Saucony Kinvara 5 First Impression Review

2014-05-02 13.02.09The Saucony Kinvara is one of my favorite running shoe models. It’s basically everything that a shoe should be – pretty simple in construction, lightweight, and relatively inexpensive compared to other shoes on the market. I’d go so far as to rank the original Kinvara up there among my favorite shoes of all time – I ran my BQ in that shoe, and then ran Boston in it as well. It’ll be one of those shoes that always holds a special place in my memory.

I continued to enjoy the Kinvara in its second and third iterations, but the wheels kind of fell off for me with v4. The sole still felt great, but the fit was way off – very tight and restrictive at the front of the toebox. In my review of the Kinvara 4 I wrote the following: “…the Kinvara 4 is a step back for Saucony, and unless you have narrowish feet or don’t mind a lack of toe freedom they aren’t going to be a great choice. And durability is a potential issue for the forefoot upper.” It was not a shoe I would choose to run long in, and I’d seen/heard of enough people experiencing tears in the upper that I was hesitant to even recommend them to those with narrow feet.

I usually aim to put about 30 miles on a shoe before writing a review. I can usually peg a shoe after 1 or 2 runs, but 30 miles gives me time to break the shoe in a bit and get a good feel for it on various types of workouts (there are times when my impression changes after a few runs – the Pearl Izumi Road N1 being a good example). However, I’ve been asked a bunch of times in the past few weeks if I’ve tried the new Kinvara 5. The questions, particularly regarding fit, were frequent enough that I wanted to get some thoughts up as quickly as possible to point people to.

Saucony sent me a pair of the Kinvara 5 last Friday (Disclosure: these shoes were media samples provided free of charge by the manufacturer). Fit can be addressed by simply trying a shoe on, but I wanted a bit more from this post so I ran 11 hilly miles in them yesterday, enough to get a good feel for the shoe. If a double digit run in a brand-new shoe goes well, it typically bodes well for how the shoe will continue to perform. I plan to add more miles in the coming week (Update 5/19/2014: I have now run a bit over 40 miles in the Kinvara 5, you can read my updated thoughts here).

Saucony Kinvara 5

Saucony Kinvara 5

Fit

Let’s get to the big question right off the bat – how does the Kinvara 5 fit?

I’m happy to report that Saucony has fixed the fit issue I had with the Kinvara 4. I’d go so far as to say that the Kinvara 5 has a spacious fit in the forefoot. I feel no forefoot or toe squeezing, no unusual pressure. It’s a very comfortable shoe. I did opt to go for a size 10.5 as I did in the K4, and I think it was the right choice – I have about a thumb width in between my big toe and the tip of the shoe (I wore a 10 in Kinvara v1-v3).

Upper Construction

The upper of the Kinvara 4 was composed of a tight, plasticy kind of mesh that is prone to tearing with repeated flexion. It had very little give, and I think that contributed to the fit issue with the shoe. The Kinvara 5 swaps out the mesh for a stretchier, thread-like mesh (I don’t know fabric terminology!) similar to that found on the Saucony A5. It’s very breathable, and I suspect it will hold up much better over time (in all of the photos below the red shoe is the Kinvara 4, the blue shoe is the Kinvara 5).

2014-05-05 12.17.01

Saucony Kinvara 4 (left) and Saucony Kinvara 5 (right). Note the change in upper fabric to what I expect will be a less tear-prone material.

In the Kinvara 5 Saucony added a feature they are calling PRO-LOCK to the upper. PRO-LOCK consists of a triangular piece of material that extends from the sole up the midfoot on either side of the shoe. It’s sandwiched in between the outer mesh and a soft piece of interior mesh that attaches to the tongue. There is a lace hole at the apex of the triangle, and the intent is that PRO-LOCK will cradle the midfoot on each side for a more secure fit (you can see the yellow PRO-LOCK lace holes in the image above). I’m kind of ambivalent about this feature – you do sense the wrap when lacing tightly, but the triangle on the inner side bends and causes the upper to pucker outward away from the arch when you roll inward. I might just need to play with the lacing a bit to dial it in.

A third change to the upper is that Saucony beefed up the ankle collar with a bit more cushion and a softer lining (see photo below). I really like the feel of the new collar, and the same material also lines the underside of the tongue. I think the beefing up of this area might be part of the reason why people have said the K5 looks a bit more trainery than previous versions. The height of the internal plastic heel counter has been increased a bit, but it didn’t bother me (it’s pretty flexible, not hard plastic).

Saucony Kinvara 4 and Saucony Kinvara 5

Saucony Kinvara 4 (left) and Saucony Kinvara 5 (right). Note the increased padding in the ankle collar.

Sole

The sole of the Kinvara 5 has been changed from v4 to v5. The shoe is still 4mm drop, and Saucony reports weight at 7.7oz in men’s size 9. Saucony describes the new sole as follows: “The Kinvara 5 midsole/outsole platform is also new, and made from an enhanced EVA+ material with better abrasion resistance than ever before. On the outsole, we also added small placements of iBR+ rubber to provide more durability and cushioning on the outer side of the foot, where heavy wear is typical for many Kinvara fans.”

Saucony Kinvara 4 and Saucony Kinvara 5

Saucony Kinvara 4 (bottom) and Saucony Kinvara 5 (top).

My sense is that the shoe feels a tad softer than v3-v4, almost more like the original Kinvara (Thomas over at Believe in the Run reported a similar feeling in his Kinvara 5 review). I like a softer shoe, and it felt great over the 11 asphalt miles that I covered yesterday. I did feel a minor bit of irritation along the inner ball of my right foot as sometimes happens in softer shoes, but it never progressed to a blister or pain. More of an awareness, and is something I’ll keep an eye on over additional miles.

The outsole has been modified slightly – it’s easier to demonstrate with a photo than to describe in words:

Saucony Kinvara 5 sole

Saucony Kinvara 5 (left) and Saucony Kinvara 4 (right).

Still no rubber up along the lateral forefoot – wear in this area has not been an issue for me, but I know that some forefoot strikers tend to chew the soles up in that region. I’m wondering if the added softness I feel is due to the fact that the outsole patches on the heel and midfoot (yellow and orange rubber in the photo above) are attached to EVA pods that extend a bit further out from the sole than in the Kinvara 4? Hard to describe this in words.

Conclusions

My initial response, and this is based on one 11 mile run so keep that in mind, is that the Kinvara has once again become a top pick among lightweight training/distance racing shoes (Update 5/19/2014: I have now run a bit over 40 miles in the Kinvara 5, you can read my updated thoughts here). If I were to run a marathon this Fall (still not discounting the possibility entirely), it would be a frontrunner for race day alongside the New Balance 1400v2, adidas Adios Boost, and maybe the Skechers GoMeb Speed 3 (due out in November). It probably has the most generous forefoot fit of any of those mentioned, and feels like just a bit softer under the forefoot compared to the others.

My plan going forward is to put another 25 or so miles on the Kinvara 5 in the next week and update this review with any further thoughts. My only real concern so far is the faint hot spot I felt on the ball of my right foot, but that’s likely an issue that results from my gait and not something that will happen to everyone (it happens to me frequently in soft shoes). As of right now I can highly recommend the Saucony Kinvara 5, feel free to ask any questions you might have in the comments!

The Saucony Kinvara 5 is available at Running Warehouse, Zappos, and Amazon.com. Outside of the US they can be purchased at Wiggle.

For another take, read Thomas Neuberger’s review of the Saucony Kinvara 5.

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.



Comments

  1. Thanks for the post, Pete. Just ran a 6 miler a few hours ago in my 5s. Funny you should mention a hot spot on the ball of the right foot – I experienced something similar. It almost felt like there was a slight ridge in the right shoe or something stuck under the insole. I didn’t blister and it wasn’t painful – just a tad uncomfortable. Other than that, everything felt great and bodes well for future v5 miles.

  2. George Harris says:

    Pete, I had an 11.5 in the 4 would you think I should go with that size or size up to a 12? I take a 12 in the original Virrata.

  3. Glad to see a positive update in your eyes! Re: the hotspot you mentioned… I recently started running in the GoRun2, and while I could be wrong, I think they created a rather painful spot dead center of the ball of my foot. Seemed like general metatarsalgia, or possibly a callus. Bummer, to say the least. I started the minimalist path way back on the Kinvara v1 and run in Virrata’s now. I’d love to try the v5 – I think the hot spot issue will be one to watch as shoes seem to really focus on almost forcing a mid/forefoot landing, even when it’s natural for a runner to do so.

    • Hi Adam,

      I have just gave my v4 for charity because of that very same painful sensation right in the centre of the ball of my right foot. I think this was due to the toe box constrictiveness and also to the floppy padding of the EVA+. In fact, I have never liked much the way I sounded when running on the v4 – my first Kinvara shoes.

      As such, for the time being, I will stay away from the v5. I am really curious to try out the Altra One2 as my new high mileage trainer/racer.

      Best regards,

      Pedro.

    • Quick update for you – a double-layered sock alleviated the hotspot for me (Wrightsocks).

  4. Dobson says:

    Pete, are you wearing socks with these on your initial runs? I read somewhere that the lining may be more barefoot friendly than previous versions. Do you have an opinion on this? Thx

  5. Dave Spell says:

    Pete
    Thank you for another great review. I ordered 2 pairs today. I will let you know my thoughts. You blog is invaluable!
    Dave

  6. I ran the Frederick Half Marathon in the Boston Ed. this past Sunday. First run in the shoe right out of the box. They were fantastic. No issues whatsoever. They were light, durable and fast! I can’t attest to the softer feel in this version since I’ve been in Skechers GOrun’s for the last couple months. The K5 feel very firm compared to those.

    However, they really feel at least a 1/2 size too big for me compared to any version (2,3,4) that I’ve wore before. I’ve had conversations with Pete and others about this but everyone else seems to think the v5 are running normal size with an increased toe box volume. I’m wondering if the Boston Ed. are cut differently than the regular version?

    Either way, Saucony has gotten back to the sweet spot with this version.

  7. michael says:

    how do they compare to the altra one ^2? i know some complained about the kinvara 3 being too soft for racing…..thoughts?

    • Both are pretty soft shoes. The Kinvara has always just worked for me (minus v4) so I’m biased, but that would be my preference. But for zero drop, super wide toebox, and soft feel the One2 is a great option.

  8. Have you ever tried the nike lunaracer 3? Would you say go for the Kv5 or the lunaracer?

    • Lunaracer 3 is a nice shoe, but very pointy and snug in the toebox. Both are pretty soft. Decider would be whether you want the narrow fit (Lunaracer) or a roomy toebox (Saucony).

  9. Peter, fantastic article. in 2 months i will run the ironman frankfurt and i am considering running the marathon with kinvara 5. Though many people think how much more cushioning better I believe that after 180km of bike you go with a very small stride and 100g weight difference for about 40000 steps are very important 4000kg. So cushioning yes the maximum but in the minimum weight.
    My question is do you think you kinvara 5 meets the requirements and the protection and conformity that I need? what about adidas adios boost? any other recommendation? my weight 74kg, efficient footprint midfoot and metatarsal.

    thanks

    • I’ve run two marathons in the Kinvara, worked beautifully in both. Adios Boost is also a great shoe, but I can’t speak on use in a marathon from personal experience. It’s a bit snugger fitting compared to the Kinvara.

  10. Michael Busch says:

    I just did my first run in the Kinvara 5. I actually liked all the earlier version, including the 4, but the 5 does feel really nice. One quick question though – in the last mile of a 7 mile run, the inside of the left shoe collar, on the top/side of my mid foot, just in front of my ankle, started feeling like something abrasive was rubbing against it. After the run I had a slight red spot and tender area. I compared the inside to the Kinvara 4 and although the 5 certainly has more stuff going on inside the collar, the seams seem to be similar. Any thoughts on whether the shoe might be defective, or whether it is just not a good fit?

    • Michael, I may be feeling the same “something” on the my left foot Kinvara 5. There is a small bunching of the mesh fabric on the inside of my ankle, I guess you could call it a seam but this is just like a little knot. I am coming from the Kinvara 2, the inside mesh area is very much seamless and does not have this issue. I have been wearing my 5′s around the house the last few evenings after work and this spot has bugged me. I am very reluctant to take them out on the road for a run until I am sure that I will keep them. That and the fact that my 2′s are just so comfortable compared to the 5′s at this point, but that could be explained by having a few hundred miles on them. Also, I’m not a fan of the “pro-lock” feature so far. I actually find them more comfortable by skipping the pro-lock lace hole completely, but then the triangle pieces end up shifting around with each step. So bummed because I was ecstatic about running in these, we’ll see I guess…

    • Personally have not had this issue, maybe a swap for another pair is in order.

  11. Kristine says:

    I had been really disappointed with the Kinvara 3 (the heel was too tall and too stiff and I couldn’t keep the blisters at bay) and the Kinvara 4 (arch and sole was way too stiff; I can’t do more than 2-4 miles in them). I’ve been making do with some relatively ancient Kinvara 2s for my long runs that can’t be beat in terms of comfort. Today I went to try on some non-Saucony shoes, but having read your review earlier this week, I was willing to be talked into trying on a pair of just-delivered Kinvara 5s… and I ended up walking out with a pair of K5s. They fit like a glove, were flexible like the 2s I love, and the arches were soft and back where they’re supposed to be. Glad you agree that the 5th model is an improvement upon a disappointing preceding model! I’m looking forward to breaking them in as my new long run go-to shoes!

  12. Richard says:

    Thanks for the info, great read! I love my 4s and ran my first marathon in them last year. Other than the premature wear on the upper mesh, I think they’re great shoes. My question though is of course on the fit. I have wide feet and wear an 11 2E (wide) in the 4s but I didn’t see an option for that size on the website when I went to research the 5s. Maybe they don’t make a wide anymore? Do you think these will stretch enough to be comfortable? I want to try these out but I’m worried they might not be wide enough. Thanks!

    Richard

  13. I have the K4′s and I like the way the foam pods (is that what they call them?) hug the top of my ankle and keep it in place.
    You mention they added padding in the upper ankle area of the K5′s, have they done away with the pods, does this added padding serve the same purpose?

  14. Great review. I have had the K2,3,4 and have the 5s. I think these are by far the best to date. The forefoot cushioning is the best improvement in these. I have Boston editions, which i use sparingly and really like,so much so that I bought another pair of K5s today so I can rotate and train in them more often for races. These are the first kinvaras I would consider for a marathon. The upper certainly is less bare bones in certain spots, probably to fit more types of runners, but really a puffier tongue doesn’t really take away from the still basic-ness of the shoes. They are outstanding in my eyes

Speak Your Mind

*