Another great fitting shoe, let down by a weak upper
So yet again I come to review a shoe that has blown before I’ve even put 100 miles on them. Now okay, I haven’t been gentle with them, no not one bit, I’ve treated them mean and kept them.. err.. dirty. In their first week of use they were thrown at an extremely tough trail race – slick with mud and slippery steep grass – it was raining, it was windy, I came across one bank of mud and after reaching half way up I simply slid back to the bottom. If the devil were to devise a trail course it would have been easier. Barkley Marathons would have been easier, The MDS a picnic! (okay you can see I’m slightly exaggerating this now). I leaned a very important thing about my Nikes – they are not a mud running shoe. Simply and utterly useless in mud. The grip is potentially the worst of any trail shoe I’ve ever run in.
But that’s not to say I don’t like this shoe. No, that’s not where I’m going with this… This shoe is excellent, in the terrain that its designed for. You can imagine them can’t you, those Southern Californian Nike execs, relaxing by the pool with their cocktails dreaming up the next big shoe offering, of course when they look to their mountains they see dry, dusty open trails. And on that sort of surface these shoes flipping well perform. The Wildhorses are the king of dry rock, dry grass, dry mud, dry forest trail, dry hard park and dry road. But just like a Gremlin – don’t get ’em wet… Or…err… feed them after midnight.
On dry terrain I simply love them and I’ll explain now the two best things that this shoe has to offer…
The two best things about the Wildhorses…
Number 1. It’s the fit – simply sublime. It’s the kind of fit I like, a foot wrapping non-restrictive bear hug of a fit. They lace up really well and feel slipper like if you like, the shoe just disappears and becomes an extension of your foot – a non grippy extension, but an extension nonetheless. After a bit of fumbling around I realised that I preferred it true to size with the insole removed – with the insole left in the shoe is less stable off trail (that’s dry off trail, I’ll hasten to add). My biggest recommendation about getting the fit right is to remove the insole. (And if you want to call an insole a sockliner that’s fine too, just take it out).
Number 2. The downhill prowess. These will get you running down hill like a monster. You’ll be going so fast that the only thing any innocent bystander will be aware of is the rush of air and a blur as you hurtle past. You’ll have to most probably get a cape and a mask to go with these puppies, you are going to set records, people will adore you and clamor for your autograph. I love how they feel downhill. This is probably due to the way that there is practically no tread on the heel, it’s the “track spike” feel that Nike are touting. And I think it’s great… As long as you are running on dry trail. You’ll be up on your toes screaming, “come on give me some more!” It’s truly awesome. I don’t know how it works but it’s got me thinking that I might belt sand the heel of my Roclites a little bit.
So those are the major things I love about these 4mm drop, semi-minimalist shoes. The disappointing things as I’ve mentioned earlier are that these are not at all suited to running in mud, or in the wet although they are okay on routes which have the odd stream crossing, the odd wet rock etc. But if you have an inkling that your route is going to be slick, choose another shoe. The only other bad thing is the strength of the upper. Again I buy an un-randed shoe, thinking that it’ll be okay. It’s not okay. Without a rand or at least an overlay the upper to midsole join is compromised. Anyone running predominately climbs and descents will rip these shoes. It’s just a matter of time. I was unlucky to have them blow within 100 miles, although the rip has not gone all the way through yet, it’s just the outer layer and will be easily repaired. If you don’t like the idea of repairing shoes, chose something else. (You can read my post about the importance of randing here). So the negatives are poor traction on anything other than dry trails and an upper that will not put up with the rigours and abuse of proper trail and mountain running.
Overall I find myself forgiving these shoes for their short comings because it’s hard for me to really think of anything that I like better in the fit and feel department. They are great and I find myself reaching for them more often than not, even when I know that the ground will be a bit slippery I still want to run in them as they are simply a fun pair of shoes to have on your feet!
How to make a good shoe better
Now If I was one of those cocktail sipping Nike execs, dreaming up how to move this shoe forward for in it’s next generation, I’d add an upper overlay or rand, and I’d increase the bite of the lugs. I think they should take a cue from Salomon and offer one version as a soft ground specialist and another pointed more directly toward the hardpack. As it stands at the moment the two trail offerings from Nike are far too indistinguishable. The Wildhorse’s cousin Keiger offers a tighter race fit (not necessary in my opinion) and a lighter upper (even more likely to break) and has an extra zoom air cushion unit in the forefoot (why?) The sole unit is practically identical. What they should do is make the Wildhorse the luggier option, improving the size and depth of the grip, but still keeping the idea of having more of the aggressive tread up front and a flatter heel – I think this works well. I’m looking forward to seeing the next offering.
So Batman… What’s the verdict…