Every once in a while a new shoe comes along that needs a closer look. Generally these shoes are not a staple in a brand’s range, but rather illustrate a spark of innovation (whether or not the product is successful or not is another story) and are capable of developing an instant cult following among runners.
Enter the Saucony Kinvara. Saucony has stepped away from familiar territory with their new shoe the Progrid Kinvara. The shoe is a result of looking at things completely differently – from a new midsole compound, to a new upper, profile and a totally fresh look.
The people at Saucony have been making some great shoes for years. The Progrid Hurricane springs to mind in their supportive range, and the spritely Fast Twitch is a favourite racing flat for a lot of runners. However, despite already knowing how to build a great shoe, the Kinvara is made from entirely new ingredients.
With the mold having been broken by brands such as Newton, Vibram or Nike (Free), Saucony is now the next major brand to bolster its range with a “minimalist” shoe. As a proponent of consistently focusing on running technique, I am smitten with these types of shoes, and the Kinvara does not disappoint. Each of these shoes, in its own way, encourages a more “natural” running gait. A move away from a heavily cushioned and supportive heel promotes a mid/forefoot strike pattern – helping to develop the “light-footed runner.” Although these shoes are not for everyone, the Kinvara has successfully hit a sweet spot in that it falls a little shy of the “aggressiveness” some find with Newtons and others, but still promoting a more natural gait.
One of the design aspects allowing a shoe to be grouped into this “natural running shoe” category is a minimal difference in height between the cushioning in the heel and the forefoot. The lower the heel, it seems, the easier it becomes to land closer to the ball of the foot, with the foot positioned under the hips. While Newton have achieved this with less-than-subtle forefoot “lugs,” Saucony have opted for a quieter approach, by simply limiting this “drop” in cushioning height to only 4mm (heel height = 18mm, forefoot height = 14mm). While a relatively “flat” shoe often means minimal cushioning, the 14mm of forefoot cushioning, combined with their EVA+ midsole means that there is still plenty of material there to take the sharpness out of each step.
Not only does the reduced heel height in the shoe allow for a more natural gait, but it also means less weight! The Kinvara weighs in at a scant 218g for the men’s, meaning it’s in the lightweight trainer category. Saucony can be applauded for achieving this great weight to cushioning balance – an area where a lot of lighter shoes fall down.
Saucony Progrid Kinvara Specs:
Upper: EVA sockliner, Hydrator collar lining, lightweight breathable mesh
Midsole: Heel Progridlite, EVA+
Outsole: XT 900
Weight: Mens = 218g, Women’s = 190g
I headed on my Monday morning long run, excited to test the Kinvaras. On one of my favourite loops out of the house, the shoes were put through hills, flats, pavement and trail. Instantly the shoes felt natural and there was an easy transition from the Newtons I had been running in. Later in the run, at just under the 20km mark, the shoes still felt responsive, light and I was still excited by the level of forefoot cushioning.
The Kinvara is a great lightweight training and racing option. It is one of a few shoes around that encourages the runner to consider their stride and run more efficiently. This is due to the minimal height difference between heel and forefoot, as well as the lightweight nature of the shoe and natural feel. The upper looks fast and the shoe has an attractive profile. Although we’d need to put the shoe through its paces to test the durability (especially of the EVA+ midsole compound), on the whole it is a very exciting product. If you’re interested in improving your running, want a lightweight shoe and want to try something different, I definitely suggest giving the Kinvara a run!