Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Gear Review: Saucony Kinvara

One of the major problems that I've had in my quest to switch up my stride to a midfoot strike is shoes. To this point, I've run in nearly every sort of traditional running shoes you can think of. I've run in Saucony, Nike and Asics shoes. I've run in neutral, stability and (thanks to the faulty diagnosis of a well-meaning running store employee) even motion control shoes. Up until recently, I've never had the same make and model of shoe twice (the exception being the Nike LunarGlide, and only if you count the LunarGlide and the LunarGlide 2 as the same shoe - more on that particular shoe at a later time).

I've come to the conclusion that very few shoes are made for a midfoot strike. Except maybe Newton, and their shoes cost a ton. Heck, Runblogger has a series of posts and links that lead me to believe that modern shoes aren't really made for heel striking either. And while I love my VFF Bikilas, they aren't exactly the sort of thing I see myself doing any sort of long mileage on any time soon - and certainly not racing.

Enter the Saucony Kinvara. When it comes to "minimalist" shoes that are supposed to encourage barefoot-like running, only the Nike Free line and the Saucony Kinvara are widely known or used to my knowledge (although I should note that all major brands are reportedly bringing a minimalist model to market this year). And while Nike absolutely destroys Saucony when it comes to marketing (NSFWish):

a lot of people (including a couple of close friends of mine) have complained about the fit. And since the Saucony Kinvara won "Best Debut" from Runner's World last year, I decided to pick up a pair. The box from Running Warehouse (an excellent online retailer located at arrived at my office today, and this is my initial review.

First impression before I even open the package: these things are light. I actually weighed one shoe when I got home and it was 8.7 oz (size 11.5). That's compared to 14.4 oz for one of my older Asics Gel Landreth 6s (size 12).

Here's a picture of them right out of the box:

The entire upper is a thin nylon mesh over a mesh with larger holes, and that's about it. Look for a second at the orange mesh in the picture above. If you look closely, you'll see that there are four "ribs" of material running down from the laces at different angles. Ribs run down the other side as well in the same way. Those ribs are the entire structure, such as it is, of the upper. That's it. A couple of pieces of plastic or vinyl here or there, maybe, but nothing else.

Here's a shot of the bottom:

All the white spaces are actually just the EVA midsole. The black/orange is the actual outsole - it doesn't cover the entire shoe by any stretch. I think they have a design flaw here, btw (as do many others): they need to have the outsole bits on the very outer edges of the midfoot, as that's where a lot of midfoot strikers (including me) strike.

The biggest deal (and one of the major reasons I bought them) is the heel to toe difference in height. There's only a 4mm difference, which makes midfoot striking easier. My Landreths, which have a 10mm difference, have been difficult to midfoot strike in. This isn't the best picture, but you can see the difference if you really try:

Look especially at the drop from the heel to the forefoot. It's very small in comparison, as you can see. The only other shoe that I've run with that has a comparable lack of drop is the LunarGlide (which is why I'm getting another pair).

The fit is stellar on these too. Great arch feel (which is a common complaint I've heard about the competing Nike Free line). The heel, despite not being very structured at all, fits snuggly. The inside feels soft enough that I'd almost try wearing them without socks. The toe box is, of course, pretty open and free.

I took them on a short (1 mile) but fast (5k pace) run after I got home from work. There's definitely plenty of cushioning there and it's not like running in my VFFs at all. But it's much, much, MUCH easier to midfoot strike. And it's amazing how much lighter my stride feels. Taking corners at speed with that little support up top is something I'll have to get used to, but it's just a different feel. It's premature to say that I love these shoes...but I love these shoes.

More to come later as I rack up some miles.

By the way, I highly recommend Runblogger's entire blog for people interested in stride, form, shoe fit, biomechanics, etc.


  1. glad you're blogging. D has been running in newton's for a while now and has loved them. me? I'm still in my vibrams... granted, I'm not running nearly as much as the two of you...

  2. I run only short distances in the VFFs - I know people who marathon in them, but my feet are definitely not ready yet.