Our verdict

In our evaluations, the Nike Zoom Victory Waffle 5 emerged as an exceptional choice for cross-country enthusiasts, offering a blend of lightweight agility and comfort, with the added benefit of water resistance for wet conditions. However, we found its energy return to be less than what we hoped, suggesting that, although it performs admirably across many aspects, it may not fully meet the demands of runners who prioritize the ultimate performance for their races.

Pros

  • Some premium materials
  • Ultra-light design
  • Excels on soft grass
  • Lively forefoot
  • Exceptional ground sensation
  • Great value
  • Extreme agility

Cons

  • Limited energy return
  • Durability concerns
  • Requires break-in time

Audience verdict

70
Superb!
  • Top 1% most popular tracking shoes

Who should buy

We highly recommend the Nike Zoom Victory Waffle 5 for:

  • Newcomers to cross-country running seeking a high-quality yet affordable shoe to kickstart their journey.
  • Enthusiasts of ultra-lightweight spikes in search of a top-notch cross-country racer that doesn't compromise on speed or agility.
  • For runners in countries where spikes are prohibited in cross-country races and need a reliable shoe with excellent grip.

Nike Zoom Victory Waffle 5

Who should NOT buy

If you're considering this shoe for track use and just occasional cross-country races, we believe there are better, equally affordable options. The Adidas Sprintstar, for instance, offers a more versatile performance profile that might better meet the needs of athletes who toggle between track and cross-country environments.

Nike Zoom Victory Waffle 5

Breathability

The water-resistant upper of the Zoom Victory Waffle 5 is jaw-dropping in its thinness, making one think it would be highly breathable. However, our findings revealed its airflow is only average, scoring a 3/5.

Our initial tests in the lab confirmed this. When we activated our smoke-pumping machine, we discovered that the upper wasn't as ventilated as it appeared. This underscores the value of this test. Relying solely on a light test, given the material's thinness, would have misleadingly suggested higher breathability. 

Despite the presence of some decent gaps, the smoke stayed mostly trapped inside. We think this actually makes perfect sense for this shoe, as it prevents mud, water and debris from getting in—a crucial feature for XC races. These events, often held in winter, don't typically require an airy upper at all.

Nike Zoom Victory Waffle 5 Microscope

The Vaporweave technology—identical to that used in the Nike Ultrafly—attracts mixed feelings among runners, yet gained popularity with the Vaporfly Next%. The tiny gaps prevent water from leaking inside the shoe.

Nike Zoom Victory Waffle 5 pattern upper

For fans of this technology, this cross-country shoe is bound to provide a familiar and enjoyable experience.

Test results
Zoom Victory Waffle 5 3
Average 3.6
Compared to 9 cross country shoes
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Durability

Toebox durability

We decided to test the durability of the Vaporweave upper, so we brought out the Dremel for the first time, setting it to 5K RPM and applying 3.2N of force—our standard procedure for all shoes.

Sadly, the razor-thin Vaporweave upper couldn't withstand the test. The extent of the damage was shocking, earning a disappointing 1/5 on our durability scale.

Nike Zoom Victory Waffle 5 Toebox durability
Test results
Zoom Victory Waffle 5 1
Average 2.9
Compared to 8 cross country shoes
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Heel padding durability

The heel padding showcases decent durability, far surpassing what we discovered in the toebox—an essential feature for a cross-country shoe due to the frequent turns and accelerations.

Following our thorough second Dremel evaluation in the lab, we awarded it a 3/5 score.

Nike Zoom Victory Waffle 5 Heel padding durability
Test results
Zoom Victory Waffle 5 3
Average 4
Compared to 8 cross country shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel padding durability
5

Outsole durability

In our final Dremel test with the Waffle 5, we focused on the outsole's durability. 

After subjecting it to the tool, we observed a 1.7-mm indentation, effectively smoothing out the lug. This result is quite positive, considering the rigorous nature of the Dremel test, especially on mini-lugs like these.

Nike Zoom Victory Waffle 5 Outsole durability
Test results
Zoom Victory Waffle 5 1.7 mm

Outsole thickness

The outsole stands out as a crucial component of any cross-country shoe. 

Nike Zoom Victory Waffle 5 outsole

True to its name, the Zoom Victory Waffle 5 boasts the iconic waffle-style outsole, enhanced with small, wedge-shaped lugs designed to prevent mud from getting trapped. Our measurements revealed that the outsole thickness is 1.7 mm. We will cover the lugs later.

Nike Zoom Victory Waffle 5 Outsole thickness
Test results
Zoom Victory Waffle 5 1.6 mm
Average 3.1 mm
Compared to 9 cross country shoes
Number of shoes
1.6 mm
Outsole thickness
6.4 mm

Outsole hardness

We then used the Shore C durometer to assess the rubber's hardness and discovered it's exceptionally soft, registering at just 72.8 HC.

This softness significantly contributes to the Waffle 5's great grip and also explains why the lug was completely removed during the Dremel test.

Nike Zoom Victory Waffle 5 Outsole hardness
Test results
Zoom Victory Waffle 5 72.8 HC
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.

Cushioning

Heel stack

The heel height measured a mere 15.8 mm, reminiscent of a track spike, positioning it notably close to the ground for improved agility.

Nike Zoom Victory Waffle 5 Heel stack
Test results
Zoom Victory Waffle 5 15.8 mm
Average 13.9 mm
Compared to 9 cross country shoes
Number of shoes
10.4 mm
Heel stack
19.8 mm

Forefoot stack

The forefoot maintains a similar low profile, measuring at just 14.2 mm according to our digital calipers. This design is ideal for a cross-country shoe, aimed at navigating muddy corners swiftly. A bulky foam layer underfoot would only hinder your times.

In fact, many runners prefer to compete in cross-country races barefoot, highlighting the significance of staying close to the ground.

Nike Zoom Victory Waffle 5 Forefoot stack
Test results
Zoom Victory Waffle 5 14.2 mm
Average 13.2 mm
Compared to 9 cross country shoes
Number of shoes
8.6 mm
Forefoot stack
17.8 mm

Drop

The gap between the two earlier measurements results in a 1.6-mm heel-to-toe drop, which is quite typical for this category of footwear, aligning perfectly with the expectations for cross-country shoes designed for agility and close ground contact.

For those eager to embark on their cross-country journey, particularly if you're new to low-drop shoes, we strongly advise beginning your training with a gradual transition. Starting with zero-drop shoes, such as those offered by Altra, can be a wise move.

This approach allows your calves and Achilles tendon to adapt progressively to the reduced drop, minimizing the risk of discomfort or injury as you adjust to the lower offset.

Nike Zoom Victory Waffle 5 Drop
Test results
Zoom Victory Waffle 5 1.6 mm
Average 0.7 mm
Compared to 9 cross country shoes
Number of shoes
-5.8 mm
Drop
4.1 mm

Midsole softness

Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.

The midsole of the Victory Waffle 5 features Nike's Cushlon foam, and our testing clocked its softness at 30.3 HA. This provides a firm feel underfoot—a desirable attribute for cross-country running, ensuring stability and responsiveness on uneven terrains.

Given the shoe's affordable price point, expectations for the midsole material were set accordingly in our lab. We knew Nike was going to use EVA foam, which is standard at this price range, ruling out the possibility of the more premium, Pebax-based ZoomX foam.

Nike Zoom Victory Waffle 5 Midsole softness
Test results
Zoom Victory Waffle 5 30.3 HA
Average 26.7 HA
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 6 cross country shoes
Number of shoes
20.1 HA
Midsole softness (soft to firm)
30.3 HA

Insole thickness

We then inspected the insole, which, at 3.4 mm, offers an added layer of cushioning that is noticeably felt.

Since it's softer than the midsole, it significantly enhances comfort.

Nike Zoom Victory Waffle 5 Insole thickness
Test results
Zoom Victory Waffle 5 3.4 mm
Average 3.0 mm
Compared to 9 cross country shoes
Number of shoes
1.8 mm
Insole thickness
3.9 mm

Flexibility

Stiffness

Testing the stiffness is crucial for a cross-country shoe, where agility plays a pivotal role. 

We were thrilled to find that our 90-degree bend test yielded an impressively low result of just 10.9N. This outstanding outcome highlights the Zoom Victory Waffle 5's exceptional agility, ensuring it can effortlessly navigate rolling hills and sharp corners.

Test results
Zoom Victory Waffle 5 10.9N
Average 29.1N
We use an average of four tests. The video shows one of those tests.
Compared to 9 cross country shoes
Number of shoes
10.9N
Stiffness
66.6N

Stability

Torsional rigidity

Testing not just the longitudinal stiffness but also the torsional rigidity is crucial.

And here, this Nike exceeded our expectations by bending with remarkable ease. We were impressed enough to give it a 1/5 score for its exceptional flexibility—truly fantastic.

Test results
Zoom Victory Waffle 5 1
Average 2.8
Compared to 9 cross country shoes
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

When we examined the heel counter, we discovered it was missing, leading to an upper that collapses and offers no support, earning another 1/5.

This feature is beneficial for cross-country races, although some runners might prefer a touch of stiffness in this area.

Test results
Zoom Victory Waffle 5 1
Average 1.7
Compared to 9 cross country shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

Shifting our focus to the shoe's dimensions, we're pleased to note its relatively narrow build, which is advantageous for cross-country running where agility is key. A wider design could hinder nimbleness, which is not ideal for XC.

Our initial measurement at the forefoot's widest point registered a modest 91.5 mm.

Nike Zoom Victory Waffle 5 Midsole width in the forefoot
Test results
Zoom Victory Waffle 5 91.5 mm
Average 92.8 mm
Compared to 9 cross country shoes
Number of shoes
87.6 mm
Midsole width in the forefoot
99.6 mm

Midsole width in the heel

The heel is also narrow when compared to road running shoes, measuring just 60.5 mm.

However, given its almost zero-drop design, which promotes a forefoot strike, especially at high speeds, we anticipate that very few runners will actually land on the heel with this shoe.

Nike Zoom Victory Waffle 5 Midsole width in the heel
Test results
Zoom Victory Waffle 5 60.5 mm
Average 59.7 mm
Compared to 9 cross country shoes
Number of shoes
54.0 mm
Midsole width in the heel
67.9 mm

Size and fit

Toebox width at the widest part

In the toebox, Nike stretched the boundaries to maximize width on such a narrow platform. Remarkably, at 88.4 mm, it's just a tad narrower than the midsole it rests on!

Nike Zoom Victory Waffle 5 upper

We also noted it still provides the signature super-snug fit characteristic of spikes and cross-country shoes.

Nike Zoom Victory Waffle 5 Toebox width at the widest part
Test results
Zoom Victory Waffle 5 88.4 mm
Average 87.9 mm
Compared to 9 cross country shoes
Number of shoes
81.9 mm
Toebox width at the widest part
96.4 mm

Toebox width at the big toe

The big toe area offers ample space, featuring a nicely rounded shape that isn't overly tapered at 74.6 mm. We were particularly fond of this design for its accommodating and comfortable fit.

Nike Zoom Victory Waffle 5 Toebox width at the big toe
Test results
Zoom Victory Waffle 5 74.6 mm
Average 73.1 mm
Compared to 8 cross country shoes
Number of shoes
68.3 mm
Toebox width at the big toe
77.1 mm

Comfort

Tongue padding

The tongue embodies the essence of a racing flat designed for speed. We clocked its thickness at a mere 0.4 mm, practically paper-thin.

Nike Zoom Victory Waffle 5 tongue

Therefore, runners who typically face discomfort in the instep area should tread lightly and exercise caution when lacing up the Zoom Victory Waffle 5.

Nike Zoom Victory Waffle 5 Tongue padding
Test results
Zoom Victory Waffle 5 0.4 mm
Average 3.0 mm
Compared to 9 cross country shoes
Number of shoes
0.4 mm
Tongue padding
7.5 mm

Heel tab

The shoe's heel boasts a cool and convenient finger loop tab.

Nike Zoom Victory Waffle 5 Heel tab
Test results
Zoom Victory Waffle 5 Finger loop

Weight

Lastly, the weight truly impressed us.

Discovering the shoe tipped the scales at a mere 4.6 oz confirmed our initial impression during testing—it felt unbelievably light!

Nike Zoom Victory Waffle 5 Weight
Test results
Zoom Victory Waffle 5 4.59 oz (130g)
Average 5.57 oz (158g)
Compared to 9 cross country shoes
Number of shoes
4.59 oz (130g)
Weight
6.46 oz (183g)