Gear Review: Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 3

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I’m just going to start by saying that I haven’t been this excited about a lightweight hiking shoe in a very long time. The Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 3 has been the only shoe on my feet for the last month, and I couldn’t be happier with it’s performance. There is a whole lot to love about the Wildhorse 3, and only one thing I’d like to see Nike fix for version 4. I’ll be getting into these details in the review below.

Click here to see a wear report after 400 miles

Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 3
Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 3

It was always surprising to me that the largest sports brand in the United States never seemed to make any real push in the fast growing trail shoe category. It was only with the first iteration of the Wildhorse and it’s slightly more minimal cousin, the Terra Kiger, that Nike had flagship shoes to compete against the likes of Salomon, Hoka, Altra, and the other big names I frequently write about on this blog. The Terra Kiger and Wildhorse are still the only two offerings in this category for Nike, but boy are they incredibly designed footwear. This is definitely the case of quality over quantity.


The upper of the Wildhorse 3 is a very comfortable, seam-free, foot hugging design. The shoe has a stable heel counter that keeps the foot locked down and stable without feeling ridgid or uncomfortable.  The midfoot of the upper employs Nike’s flywire technology which I have grown to love. This is my very first experience with flywire, but won’t be my last. The cables wrap my midfoot perfectly, providing the perfect ‘lock-down’ without any pressure points or constriction.

Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 3

The toebox is probably my favorite part of the upper, as it’s wide and anatomical shape provides plenty of room for toe splay. Even though there is a lot of horizontal space for toes, I like that Nike kept the vertical volume at a normal height. It’s the perfect shape and fit for my foot. This upper feels just as great on long searing uphills as it does on steep rocky downhills. I never have any chaffing, hot spots, or toe bumping in this shoe. The toebox may feel a little constricting vertically when you first try it on, but that is only due to the overlays used for toe protection. This softened up for me after about 20 miles.

Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 3

Now for the one thing I wish Nike would improve, the tongue. The tongue on the Wildhorse is very comfortable and well designed. I just wish it was gusseted. Last week I took these for a 20 miles day hike to the 14,025 summit of Mt. Langley, where I had to stop 3 times to empty out dirt and debris. Any grit that comes up over the toebox slides underneath the laces and into the shoe. On trails like Mt. Wilson and San Bernardino Peak, I didn’t have any problem with this, so it’s really just an issue on gravel, soft dirt, and debris laden paths. Even a half gusset would go a long way to fixing the issue.  Looking past the fact that the tongue is not gusseted, it’s still very comfortable and does a very good job of staying in place.


The midsole of the Wildhorse 3 is designed perfectly for shock absorption without feeling squishy or lacking in stablility. The shoe comes with an 8mm drop, 28mm in the heel and 20mm in the forefoot. Nike uses Phylon foam for the full length of the midsole, and incorporates their patented  Zoom Air pockets in the heel. I really love the Zoom Air units when flying downhill on rock laden trails.

Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 3
Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 3
Stable and Cushioned Heel

The ride of the midsole is firm and very responsive, dialed up just the way I like it. The heel has a nice flare to provide great stability without getting in the way. This is the perfect midsole for logging long days on the trail when you don’t want you’re legs to know it. A large part of the comfort of this midsole is provided by the great forefoot rockplate. Nike uses the Stoneshield rock guard to protect against nasty surprises and rocky trail fatigue from your arch to your toes. I’ve really been able to put this feature to the test, and it’s been a knight’s shield for everything I’ve thrown at it.

Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 3
Stoneshield Rock Guard


The outsole of the Wildhorse 3 is composed of Nike’s 054 High Abrasion rubber around the circumference of the shoe(black), and a slightly more sticky, but no less durable rubber in the middle(purple). Of all the shoes I’ve tried in the past few years, this outsole might be looking as close to new after 70 rocky miles as any.
Wildhorse 3 Outsole

The waffle pattern of the outsole isn’t just durable though, it’s incredible grippy. I’ve tested this shoe on talus, granite slab, gravel, sand, leaves, logs, and just about anything else you can think of. The Wildhorse has handled them all with ease. This is a full coverage outsole though, so it may leave some desiring a little more flexibility. I love the slightly ridgid stability the full length outsole provides, and would hate to see it decoupled in the next model. I really have no complaints or critiques about this outsole, it’s that good.

Final Thoughts:

As I mentioned in the introduction, this shoe has had me more excited than just about any other I’ve tried in the last few years. I’ve come to expect great things from many of the leaders in the trail running market, and to see Nike really stepping up their game has me looking forward to great things in the future. The Wildhorse 3 is durable, stable, comfortable, and downright functional. It also looks great in my opinion. This would also be the perfect shoe for a backpacking/trekking trip if somebody was in need of a shoe that could handle the trails, walk the cities, and blend in under a dinner table.

I tend to have a wandering eye when it comes to trail shoes, but the Wildhorse 3 is going to be holding my gaze for quite some time. I can easily see these shoes going well past 400 miles, and at that point, I’ll definitely be adding another pair to the rotation.

Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 3
Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 3


Hiking To The 14,026ft Summit of Mt. Langley via Cottonwood Lakes

Hiking To The Tahquitz Peak Fire Lookout With Isla via Devils Slide Trail


29 thoughts on “Gear Review: Nike Air Zoom Wildhorse 3”

  1. Great review, Drew! Any tips for a trail shoe that could accommodate narrow feet and high arches? The clunky hiking boots I’ve been using seem to be a no-go for my feet lately (three blisters a foot!) and I want to try something lighter.

    • Thanks, Sarah! That’s a tough one, as I have wider feet with lower arches 🙂 I do quite a bit of research on all shoes and foot types though, so I do have some suggestions. The first shoe that comes to mind is the Brooks Cascadia. It’s a jack of all trades and tends to work for a lot of different foot types. My second thought is for La Sportiva, especially the Bushido. That shoe is made for narrow feet and high arches, and I see a lot of them on the trails locally. The final suggestion would be Salomon, with the Speedcross 3 a very popular choice for those hiking in softer or muddy conditions. Try to find a store that allows you to try a few on, or order from a place like Zappos or that allows for free return shipping. I always like to try on 3 or 4 shoes at a time and go with what works best for my feet.

  2. I was so happy I discovered your review of these shoes. I am about to undertake a southbound AT thru-hike and had been struggling with my footwear choices. Brooks Cascadia seemed a natural default since I have always worn Brooks running shoes but the latest model isn’t built like the road shoes (i.e. narrower). Plus still some durability issues reported. There are scores of other possibilities but Memphis, TN is not the greatest place if you want to actually try them on. For example, no store in this town of a million souls even carries Altra trail shoes! Nike is not the first thing that comes to mind (at least in this part of the country) when trail runners are discussed and the model reviewed of course isn’t even carried around here. But based on your review it seemed like the perfect shoe for my intended use and my flatter, wider forefoot. Plus I reasoned if it works I can easily have a new pair sent ahead on the trail when they ever start to wear out. So I thought what the heck and ordered a half size up from my normal Brooks size and received them today. The fit seems perfect and they are very comfortable. Time will tell and I will update later. Perfectionist that I am I do plan to go the New Balance Store (we do have one of those) and try on some Leadville V3s to compare. I will be surprised if the New Balance is better though.

  3. I am starting my training for the PCT and your blog was recommended by REI helpdesk. How’s that for coverage? My question is about socks? Other than your mention of the darn tough sock, have your reviewed others? I did a 12 mile training hike using my normal Asics running shoe with a Thoro Sock and got the worst blister on the side of my foot where had never gotten a blister before. Fortunately for me wife is a nurse and lanced those suckers (can you recommend a blister care blog). I plan on trying out the Cascadia 11 and the Wildhorse.

    • Great to hear you’ll be hiking the PCT! Which REI location was this? Pretty cool to hear they recommended Trail to Peak 🙂 I usually wear Darn Tough socks, but like Drymax for trail running. It’s hard to beat Darn Tough for durability though. I’ll do some research on blister care. I don’t really get blisters, so I don’t have any links handy. The Cascadia and Wildhorse will be nice options for the PCT.

  4. Hi to everyone!
    Can You help me to how to choose the right size in WildHorse3 model? Yesterday I went to a shoes shop to try the Wildhorse3 but it wasn’t possible (not availabel) so i tryed the Fusion Trail 2 (number 11us or 29 cm). Now i saw that wildhorse model has a diferent size chart.
    How I have to choose?

  5. Hi Drew!

    I’m hiking the JMT this August & have worn boots for all the hikes I’ve ever been on & subsequently always seem to end up with blisters or hot spots, so these shoes are really intriguing to me & I’m seriously considering buying them in the next week or two – but I have a couple questions/concerns about them that maybe you could answer for me real quick:

    1) Is there any real ankle support, or do you just run the risk of rolling your ankle when you wear trail shoes vs. boots?
    2) Traction – In your experience, is the traction on these shoes (or any other trail shoes for that matter) better than that of hiking boots or about the same?
    3) Did you size up at all?
    4) What socks did you wear with these shoes?

    I’m planning on taking 21-23 days to hike the JMT (in case that information helps at all, haha)


    • Hello Allyson, great to hear that you’ll be hiking the JMT this summer. Hopefully the snow pack will start melting away in time for your hike. I’ve seen some reports that show a record year for snow coverage, and the water crossing once that snow starts to melt will be a challenge.

      As for the Wildhorse 3, they’re a great shoe. Nike just released the Wildhorse 4, but I think I actually prefer the 3. Low cut shoes do not offer ankle support or prevent you from spraining an ankle. High top boots don’t really either. The high top is for protection from the elements. The way to prevent ankle sprains is by strength and flexibility.
      The traction on the WH 3 is pretty good, but is a little slick on wet surfaces and smooth granite. Boot outsoles differ by brand. The best traction and grip in my experience is on La Sportiva outsoles and shoes with Vibram outsoles.
      I go a half size up with my trail shoes.
      I wore Darn Tough 1/4 socks on the JMT and on pretty much every hike I go on.


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