Our verdict

With its peak effectiveness in and around water, the ACG Watercat+ from Nike has the most appropriate of names. We felt 100% safe stepping on wet rocks, thanks to its phenomenal traction. Also, the way it cuts through watery environments is just amazing. It's also worth noting that, design-wise, we found this outdoor shoe just a pure head-turner (if not a bit quirky).

Pros

  • Outstanding water drainage
  • Immensely breathable
  • Excellent abrasion resistance
  • Very light on foot
  • Amazingly grippy on wet
  • Very grounded platform
  • Bends along with the foot
  • Adaptable fit with a roomy toebox
  • Easy on-and-off
  • Comfy in-shoe feel
  • Bold aesthetics

Cons

  • No arch or ankle support
  • Catches debris and small pebbles easily

Audience verdict

84
Good!

Who should NOT buy

If you have overpronation, flat feet, plantar fasciitis, or any other foot condition that requires supportive footwear, it's better to avoid the Nike ACG Watrcat+. You will find the KEEN Newport H2 to be a more stable and supportive option. But granted, not as pretty.

If you want something that will keep your feet warm, check the Fivefingers V-Trek out.

Nike ACG Watercat+ lab test

Who should NOT buy

If you have overpronation, flat feet, plantar fasciitis, or any other foot condition that requires supportive footwear, it's better to avoid the Nike ACG Watrcat+. You will find the KEEN Newport H2 to be a more stable and supportive option. But granted, not as pretty.

If you want something that will keep your feet warm, check the Fivefingers V-Trek out.

Nike ACG Watercat+ lab test

Breathability

The indigenous-looking upper of the Watercat+ is not just there for looks! Made of woven cords with lots of space in between, this Nike shoe is breathable beyond measure!

We didn't even have to perform our usual smoke-pumping test to rate this shoe with a maximum 5/5 score.

This basket of a shoe works fabulously in the water element. It lets the water out in seconds and is super fast drying.

What's more, it's got perforations in the sole for underfoot drainage too!

Nike ACG Watercat+ drainage ports

Test results
ACG Watercat+ 5
Average 2.8
Compared to 21 hiking shoes
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Durability

Toebox durability

Even if you only use the Nike ACG Watercat+ for water sports, there is still a chance of bumping into sharp rocks, corals, or protruding roots on the river banks. Although we don't have all these hazards in the lab, we do have a relentless Dremel.

Applying the tool to the shoe's topmost cord for 12 seconds, it failed to even cut the cord in half! Wow, that's truly impressive, especially compared to a typical single-layered upper (like the shoe on the right).

Nike ACG Watercat+ Toebox durability vs. Salomon Outpulse toebox durability

This earned the Watercat a solid 5 out of 5 for toebox durability.

Feeling intrigued, we also peeked at the shoe's weave pattern through a microscope. What we saw was an impressively thick intertwining of extra-thick cords.

Nike ACG Watercat+ microscope upper

Test results
ACG Watercat+ 5
Average 3.7
Compared to 15 hiking shoes
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Heel padding durability

Nike took really good care of the shoe's collar by placing a moulded, soft plastic/rubber piece at the heel. It worked very well to keep our ankles free from chafing and turned out to be pretty wear-resistant itself!

We let the Dremel work for 4 seconds and found that it only scratched the surface of this rubber piece! Given how much this test normally messes up mesh/synthetic-lined collars, this shoe's heel padding durability deserves a maximum 5/5 score.

Nike ACG Watercat+ vs. Adidas Terrex Swift R3 GTX Heel padding durability

Test results
ACG Watercat+ 5
Average 3
Compared to 14 hiking shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel padding durability
5

Outsole hardness

Because the Nike Watercat+ is intended for pretty abrasive surfaces, we expected nothing less than a hard-wearing outsole.

Because rubber durability often correlates with hardness, we used a durometer to measure the shoe's outsole firmness. Seeing 83.0 HC on the tool, we found that the shoe's rubber is just as hard as the average hiking shoe.

Nike ACG Watercat+ Outsole hardness
Test results
ACG Watercat+ 83.0 HC
Average 84.6 HC
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 21 hiking shoes
Number of shoes
65.0 HC
Outsole hardness
94.1 HC

Outsole durability

To further scrutinise the shoe's outsole strength, we applied a Dremel to it for a whole 22 seconds. We made sure that the pressure (3.2N) and speed (10K RPM) were consistent.

And the end result was very uplifting! The tool only bit 0.8 mm of the rubber! This is even less than the average damage among hiking shoes.

Nike ACG Watercat+ Outsole durability test
Test results
ACG Watercat+ 0.8 mm
Average 1.0 mm
Compared to 14 hiking shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole wear
2.0 mm

Outsole thickness

We also used a calliper to measure how thick the shoe's rubber layer is. Without lugs, the outsole turned out to be 2.5 mm thick, which is typical for a hiking shoe.

To sum it up, we expect a long life from the Nike ACG Watercat+'s rubber bottom! Don't be misled by the shoe's unconventional design because its outsole has the full capacity of a traditional hiking shoe.

Nike ACG Watercat+ Outsole thickness
Test results
ACG Watercat+ 2.5 mm
Average 2.6 mm
Compared to 21 hiking shoes
Number of shoes
1.6 mm
Outsole thickness
4.0 mm

Weight

Just by looking at the Watercat+, you can guess that it's going to be lighter than most hiking shoes. And it proved to be true on our scale.

Weighing this Nike shoe in a men's US size 9, we got 12.7 oz (359g), which is notably lighter than the average.

But if you only need a shoe for beach and swimming, the Watercat+ might be an overkill. You may prefer lighter Teva sandals like the Hurricane XLT2 (10.7 oz) or the Hurricane Drift (7.2 oz) instead.

Nike ACG Watercat+ Weight
Test results
ACG Watercat+ 12.66 oz (359g)
Average 13.19 oz (374g)
Compared to 21 hiking shoes
Number of shoes
6.49 oz (184g)
Weight
17.14 oz (486g)

Cushioning

Heel stack

Stepping in and out of the water, navigating uneven rocky shores, or balancing on a paddle board, you certainly prefer ground feel to impact protection. This is the reason why your foot sits closer to the ground inside the Nike ACG Watercat+ compared to regular hiking shoes.

Nike ACG Watercat+ water shoe

Using a calliper, we measured the shoe's heel stack height at only 22.0 mm. This is not only thinner than the average of hiking shoes, but is even thinner than the average of outdoor sandals!

We found this Nike shoe to be comfortably grounded as it provided good sensitivity while still protecting our feet from pokes and sharp obstacles.

Nike ACG Watercat+ Heel stack
Test results
ACG Watercat+ 22.0 mm
Average 31.4 mm
Compared to 21 hiking shoes
Number of shoes
9.9 mm
Heel stack
39.0 mm

Forefoot stack

As expected, the forefoot stack of the Watercat+ is also pretty minimal. Based on our calliper, it is only 17.3 mm thick which is notably lower than the average.

Nike ACG Watercat+ Forefoot stack
Test results
ACG Watercat+ 17.3 mm
Average 20.9 mm
Compared to 21 hiking shoes
Number of shoes
10.7 mm
Forefoot stack
31.0 mm

Drop

Checking the difference in stack heights, we got a drop of 4.7 mm in the Nike ACG Watercat+. This means that your heel is only slightly elevated above the toes inside this shoe.

Being twice as low as the average, it is actually a good thing for a water shoe. Having a more level foot positioning, we felt more connected to the ground and our feet were able to work naturally to balance in tricky conditions.

Nike ACG Watercat+ Drop

Nike ACG Watercat+

For contrast, here is what a typical hiking shoe drop looks like (10-12 mm). You can see that there is notably more cushioning under the heel here. This setup provides better impact protection and long-term support, especially when you hike with a heavy backpack.

merrell-moab-3-inside.JPG

Merrell Moab 3

Test results
ACG Watercat+ 4.7 mm
Average 10.5 mm
Compared to 21 hiking shoes
Number of shoes
-0.8 mm
Drop
15.9 mm

Midsole softness

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

Plush cushioning is not to be expected in the ACG Watercat+. You need a firm and low platform for hopping boulders near the waterfall or securing your steps on the rocky bottom of the river.

To let you know exactly how firm this Nike shoe feels, we pressed a durometer against its midsole. With a reading of 30 HA, it actually sits at the average of hiking shoes we've tested. So don't of it as rock-hard either.

Nike ACG Watercat+ Midsole softness
Test results
ACG Watercat+ 30.0 HA
Average 27.5 HA
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 21 hiking shoes
Number of shoes
13.5 HA
Midsole softness (soft to firm)
39.0 HA

Insole thickness

The main reason why the Watercat+ doesn't necessarily feel firm underfoot is its miraculous insole. It has a much plusher nature than the primary foam and is also twice as thick as the average insole!

Based on our calliper, it is a whopping 8.6 mm thick!

Nike ACG Watercat+ Insole thickness
Test results
ACG Watercat+ 8.6 mm
Average 5.4 mm
Compared to 20 hiking shoes
Number of shoes
2.6 mm
Insole thickness
8.6 mm

Stability

Lateral stability test

The Nike ACG Watercat+ is a bad choice if you need lots of arch and ankle support.

The shoe's got a nearly minimalist construction and its wickerwork upper is certainly not capable of holding the foot securely in place.

Thus, we can only recommend this water shoe to people with neutral pronation and no special podiatric requirements. Try the KEEN Newport H2 if you want to brave the wet element with support.

Torsional rigidity

The Watercat+ is as flexible as a shoe can be!

On a 1-5 scale, where 5 is the stiffest, our manual test showed that this Nike shoe deserves 1! And that is when most hiking shoes score 4 on average.

Certainly not a lot of torsional rigidity for proper arch support.

Test results
ACG Watercat+ 1
Average 3.4
Compared to 21 hiking shoes
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

Checking the shoe's heel counter, we observe the exact same pliability.

Once again, the Watercat+ receives the lowest possible score for stiffness. This time, it's 1 for the heel counter stiffness.

That's good news for someone with sensitive ankles or one who despises firm ankle hold in footwear.

Test results
ACG Watercat+ 1
Average 3.6
Compared to 21 hiking shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

Measuring the shoe's midsole width, we got 106.2 mm in the widest part of the forefoot. This is a little narrower than average but is very well compensated by the wide midfoot and heel.

Nike ACG Watercat+ Midsole width in the forefoot
Test results
ACG Watercat+ 106.3 mm
Average 110.3 mm
Compared to 21 hiking shoes
Number of shoes
103.0 mm
Midsole width in the forefoot
117.6 mm

Midsole width in the heel

The heel part of the midsole actually turned out to be wider than average at 92.0 mm.

Overall, we had a very surefooted experience in the Nike ACG Watercat+. Its platform was wide enough to balance on unpredictable terrain around the water bodies. But at the same time, it wasn't too wide to feel bulky or clumsy.

Just right for a water shoe!

Nike ACG Watercat+ Midsole width in the heel
Test results
ACG Watercat+ 92.0 mm
Average 86.7 mm
Compared to 21 hiking shoes
Number of shoes
64.2 mm
Midsole width in the heel
101.6 mm

Flexibility

Stiffness

Having fun around water requires nimble feet and the ACG Watercat+ does not disappoint in that regard.

To put a number on it, we measured how much force it takes to bend this Nike shoe to a 90-degree angle. Our force gauge showed 24.4N which is an impressive 50% less than it takes an average hiking shoe!

This is probably as barefoot as a shoe can get without losing the cushioning.

Test results
ACG Watercat+ 24.4N
Average 29.4N
We use an average of four tests. The video shows one of those tests.
Compared to 21 hiking shoes
Number of shoes
1.8N
Stiffness
54.0N

Grip / Traction

Lug depth

According to our calliper, the lugs on this Nike shoe are not so toothy at only 2.7 mm.

Nike ACG Watercat+ Lug depth

However, they do have a clever design.

The rounded beehive-like shape of the treading offers traction in all directions at once. They also act like suction cups, especially on wet rocks.

Nike ACG Watercat+ lugs

As we were crossing a creek, stepping on shaky stones underwater, the shoe quickly adjusted to the scene and never once allowed us to slip.

Test results
ACG Watercat+ 2.7 mm
Average 3.9 mm
Compared to 21 hiking shoes
Number of shoes
2.1 mm
Lug depth
5.0 mm

Size and fit

Toebox width at the widest part

Surprise! Surprise!

We've got a Nike shoe that can actually fit a wide foot! The shoe's unique woven upper stretches and adapts to any foot shape. And from our experience, it does so without blisters or rubbing.

Measuring the widest part of its toebox, we got an impressive 107.7 mm. That's even wider than in KEEN shoes known for their very roomy toeboxes!

Nike ACG Watercat+ Toebox width at the widest part
Test results
ACG Watercat+ 107.7 mm
Average 100.6 mm
Compared to 21 hiking shoes
Number of shoes
94.6 mm
Toebox width at the widest part
107.7 mm

Toebox width at the big toe

The shoe's toebox also comes with a wide and rounded shape that never put pressure on our toes.

Placing a calliper at the big toe mark, we measured this area at 88.5 mm. Once again, notably wider than average.

This must be the firs Nike shoe in which we would actually recommend sizing down if you have narrow feet.

Nike ACG Watercat+ Toebox width at the big toe
Test results
ACG Watercat+ 88.5 mm
Average 81.7 mm
Compared to 21 hiking shoes
Number of shoes
68.8 mm
Toebox width at the big toe
108.6 mm

Tongue: gusset type

The Watercat's tongue is not gusseted but given the shoe's unique upper design, it was never an issue and the foothold was never missing.

The woven upper wrapped comfortably around our feet from the start. It has a subtle texture inside which kept our feet from sliding throughout the hike.

Nike ACG Watercat+ Tongue: gusset type
Test results
ACG Watercat+ None

Lacing

What Nike calls a "quick entry lacing system" worked wonders for the overall lockdown! It is essentially a bungee-lacing that is very quick and easy to regulate. 

Nike ACG Watercat+ quick lace

Comfort

Tongue padding

You might be wondering how a wickerwork shoe like that feels against the foot from the inside. In a word...Marvellous!

The cords are pretty soft and the tongue is lightly padded (5.3 mm), making this Nike shoe feel amazing against bare feet! No lace bites, pressure, or discomfort.

Nike ACG Watercat+ Tongue padding
Test results
ACG Watercat+ 5.3 mm
Average 9.5 mm
Compared to 21 hiking shoes
Number of shoes
5.0 mm
Tongue padding
17.0 mm

Heel tab

The shoe comes with a pull tab on the tongue but we just ended up grabbing the whole tongue and the little rubber piece on the heel to get the Watercat+ on.

Nike ACG Watercat+ pull tab

Don't let the look of the shoe intimidate you - it took us mere seconds to slip inside!

Nike ACG Watercat+ Heel tab
Test results
ACG Watercat+ Pull tab

Removable insole

The shoe's insole can be removed but you probably wouldn't want to do that because it comes with drainage holes and is much thicker than average.

Inserting a sockliner that's thinner than 8 mm will create more room inside the shoe but you don't want that in the already spacious Nike ACG Watercat+.

Nike ACG Watercat+ Removable insole
Test results
ACG Watercat+ Yes

Misc

Reflective elements

Better be home before dark!

Nike ACG Watercat+ Reflective elements
Test results
ACG Watercat+ No