Saucony Kinvara 8 Review
The latest version of the Kinvara is quite different to its predecessor, even though it looks almost identical. The eighth iteration is far more softly cushioned, and I would classify it as a Maximalist shoe. While it's midsole is nowhere near as tall as the Hoka Bondi, which is half as thick again, I found the Kinvara to be more softly cushioned. I've really enjoyed running in the Kinvara 8, far more than any of its predecessors, but I feel for the many fans of the Kinvara line who may be looking for a more direct replacement. If you liked the Saucony Kinvara 7, then you may want to check out the Topo ST-2 for a successor. I've rated the Kinvara 8 as "Highly Recommended", and it's a strong competitor to the outstanding Hoka Clifton and Altra Escalante, which is exalted company. (I use The Science of Running Shoes as the basis of how I test running shoes and what you should look for in a running shoe.)
- Hoka Bondi. In fact, the Kinvara is now nipping at the heels of the awesome Hoka Clifton. The Kinvara 8 offers slightly less cushioning than the Hoka Clifton for slightly less weight, and comes a remarkably close to the cushioning-to-weight ratio of the Clifton. I think that this is the Kinvara is actually a little more springy and responsive than the Clifton something that's a remarkable achievement in a shoe this cushioned. The Kinvara has a thin layer of TPU foam (EVERUN) at the top of the midsole, but I haven't put on enough miles to know if this will help with the shoes of longevity or not. . The eighth incarnation of the Kinvara is far more softly cushioned than its predecessors, and I'd say it's more softly cushioned than the
- . The Kinvara has 4mm of drop, which is slightly more than I think is ideal, but shouldn't cause many people a problem.
- . This shoe uses two types of foam, but these are not intended to control foot motion in the way that a Medial Post would do. Instead there is a layer of Saucony's TPU foam at the top over a thicker layer of standard EVA foam. This is intended to improve comfort, rather than interfere with your biomechanics. The only thing that I found that it might be intrusive is the shape of the heel, which is sloped a little so that it is higher on the inside (medial), which makes it a little bit like running on a camber. I got used to this pretty quickly, but I think it's suboptimal.
- . The Kinvara reasonably flexible, and perhaps more flexible than you might expect from its thickness. However, don't go expecting the kind of flexibility you get in a minimalist shoe.
- . There is hard rubber covering only a few patches of the contact area. You can see these patches as the orange patches on the underside of the shoe in the photographs above. This means that the Kinvara has quite a bit of exposed midsole, but that's quite reasonable given its outstanding cushioning-to-weight ratio.
- cutting open the toe box for comfort. The Kinvara is certainly not as bad as some shoes, but it's nothing like an Altra or a Topo. (I recommend cutting open the toe box of virtually all running shoes, with the exception of a few shoes like some Altra shoes. When you have some worn out shoes, you should try cutting open the toe box. I've found that it's a big improvement, allowing my toes to move naturally and engage for toe off, as well as reducing the possibility of blisters.)
. The shoe is does not match the shape of the human foot, so it's worth considering
- . The upper is seamless in the forefoot, and consists of a fine mesh inner liner and a much coarser meshed overlay/outer. There is a little bit of padding around the rear of the upper, and the ankle opening is generously padded. Sadly, Saucony have continued to add their "Pro-Lock", which is intended to create a tighter fit around the midfoot. I didn't find this made any difference while running, either positive or negative. However, I did find it made the shoe slightly trickier to put on, and slightly trickier to get the laced tension just right.
- . The Kinvara has a sock style tongue that is attached to either side of the upper. I found that this worked remarkably well, as it felt like a conventional tongue that stayed in place perfectly. The tongue has thick, soft padding.
- . The flat laces work well and remained tied. There is some noticeable elasticity in the laces, which I think adds nicely to the comfort of the shoe. This is not the bungee style laces, but a traditional lace with just a tiny bit of stretch, something that I find is a nice addition.
- Heel Counter is hard heel counter that remarkably hard edges, but it doesn't come up overly high, and the padding that's between the heel counter and your foot pretty much negates it. . The
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2 Update After 200 Miles
The Kinvara 8 has proved a great companion over the last 200 miles. It's been a shoe I've instinctively reached for, and its provided a nice combination of soft cushioning without being squishy. While it's not as light as many of the other shoes I run in, it's still remarkably light for the cushioning provides. The Kinvara 8 has worked well at faster paces as well as providing some comfort when my legs are weary. The "pro-lock" as proved to be an annoyance, but only when I'm putting the shoes on, as it makes lacing just a little more tedious than it should be. There is a little more wear on the sole than is perhaps ideal. I've worn down the hard orange outsole pads in the forefoot, and the blue midsole there is starting to abrade slightly. I'm generally pretty easy-going on my shoes, so if your running style is a little more abrasive you may find this Kinvara will wear quicker than you'd like. However, as I usually find, the outsole is not a limiting factor, and the midsole has started to compress quite noticeably under the ball of the foot. This is partly the removable insole, but mostly it's the foam midsole. It's possible that Replacement Insoles might help, but I think about only extend the life fractionally. I was hoping that the Kinvara 8 would last a little longer than it has, especially given how much I've enjoyed running in them. I tend to be rather more conservative in the life of my running shoes, as I found that the compression of the midsole can noticeably change my running form, so I'd rather replace my running shoes sooner rather than risk an injury. Overall, the last 200 miles has confirmed my belief that this is an outstanding running shoe and highly recommended.
3 Update After 300 Miles
I was really intending to retire the Kinvara after 200 miles, but I found it such a great shoe that I discovered I'd covered another hundred miles in them before I realized it. The changes over the last hundred miles have been fairly incremental, rather like "boiling the frog." The wear on the outsole and exposed midsole looks fairly minor at first glance, and it would be easy to think that there's plenty of life left in these shoes. On closer inspection, you can see that the midsole is abraded away under the area that is just behind the middle of the forefoot. The more serious problem is the uneven collapse of the midsole, which is now more than 7 mm lower under the ball of my foot the when the shoe was new. While Replacement Insoles might mitigate the problem a little, it's really too late and this time around I need to retire the Kinvara to avoid serious injury.
4 A Comparison with other Recommended Shoes
For a more detailed comparison of these shoes see the Recommendations for Best Running Shoes. This table lists the key attributes of What to Look for in Running Shoes. For more detailed information, on the shoes see detailed shoe comparison.
|Asics 33-DFA Review||Asics||33-DFA||Worth considering||$90||5.7||10.6||16.5||27||27||0||6.1||6|
|Saucony Type A6 Review||Saucony||A6||Highly Recommended||$100||8.2||6.1||9.5||17||21||4||5.0||8|
|Adidas Adios Boost 2 Review||Adidas||Adios||Worth considering||$140||4.7||8.6||13.4||17||27||11||4.0||7|
|Hoka Bondi 5 Review||Hoka||Bondi||Recommended||$150||6.1||11.6||18.1||38||42||5||7.1||4|
|Hoka Clayton Review||Hoka||Clayton||Best of the Best||$150||8.8||8.3||12.9||26||30||3||7.3||5|
|Hoka Clayton 2 Review||Hoka||Clayton 2||Review Pending||$150||9.1||8.3||12.9||23||28||1||7.5||6|
|Hoka Clifton 3 Review||Hoka||Clifton3||Best of the Best||$130||9.1||9.8||15.3||34||38||3||8.9||6|
|On Cloudracer Review||On Cloud||Cloudracer||Worth considering||$130||5.7||8.2||12.8||19||27||5||4.7||8|
|Hoka Conquest Review||Hoka||Conquest||Worth considering||$170||5.0||11.9||18.5||28||34||5||6.0||3|
|Saucony Cortana 4 Review||Saucony||Cortana||Worth considering||$150||4.4||9.9||18.7||22||28||5||4.3||5|
|Mizuno Wave Cruise Review||Mizuno||Cruise||Worth considering||$120||6.6||5.9||12.5||17||20||7||3.9||7|
|Newton Distance IV Review||Newton||Distance||Worth considering||$155||7.5||9.1||14.2||26||31||3||6.8||6|
|Asics Gel DS Racer 10 Review||Asics||DS Racer||Worth considering||$110||8.2||7.0||10.9||21||26||6||5.8||6|
|Mizuno Wave Ekiden 8 Review||Mizuno||Ekiden||Worth considering||$115||5.7||5.7||14.6||13||18||6||3.2||8|
|Saucony Endorphin 2 Review||Saucony||Endorphin 2||Worth considering||$115||8.0||5.1||9.6||15||13||-1||4.1||8|
|Adidas Energy Boost Review||Adidas||Energy||Worth considering||$160||7.2||10.0||15.6||20||30||7||7.2||6|
|Altra Escalante Review||Altra||Escalante||Best of the Best||$130||9.1||8.7||13.5||28||25||-1||7.9||7|
|Puma Faas 100 R Review||Puma||Faas 100||Highly Recommended||$90||8.4||6.1||9.4||15||20||1||5.1||9|
|Saucony Fastwitch Review||Saucony||Fastwitch||Highly Recommended||$90||9.5||7.1||11.1||20||22||4||6.8||8|
|Topo Fli-Lyte Review||Topo||Fli-Lyte||Highly Recommended||$100||6.0||9.4||14.6||23||24||4||5.6||6|
|Nike Free 4.0 Review||Nike||Free||Recommended||$120||5.3||8.2||13.6||24||30||6||4.4||6|
|Saucony Freedom Review||Saucony||Freedom||Recommended||$160||5.4||10.7||16.6||25||29||3||5.8||7|
|Asics Gel Lyte 33 3 Review||Asics||Gel Lyte||Not recommended||$90||8.0||7.3||11.4||17||24||4||5.8||9|
|Skechers GOmeb Speed 3 Review||Skechers||GOmeb 3||Worth considering||$120||6.9||8.1||12.6||20||24||4||5.5||8|
|Skechers GORun 4 Review||Skechers||GORun||Not recommended||$100||6.1||7.5||11.7||15||23||3||4.5||7|
|Skechers GOrun Ultra 2 Review||Skechers||GRU||Worth considering||$90||7.5||10.0||15.6||28||34||8||7.5||5|
|Skechers GOrun Ultra Road Review||Skechers||GRU-R||Worth considering||$105||6.5||11.3||17.6||30||40||6||7.4||7|
|Asics GT 2000 Review||Asics||GT 2000||Not recommended||$120||4.8||11.2||17.4||28||35||5||5.4||4|
|New Balance Hanzo S||New Balance||Hanzo||Worth considering||$110||7.6||6.9||10.7||21||19||2||5.2||6|
|Hoka Hupana Review||Hoka||Hupana||Recommended||$115||6.1||8.9||13.9||31||36||7||5.4||5|
|Asics Gel Hyper Speed 7 Review||Asics||Hyper Speed||Highly Recommended||$75||10.9||6.3||9.8||22||26||5||6.8||7|
|Altra Instinct 3.5 3.5 Review||Altra||Instinct 3.5||Recommended||$115||4.9||9.3||15.2||24||23||0||4.5||6|
|Altra Instinct 4.0 Review||Altra||Instinct 4.0||Worth considering||$120||6.0||9.8||15.3||29||25||-1||5.9||6|
|Asics Tarther Kainos 3 Review||Asics||Kainos||Worth considering||$130||10.0||6.9||10.7||17||27||9||6.8||7|
|Saucony Kinvara 8 Review||Saucony||Kinvara 8||Best of the Best||$110||9.3||8.6||13.4||26||31||3||8.0||6|
|Nike LunaRacer 4 Review||Nike||LunaRacer||Recommended||$90||9.9||7.0||10.9||22||30||7||6.9||6|
|Nike LunarSpider R5 Review||Nike||LunarSpider||Recommended||$125||6.9||6.7||10.4||17||21||3||4.6||7|
|Hoka Mafate Speed Review||Hoka||Mafate||Best of the Best||$170||7.6||11.9||18.5||39||40||4||9.0||3|
|Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 v2 Review||Pearl||N0||Highly Recommended||$100||7.9||6.5||10.1||14||20||4||5.2||8|
|Saucony Nomad Review||Saucony||Nomad||Worth considering||$110||4.3||10.5||17.2||25||27||2||4.5||5|
|Hoka Odyssey Review||Hoka||Odyssey||Highly Recommended||$130||8.5||9.4||14.6||37||45||5||8.0||4|
|Altra Olympus Review||Altra||Olympus||Highly Recommended||$130||5.4||11.8||18.4||27||27||3||6.4||4|
|Altra One 2.5 Review||Altra||One||Highly Recommended||$100||8.5||7.1||11.1||22||25||2||6.0||8|
|Altra One 3.0 Review||Altra||One||Review Pending||$100||6.1||8.8||13.7||23||23||0||5.4||7|
|Altra Paradigm Review||Altra||Paradigm||Highly Recommended||$130||6.4||9.9||15.4||25||25||1||6.4||4|
|Asics Piranha SP 5 Review||Asics||Piranha||Recommended||$100||10.1||4.2||6.5||11||15||3||4.2||9|
|Brooks PureFlow 5 Review||Brooks||PureFlow||Worth considering||$110||6.0||9.7||15.1||26||29||5||5.8||8|
|Salming Race Review||Salming||Race||Worth considering||$130||6.9||6.5||10.1||16||19||4||4.5||7|
|New Balance RC1600 v2 Review||New Balance||RC1600||Highly Recommended||$110||8.8||5.6||8.7||15||21||5||4.9||8|
|New Balance RC5000 Review||New Balance||RC5000||Best of the Best||$125||12.2||3.4||5.3||13||17||3||4.2||8|
|New Balance RC5000v2 Review||New Balance||RC5000v2||Best of the Best||$125||14.2||4.0||6.2||13||21||6||5.7||8|
|Skechers GoRun Ride 3 Review||Skechers||Ride||Worth considering||$85||5.9||8.5||13.2||18||28||6||5.0||9|
|Inov-8 RoadXTreme 220 Review||Inov-8||RXT-220||Worth considering||$120||5.2||8.0||18.2||14||17||3||4.2||9|
|Topo ST-2 Review||Topo||ST-2||Highly Recommended||$90||8.2||7.3||11.4||20||18||0||6.0||8|
|Hoka Stinson Lite Review||Hoka||Stinson||Highly Recommended||$160||7.3||11.6||18.1||35||40||6||8.5||2|
|Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 Review||Nike||Streak LT||Best of the Best||$80||8.8||5.4||8.4||16||21||4||4.8||6|
|Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Review||Adidas||Takumi Sen 3||Highly Recommended||$160||7.7||6.6||10.2||17||21||4||5.1||6|
|Altra Torin 2.0 Review||Altra||Torin||Worth considering||$125||5.8||9.6||14.9||28||25||-1||5.5||5|
|Hoka Tracer Review||Hoka||Tracer||Recommended||$130||7.2||7.4||11.5||21||24||2||5.3||6|
|Merrell Trail Glove 3 Review||Merrell||Trail Glove||Best of the Best||$100||2.9||6.9||24.7||11||11||0||2.0||9|
|Topo Tribute Review||Topo||Tribute||Recommended||$100||5.9||7.3||11.4||20||18||-1||4.3||7|
|Mizuno Wave Universe 5 Review||Mizuno||Universe||Highly Recommended||$125||10.7||3.1||10.6||9||12||1||3.3||9|
|Merrell Vapor Glove 2 Review||Merrell||Vapor Glove||Highly Recommended||$85||2.1||6.1||27.6||6||5||0||1.3||10|
|New Balance Vazee Pace Review||New Balance||Vazee Pace||Worth considering||$110||6.0||8.6||13.4||18||24||6||5.2||6|
|Asics TartherZeal 3 Review||Asics||Zeal||Worth considering||$140||10.9||6.3||9.8||17||27||9||6.8||7|
It's not a running shoe, but I love the Hoka Tor Ultra hiking boot and I've tested the Altra Lone Peak Boot.
Older shoe reviews: Saucony Hattori Review, Mizuno Cursoris Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, Hoka Clifton Review, Saucony Virrata 2 Review, Brooks PureCadence 3 Review, Brooks PureConnect 3 Review, Brooks PureFlow 3 Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, New Balance 980 Review, Brooks Transcend 2 Review.
Reviews of shoes that are not worth including on the table: Hoka Huaka Review, Patagonia EVERlong Review.