The Wildhorse 4 is a trail shoe from Nike offering loads of comfort, protection, and performance. At just over 13oz (12.5 US), the Wildhorse 4 manages to stay light for the amount of trail protection it offers. Built on an 8mm drop platform and having a last with a wide toebox, this shoe has a stable ride, and is one of the only non-zero drop offerings with enough splay room upfront. For the Wildhorse 4, my standard size 12.5 fit true to size.
I’ve already published a preview of the Wildhorse 4 that focused on the shoe’s technical aspects. In this full review, I will focus on the performance of the Wildhorse 4 now that I’ve had a few months to put them to the test.
The Nike Wildhorse 3 was my favorite shoe of 2016, so I was incredibly excited when I saw Nike announce the Wildhorse 4 for 2017. The outsole and midsole remain unchanged from the Wildhorse 3, with the only changes on the Wildhorse 4 coming to the upper. Now that I’ve had a few months to test the Wildhorse 4 (WH4), I feel that Nike is heading in the right direction with the new upper, but didn’t quite execute it to perfection. The new upper doesn’t make the WH4 a bad shoe by any means, it just lacks the sock-like comfort of the WH3. I’ll get into this and more with the following review of the Nike Wildhorse 4.
The biggest change on the Wildhorse for v4 is the completely redesigned upper. Nike is still using the breathable spacer mesh for the upper construction, but is utilizing a Flywire midfoot wrap on top of it. On the WH3 I had some issues with dirt and debris getting into the shoe. I wasn’t always sure if it was the breathable yet slightly porous mesh or the lack of a gusseted tongue (maybe both). With this new midfoot wrap, the WHv4 offers lateral stability, as well as a fully enclosed upper from midfoot to toe. I’ve been on a lot of trails with dirt, dust, and small pebbles. The WH4 does a better job than the WH3 at keeping dirt and debris out.
On the WH3 I could feel a little bit of lateral sliding while side-hilling off trail or making sharp cuts while running. This upper on the WH4 provides a lot more lateral stability through the midfoot, which greatly improves that minor issue from the WH3.
One of my favorite features of the WH3 was the seamless and precise wrap of the upper. This new upper has a more stable and supportive wrap due to the larger Flywire cables being used, along with the Flywire placement. This placement was a point of concern when I first tried on the WH4, as the cables on the lateral side of the shoe carried pretty far up around my pinkie toe. I haven’t had any rubbing or chaffing from this Flywire placement in close to 80 miles of hiking.
Overall, the fit and feel of the upper works very well for my foot. On the inside, Nike has the upper stitched to a full length fabric liner underneath for a seamless fit. The flat laces and padded tongue make for an equally comfortable fit on the top of the foot. The laces are asymmetrical, and to be honest, I’m not a fan of this change. This lacing structure makes it quite a bit more difficult to get a ‘dialed in’ fit. It’s taken me a few outings to get the lacing the way I like it, and the pressure still doesn’t feel evenly distributed.
The toebox width on the WH4 is identical to that of the WH3, but now it comes with a little more volume. The toe protection has the same welded overlay pattern, but this time it feels a little less rigid. This is probably my favorite feature of the Wildhorse 4. It may seem like a minor detail, but having a wide toebox without a sloppy fit is pretty hard to come by in the trail running shoe market. I have yet to get a blister or hotspot in these shoes, and I’ve used them on many rugged trails with temperatures approaching triple digits.
The major issue I’ve had with the Wildhorse 4 is the stiff fabric used around the ankle collar. This is most noticeable at the front of the shoe opening with the fabric above the top lace eyelets. The first few times I wore the WH4, I could feel this fabric digging into my ankle. It didn’t cause any hotspots or blisters, but applied more of a dull ache. After around 30 miles, this fabric started to soften up, and now, I can hardly feel it at all.
The Wildhorse 4 fits my heel very well, much like the Wildhorse 3. The heel counter sits right in between flexible and rigid, which makes for a versatile shoe.
I haven’t worn these on any rainy outings, but have had full submersion while misplacing my footing during a creek crossing. The WH4 dries very quickly, and didn’t feel sloppy or uncomfortable while wet. The rands around the front of the forefoot kept the shoes from draining as well as the WH3, but the drainage was still pretty good.
The midsole on the Wildhorse 4 is a carryover from the Wildhorse 3. The Phylon midsole is plush and soft with just the right amount of responsiveness. 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 heels. I really love the Zoom Air units when flying downhill on rock laden trails. The only downside I’ve found with the Zoom Air units is when using the Wildhorse 4 for backpacking with more than 25lbs. When I hike with my son in his Osprey Poco, my total pack weight is north of 38 lbs. With the WH4, I don’t feel as stable as I do in some of my more structured trail shoes. The heel air units have a little wobble to them with this kind of weight. Clearly, that is not what this shoe is designed for, and in their trail running and light hiking element, they perform very well.
The only complaint I have about the WH4 midsole is the durability. I went through 4 pairs of Wildhorse 3s, and the midsole was the first part of the shoe to give out. The upper and outsoles outlasted the midsoles, which started feeling flat around 200 miles. I’m having the same wear rate on the WH4s. I’m just starting to approach 100 miles, and the midsoles are starting to lose the pop they had when new. This can be expected when using a designated trail running shoe for hiking and backpacking. A lack of longevity and durability can be the price you pay for comfort. In the photo below, you can see the midsole compression while standing.
*Tech Info*: Phylon is made of EVA foam pellets that are compressed, heat expanded, and then cooled in a midsole mold. I’ve found Phylon to provide plush and responsive cushioning that breaks down for me around 200-300 miles. I weigh 185lbs and can be pretty hard on my shoes. Lighter hikers/runners on smoother trails will likely see far more life.
The Nike Wilhorse 4 has the same “Stonesheild” rock guard that was in the Wildhorse 3. This rock guard is very effective at preventing sharp rocks from punishing my feet. Although the Stonesheild is rigid, it’s doesn’t make the forefoot feel too stiff at toe off.
The outsole on the Wildhorse 4 is also a carryover from the Wildhorse 3. The outsole of the Wildhorse 4 is composed of Nike’s 054 High Abrasion rubber around the perimeter of the shoe (black), and a slightly more sticky rubber in the middle (grey). I was able to get around 250 miles on my first pair of WH3s before they started showing signs of wear, and they still held tough for many miles after that. It looks like the longevity of the Wildhorse 4 outsole will be just as good. I’ve worn these on some pretty rough trails, and they’re just now starting to show signs of wear.
I’ve found the grip on this outsole pattern to be superb on hard pack, loose rock, and on dry trail conditions. Even in light mud, the shallow lugs handle well, although they do not shed stickier and thicker mud very well. The traction of the rubber is also very good, even though there isn’t a ton of surface area on each lug. Where the Wildhorse 4 outsole struggles is when things get wet or slick. I have taken these on a few hikes with frequent creek crossings. Trying to rock hop over creeks in the Wildhorse 4 can be a bit of a challenge as they get very slippery on wet rock.
The Nike Wildhorse 4 is a worthy successor to the Wildhorse 3, but is not “better” in my opinion. The midsole and outsole are carryovers from the Wildhorse 3, but the new upper on the Wildhorse 4 took two steps forward and one step back. The new upper provides much better stability and doesn’t let in as much debris. The downside to the updates are the asymmetrical lacing and the stiff fabric around the ankle cuff.
- Wide toe box
- Versatile midsole
- Great protection
- Comfortable on long days
- Discomfort on ankle cuff
- Lacking traction on wet and slick surfaces
Other Shoes To Consider:
- Brooks Cascadia 12
- Altra Lone Peak 3.5 (lower drop)
- Nike Terra Kiger 4 (lower drop and narrower last)