Published on: 07/22/2022
Last updated on: 01/07/2023
In a hurry? Go directly to the top 5.
In its 58-year-long career, Nike has been instrumental in evangelizing running worldwide. And while the iconic brand has been quite successful in streetwear and sneakers, it never has lost sight of running, sponsoring some of the most successful athletes like Eliud Kipchoge and Brigid Kosgei.
However, trail running has always been tricky for the American giant. We all know of classic running shoes like the Pegasus or the Vaporfly, but many trail runners would be at a loss if you asked about the Terra Kiger or the Wildhorse.
The most obvious reason is that trail is relatively new to the mainstream, and Nike is the embodiment of the mainstream. It’s become a household name over the years. As a result, despite Nike being born in Oregon, home to some of the most beautiful trails in the country, trail runners seem to have turned to alternative brands like Hoka, Altra, and Brooks.
Another thing is that Nike, at least until now, hadn’t shown much interest in outdoor sports. For example, a brand like Adidas has developed an extensive range of hiking boots with its Terrex collection and conquered the world of climbing with its Five Ten offshoot brand. Instead, Nike has been focusing on road and track running with the success we know.
Regardless of the reasons, one thing is for sure: things are A-changing in the Nike trail running shoe collection.
This article will review the 5 best Nike trail running shoes of 2023 and what you can expect from them to determine if they’re a good match for you.
Our Selection of the Best Nike Trail Shoes in 2023
|Shoe||Heel height||Drop||Weight||Cushioning||Traction||Best offer|
|Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 8||30 mm||6 mm||9.9 oz/280 g||Firm||★★★★||Check prices →|
|Nike Pegasus Trail 4||36 mm||10 mm||10.2 oz/289 g||Soft||★★||Check prices →|
|Nike Wildhorse 7||30 mm||8 mm||10.6 oz/301 g||Soft||★★★||Check prices →|
|Nike Juniper Trail||n/a||8 mm||9.0 oz/255 g||Balanced||★★||Check prices →|
|Nike Pegasus Trail 3 Gore-Tex||31 mm||10 mm||10.4 oz/296 g||Soft||★★||Check prices →|
1. Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger 8: Best Nike Trail Running Shoes for Technical Terrain
The Nike Terra Kiger emerged as a gritty trail running shoe with limited yet protective cushioning, aggressive lugs for optimal traction, ankle support, and a stunning design to reconcile trail lovers and fashionistas.
Jump forward to 2022. The Nike Terra Kiger 8 is still good-looking, but it now comes with a beefed-up cushioning (30 mm height in the heel) that’s firm, responsive, and smooth. The 4-mm lugs deliver improved traction while the engineered mesh secures the foot for your fastest downhill runs.
Surprisingly, the Terra Kiger 8 is relatively spacious to accommodate wider feet, especially in the toe box. A trip to the store is always a good idea, to be 100% sure, but you’ll have better chances with this model than with the next one on our list.
It’s our top pick at Runner’s Lab for mid to long distances when we venture on somewhat technical terrain like rocky trails. Would it work for an ultramarathon? All signs point to yes.
2. Nike Pegasus Trail 4: Best for Road-to-Trail
Introduced initially as the trail version of Nike’s most famous road running shoes (read the same with lugs), the Pegasus Trail branched out and took a life of its own. While the overall design reminds of the Pegasus road version, the React Pegasus Trail 4 packs much more under the hood to tackle rough terrain.
You should see the Pegasus Trail as road-to-trail hybrid shoes. Indeed, the fit is pretty comfortable, and the lugs are not so deep or aggressive, making the shoe suitable for running on the road.
It’s ideal for runners living in the city who start their runs on the road before venturing to dirt tracks. As such, they are a great alternative to the very popular Salomon Sense Ride.
Unlike the Terra Kiger we presented before, the Pegasus trail running shoes offer soft cushioning with the Nike React foam. The feel is plush and will delight runners who favor softer cushioning underfoot.
These are good running shoes for long daily runs, although we wouldn’t recommend them for very technical trails like wet rocks or mud.
3. Nike Wildhorse 7: Best for Soft Cushioning
The Nike Wildhorse 7 is between the Terra Kiger and the Pegasus Trail running shoes. Like its two colleagues above, the Wildhorse’s midsole also features this comfortable shock-absorbing foam material.
The result is a delightful soft ride on trails of easy to moderate difficulty. This trail shoe also boasts a rock plate but, to be honest, the protection it offers is not always optimal, which is why it’s best to stay clear of genuinely rocky terrain or paths with tree roots with this model.
The lugs of the rubber outsole are deeper than on the Pegasus Trail, making it a good choice if the latter doesn’t cut it for you in the mud.
Lastly, it’s one of the most beautiful Nike trail running shoes (just check out the yellow/purple colorway in the women’s collection).
4. Nike Juniper Trail: Best Budget Pick
The Nike Juniper shoe is the entry-level option in the Nike trail shoe range. However, it shouldn’t be dismissed as a cheap plug to target runners who don’t want to shed more than $100 for their trail running shoes.
The Juniper is a full-fledged trail shoe, but its tapered lugs and lack of rock plate make it primarily suitable for accessible trails.
On the plus side, the fit feels secure. Like the Wildhorse, the Juniper boasts an internal bootie that wraps snugly around your foot.
However, the cushioning is sparse, which may not be suitable for everyone once you start going over the 10-mile mark. It’s a matter of personal preference, of course, but it’s just not going to be as comfortable as the Pegasus Trail.
All in all, it’s a value-packed model that can be a good pick if you’re new to trail running and looking for an affordable option to get you started.
5. Nike Pegasus Trail 3 Gore-Tex: Best Trail Running Shoes for Wet Conditions
Gore-Tex is a reputed technology that gives waterproof protection to footwear and clothing. It can be a game-changer if you live in a region with wet weather and most of your trail runs take place on soaked trails.
However, waterproof shoes are not always the go-to option. First of all, they are heavier than their regular counterparts. Second, they’re more expensive (about $20-30).
That’s where the Peg Trail 3 Gore-Tex comes in. With the release of the 4th version in 2022, the 3rd has become more affordable.
It’s a bit heavier than the PT4, and the foothold is different as it uses Dynamic Band System instead of Flywire (not worse, just different). Look no further if you’re looking for a very good Nike trail running model to keep your feet dry while enjoying comfortable cushioning!
Nike Trail Running Team
To our knowledge, Sally McRae is Nike’s most prominent sponsored trail runner. She won the infamous Badwater 135 in 2021 and finished 11th at the Western States 100 in 2016.
What about Nike Hiking Shoes?
You can use most of the shoes in our selection above for easy hikes on dry terrain (pick the Pegasus Trail 3 with Gore-Tex protection if you need waterproofing). Because of their low cut, they’re also compatible with nordic walking.
However, we wouldn’t recommend them for mountain hiking on challenging trails, especially if you’re going to wear a heavy backpack. That’s because, despite the support they provide (especially the Nike Air Zoom Terra Kiger), they just don’t have the level of rigidity that you’d need. In this case, you would have to go for proper mid/high mountain boots.
Also, Nike does have shoes dedicated explicitly to hiking, but we haven’t enough experience with them to provide a verdict.
However, just like Nike trail running shoes, they look outstanding, making them ideal for people who want to embrace the Gorpcore lifestyle.
Nike trail running shoes are making strides, and we can’t wait to see what the Beaverton company has in store for us for 2023.
They are very nice options for runners who love Nike road running shoes and want to give a try to trail running while keeping all the features they’ve grown accustomed to, like React cushioning. Also, the sizing is the same. If you’re a size 9 in Nike running shoes, you can pick the same for your Nike trail running shoes.
What if we had to pick only one? That would be the Terra Kiger, of course!
The 2022 version is good enough to hold its weight against the heavy-hitter of the category like the Hoka Speedgoat 5 or the Saucony Peregrine 12. Need we say more?
Don’t miss our overall selection of the best trail running shoes of 2023!