>Product Review – Saucony Kinvara

>Several weeks ago, I jumped on the wagon and bought a pair of Saucony Kinvara shoes.  After wearing them for several runs, it only seems fitting for me to write a product review to share with you.

First, some background:
Before we get too far, let me be open and honest.  You probably know that I’m on Team Trakkers – and Saucony is one of our sponsors.  As such, I’ve got a bunch of Saucony gear and I run in Saucony shoes.  That said, I purchased these shoes myself.  The opinions expressed below are mine and mine alone.  I was not paid to render an opinion on the shoes, nor was I given any consideration for a favorable review.

There.  Quasi-legal stuff out of the way.

Let me give you a little background on me, as I think it’s appropriate when thinking about a running shoe review.  I’m an average-build guy.  5’9″.  I’m not built like a Kenyan – I’m usually around 175 pounds.  My running gait is fairly neutral – I do pronate some (more on my right foot than my left), I am working on breaking a heel-striking pattern, and I’m currently injury free.  Right now, I’m running about 80-90 miles a month, but that is about to increase as I get into the meat of my upcoming marathon training.  My training shoe throughout 2010 has been Saucony Tangent 4’s, and I race in Saucony Fasttwitch 4’s. 

The Official Saucony Description:
The information below comes directly from Saucony’s website and is included to give additional background on the shoe. 

MEN’S ProGrid KINVARA
RUN – Neutral

  • Neutral running shoe that allows your foot to run uninhibited 
  • Lightweight, flexible 
  • Minimal midsole construction with protection from the pavement 
  • Weight: 7.7 oz

UPPER

Molded EVA Sockliner
Antimicrobial and breathable while providing superior cushioning and ride
Air Mesh Upper
Provides lightweight breathability

MIDSOLE
Heel ProGrid LITE
Saucony’s lighest version of ProGrid that absorbs impact, dissipates shock and sets the foot up for a smooth transition

EVA+
An advanced EVA blend that maximizes rebound and durability while minimizing weight

OUTSOLE
XT-900™
A carbon rubber outsole material that offers exceptional traction properties without sacrificing durability
Triangular Lug Design Provides traction and durability

Media, Press & Other Reviews:
The Kinvara has received a TON of postive press since it was released.  For example, the Kinvara was named by Runner’s World as the Best Debut for 2010.  Untold bloggers have raved about the Kinvara.  In fact, many bloggers switched from other minimalist type shoes such as the Nike Free or Vibram Five Fingers to the Kinvara.

My First Impression:
When I first opened my box from Saucony and checked out my Kinvaras, I was very pleasantly surprised.  I purchased the White / Blue / Black Kinvaras.  The coloring was really cool. 

The design of the shoe is exactly as advertised by Saucony.  The upper is very light.  In fact, there seems to be very limited material in the upper.  The upper reminded me of a racing flat (actually, the first thing I thought of when I pulled the shoes out of the box was that the upper reminded me of the Nike Sock Racer from the 1980’s).

The bottom of the shoe has little of the “black” harder outsole material that you typically see with running shoes.  I suppose that there are two reasons for this:  (1) to reduce weight and (2) drive a mid/fore foot strike.  This does stand out to me as a potential area of concern, though.  Without more substantial outsole, what will the durability of the Kinvara be?  I normally get 300 to 350 miles out a pair of shoes.  I wonder if I’ll be able to get the same out of these.

This shoe is wicked, crazy light.  The shoe is advertised as 7.7oz; my pair certainly seemed to be close to that.  In fact, my first reaction was that the Kinvara seemed to weigh as little (or even less) than my Fasttwitch racing flats.  So, to figure out that comparison, I broke out a scale we have, set the reader to grams and weighed each of my shoes:

First up, my everyday training shoe, the Saucony Tangent 4


Tangent 4’s, Size 10.5.  261 grams

Next to grace the Tri Madness scale, my racing flats, the Saucony Fasttwitch 4:

Saucony Fasttwitch 4, Size 10.5.  223 grams.

As expected, the racing flats are much lighter than my everyday training shoe – and rest assured, the Tangents are LIGHT in and of themselves.

And finally, the Kinvara:

Saucony Kinvara, Size 10.5.  231 grams.

There you have it.  The Kinvaras are officially as light as my racing flats!  OK, so not exactly, but what’s 8 grams between friends?

Performance:
Over the last several weeks, I’ve run in my Kinvaras half a dozen times.  Most of the runs have been in the 3 mile range, with my longest run at 5 miles.

Upon putting on the Kinvara, the first thing I noticed was that they fit my foot really, really well.  The upper is nice and tight -but not constricting at all.  The toe box is quite large.  Much larger, I think, than on either the Tangent or the Fasttwitch (I didn’t measure).  Either way, it felt larger.  This is a big deal for me, as I’ve got one of those freakishly small and mis-aligned pinky-toes that constantly seems to be rubbing and getting blisters.  My little toes have had absolutely no issues when I run in the Kinvaras.

As a testament to the (lack of) weight – my feet feel very light wearing these shoes.  On my first several runs, I noticed an immediate pick-up in my cadence and my mile splits were a little faster.  Now, perhaps this is more psychological than physiological…maybe I just feel lighter in these shoes.  The fact of the matter, though, is that in literally every one of my runs in these shoes, my pace is faster than it has been without these shoes.  Now, that could be a function of my training, but as Spike Lee once said, “It’s gotta be the shoes!”

Many bloggers and reviewers have talked about how the Kinvara led to some inital foot and/or calf soreness.  They attributed this to the fact that the Kinvara is a minimalist shoe, that the heel drop is less than other shoes, and perhaps the switch to a more mid-foot strike.  I can tell you that my experience was similar.  As I noted earlier, I’m a little bit of a heel striker – but trying to retrain my running pattern into that of a mid-foot striker.  After my first couple of runs, I did have some calf and heel soreness.  The heel soreness was on my right foot (which, as I’ve said tends to pronate more than my left – and also tends to heel strike more).  I can’t say that I’ve had debilitating pain or anything (which is good), and I haven’t developed any new injuries.  That said, I’ve also been very purposefull about easing into longer distance runs in these shoes.  I’ve also been very cognizant of my gait and how my foot lands, whereas previously I didn’t pay much attention to that.

MY OPINION:
So far, I’ve been quite pleased with the Kinvara.  The shoe is crazy light, comfortable, and very good looking.  I think these shoes could be a lightweight everyday trainer for lots of folks.  Will they be for me?  I think the jury is still out on that.  I’m going to continue to add mileage and frequency in these shoes, and will monitor both my performance and how my feet/legs feel.  Until I can build more mileage and time, though, I’ll likely alternate between these shoes and my Tangents.  All that said, these could also be great racing shoes for a lot of folks – I mean, let’s face it – they weigh literally as much as my racing flats do – and are more comfortable in my opinion.

Will I become a mid-foot striker, change my sloppy running habits and really adopt the minamilist shoe craze?  Well, it’s a journey – and these shoes seem perfectly built to help me get there.

Bottom line for me – will I continue to run in these shoes, and would I buy them again?  At this point, I think the answer to both of those questions is without a doubt, yes.


Look for the Saucony Kinvara at your local running retailer, or shop online at Saucony.com.

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8 thoughts on “>Product Review – Saucony Kinvara

  1. >Thanks for the great review! I run in Saucony Progrids now and love, but have been eyeballing the Kinvaras as I think about making the switch to a more minimalist shoe.

  2. >Nice review. It seems like the Kinvara is liked by a variety of runners, Saucony seems to have hit a home ru nwith them. The blue are really nice-looking, though I'm more tempted by the orange. 🙂

  3. >Great review Joel!I tried a pair of Kinvara's on at a race expo this weekend and loved the way they seemed to mold to my feet. They were soooo light too!I didn't buy them but after your view I am going to soon. Thanks Joel!

  4. >Nice revier. I really love Saucony running shoes. I have been using the Omni series but have been wanting to tranistion mid/fore foot shoe and also find a racing flat. Great help!

  5. >Great review!I think the Kinvara should earn a "Shoe of Year" award. I recently got a pair of them myself. I won a gift certificate for a pair of free Saucony's and went with the hunter orange color. I absolutely love them. I've run up to 15 miles in them without any problems. I did have the extra foot/calf soreness, but I attribute that to the minimalist shoe and I'm sure that I will get used to it as my feet get stronger.I seriously considering making the Kinvara my primary shoe. The deciding factor will be the total mileage I able to get out of them. I usually get 450-500 miles out of my Brooks DYADs so we'll see how long these last.

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