Saucony Kinvara 12 review and lab test

It’s a simple, fast, light, nimble trainer with a lot of flex and not a lot of drop. It’s not truly a minimalist shoe, but it feels minimal in all the right places. 

Buy this shoe if you want a minimal, lightweight daily trainer that can do a little of everything, has quicker transitions, and great lockdown at a very competitive price. 

Don’t buy this shoe if you want 

It’s simple, and well done, but it’s not an Endorphin

Pieces of the Kinvara 12

The Kinvara and I have a sorted past. When I first started running about 12 years ago I was running in truly minimalist shoes, the fad came and went, and I bought my first pair of real shoes, the Kinvara. 

I appreciated the added padding underfoot and that they were still light and somewhat minimal. I loved them and ran my first marathon in Kinvaras. A decade later I was still excited to lace these up, they disappear on your feet, they feel low to the ground, balanced, and the fit is great, but that first pair wore down quickly and I fear the same for this latest iteration. 

Pros

  • Perfect fit
  • Wide feet friendly
  • Balanced and reliable ride
  • Fantastic foot lockdown
  • Tongue stays put
  • Great laces
  • Insanely flexible
  • Removable insole
  • Lightweight

Cons

  • Not for cold days
  • Non-durable outsole 

 

Zero complaints in the comfort department

Saucony Kinvara 12’s fit is great, period. Although they are not extremely roomy shoes, there was plenty of space in the toe box for my caveman’s feet.  

I was glad to test these after the Adidas Ultraboost 21 and the New Balance 1080v11, because I needed my faith in uppers to be restored. 

They also have a simple, but comfortable, removable Form-Fit insole, that adds a bit of stiffness under foot. At 40.7ha, the durometer of the insole is 37% firmer than the average, helping to give the Kinvara that balanced feeling underfoot since the midsole itself is so flexible. 

Not a cold-day running shoe

One thing to consider though is if you’ll be running in cold weather, the Kinvara failed our flex tests after an hour in the freezer. 

Kinvara 12 in the freezer

The flexible PWRrun foam is a liability, stiffening almost 130% compared to its room temp firmness. If you’re a winter runner, this shoe is going to disappoint on those extremely cold days. 

Kinvara 12 offers a balanced and reliable ride

What you should now about the midsole and how the shoe rides: 

  • it’s “bounce-lite” or maybe “bounce-firm”, 
  • it’s not super responsive but it’s not dull like so many other lower-price shoes on the market today, 
  • the bounce is very mellow, making it feel balanced and comfortable rather than either overly sprung or uninspired. 

It feels balanced, light, and fast, what more can you ask for?

Fantastic foot lockdown 

No slip issues: The Kinvara 12 has a very lightweight upper made from airy, breathable mesh, and minimal welded overlays giving it enough support that I didn’t have any slip issues at all. 

Fantastic lockdown: This one-piece design felt great on my foot, there’s really not a single seam anywhere. I even dig the inclusion of some ripstop nylon to stiffen up the heel cup, looks cool. 

A sweet spot in the midfoot area: These have pretty standard flat braided laces. They are lightweight at 4.1g, and have ample stretch giving the top of the shoe a bit of wiggle room. This works well in a shoe like this, normally 22.45% stretch is too much, but since the upper doesn’t flex at all, having a stretchy lace is a plus, giving the top of your foot room to move throughout your stride. 

Saucony Kinvara 12 laces

Lately, I’ve seen super stretchy laces on shoes with super-stretchy uppers, leading to a feeling of sloppiness. Well done Saucony for getting this small detail right. 

Flexibility of Saucony Kinvara 12 will wow you

The Kinvara is highly flexible under foot as well, measuring at just 18.3n on the force gauge to flex this shoe completely, compared to the average of 24.5n, which’s about 25% more flexible. 

Tongue is fantastic and stays put

Take note, all other running brands. 

It’s somewhat thin at just 5.5mm, breathable, and although it's minimal it has a small strip of padding down the center, offering just enough to keep the laces from digging into the top of your foot. 

Thickness of the tongue on Kinvara 12

It’s also fully gusseted with a sheer, slightly flexible mesh that keeps the tongue in place, makes it easy to slide your foot in and out, and provides excellent lockdown. It seems simple at first glance, but it’s really just well designed. 

Lacks a proper outsole, especially the durable one

The lack of proper rubber makes this shoe a little slipper in my experience. The snow is melting here in Colorado and I found myself wishing for more outsole than the slivers of rubber Saucony gave us with this shoe. 

Outsole on Saucony Kinvara 12

The Kinvara has always had a lot of exposed EVA on its underside, it keeps weight down. To me, it’s a downside though. 

Wear and tear on Kinvara 12

Also, I only put in about 22 miles on this shoe and there’s already enough wear to concern me.  I don’t think this is a 500-mile shoe, the lack of outsole takes away from its longevity.

Keeps you close to the ground

In a day and age where midsoles have gotten taller and taller, I am glad the Kinvara 12 keeps my feet close to the ground. 

At just 26mm this shoe is one of the lower stack shoes we’ve tested and it made me forget why we needed 40mm stack heights at all. 

Heel stack on Kinvara 12

The Kinvara is designed as a midfoot and forefoot striking shoe with a low 4mm drop, and it’s not the same responsiveness you get out of higher-end midsoles like on the Endorphin Speed.  

Where it shines is: it is simple and it works without the unnecessary weight other shoes in this price range usually carry. 

Lightweight level: You’ll forget you’re wearing Saucony Kinvara 12

I really enjoyed running in these, mainly because of how light they are. 

Weight of Saucony Kinvara 12

At 7.6 ounces, they are a joy to have on your feet, and without really trying, they actually carried me to my fastest 5-mile effort in a while. 

Conclusion

Overall, it’s a Kinvara. It’s simple, it’s light, it will pack well for travel, it can do long runs, fast runs, slow runs, and everything in between. It’s minimal in nature but not lacking too much. 

Sure it’s not high tech like the Endorphin line, and it’s not the rockstar it was 10 years ago, but it’s a solid performer, at a great price point ($110), that’s comfortable, consistent, and one shoe that can check a lot of boxes. 

If you need a shoe that’s light and isn’t trying too hard to be something it’s not, the Kinvara 12 fits the bill!  

Complete lab-specs overview 

Saucony Kinvara 12
Weight - Left 218g
Weight - Right 215g
Weight - Insole 20g
Weight - Lace 4.1g
Length - Overall 291mm
Length - Insole 273mm
Width Midsole - Forefoot  112.5mm
Width Midsole - Heel 88.3mm
Width Midsole - Middle  70.3mm
Width Upper - Forefoot 98.5mm
Width Upper - Heel 73.6mm
Width Upper - Middle 71.6mm
Stack - Forefoot with insole 21.5mm
Stack - Heel with insole 36.1mm
Stack - Forefoot without insole 17.4mm
Stack - Heel without insole 21.2mm
Drop 4.6mm
Outsole thickness (Forefoot) 1.5mm
Outsole thickness (Heel) 1.5mm
Lugs Depth NA
Insole Thickness 3.8mm
Laces (without stretch) 49inches
Laces (with stretch) 60inches
Lace Stretch  22.45%
Laces - Thickness (Height) 1.2mm
Laces - Width 5.99mm
Durometer Outsole Forefoot (Room Temp) 82.7HC
Durometer Outsole Heel (Room Temp) 82.3HC
Durometer Midsole Forefoot (Room Temp) 30.7HA
Durometer Midsole Forefoot 2nd layer (Room Temp) N/A
Durometer Midsole Heel (Room Temp) 31.2HA
Durometer Insole (Room Temp) 40.7HA
Flexibility of the shoe (Room Temp 18.3N
Durometer Outsole Forefoot (Freezer 1 hour) 85HC
Durometer Outsole Heel (Freezer 1 hour) 84.8HC
Durometer Midsole Forefoot (Freezer 1 hour) 36HA
Durometer Midsole Forefoot 2nd layer (Freezer 1 hour) N/A
Durometer Midsole Heel (Freezer 1 hour) 36.2HA
Durometer Insole (Freezer 1 hour) 40.7HA
Flexibility of the shoe (Freezer 1 hour) 42N
Durometer Outsole Forefoot (% change with temperature) 2.82
Durometer Outsole Heel (% change with temperature) 3.04
Durometer Midsole Forefoot (% change with temperature) 17.39
Durometer Midsole Heel (% change with temperature) 16.04
Durometer Insole (% change with temperature) 0
Flexibility of the shoe (% change with temperature) 129.98
Thickness - Heel Counter/Insert 1.5mm
Thickness - Ankle Collar (Front) 6mm
Thickness - Ankle Collar (Middle) 9.3mm
Thickness - Ankle Collar (Back) 11.1mm
Heel counter material fiber board
Thickness - Tongue 5.5mm
Flexibility of the heel counter  64.2N
Light test (transparence) 98.3LUX
Lace slip test with the knot 19.9N
Longitudinal flexibility (0-5) 2
Torsional flexibility (0-5) 2
Tongue: gusset type Gusseted (both sides)
Laces: profile  Flat
Laces: extra hole  yes
Laces: are they long enough to use the extra hole  no
Heel tab type Pool tab
Insole: removable yes
Control devices:
Multi-density midsole
Rigid heel counter
Elevated medial insole under arch
Supportive tensioned medial upper
Medial flare
Thermoplastic medial post

no
yes
yes
yes
yes
no
How minimalist the shoe is in % 36

Note: all the tests were done on a men's shoe US size 9. 

Rankings

How Saucony Kinvara 12 ranks compared to all other shoes
Top 3% road running shoes
All road running shoes
Top 5% Saucony running shoes
All Saucony running shoes
Top 3% neutral running shoes
All neutral running shoes

Popularity

The current trend of Saucony Kinvara 12.
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Author
Jens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob Andersen

Jens Jakob is a fan of short distances with a 5K PR at 15:58 minutes. Based on 35 million race results, he's among the fastest 0.2% runners. Jens Jakob previously owned a running store, when he was also a competitive runner. His work is regularly featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, BBC and the likes as well as peer-reviewed journals. Finally, he has been a guest on +30 podcasts on running.