Saucony Kinvara "Minimalist" Running Shoe Preview

Update 8/29/2010: I have now posted a full, much more thorough review of the Saucony Kinvara here on Runblogger. Check it out here: http://www.runblogger.com/2010/08/running-shoe-review-saucony-kinvara.html

The idea that humans should be running with a more midfoot/forefoot strike seems to have taken firm hold in certain segments of the running community. Although the question of whether midfoot/forefoot striking is actually a more efficient running style, or less likely to result in injury than heel striking, remains open (in my opinion the science hasn’t fully answered this yet), the major running manufacturers are racing to put out more “minimalist” shoes that claim to facilitate this type of footstrike.

Saucony ProGrid Kinvara Men's Red
The new men’s Saucony ProGrid Kinvara

One of the newest “midfoot-forefoot” shoes is the Saucony Kinvara. I haven’t seen the Kinvara in person, but Saucony has engineered the shoe to have a relatively small heel-to-toe drop (the difference in midsole height between the heel and forefoot) – the drop has been reported on the Running Warehouse Blog to be 22mm heel/18mm forefoot and on a Runner’s World Forum thread to be 18mm heel/14mm forefoot (I have confirmed with Saucony that he latter is correct). Given these numbers, the drop is only 4 mm, which should help those wishing to experiment with a more midfoot-forefoot style of running. That being said, it appears that the Kinvara actually will have a slightly thicker forefoot than most trainers (which are typically around 12mm) – this may be a turnoff for some hard-core minimalist runners who like to be closer to the ground in their shoes, but might appeal to those looking for a cheaper alternative to running in shoes like those made by Newton (I did a Q&A on midfoot/forefoot running with Newton Running’s Ian Adamson here). Despite it’s smaller heel, the midsole of the Kinvara still looks fairly cushy (see product photos above and below), which is also frowned upon by minimalist runners. However, the shoe is very light (7.7 oz), looks to be highly breathable, and it’s being classified as a neutral lightweight trainer. So while the Kinvara is not truly minimalist in the style of the Vibram Fivefingers, it looks to be an improvement in some ways over a more traditionally engineered running shoe (smaller heel-toe drop, lightweight, etc.).

Saucony ProGrid Kinvara Women's Green
 The new women’s Saucony ProGrid Kinvara – I like the greenery on the side!

Interestingly, the preview on the Running Warehouse Blog suggests that the Kinvara may be Saucony’s answer to the Brooks Launch, which is currently one of my all-time favorite shoes (you can read my Brooks Launch review here). I’d be hard pressed to call the Launch a minimalist or midfoot/forefoot shoe, or even a direct competitor to the Kinvara – it weighs in under 10oz, but it still has an 11mm heel-to-toe drop (22mm heel/11mm forefoot according to Brooks) and is probably the least minimalist shoe that I run in regularly (but that doesn’t diminish my highly favorable opinion of it – the Launch did carry me to a marathon PR in Disney!). That being said, if the Kinvara performs as well as the Launch does for me (the Kinvara is lighter and has a lower heel-toe ratio, the Launch has a thinner forefoot at 11mm), then Saucony fans are in for a treat. As I mentioned above, my initial take is that this shoe is more like a cheaper alternative to Newtons – it would be interesting to try them out and see how they feel in comparison (I have a pair of Newton Sir Isaac’s that I use sparingly – couldn’t get a good feel for them). I’ve run in Saucony shoes in the past with favorable impressions (I ran my half marathon PR in a pair of now well-worn, out-of-rotation Saucony Fastwitch 2 racers), and it will be interesting to see how it performs once the reviews start coming in (here’s one for starters by two friends of mine- Running Shoe Review: Saucony Kinvara vs. Newton Gravitas).

Update 8/29/2010: I have now posted a full, much more thorough review of the Saucony Kinvara here on Runblogger. Check it out here: http://www.runblogger.com/2010/08/running-shoe-review-saucony-kinvara.html


Saucony ProGrid Kinvara Men's Red
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Update 5/5/2010: For another interesting take on the Saucony Kinvara, check out this post by Donald at the Running and Rambling blog.

Update 6/1/2010: I just edited a review post by two dailymile running friends who compared their initial experience running in the Saucony Kinvara to running in the Newton Gravitas (= Gravity). You can check out their post here on the dailymile Community Blog – Running Shoe Review: Saucony Kinvara vs. Newton Gravitas

Below is a video from Saucony about the design of the Kinvara – based on the number of times they say the word “minimal,” it’s pretty clear that regardless of whether you agree that this is a minimalist shoe, this is the audience they’re targeting:

Saucony ProGrid Kinvara from Saucony on Vimeo.
The Kinvara, Saucony’s new lightweight minimal running shoe, has been getting quite a bit of attention. To quench some of your curiosity, we made this video explaining the concepts, inspirations and technologies behind the 7.7oz Saucony ProGrid Kinvara.

About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

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