The Zegamas are intended to be for those wanting to speed down easy to moderate dry trails.
The cushioning and midsole work well to provide decent push that will give runners in races up to and including a trail marathon the boost they need for a good performance. It can also be used by trail runners looking for an extra step during their midweek speed workouts.
The Zegama shoes do not handle water well, and are suspect over ultra distances. If you enjoy galloping through water crossings, running long events or playing in the mountains on technical trails, these are not for you.
Straight out of the box, the Nike Zegamas (11.3 ounces in a men’s size 10.5; 9.3 ounces for a women’s size 8) command attention with their vibrant color scheme. But serious trail runners don’t buy trail shoes based on color.
The Zegamas are appealing because of the ZoomX midfoam technology, protective skins and mesh at forefoot, and wider outsole that brings Hoka to mind.
Let’s be clear about the ZoomX foam in the Zegamas. It is not the same as what is found in the road super shoes. The road shoes have a plate that adds to the speed, which is not found in the trail shoe.
The ZoomX foam is known for its lightness, cushiony feeling and responsiveness. In the Zegamas, I found the shoes to be light and responsive but overall they are stiff. Most of that stiffness is back in the ankle where a gaiter helps prevent trail debris entering the back of the shoe. But it comes at a cost of being stiff and uncomfortable.
When compared with other Nike trail shoes like the Terra Kiger and the Wildhorse, the Zegama is wider and offers more cushioning.
As capable as the Zegamas are on flat, easy trails, they are not a solution to more highly technical — and especially — wet trails. The Zegama has a unique lug pattern for Nike, which works well to grip dry dirt trails and grassy cross-country courses.
However, if you add water — like while navigating rocks criss-crossing a creek — the Zegama is not to be trusted.
That mistrust boils down to the Zegama’s inability to provide secure footing on wet surfaces. That’s a pretty crucial “must” for trail shoes, regardless of whether they are intended for handling speed sections or gnarly terrain.
I found myself slipping more on wet rocks and other obstacles than with any of the dozens of trail shoes I have worn in the past decade or so of my trail running journey.
Other facets of the shoe do protect the runner’s feet. Among them: protective skins across the toes; a firmer outsole carrier that protects the foam and the aforementioned ankle gaiter.
The back half, including the gaiter and enormous stack, remind me of the Wildhorse. Like that other Nike model, these shoes appear to be pretty durable.
After knocking out my 50 miles of testing, the shoes did not display any concerning signs of wear.
It is worth noting, however, that I kept those half-dozen or so runs to easy to moderate terrain. That’s what the Zegama can handle. If you decide to bring these out to more rugged terrain, expect to see the issues related to durability arise more quickly.
The Zegama is built for speed. Period.
I tested it out on mostly flat trails, including the local high school cross-country course. Under dry conditions, the shoes responded quickly, allowed me to maintain if not speed up around curvy sections and overall held their own against other trail shoes built for speed.
The comfort, cushioning and ZoomX technology all work well to deliver on the quickness promises from Nike.
Think of the Zegama as wearing tight skinny jeans, with a fidgety belt and a flowing Hawaiian shirt. The back of the shoe grips you tightly, much like skinny jeans. The Zegama’s tight fit is to keep the heel secure and protect the foot from trail debris.
Meanwhile, up front, the mesh and cushioning combine for a more comfortable feeling with good vibes. That said, the protection up front is not to be dismissed. It will work just fine.
And the belt? That’s like the middle of the shoe where the laces come together. It may take some finagling to get the laces properly set, much like trying to find the best fit between two belt holes. Once you find that sweet spot on the shoe, the laces will secure the foot without taking away any comfort. You may need to try removing the laces from the top eyelet.
There is a lot to like about the Nike ZoomX Zegama. It definitely will help the runner on mild to moderate dry trails. If that is your jam or sounds like a race you are training for, the Zegama would be a solid option.
But for those who seek more challenging terrain, or perhaps have had heel issues in the past, the Zegamas might not be the best option.
It will be interesting to see Nike’s future versions of the Zegama to see if they can properly address the issues cited here. If not there are other options for those seeking a fast trail shoe. Among the comparable ones:
Nike Terra Kiger 8: Its Nike brethren, the Kiger, is a more nimble, lower stack, slightly more technical cousin of the Zegama. The edges in cushioning go to the Zegama but I would opt for the Kiger if my goal were to go fast on easy to moderate trails for a marathon distance or less.
Hoka Torrent 2: Somehow Nike out-cushioned Hoka in this comparison.
However, the Torrent is noticeably lighter, much more nimble and just as speedy.
This is a tougher call for me. It would depend on other details like the actual race or training run distance, terrain and expectations of necessary speed. Both should be able to handle similar situations while giving the runner a good boost.