Nike focused the update on its Wildhorse to the upper. It’s a smooth running shoe that isn’t necessarily built for speed, but its design and technology suggest it is built to last.
The new upper shaves weight off the shoe (men’s size 10, 10.5 ounces).
Before I get into the specifics of the shoe, it is worth noting that the color options are limited — and extremely varied.
One option is all black; the other option is a white base with pink, blue, yellow and purple mixed in (or as Nike calls the colorful combo, “Light Orewood Brown/Black-blue Fury).
Now on to the nitty gritty. The new Wildhorse adds a rock plate to the forefoot with a rubber outsole.
It works well to protect the foot during technical runs, though it fails to shed water as efficiently as other shoes. The Phylon EVA foam and Air Zoom combine to create a soft landing.
I’ve been able to review a fair amount of shoes in the same class as the Wildhorse. Here’s a comparison with some of its competitors:
• Brooks Caldera 3: The lighter Wildhorse 5 positions it with the Caldera 3. I’d give a significant boost in traction to the Caldera 3 while the Wildhorse wins for foot protection and durability.
• Saucony Peregrine ISO: Definitely choose the Peregrine if you are expecting wet conditions or if you are expecting a technical trail.
The Peregrine is heavier so if you are looking at an easier trail or perhaps a bit of speedwork, in that case I would go with the Wildhorse. For just about everything else, I’d choose the Peregrine.
• Hoka One One Challenger ATR 5: This is probably a matter of personal preference rather than anything else. If you cover the maximalist feel that Hoka One One delivers, go with the Challenger.
If that’s not your thing, the Wildhorse is among possible options. Keep in mind that the Challenger does not have a rockplate but is way more comfortable.
In the front, the toe bumper allows for adequate space for the toes to sit comfortably. It’s not an Altra, of course.
But if you are looking for spare room without going all the way to an Altra or even Topo, the Wildhorse could be a good fit.
Attached to the upper is the tongue, which, too is well-padded. These work well to protect the foot on basic trails.
More technical trails would require additional shoe protection or perhaps a pair of gaiters.
The heel is locked in place with a densely woven knit layer with cushioned pads, similar to what Nike has done with its Pegasus.
Underneath, the rockplate provides protection from jagged rocks you may encounter along the trail. I tested the rockplate on a moderately rocky trail and found the protection to be adequate.
When picking a shoe for a more technical trail, I’d pass on the Wildhorse for a shoe that featured stronger protection.
Let’s start up top with the upper, which has a comfortable mesh and packs in the skin overlays. These should provide extra durability.
There is sufficient mesh material to provide ventilation to keep the foot dry and sweat-free, as well as extra durability for extended use.
Most of the lugs are pointed outward. They work together to provide average grip on moderately technical trails.
The lugs appear solid and should hold together on the trail surfaces they were intended to be used on. A rock plate serves its purpose well.
Responsiveness & Speed
The Wildhorse is not built for speed. It is moderate, lacking a response when a runner wants to kick it up a notch. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.
I envision this shoe for most runners to be one for easy midweek runs. It would be fine for some strides or a series of hill repeats.
But if you feel the need for speed at the end of a race, or when trying to make up time, this is not the shoe for you.
Comfort and Fit
The WIldhorse is among the stiffer shoes I have tried. Even after 50 miles, it has yet to have that slipper-like feel that I prefer. The Kiger, for example, felt smooth from the first time I put it on.
The Phylon foam provides decent cushioning for a comfortable ride while also protecting the foot.
In the car world, the Wildhorse 5 would be the dependable and reliable vehicle that you can use to get around town, commute to work or drive the kids to their activities.
Think of it as a minivan or Subaru Outback.
The shoe is not sexy, nor is it one that will have you cruising down the freeway in style. The Wildhorse, however, is durable and will be reliable as you strap it on for the midweek commute, er trail run.
Nike’s minor update of the Wildhorse demonstrated improvements to the upper. Also worth noting is the improved toe bumper.
The refinements definitely show progress. If you are a fan of the Wildhorse 4, you will most certainly approve of the newest version.
The Wildhorse 5 is a solid shoe and meets the mark for pretty much all standard wish lists of running shoes. Again, it’s not speedy and is not ideal for wet or highly technical trails.
But it will protect your feet on the vast majority of trail runs.
On a final note, many runners find that they need to go a half size up for Nikes. I found that the Wildhorse 5 was a solid 10 (my normal size) so definitely try these on before purchasing if you are so inclined.
We purchased a pair of Nike Zoom Wildhorse 5 from running warehouse using our own money. This did not influence the outcome of this review, written after running more than 50 miles in them.