Gear Review: Nike Zoom Terra Kiger

This is the best shoe for downhill running I’ve ever worn.

Now that we’ve opened up with a rather short and to the point opening statement for this review, let me explain and tell you about the myriad of thoughts going on in my head with this shoe.

You may have read our Nike Free review many moons ago, bemoaning the fact that Nike really needed to make a trail version of the Free – if they did, the trail running world would be their lobster (yes I know it’s Oyster!). For years, Nike hasn’t really played at all in the trail scene, but boy what an entrance they’ve made with these. Welcome the Nike Zoom Terra Kigers. Before we smack head-first into the review, let’s pause and take stock of the various trends we’ve seen in trail running shoes over the last few years and explain where the Kiger

Before the minimal bandwagon came along, it’s probably fair to say that we didn’t care much for a ‘type of shoe’… we pretty much ran in whatever felt right and for the most part I guess we still do. Then along came the minimal brigade and for the most part, quite a few of us jumped on board. I was one of those and I do still believe in the notion of less is more. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a minimal fan, but for the longer stuff and being of the slightly larger variety of runner than the whippets up front, I was getting a little sick of bruised heels and battered feet.

Then some strange guys called Hoka came along and flipped the industry on its head – review here. Massive chunky soles, plenty of cushioning and an almost ‘buffet-car’ experience when racing.

So one way of looking at it is that we have two kinds of extreme, with some rubbish in between.

Of course, it’s all about personal choice, but this is where I think trail running shoes will be heading as far as ground feel and heel/toe drop are concerned – a halfway house of sorts. Ultimately what I want is a good, fast running shoe that won’t make me wince when my heel hits a rock. Take a bow, the Kiger, a relatively light-weight but not overly cushioning shoe that allows for a ‘soft’ feeling of the ground.

In plain English – I can bomb down the hills without fear of sharp stones penetrating my oh-so sensitive heels, but get enough ground response to know what’s under foot. Let’s delve deeper.

The Kiger upper

When you open the box you immediately see that the Kiger is a blood brother of the Free. Similar upper, half-tongue and the same foam-like cushioning that makes wearing these shoes a dream. Having spent most of the last 18 months in very minimal non-cushioned shoes, pulling on these ‘slippers’ was a little strange. I felt like I was wearing moon boots and one of the first things to worry me, when striding off in these ‘Cinderella shoes’ was whether or not my knee pain would return from the increase in cushioning and slightly larger heel to toe drop (4mm in case you’re wondering – I’m used to 3mm or nothing at all).

Fortunately, my fears were just those and didn’t venture into reality – although I did notice more ache in my achilles than normal. Whether or not that is directly related to the shoe or not is debatable, given my left achilles always aches.

Zoom-Terra-Kiger-Shoes---HO13-3255-0405The Kiger is very much like the Nike Free 3.0, but on steroids. It has a very smooth inner and is very flexible throughout, but still with a supportive heel, it is by far the most comfortable trail shoe I have – and I have many. There is no rock plate in the shoe, but the Kiger has a full-length rubber outsole making any notion of a rock plate redundant. It also has a surprisingly large toe box too. Not as big as the Altra brand of shoes for example and indeed, it was one of the other concerns I had with this shoe when seeing it for the first time. Would the box would be big enough?

My feet splay all over the place and I like them to move around when I’m running – I hate that ‘boxed-in’ feeling with running shoes. My regular sized shoes are somewhere between a 10.5 – 11UK and for the Kiger’s, I’ve gone up to an 11.5UK and I’m glad I did – I’d even consider a 12, so it pays to make sure you know what sizing you need prior to ordering any of these if you’re going to.

Another consideration is whether to go sockless or not in the Kiger. Technically you can, but I prefer to wear socks and have done so for all of my running in this shoe to date. In my view there’s no point risking it unless you have feet of steel and can be sure that there’s not one part of the shoe that’s going to cause you some grief somewhere at some point along the way mid-run.

The Kiger outsole and cushioning

While the upper of the Kiger has been moulded from its Free cousins, it’s the outsole that has been given a rather unique look. Like many people I’m sure, I’ve used the Nike Frees as trail shoes in the past, which is fine when you’re on nice wide open fire trail, however it’s a little challenging once you get onto the technical stuff. The Kiger has been given a fairly rugged outsole with lugs similar to the Cascadia and akin to the cross-country style of shoe you might expect to see in the Lake District in the UK.They’re not full-on lugs as such, but there’s enough to give you the traction and grip you need when you’re ‘toe-ing’ it uphill.

Kiger outsole

I am however slightly dubious of shoes and their ability to grip in both the wet and the dry. Here in Australia it’s summertime, which means little or no rain. My initial tests with these shoes have all been in  dry conditions over both some easy flat fire trail, but also over some more technical descents too. The grip in the dry is fantastic, which makes me slightly nervous as to their ability in the wet. Generally when one is good in one type of condition, we see flaws in the opposite. However until we get a deluge of rain here, I’ll have to wait to find out. All I’ll say is that in the dry over loose rock and slightly technical terrain, you can simply bomb down the trail with confidence – so much so that I was setting Strava records all over the place in my first run in them 🙂 Don’t get me wrong, I know they’re not the root cause of the recently acquired ‘crowns’ – that’s just training!

The Nike ‘Zoom’ in the title of the shoe is due to the cushioning of the shoe, which is part of the Nike Air family, and—like its siblings—it’s lightweight and durable. The Nike Zoom cushioning is fairly thin (although not quite in the same league as the minimal bandwagon shoes), and thus it brings the foot closer to the ground and enhances stability (apparently), especially during  multi-directional movements, so says the marketing blurb. However, it’s after impact that the fibers inside the pressurized air unit of the Zoom technology bounce back into shape, and that provides the very responsive feel you get from the trails and why it’s such a joy to bomb downhill in these bad boys.

The verdict

If you haven’t already guessed, I love these shoes and I’ll be wearing them for the upcoming Six Foot Track marathon in March. I was dubious about them, particularly the responsiveness you want and need when you’re trail running. I like to feel the ground, but I also don’t want to feel every single stone underfoot for the best part of 4-6 hours either. I think this shoe has created the perfect balance of both worlds. Shoe choice is such a personal thing, and I’m sure those who already have the Kiger have found something they don’t like about it – I’m sure I will after more use. All I know is that I’ve had these shoes a week, have put around 10 hours into them already and I can’t fault it on the trails. I can’t believe that more people aren’t wearing this to be honest. So if you’re like me and want something that gives you good trail feedback, yet provides that bit of cushioning you require at times, you wouldn’t go far wrong getting hold of a pair of these. As mentioned above, size wise, I’d recommend going 1/2 to a full size up on your regular shoe, but it pays to try before you buy.

kiger verdictThe Tech Specs

For those who want to ‘geek’ even further… here’s the geeky deets:

  • Nike Zoom units in heel and forefoot for low-profile, responsive cushioning
  • Dynamic Fit technology with integrated Flywire for an adaptive, supportive fit
  • Compression Phylon and Cushlon midsole foams create a dual-density cushioning system for a lightweight, responsive ride
  • Strategically placed lugs with sharp, crisp shape for enhanced grip
  • Single-layer engineered mesh upper for support and ventilation
  • Rounded, anatomical heel for more natural range of motion
  • Environmentally-preferred rubber Waffle outsole for multisurface traction and durability
  • Reflective elements for enhanced visibility in low-light conditions
  • Weight: 8.6 ounces (men’s size 10)
  • Mesh inner sleeve wraps the foot for a plush, comfortable fit
  • Strategically placed overlays at upper for targeted support
  • Moulded sockliner for underfoot support





Like our articles? Take a second to support Ultra168 on Patreon from as little as $1 a month!
Dan on Twitter
I'm a mediocre runner who can bat above his average when I train hard. A man of extremes, I do enjoy everything life offers and consider it an absolute pleasure just to be able to put one foot in front of the other and let my mind wander somewhere different.

20 thoughts on “Gear Review: Nike Zoom Terra Kiger

    1. Cheers. I have read other blogs that have said the performance in the wet is fine, however I’ll wait until I get the opportunity to test that for myself 🙂 Thanks for reading.

  1. Great review. I’ve had these shoes for 3 months now. Best shoe I have ever worn. Raced a 100k event in them and my feet still felt great at the end. Shame about every other part of me though. Found them to be equally as good in the wet, as I experienced both conditions on race day with no slippage issues. Grab yourself a pair today. Just ordered my 2nd pair.

  2. Nice review Dan, thanks.. How do you think these would go over TNF100 for the slightly larger framed amongst us?

    also… ” Hoka…..almost ‘buffet-car’ experience when racing.” Brilliant ….. (I do wear Hokas incidentally)

      1. Dan, i was forwarded this review by the Nike rep for Qld. I certainly like your `enthusiasm` not only for the shoe, but also for running, it tells! Hopefully your`e also as enthusiastic for some criticism?? Like when you mentioned`Strava`, this would give a fair indication of your possible level of running ( Like cycling `Strava` junkies, it`s all about speed!! and, i would add that there are some damn good cyclists and runners on Strava! so i`m not totally against Strava per say) But, as i was saying, the level of runner, the runners gait, and in particular, if they are mid to forefoot strikers would need to be taken into consideration when choosing this shoe, plus, are they ready for a `negative heeled` shoe?? You have obviously gotten used to the `barefoot` style, but what about the guy you have just said (above) could run 100k in a pair of TK,, who`s mentioned `slightly heavier` in build? I doubt if Dave would be wise running in the Terra Kiger! A perfect shoe for ( Mr and Ms average) wanting to do some hill repeats, intervals, and short, fast trail runs.
        I too have run in the TK, and Hoka One One Stinson trail, no comparison!! You had another inquiry on the `last` of the shoe. Hoka and TK could not be more different! Your technical info is spot on, re the TK. Cushioning, weight, outer sole, and the best trail shoe by Nike to date. I would point out that the TK has terrible forefoot lateral support due to the Fly Knit upper. ( This has been addressed with the TK arriving later in 2014.)Fleet footed runners, who suit the last etc of the TK, will love this shoe. Distance will be always be the question. It is without doubt, that less shoe creates a lot more fatigue to the feet and limbs. ( you mentioned this with your previous barefoot shoes, and as i found with New Balance barefoot models, as well as the Free run 5.0.)Where the TK is superior to the Hoka for example, is faster running and changing direction, the TK is far more `nimble`.
        As much as i applaud your review, it shows your excitement for the shoe, but clearly will lead many others into the orthopedic room!!
        Look forward to yours and others thoughts…

      2. Hi Allen, thanks for your comments and no worries re: criticism, I don’t view it that way at all – I’m always game for some debate on these types of things. I wouldn’t take the Strava comment with any seriousness at all, if you read extensively through our website, you’ll note that we’re a little tongue in cheek when it comes to our style. Strava is just for fun, and anyone with an ego can leave it firmly at the door. That just isn’t us – in fact I and most people who know me will know I deplore that kind of stuff 🙂

        With regards to the ‘guy above’ – that’s Dave. I know him and have met him and believe me, I’m bigger than him and he’s also a pretty experienced runner. Indeed, most people who read this site are what I would regard as experienced runners i.e. have done at least a few ultras over 100kms and quite a lot of them know their stuff. That’s whom we pitch this to and that is whom our audience is – experienced runners who run ultra-marathons. I go around the country and race to experience and meet people who read what we write. We’ve also done extensive and detailed articles advising runners about making the transition to low-drop shoes and indeed barefoot running too – we’re certainly of the belief that its not something you should take lightly in the slightest and have warned about this too. But again, given whom our audience is, I’m pretty confident that most have a good head on them (as well as being able to read the note about the drop in the review), to make a good informed decision for themselves.

        As for distance in the shoe I’d think they’d be a great 100km+ shoe – I did my first 100 miler (in NZ mountains with 8,000m of vertical) in Nike Free 3.0s and loved every hour of it. While the shoe is important with distance, I personally feel that doing the appropriate training and conditioning one’s self ranks higher on the list, which is ultimately going to help runners with dealing with fatigue.

        You’re right, I am excited about this shoe because I’ve done around 10,000 kms in the Nike Frees and let’s face it, the Kiger is pretty much a Free with a rugged outsole and bit of bulking up if we’re going to get simplistic about it all 🙂 I’m all for being simple. (And I’m being a little flippant too here) Companies (and I know this because of my line of work), try to make things overly complicated with pointless jargon – it’s called marketing because that’s their point of differentiation – say it how it is – that’s what we think. If a product is good enough, it doesn’t need marketing.

        Appreciate your comments though Allen – it’s good to get other’s point of view as it all help to provide runner’s with different perspectives and opinions to make more informed decision – which is what we’re all about. Hope to see you more often on the comments board.

    1. I’m 82kg and just ran a 100km in the kiger, and as I’ve said above, had no feet issues at all. I will be using them again for all my races.

  3. Good morning Dan…i really enjoyed your comments!! I too have done some big miles, and am passionate about running, and as we are a specialist running store, am passionate about fitting people to the best of what is available. You will most definately be seeing me more on this site…!! Cheers, Allen.

  4. I would like to thank you immensely for your review of the Kerra Kiger, I usually wear x-talons and trailroc 245, but being a heavier runner( 83kgs) and mature age (old) I was finding them a bit unforgiving in the rough stuff.Although not a big Nike fan I took your advice and purchased a pair for the 6foot track.Hence a PB and 18mins quicker then last year.What can I say other then confirm every thing that you said in your review. Thanks Denis.

    1. Hi Denis, I think this is the best bit of feedback I’ve ever had in the 2.5yrs this site has been going. Likewise I wore my Kiger’s on Saturday and scored a 16min PB. Now I know the shoes aren’t responsible solely for a PB like that, but in that last 2kms, they sure do help knock off a few mins… nice work and congrats on your run… hopefully Nike will pick this up too 🙂

  5. Thanks for the informative and well-written review. Was already considering this shoe — I currently take my 3.0s on the trail — and you just convinced me to go for it.

    1. Go for it Jeff. They’re pretty much a Free on steroids… been wandering for years why Nike hadn’t made a trail version. Same feel as the Free, a little more stability and heaps more control on the downs. Massive contribution towards my 6ft performance this year.

  6. Hi. Do you know the exact measurement of your feet from heel to toe? Im planning to buy these exact same shoes online but I dont know which size would fit me. Hope you dont mind sharing it with me. So i can compare it with mine and hopefully help me decide on which size to buy. My foot measures 26.8 cm by the way. The nike shoe size chart says that im size 10 US but i dont know of that is reliable. Hope to hear from you soon. Thank you very much

  7. Great review Dan! One of my favourite shoes … Curious if you also wear Hoka’s? If so, what’s your normal UK Hoka size?

  8. Ive ran them in the wet and even on wet raods they stick really, well, they have a sticky rubber outsoul which is fantastic, strange sensation on wet roads you can almost hear the outsould peel off the surface, brilliant.

Leave a Reply