The Saucony Kinvara is a minimalist running shoe that still feels like a regular running shoe. That to me was the best thing about it. I have altered my stride to a midfoot strike, and it was finally time to find a shoe that would work for me instead of something too extreme. I’ve tried barefoot running, running in Vibram KSO Five Fingers, tried out some Newtons, but the Saucony Kinvara 2 felt perfect for me. From what I hear, this model is not much different than the original Kinvara design, so this review will serve you well for either version.
I don’t typically do shoe reviews on my site Tips4Running.com, but I couldn’t resist after buying these Kinvaras. I have tested running shoes before and posted my findings on Running Shoe Wizard, so I will follow that format as I describe what exactly a minimalist running shoe is all about, and why this shoe is great for someone making the transition to a lighter shoe with less heel drop. I’ve also read many accounts of people going from barefoot or other minimalist shoes into these Saucony minimalist running shoes.
Saucony Kinvara 2 Features
Look and Feel – Appealing to my vanity, the Kinvara’s come in a vast array of color choices. I chose a white and black pair with fluorescent yellow on the cushioned sole. My wife says they look obnoxious, and if you don’t want something this bold, there are all black pairs, grey, yellow, and many more color choices.
Shoe Type – This is a minimalist running shoe, but it also is a training shoe. It has some support for your heel and a little cushioning and guidance to help you with your stride, but these are “minimal.” You have to gradually work your way into wearing these because most of the stress will be on your calves, and lower leg muscles and tendons. If you have a smooth stride and midfoot strike pattern, this might be the perfect shoe for you. I use it for daily training. It also is ideal for road racing, and speed work for a track runner.
Foot Type Fit – This shoe is for someone with neutral pronation. If you are severe overpronator, this shoe provides no support. Running barefoot will naturally help you with your pronation problems, and when you have learned the correct stride and foot strike pattern from running barefoot, you can transition back into a shoe like this.
Features – Are you ready for all the shoe buzzwords? The full name of this shoe is the Saucony Progrid Kinvara 2. The “Progrid” is lightweight foam cushioning on the sole. There is also a harder triangle pattern on the outsole for good traction on any running surface. The upper part of the shoe is made of a tough lightweight mesh. Normally, I tear through the mesh on a shoe by the toe after only a few hundred miles. This shoe has held it together and I am well over 200 miles in them.
Weight – It’s light. You’ll notice that right away. A men’s size nine (that is the size they typically weigh when comparing shoes) weighs 7.7 ounces. To put that weight in perspective, a typical training shoe for a runner weighs around 12 ounces. The ultimate minimalist shoe, the Vibram KSO Five Fingers weighs 5.7 ounces. The Kinvara is light!
Wear and Comfort
These shoes feel wonderful on your feet. I was tempted to wear them for everyday use, but I have just stuck with running so I didn’t prematurely wear down the shoes by walking around all day in them. The open mesh on the upper breaths really well. The EVA sockliner cushioning is soft and stable. During a run, I did notice some sliding if I’m not wearing the right pair of socks. For example, I ran after work one day and forgot my white cotton socks. I had to wear in my nylon black socks and the shoes slipped around on me a bit. My toes ended up jamming in the front of the shoe, especially on downhills. I don’t know if anyone else has experienced this issue, but I’d thought I’d share my only real problem I’ve had with them.
Getting Ready to Run – Getting the shoe on can be a big of a tight fit. The heel doesn’t give much, so you better loosen up the laces good to get your foot in.
Saucony Kinvara 2 Stiffness/Flexibility, Stability and Traction
Stiff or Flexible. This shoe is very flexible. The only stiff part is around the heel. The forefoot area open mesh keeps your feet secure, yet you have good mobility. The cushioning is very flexible throughout the entire foot.
Stability. The shoes have a little stability too them, so if your form breaks down a bit in the later stages of a tough workout or race, they will help you stay on track. They will not provide support if you have poor running form.
Traction – The traction is pretty solid during the earlier stages of the lifecycle. There is a durable carbon rubber called XT-900 on the sole of the shoe. This only protrudes a little bit in the forefoot area. The heel has more of this carbon rubber. The rest of the bottom of the shoe has the softer cushioning exposed. I was a little worried about this when I bought the shoes, but the traction has held up admirably. It isn’t as sticky as before, but does a nice job on pavement and on dry trail runs. When the grass is wet with dew, they can be a bit slippery.
Going easy, at a moderate speed, or running fast feels excellent in these shoes. One thing you have to remember is to mimic the same stride and foot strike at every pace. Even on an easy run, you have to land with a midfoot strike because the shoe isn’t designed for heel striking first.
Heel Drop - The shoes have 21mm of cushioning in the heel, and 17mm in the forefoot for a 4mm heel drop. A stability shoe would have over 10mm in heel drop, so this shoe definitely a minimalist running shoe.
Summary – I love the Kinvara 2’s. I’ve tried barefoot and running in Vibram KSO Five Fingers. This approach never felt natural to me, even though they are the natural way to go. I couldn’t help the fact that for over 20 years, I had been running in big training shoes. The Sauconys still feel like nice running shoes, and they allow me to run worry free. These were the answer I was looking for. I wanted to go with a minimalist shoe, but still feel secure with my running shoes. I have run over 200 miles in them and they still hold up. I also have run several weeks with over 30 miles per week and haven’t had any running related injuries.
Remember that working your way into minimalist running is a long process. I had been working on my stride for many months before I even went with these shoes. If you get a pair, start working on your stride and foot strike gradually until your legs are able to build up strength.