Anyone looking for a softer, more cushioned trail shoe that plans to log a higher volume of miles should consider these shoes. Specifically, on easy to moderately difficult trails.
Runners that desire a light, low profile trail shoe will not find those features in the Wildhorse 8. Additionally, runners that traverse highly technical terrain should look for a different option.
Nike’s new look Wildhorse delivers on comfort and support. This shoe may not break any speed records, but they will go as far as runners want to take them.
Improvements have been made to the outsole and traction is better than before.
Deep, chevron patterned lugs provide better overall traction on most trail conditions. Although, they still have some ground to make up on grip in wet conditions.
The Wildhorse received a fresh makeover in the 8th version. Visually, there’s really no resemblance to the previous model.
Actually, they look more like the first few models, when this shoe was in its infancy.
The Wildhorse 8 brings a “cool” factor with it. Topography patterns contour the midsole and on a patch stitched around the heel.
For those seeking some extra motivation, 50K, 50MI, 100K and 100MI checkboxes are printed along the outside of the heel as well.
Comfort is by far the best feature about this shoe. My feet sunk into the midsole and heel with an almost memory-foam like feel. I’ve worn these shoes all day for more than just trail runs, and I absolutely love them. The React midsole is quite forgiving and there’s plenty of it to keep you going on lengthy runs. Nike increased the heel and forefoot stack height by 5.5 millimeters from the Wildhorse 7.
Forefoot stack is now 27.5mm followed by heel stack of 35.5mm which results in the same 8mm drop as its predecessor. Interestingly, the 8s feel more like a zero-drop shoe because of the ultra-soft cushioning in the heel.
For all that comfort you will to pay the price in weight. Size 9 men’s come in at 11.4 oz which is one of the heavier trail shoes on the market today. Having said that, I did not notice a big difference in dry conditions.
My first run consisted of mostly packed dirt and a few technical rocky sections. Transitioning from forefoot striking to push off was smooth and felt effortless at a steady pace. Conditions were dry which resulted in little to no issue with traction.
I also took the Wildhorse 8s for a ride in the rain to see how they’d perform. The results weren’t great. Two areas where this shoe falls short are wet traction and drainage. The soles were quite slippery when traversing over rocks and boulders. Also, there was a noticeable weight gain once the shoes took on water. They seemed to soak up every oz of water that I encountered. I would not recommend these shoes to runners in regions with overly wet conditions.
Another weakness of this shoe is steep terrain. I noticed a lack of responsiveness when navigating downhill over sections of rocks and loose dirt. Because of the soft midsole, they felt sluggish, and it took extra effort to land where I wanted. For runners that run in areas with a lot of elevation, I would recommend Hoka’s Speedgoat 5 instead.
The Wildhorse 8 has a few key features that provide suitable protection for almost any trail.
As with most trail shoes nowadays, the Wildhorse 8 utilizes a protective toe box overlay. This guards the two-layer mesh upper from rips in high impact areas.
The midsole helps protect your feet in two main ways. A forefoot rock plate disperses impact across a larger area and the added React foam gives your foot a bit of extra cushion for those grueling miles.
Finally, the beefy, full-length rubber sole acts as a barrier against pointed rocks, broken sticks and whatever else you might encounter on the trail.
Runners that choose the Wildhorse 8 should have little concerns about how they will hold up in longer races and even ultra-marathons.
On many of my runs, I’ve tried to target obstacles instead of avoiding them. My goal was to abuse the shoe more than most runners would. There are very few if any blemishes on the upper and midsole. The rugged outsole has a small amount of wear which is to be expected on trail shoes. But nothing that leads me to believe the shoe is degrading prematurely.
Nike’s React midsole seems to be key in keeping the Wildhorse in the race for the long haul. The material is flexible and highly resilient so it can absorb the abuse of trails without showing normal wear and tear.
EDIT: Shortly after completing this review, a hole developed on the right shoe. Specifically, on the inner layer of the mesh upper around my big toe. At this point, I have about 70 miles on this the Wildhorse 8.
It’s disappointing to see the upper material wearing down already and I certainly expected it to hold up much longer than this. Some runners will expect to get a few hundred miles out of their trail shoes, which seems unlikely from what I’ve witnessed.
Make no mistake, the Wildhorse 8 is not a thoroughbred racehorse. If you’re looking for a speedy shoe, check out the nimble and low-profile Terra Kiger 9, also made by Nike.
The Wildhorse thrives at steady to moderate paces for long distances. Nike recommends them to be used for “tough trail runs, the ones with limitless miles and gnarly terrain that are too enticing to turn down.”
Although most runs were at easier paces, I did test them at faster paces. It took a fair amount of effect to pick up the speed and remain running at a faster pace.
This is mostly due to the pillow soft cushioning. Stability became an issue at faster paces as well.
I tested the shoes out on sandy trails and was quite pleased with how they handled the sand and loose gravel. A wider footprint prevented me from sinking in when pushing off or landing. I found that I exerted less energy than normal on sandy trails because of this.
I’m a big fan of how Nike constructed the upper forefoot saddle and lacing system in the Wildhorse 8. There is roominess throughout the upper, yet the saddle secures your forefoot from any major movements.
The tongue and saddle are a single piece of fabric so there’s no need to worry about the tongue sliding down or to the side.
Nike uses a lacing system they call Dynamic Fit. Laminated fabric runs the length of the tongue which the laces weave through. Tightening this shoe is easy and even throughout the foot. Once I laced them up, they were snug for the entire run. No need to stop and adjust or retighten.
The React midsole is a highly flexible material, so the shoes really adapted to my stride right out of the gate. Due to this and the lacing system, I was able to get a solid heel lock each time.
It would be hard for me to name a shoe I’ve worn that’s more comfortable than the Wildhorse 8.
This shoe will handle most trails that you throw at it. Although I would look for alternatives if you plan on running trails with extreme elevation, are highly rocky or in commonly wet conditions.
The resilience of the React midsole will keep you on trails longer and for more miles. Whether you’re new to trail running or an experienced long-distance runner, the Wildhorse 8 should be a shoe you strongly consider.
As much as I enjoyed the Wildhorse 8, I might advise serious trail runners to consider the Hoka One One Speedgoat 5 or Salomon Ultra Glide 2, both of which have a more durable upper that will last longer. Hopefully Nike will improve on this in the next update.