Review: Saucony Kinvara

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a shoe review. This is primarily because I’ve found a few models that I’ve been happy enough to stick with over the past 18 months or so: the Pearl Izumi Streak and the Saucony Fastwitch 3. They are covered on the reviews page (the Streak being pretty much identical to the Peak XC reviewed there). I used to use these for just racing or faster running, relying on another Saucony shoe, the Grid Tangent 3, as my daily training workhorse.

I was never totally thrilled with the Grid Tangent. This isn’t obvious, since I’m on my eighth pair. I kept buying it because it didn’t cause problems, and that is reason enough to buy a shoe. But I’ve been phasing those out as I’ve moved to doing my daily training in what I used to consider “speed” shoes (the Streak and the Fastwitch), and racing in even lighter shoes, such as the Asics HyperSpeed or the Adidas Adizero Ace, the former of which is a true racing flat. To give you a sense of how often I run in what, I’m on my sixth pair each of the Streak and the Fastwitch. The Adidas shoes (I also sometimes run in the Adizero Tempo) are slightly too narrow, so I won’t buy those models again.

This isn't even all of them.

Anyway, the net of all this is that I have been a runner in transition, and my shoe choices reflect it. I have not jumped on the minimalist bandwagon (and you should probably put some space between me and barefoot running enthusiasts at parties). I’ve merely found that I’ve gotten more comfortable in lighter and lighter shoes. At this point, even the Grid Tangent, at 7.9 oz. each, feels too heavy. Add to this that I’ve discovered that, despite my feet falling into the “slight overpronator” category, I’ve found that neutral shoes are more comfortable to run in. The lighter shoes typically fall into the neutral category, so this has been a happy discovery.

Here I am today, doing most of my training runs in the Streak or Fastwitch. The Streak’s problem is that it’s just slightly too big (but if I half size down it’s slightly too small). So unless I wear thick socks, it can feel a little floppy. I wear very thin socks in the summer, so it gathers dust for 3-4 months a year. And the problem with the Fastwitch is that it’s a shoe designed for the slight overpronator. Which means it’s a little stiff around the arch. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great shoe — at 6.6 oz. each, very light and fast, and it held up under the demands of a full marathon. But I am aware of the shoe while I am running in it. I don’t like to be aware of my shoes.

Sorry for the long preamble. There is a point to all of this. Saucony recently came out with a new model, the Kinvara. They have billed it as a “minimalist trainer.” It’s got a low heel-to-toe drop (meaning the heel is only 4mm higher than the toe). But this is not a racing flat. If anything, the sole is on the thicker side, and it’s flared out a bit, so there’s lots of lateral coverage. This design does not equal “heavy,” however. The Kinvara is only slightly heavier (meaning a few tenths of an oz. each) than is the Fastwitch.

It’s a great shoe. I think it may be the best trainer I’ve tried, and I’ve tried many. It’s light, but solid. You can feel the road, but it’s not “feel every pebble” thin like a flat. And it’s flexible and even feels a bit springy. I am months away from doing 20 milers, so I can’t say how it holds up over distance. But on 10-12 milers it’s been fine. Even though Saucony doesn’t bill it as a racer, I suspect it would perform very well at at the marathon distance.

One quibble: the colors. Do women really want pastel-colored running shoes? I don’t. The available colors are straight out of one of Estelle Getty’s polyester leisure suits from The Golden Girls. I am actually tempted to size down the men’s model (although I’m worried that the heel won’t be narrow enough for me) so I don’t have to wear Easter colors on my feel. They also conveniently don’t go with any of my other running clothes.

Here’s Saucony’s video about the Kinvara.

I’ll still experiment with doing speedwork and racing in lighter and lighter flats. But in the Kinvara I’ve found my new daily trainer for all of those other miles.

11 Responses

  1. Interesting. Thanks for the review. I went through a lot of pairs of Fastwitch, and liked them, but they weren’t very durable. I usually only got 250 miles before the forefoot outsole wore through to the midsole, and 300-350 before the calves started complaining. Have you run enough in the Kinvara to comment on the durability?

    • Yes, I get rid of the Fastwitch after 250 miles too. I can usually get 300-400 out of other models.

      I’ve only got about 30 miles on the Kinvaras so far, and since I’m running low mileage and lots of faster miles, it will take me awhile to be able to comment on durability.

  2. What’s the feel or effect, if any, of the low heel-drop? Do you sense you’re landing differently?

    • It does feel like the stress is more on the midfoot in them, although maybe I’ve been subconciously influenced by what I’ve read about them in that regard. I’ve been doing so much running in the Hyperspeeds (they have a 7mm drop) that I’m used to flatish shoes at this point, so the Kinvaras don’t feel all that different.

  3. The only ones at the store when I got mine were pink so when I showed my disappointment, the clerk suggested getting Men’s. I ended up getting the pink anyway, but I’ll be getting the blue ones soon which should counteract my embarrassment of the soles on these things, which are anything but pastel – they’re neon, Day-glo, LOOK AT ME I’M WEARING PINK, pink.

    176 miles on mine so far (still rotating old shoes to get my moolah’s worth) and still feeling great.

    • Flo, I’ve got the blue ones and I’m happy to report that the soles are white. I still don’t even like the blue, though. I’ll probably try a men’s version when I’m ready to rotate in a new pair. The Hyperspeeds (which are made in men’s only) have worked out fine.

  4. Thanks for the review. I knew that Flo had been using them. If they’re wide enough they’ll be my next shoe.

  5. these are my new favorites. they fit me perfect. I tighten mine up real nice so they conform around my feet. lately i have been shaving whole minutes off my usual routes.

  6. Just found your blog. Great review! I am considering transitioning to a slightly lighter shoe with lower heel and am trying to decide between the fastwitch and the kinvaras. if you had to pick only one, which would you go for? i’ve been moving from heel striking toward a more balanced midfoot strike and want my shoe to encourage this new habit. any thoughts, much appreciated!

    • For some reason I favor the Fastwitches — this may be because they’ve proven to be good shoes for even long runs or marathons. I’m still a little suspicious of the Kinvaras, as I started wearing them in the weeks before I got injured. I have no idea if they were a contributing factor, but let’s just say I’m a little nervous about doing too much running in them. Thanks for reading!

    • I like my Kinvaras so much I already bought a 2nd pair for when these wear out. I have about 125 miles on them and they still feel great – like new…

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