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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.