The Saucony Kinvara is a performance trainer for the neutral runner. It has a heel-toe drop of 4mm (23mm in the heel and 19mm in the forefoot) and weighs in at 7.9oz/224g for a US 9.
The Kinvara has been a series with a serious cult of followers for its versatility. The Kinvara 7 strayed far from the previous versions but the introduction of the Kinvara 8 brings back what the Kinvara series has been all about: lightweight and soft cushioning.
Top View of the Kinvara 8
Starting off with the upper, Saucony utilizes a lightweight engineered mesh with translucent FlexFilm to provide the upper with ample structure and support. The engineered mesh is fairly thin and breathable, keeping my feet nice and cool during runs where the temperature could reach up to 33 degrees Celsius.
The porous mesh also means that the upper is not waterproof by any means. I ran with the Kinvara for a short 5km in a light drizzle and my feet were soaked at the end of the run.
The translucent FlexFilm blends well with the upper. It kept the mesh structured yet flexible.
The FlexFilm extends from the toe box to both the medial and lateral sides of the upper.
Personally, I feel that the FlexFilm at the toe box prevents the upper from collapsing and rubbing onto my big toe, which is a plus point for me. Several circular shaped holes are punched at both sides of the upper to further enhance the breathability of the upper.
Saucony removed the “pro-lock” strap on the tongue from the Kinvara 8 but retains the midfoot straps located on both sides of the midfoot.
I heard many complaints regarding the redundancy of the midfoot strap.
In my opinion, the straps were not in the way of my feet or its movements when running. Rather, it provided the much-needed lockdown for the foot especially when I picked up the pace.
The Kinvara 8 utilizes a comfortable and soft inner sleeve below the open mesh. This gives the shoe a pleasant, irritation-free experience when lacing up barefoot.
Inner Sleeve Extends to front of shoe
Overall, the upper provides a pleasant, blister-free sensation. However, there are many other uppers out there with a softer and more comfortable fit.
Heel Cup/ Ankle Collar
Moving on to the heel cup. The heel cup in this shoe is surprisingly abundant, extending from the back of the shoe to the sides of the shoe where the ankles are located. This provided extra support that I needed during longer runs without being intrusive to my gait.
The ankle collar is where the problems all start. It is made of a soft “RunDry” lining with plenty of padding.
It had a soft and smooth feeling, slightly too smooth for my taste. Running in socks caused a lot of heel slippage regardless of the pace of my runs. I had to resort to using the last two lacing eyelets to get a good lockdown on my heel.
This led to further problems, which will be addressed below.
The tongue is the second major issue for me. I am not sure if its due to the low volume of the shoe’s upper or if the tongue is excessively padded.
Whenever I laced up, the tongue would look puffy and bloated. This did not affect my running performance but is more of an aesthetic problem for me.
Tongue puffs out (More so on foot)
The laces are where the third problem lies. Flexflim reinforces the lacing eyelets, increasing its durability which makes it more tear-resistant.
An interesting point to note is that they are flat in shape, along with the shoe’s laces. Past iterations of the Kinvaras have all used round eyelets and flat laces.
This resulted in a neater and smoother lacing experience. However, the ends of the laces covered in hard plastic were round, making the initial threading of the laces through the eyelets a hassle.
This brings me to my problem: the laces are way too short!
Due to the excessive heel slippage, I had to use the ankle lock lacing eyelets. However, the laces were barely long enough for me to tie them up afterward. I had to
I had to utilize an improvised lacing technique to ensure that I could keep my feet secured in the shoe with my heel still locked down. (See above). This further puffed up the tongue of the shoe as there are no laces to keep the tongue secured down to the feet.
The Kinvara 8 runs true to size. I have rather wide feet, and the Kinvara manages to accommodate my feet nicely without squeezing my toes together.
I fairly liked the design and colorway of the shoe. My only gripe with this shoe lies with the “puffiness” of the tongue. I especially fancy the lateral side of the shoe as it has a sleek and fast look.
Medial Side of the Shoe
Lateral Side of the Shoe
Midsole Tech & Ride Quality
The Midsole comprises of an Everun topsole over an injection molded SSL EVA foam midsole with a 4 mm heel to toe drop.
The Everun top sole is claimed by Saucony to “produce a dramatically livelier and more responsive feel, 83% energy return and maintains its properties 3x longer than standard EVAs by positioning it closer to the foot, combining smoother landings in the heel with reduced pressure in the forefoot.”
It seems gimmicky at first sight. However, I did feel a slight bounce when cruising at about 4:30km/min. The injection molded SSL EVA foam midsole was greatly softened compared to previous Kinvara iterations, perhaps by a little too much.
Sure, the ride felt forgiving on feet especially at slower paces. However, the ride started to feel sluggish and unresponsive at paces below 4:00km/min.
The ride feels very similar to the Hoka Clifton 3, with slightly less cushion. My worry with the soft EVA midsole is that it would bottom out faster than past iterations due to its softer nature.
I’m hoping that Saucony firms up the EVA foam in the Kinvara 9 to return the Kinvara to a responsive race-trainer.
I was hoping that Saucony would incorporate a dual density foam with Everun having the same volume as the standard EVA used. However, that would significantly increase the weight of the Kinvara and cause it to detract from the main qualities and purposes of it.
The Midsole is also slightly tapered upwards for an increased toe spring, a milder version of Hoka’s meta-rocker technology that is incorporated in all Hoka shoes.
I felt the slight curve upwards at the toe area, however I did not experience a smooth transition from impact to toe-off. This is perhaps due to the EVA midsole being too soft.
The sock liner is reasonably standard with minimal targeted padding on the heel and forefoot. I switched the insole out for my personal insoles made of TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane), which is made of the similar material as Everun.
Insoles top and Bottom View
Outsole & Durability
The outsole is flexible with a little snap to it, ensuring that the ride of the Kinvara remains fairly responsive. Saucony’s XT-900 Hard carbon rubber is placed under selected portions of the heel and softer strips of iBR+ rubber in the forefoot.
The rest of the outsole consists of exposed foam. The outsole in the forefoot is generally wide, which provides forefoot stability when pushing off. I wish that the hard carbon rubber was placed in the lateral forefoot for more stability and responsiveness.
Outsole of Kinvara 8
Types of Work outs
The Kinvara can be used on the road and track for medium to up-tempo paces from 5ks to full marathons. I would very much prefer something more responsive for 5km-10km races.
- Lightweight and versatile
- Sleek Design
- Pretty Decent Colourways
- Soft and relaxed cushioning that excels for slow to up-tempo paces
- Breathable Upper
- Affordable Price
- Hard to lock down heel
- Tongue is too fat
- Laces are too short
- Too soft for faster paces of <4:00km/min
- Durability of midsole
Recommended runner’s profile for optimum performance
- Weight of 70kg (154lb) and below
- Running pace of 4:30km/min and above
- Preference for soft cushioning
- Neutral gait
Potential areas for improvement
- Longer laces
- Thinner Tongue
- Adjustment to the heel collar to make it not as slippery
- Firming up of midsole, perhaps adding more Everun
- Adding High abrasion rubber at the lateral forefoot portion
Kinvara 8 vs Nike Zoom Elite 9
The Kinvara feels softer, more sluggish and less responsive. Zoom elite 9 is more versatile overall. Kinvara for recovery runs and Zoom Elite 9 for everything else.
Kinvara 8 vs Saucony Freedom ISO
The Kinvara 8 is way softer than the Freedom. However, it lacks the bounce of the Freedom. The only situation where I would pick the Kinvara over the Freedom is for long and slow runs.
Kinvara 8 vs Mizuno Wave Shadow
Kinvara for up-tempo runs to long slow distance runs. Wave Shadow for up-tempo runs to faster interval training. The Wave Shadow is much firmer than the Kinvara. The Kinvara is also lighter by a full ounce.