when I compare the midsole foam to Boost and other iterations of EVA in other running shoes (I have tried other Nike running shoes on in running stores with Lunarlon and I always feel like it is fairly plush).  WHen lunarlon is by itself, it feels a bit dead... which is where the magic of the zoom air units come into play.  These "pockets" of air help give some liveliness to the shoe and double as protective crash pads in the heel and forefoot.  These pockets act like trampolines, decompressing on impact and springing back on the take off stage of the gait cycle.  This is also nice as it negates the need of a rock plate (which probably helps keep this shoe fairly trim in the weight department).  The downside of the lunarlon and zoom air combination is that the shoe can be somewhat unstable on more technical terrain and foot fatigue can set in.  I attribute this to the softness of the lunarlon and dynamic nature of the zoom air pockets, which creates a more unstable forefoot during terminal stance/toe-off.  (Editor's Note: The foot has natural mechanisms to ensure a stable base to push off from during terminal stance/toe-off.  This occurs mostly in the midfoot, which as the foot SHOULD supinate during terminal stance due to the calves, fibular longus and posterior tibialis firing.  Supination of the midfoot causes the joints between the tarsal bones, or midtarsal joints, to lock creating a stable foot to push off from.  Pronation on the other hand, unlocks the midfoot and allows the joints to move and assist with proper shock absorption during loading response and early midstance (ie when you first hit the ground).  Eash one has a specific purpose.  Having unstable materials in the forefoot of a shoe will interfere with the normal gait cycle, as the muscles that create movement, ie the calves, must also attempt to create stability if the stabilizing muscles (intrinsics, posterior tibialis, fibularis longus, anterior tibialis, etc) are not strong enough to handle it.  This is not optimal in weak individuals who rely on their calves already for both movement and stabilization.  It is fine everything is balanced and there is appropriate strength.  Each muscle has a set purpose and can assist others.  They should not have to completely take over another muscles function.  This is how many overuse injuries occur.  The body functions best when every muscle is doing its appropriate job.  This is a a very important concept for rehab and strength training.  Know the specific muscle function, action and biomechanics to train it appropriately.  Movers and stabilizers respond differently).  Likewise, the midfoot support of the upper as well as the midsole material is lacking.  In other words, this shoe owuld benefit from a little bit more structure to the midfoot region to help increase lateral stability, which may aid in reducing foot fatigue on longer outings on the trail

The outsole is made up of environmentally preferred rubber, which from what I have gathered is a recycle rubber of some sort.  It has decent traction, but is suboptimal for veyr wet, muddy or icy terrain.  Sorry Nike, but Salomon's Contragrip Rubber, Inov8's Sticky Rubber and Adidas Continental Rubber in their trail shoes are FAR superior.  The lugs are of moderate length, which is best utilized on mild to moderate terrain. If I had to categorize this trail shoe, I would place it as a shoe ideal for mixed terrain (Editor's Note: the rubber and lugs make the kiger a trail shoe that can also handle decent mileage on the roads.  The Kiger's true home is on the trails, but if you are looking to mix things up with a variety of terrain, this may be a good shoe to look at compared to other trail shoes with more intense lugs).  If you run muddy, icy or loose rocky terrain, you might want to look elsewhere.  Another point about the outsole design that bothers me is the weird upturning around the heel area and protruding lugs.  It almost feels as if I am experiencing unnecessary breaking and/or my heel is catching obstacles on the trail.  (Editor's Note: The curved heel looks like Nike's attempt to imitate the curvature of the calcaneus bone of the posterior heel.  THe issue I have observed and felt is that the heel protrudes too far posteriorly.  I have discussed this previously, but extending the heel can lead to premature heel contact, which means you hit the ground before your muscles are truly reading to absorb impact forces.  This can be particularly jarring during downhill running.  The curve lessens the issue, however protruding heels are something I generally suggest avoiding as it can lead to excessive joint loading due to the muscles not being ready to load those forces.  The kiger only has a minimal one and with the curve, the impact is lessened.  I have seen individuals actually cute away that portion with success when done carefully.  


I am on my second pair of these, with my first lasting approximately 400ish miles.  So the durability is about average for what a trail shoe should be in my opinion.  The upper holds up well to trail abuse and the lugs wear down gradually.  The midsole does feel like it starts to go dead around 200ish miles and sort of lags there.  Wish the "pep" of these shoes lasted a bit longer.

Areas for Improvement: 

I would apreciate some increased longevity of the midsole snappiness as well as a drop in some weight.  The stats of the Wildhorse and Terra Kiger are VERY similar.  I looked at stats of the older models and it seemed that the Terra Kiger used to be more of a racing trail shoe.  With that said, I think Nike would benefit from further differentiating these shoes by making the Kiger a RACING shoe and the Wildhorse as a DAILY TRAINER.  Also I would for the lack of midfoot stability... but then again Salomon achieves this even in their trail racer, the S-Lab Sense Ultra 5, so it is possible to achieve this in a lighter shoe (Editor's Note: Given the structure given by the recent addition of a plate in the Nike Streak 6, I would highly suggest Nike consider adding a similar plate to improve responsiveness and stability in the Kiger 4).  

Overall Impression:

I think Nike is off to a great start on their trial line and with further models will only improve on this solid shoe.  Overall the Kiger 3 a good trail shoe, but suffers from lacking a defined personality (is it a racer? Daily Trainer? Something inbetween?) and some details that need to be addressed.  I look forward to future models of this shoe and it makes me inclined to try out the Wildhorse.  Hope you enjoyed the review and happy trail running!

These opinions are my own, these were a personal purchase, and I received no monetary compensation for this review.  -Dr. Kolias, DVM, MPH

Editors Note:  As always, the views presented on this blog belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts).  My blog should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking professional medical care.  If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your local running physical therapist or medical professional.

Thanks for reading and don't forget to tack on!

-Dr. Klein, DPT and Dr. Kolias, DVM, MPH