Article by Jeremy Marie
NIke Zegama Trail (160$/160€)
NIke Zegama Trail (160$/160€)
After some teasing, and appearances on social media, Nike finally revealed its latest trail shoe, the long-distance oriented Zegama Trail.
One might question the choice of “Zegama” for the name for a long-distance focused shoe, as this famous race is “only” a 42 kms trail with 2900+ meters of climbing, but it’s one the biggest and hottest event amongst the Skyrunning Series…”Zegama is Zegama” they say.
This is the first foray of the mighty ZoomX foam to the trails, and considering how shoes equipped with this midsole rock the road running world, this grand premiere was clearly awaited.
I was pretty interested to see how Nike could tweak its bouncy, energetic foam to make it work on uneven grounds, rocks, steep descents, especially so without a plate to stabilize it. It turns out that they managed to come out with something quite interesting.
Weight: Men’s 10.22oz / 290g (US9.5),
sample (left/right): 11.18/11.28oz, 320g/317g (10.5US, 44.5 EU)
Stack: 37mm heel, 33mm forefoot, 4mm drop
Catalog/Specs HERE via our partner Top4 Running
Jeremy MARIE, French, 40y/o. Running since 2013 and quickly transitioned to trails, focused on ultras since 2015 : TDS, Maxi-Race, “100 miles du Sud”, 90kms du Mt Blanc, GRP 120kms, Some shorter mellow races (Saintelyon 45kms, Ecotrail Paris 45kms…) with always in the mix road and flat running, but not many road races. Recovery/easy runs ~4’45/km – 4’30/km. He has an un-official marathon PR of 2h54 (solo) and 10K of 36’25. He does few timed road races.
First impressions, Fit, Upper
As it’s usually the case with Nike shoes, the Zegama is a looker. Be it the colors, the general design, the branding, the Zegama has a lot of appeal.
Despite looking heavy with its big midsole, the Zegama ends up weighing just a hair more than the Terra Kiger 8, at an acceptable ~317g for what is a much more cushioned and protective ride. And as in the road ZoomX shoes we know how lightweight the foam is compared to EVA and more conventional blends.
The shoe looks like it has borrowed the rear part of the Wildhorse with the ankle collar bringing softness and annihilating any rubbing risk, as well as providing some protection from debris. The collar looks like a mini-gaiter, and is even reminiscent of the Salomon S/Lab Ultra 3, as well as more and more shoes nowadays.
There’s a rigid heel counter going up to the gaiter, and the heel hold is very secure, thanks to the combined effect of the sock-like collar and generous padding.
The heel loop is very handy, and with the stretch of the collar it allows for a very easy entry. Way easier than on a S/Lab Pulsar, another shoe using this kind of heel collar.
Hop to the midfoot and the front (i.e the dark green and blue parts of the shoe) and you feel like you have a Terra Kiger 8 in your hands.
The same lacing eyelets, freed from the rest of the upper allowing for a nice, never constricting midfoot hold, the same gusseted protective thin tongue, and a light breathable mesh offering some room for the toes at the front. And just like the Terra Kiger, an inner sleeve under the thin engineered mesh limits debris entrance.
The protective toe cap is suitably large and covers the toes up to the base of the toe nails.
It’s very soft and pliable, so I won’t rely too much on it to save my nails in case of an impact.
The comfort when stepping in the shoe is remarkable. It’s soft, stretchy, foot-conforming and gives a good first feeling on how the shoe would manage long hours on the trails.
In the same fashion as the Kiger 8, the Zegama is very dependent on the lacing to ensure a secure midfoot hold. I had to take some time during my first outings to tweak the laces.
Sometimes too tight, or too loose, the sweet spot of secure foot-hold and comfort was tricky to find.
Thanks to my experience with the Kiger, I knew that loosening the laces was the way to go: the upper is sufficiently adjusted and solid to play its role without relying on tight laces.
This is a good thing, considering the high stack of the shoes: it guarantees minimal foot movement on that high platform, helped by the high side walls especially on the medial side.
As I said in my first impression article, during my first run I removed the laces from the top eyelet. This way, only four eyelets (the “loop” like ones) are used, but I found this to work very well for my preferences.
I continued to alternate between this lacing and using the top eyelet, but have had a hard time finding any advantage doing so: my feet are not more securely held, and I feel a bit too much laces pressure.
The toe box is really accommodating, and I feel it’s the same width as the Kiger, but is probably a bit higher, resulting in more volume. Despite wearing mid-weight socks I still had room at the front of the shoe.
I’ve been able to put the breathability of the mesh to the test during my vacation in Crete, with some 35°C / 95F runs in humidity and couldn’t fault it. I never had hot feet, and moisture wicks quickly. Even after a mid-run rain shower, water has never been an issue and was quickly expelled.
The star of the show is the thick ZoomX slab, pushing the stack height up to 37mm at the heel with a 4mm drop.
Nike does not give lots of details on the midsole construction, but it looks like a thin carrier, or protective skin has been added on the external parts of the midsole (as in the ZoomX road shoes) in order to contain the soft ZoomX in high impact zones: the green parts visible at the heel and the forefoot. I cannot really see a clear difference except for the color, being by feel while pressing on it and the exposed ZoomX parts. And the visible wrinkles that’s have started to appear indicate that this is pure ZoomX. The only difference is at the base of the front green part, where the outsole just slightly comes over the midsole forming a very minimal carrier.
The ZoomX used in the Zegama is a different flavor than the one used in its road counterparts.
Is it as pillowy, soft, bouncy and energetic as the Vaporfly ZoomX? No, and the lack of a plate also plays its role here. But would you want this kind of behavior for a trail shoe? I think the answer is also a no.
The adjustments made to the ZoomX in the Zegama clearly mute its magic, but it makes it way more suitable for running on trails, uneven ground, and with unaligned footstrikes.
The core character of the ZoomX is still here: the midsole compresses nicely, providing an effective protection from the ground and shock while bombing downhill, and has a very controlled bounce after footstrike.
It makes me think of a bit more dense, bouncier and protective Hoka Torrent, a shoe that I enjoyed a lot at the time.
A thin (yellow) segmented rock plate can be seen through the outsole’s holes.
It brings just a tad more structure to the forefoot, but it’s really more of a thin protective skin than a real rock plate.
An all new lug pattern has been developed for the Zegama. Measuring around 4-5mm their multi-directional shapes proved to be very effective on dirt, loose, soft or dry terrain.
The center chevrons at the front of the shoes work nicely on uphills, and the inverted ones at the heel are as effective on downhills.
On dry rock, the compound grips very well, something that was already noticeable in the Terra Kiger 8.
The midfoot part of the outsole is exposed, but doesn’t have any sign of wear after almost 100kms: this part never really touches the ground being a bit recessed compared to the heel and forefoot.
Alas, just like the Terra Kiger 8, the Zegama are one of the slipperiest trail shoes I’ve ever run. Put the tiniest amount of wet on rocks, asphalt, roots and it’s Holiday on Ice under your feet.
I can’t understand how Nike cannot listen to endless feedback on the wet grip of their trail shoes and for many years now, and come up with a decent compound for their outsoles.
Just hope for an absence of rain during your next ultra if you’re going with the Zegama…
My first impressions on the ride of the Zegama were confirmed by the subsequent runs in them.
The shoe is bouncy, but not too much so, keeping a predictable behavior that is dense, protective, and stable, thanks to the wide platform (wider than the Kiger), and which is a must for such a high stacked shoe at 37mm at the heel and 33mm at the forefoot.
For sure on most rolling terrain the shoe really shines. It flows easily thanks to some flexibility upfront, and this is where the ZoomX can best express its qualities.
Sure it’s not a nimble shoe, but it’s not designed as a Skyrunning light fast racer. The Zegama is all about leg protection, rapidly cruising on moderately technical and mellow trails during longer events. And it excels at this The ride is smooth, easy-rolling and entices going long.
Of course, given the quality of the midsole, the foothold and the stability of the shoe, downhills are a blast with the Zegama. I never feared rolling an ankle or losing control despite the bounce and the stack.
The Zegama is a hit for me , and despite me being always more inclined towards lower stacked trail shoes. The shoe weighs almost the same as the Kiger 8 while offering much more cushioning, an equal foothold and welcome stability. I can clearly see bringing the shoe to 100K races and with no hesitation.
It excels on mellow trails and rollers where the finely tuned ZoomX midsole brings its qualities to the trails: bounce, protection and energy return, but it’s far from being limited to that. Except for very mountainous, technical terrain, the Zegama works well everywhere. You just have to get used to the behavior of the midsole.
On road stretches, despite the lugs, the shoe works properly thanks to its bouncy nature. It’s never harsh, the thick midsole giving loads of comfort and still working very naturally – remember that the shoe stays quite flexible.
The Zegama could have been even better if the outsole was finally at least acceptable on wet surfaces.
Jeremy’s score: 9.17 /10
Ride: 9.5 Fit : 9.5 Value: 9 Style: 9 Traction 8 Rock protection 9
Nike Terra Kiger 8 (RTR Review)
Weighing the same, the Kiger can be seen as the nimble, low stack, technical cousin of the Zegama. It all goes down to preferences, but the Zegama is much more cushioned, just a bit less agile, has better grip on everything dry, and can handle longer distances.
Hoka Torrent 2 (RTR review)
A very close feeling shoe for me, the Torrent was a shoe I appreciated a lot at the time.
The Zegama is more cushioned, and in a bit more dense way, is more stable despite the higher stack and its fit is way more secure.
Of course the Torrent was around 60g lighter for my US10.5 and this, combined with the stack, makes it way more nimble and agile no matter the terrain. Traction in the Torrent is way better – but the outsole durability was really poor: mine wore out after 400kms – as did the mesh.
If going longer than 50-80km, I think the Zegama is a safer bet given its protection, but what you gain on this front, you lose on nimbleness and agility.
This free sample has been provided by Top4 running and Nike for review purposes.
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Nike Trail Zegama available now in Europe
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Nike Trail ZoomX Zegama available now in the US
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