Monday, March 14, 2011

766.3 Miles in Saucony Kinvaras: A Review

With minimal footwear being all the craze lately, several shoe manufacturers have offered their versions of lightweight, flexible kicks to meet the demand. However, the uber-minimal shoes, like the Vibram Five Fingers, might not be everyone's cup of tea.

Enter the Saucony Kinvara. Personally, I'd consider this shoe more of a hybrid. Its lightweight (listed at 7.7 ounces) and low profile (only 4mm of heel lift) are certainly qualities of a minimal shoe. The flexibility is pretty nice also. You can't roll them up as easily as other minimal shoes, but they are certainly more flexible than traditional trainers. And there is an ample amount of cushioning, a surprising amount for a shoe that weighs as little as this one.

As a result of the above factors, it's been my go-to shoe for road runs that are 10 miles or greater. I'll also use them in shorter distances, but for those runs I'll often opt for my racing flats. But the Kinvaras are certainly versatile enough for all types of road running, and as a result it appears to be a very popular choice among runners lately, and for good reason.

I first bought these shoes back in July, when they were still relatively new to the market. I remember coming across several message board conversations where many people said they loved them, but some wondered about their durability because of the lightweight construction.

Well, I racked up 766.3 miles on mine and it's only now time to retire them. As far as feel goes, they're still great. Since I've altered my gait in favor of more of a forefoot strike, I guess I'm able to get more mileage out of my shoes (on top of running faster and dealing with less injuries, knock on wood), so in that sense they're still fine. The tread is worn down but still functional and grips okay.

Tread still fine after high mileage.
The reason for retiring them is they've just now started to develop some holes in the sides (started noticing them a month ago), and I want to break in a new pair for the Boston Marathon next month. The holes are in the outer fabric, but the inner fabric is still intact. It's to be expected after this much mileage, and in a variety of adverse weather conditions nonetheless. They've held up far better than any other road shoe I've owned, including heavier, bulkier trainers that you would think would be more solidly built.

Tear in the outer fabric developed only recently. Inner fabric still intact. 
These shoes have served me very well. They accomodate my wide forefoot very nicely and are a very comfortable fit. They simply feel great to run in and they provide the right amount of cushioning for roads. Some might complain that the cushioning reduces "ground feel", but in my opinion that's not an issue. I appreciate having some padding for longer distances, and consider ground feel a more valuable attribute for trail running.

Also, that low heel-to-forefoot differential of only 4mm really helps promote more of a forefoot strike, allowing one to easily have their foot placement under the body as opposed to in front of it. The lightweight is fantastic, and even though it weighs little, for me it has proven to be very durable and long lasting as well. 

In summary, it's the best road shoe I've ever run in. And as they say, "If it ain't broken, don't fix it". So, I welcome my new pair of Kinvaras that I know will serve me well leading up to Boston next month... and beyond:

Bring it!


Thomas said...

Thanks for that review. I was actually thinking about asking you how you're getting on with these shoes. They so sound interesting but I've heard the same concerns about longevity.

Anonymous said...

What, you do not run marathons in your "racing flats"?

Jamie said...

Chuck - Nah. The Kinvaras are light enough for me while still providing a bit more cushioning. Given my injury history, better to play it safe on the roads.