Saucony Kinvara 7 Review

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The Saucony Kinvara an extremely popular lightweight running shoe. Compared with a traditional shoe it sheds many of the pointless excesses though it has not been truly optimized. This makes it a great half way house for runners to transition between a traditional running shoe and something closer to an ideal. If you get on well with the Kinvara you could continue your journey in one of three directions:

  • You could head towards a more minimalist or even barefoot style of running, perhaps trying the Saucony Endorphin and then the Merrell Trail Glove.
  • If you want more cushioning, then there is the Hoka Range, including the awesome Hoka Clifton that provides massive cushioning in a shoe that weighs barely more than the Kinvara.
  • If you find the Kinvara is giving you a good level of cushioning, then consider something lighter weight like the New Balance RC5000v2 or Asics Gel Hyper Speed. Of course you could continue with the Kinvara ;}

Compared with its predecessor, the Kinvara 6, version 7 is a little lighter, a little firmer, and a little more drop, but the changes are relatively modest. Version 7 is actually a little closer to the Kinvara 5 which is probably no bad thing. The Kinvara 7 is one of my top picks for runners looking to transition to a better running shoe from something more traditional, and is a worthy shoe in its own right, so I've rated it as "The Best of the Best." The Kinvara 7 has been replaced by the Kinvara 8. (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.)

Saucony Kinvara 7 top
Saucony Kinvara 7 bottom
Saucony Kinvara 7 inside
Saucony Kinvara 7 outside

1 Characteristics

  • Why you’d buy it. The Kinvara will appeal to runners looking for something that's quite close to a traditional running shoe rather than either a true minimalist shoe, an optimally cushioned shoe, or a Maximalist shoe. I'd recommend considering the Hoka Clifton, New Balance RC5000v2, or Asics Gel Hyper Speed as better shoes, but they are also further from the traditional design.
  • Cushioning . The Kinvara is softly cushioned and comfortable, though it's not as soft as a Maximalist shoe like the Hoka Clifton. In fact, it offers almost exactly the same cushioning as the New Balance RC5000v2 while weighing roughly twice as much.
  • Drop. The Kinvara has 4mm of drop, which I think is a good compromise for somebody transitioning from a traditional, high-heeled shoe. In fact, if you're transitioning from a shoe that has 10+mm of drop you may need to look for something in the 6-8mm range as part of your transition.
  • Structure. This shoe uses single density of foam, which is Saucony's "power grid" that's claimed to be 15% lighter and 30% more durable than standard EVA. Of course, every manufacturer claims that their phone is better than the "standard" so take this with a huge pinch of salt.
  • Flexibility. 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.
  • Outsole. There is hard rubber covering only a few patches of the contact area. You can see these patches as the orange and green color in the photographs above. This means that the Kinvara has a rather more exposed midsole than I'd like in a shoe of this weight and cushioning.
  • Shape. The shoe is does not match the shape of the human foot, so it's worth considering cutting open the toe box for comfort. (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.)
  • Upper. The upper is seamless in the forefoot, with just a few modest reinforcement overlays on the outside. There is a seem where they've added extra cushioning around the heel that's a little more noticeable than some other competitor shoes. 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, either positive or negative. The upper is inflexible and padded only around the heel, with good padding around the ankle opening.
  • Tongue. 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.
  • Lacing. The flat laces work well and remained tied.
  • Heel Counter. The Heel Counter is quite firm and pronounced, but fairly small. It has relatively hard edges, but I did not find any problems with the edges digging in.
helping-hand.jpg

2 Cushioning and Shoes

It's intuitively obvious that the cushioning in a shoe will reduce the impact on your body when running. However, The Science of Running Shoes indicates that the reality is rather more complex. While slight cushioning may reduce the effort needed to run by improving your Running Economy, most scientific research indicates that more cushioning does further improve Running Economy. In addition, cushioning does not generally reduce impact and may actually increase it. This is counterintuitive, but is likely to be due to the way a runners mind and body adapts to softer cushioning. Unfortunately, the scientific evidence is far from complete and it's hard to give clear recommendations. I believe that some runners will prefer more cushioning, while others prefer less, and typically those running further have a fondness for greater cushioning. I also believe that a shoe should be as light as possible, and a shoe should justify its weight with the cushioning it provides. My advice is to decide what level of cushioning you're looking for, and then find the lightest shoes that also fit well and are comfortable.

3 Visualizing the Attributes of the Saucony Kinvara 7

File:Saucony Kinvara 7 RFCushPenalty.png
How Saucony Kinvara 7 compares showing rearfoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
File:Saucony Kinvara 7 FFCushPenalty.png
How Saucony Kinvara 7 compares showing forefoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
File:Saucony Kinvara 7 PriceBenefit.png
How Saucony Kinvara 7 compares showing the price against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.
File:Saucony Kinvara 7 DropBenefit.png
How Saucony Kinvara 7 compares showing the loaded drop against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.

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.

Full Review

Brand Name Rating Recommended
price
Benefit Weight
(oz)
Penalty
(sec/mile)
Forefoot
Thickness
Heel
Thickness
Loaded Drop
mm
Cushioning Flexibility
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 2 Review Hoka Clayton2 Highly Recommended $150 9.1 8.3 12.9 23 28 1 7.5 6
Hoka Clifton 4 Review Hoka Clifton4 Worth considering $130 7.7 9.3 14.5 30 35 10 7.2 5
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 Review 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 One 3.0 Review Altra One Worth considering $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 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 4 Review Merrell Trail Glove 4 Best of the Best $100 3.4 8.4 23.8 13 13 0 2.8 10
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 3 Review Merrell Vapor Glove 3 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, the Hoka Tor Speed 2, and the Inov-8 Roclite 325 hiking boots
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.