Saucony Kinvara 8 Review

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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.)

Saucony Kinvara 8 top
Saucony Kinvara 8 outside
Saucony Kinvara 8 bottom
Saucony Kinvara 8 inside

1 Characteristics

  • Cushioning . 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 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.
  • Drop. The Kinvara has 4mm of drop, which is slightly more than I think is ideal, but shouldn't cause many people a problem.
  • Structure. 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.
  • 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 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.
    A shot of the Kinvara 8, backlight to show breathability

    Again, a backlit shot of the Kinvara 8, this time from above.
  • 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. 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.)
  • Upper. 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.
  • 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. 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. The 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.
helping-hand.jpg

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.

Here's an overview of the soul after 200 miles.
This is a close up of the outside hard rubber outsole, showing only the slightest signs of wear.
The rubber outsole under the forefoot has worn rather more, which may not be surprising given how little there is in this area.
The insole is showing significant signs of wear, and the part of the under the ball of my foot is compressed quite a bit.
Here you can see the TPU layer that is just under the removed insole.

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.

Here's an overview of the Kinvara after 300 miles.
This is a close up of the area under the forefoot, highlighting the areas where the midsole has been significantly worn away.
The hard rubber outsole patches on the outside edge of the rear of the sole are only showing minor signs of wear.
There's almost no sign of wear on the midsole that's under the medial edge of the heel of the shoe.
There's some sign of wear under the extreme edge of the heel, from when I occasionally scrape on descents.

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
Saucony Type A6 Review Saucony A6 Highly Recommended $100 8.2 6.1 9.5 17 21 4 5.0 7
Adidas Adios Boost 2 Review Adidas Adios Worth considering $140 4.7 8.6 13.4 17 27 11 4.0 6
Hoka Bondi 5 Review Hoka Bondi Recommended $150 6.1 11.6 18.1 38 42 5 7.1 2
Hoka Clayton 2 Review Hoka Clayton2 Highly Recommended $150 9.1 8.3 12.9 23 28 1 7.5 5
Hoka Clifton 4 Review Hoka Clifton4 Worth considering $130 7.7 9.3 14.5 30 35 10 7.2 3
On Cloudracer Review On Cloud Cloudracer Worth considering $130 5.7 8.2 12.8 19 27 5 4.7 7
Mizuno Wave Cruise Review Mizuno Cruise Worth considering $120 6.6 5.9 12.5 17 20 7 3.9 6
Newton Distance IV Review Newton Distance Worth considering $155 7.5 9.1 14.2 26 31 3 6.8 5
Asics Gel DS Racer 10 Review Asics DS Racer Worth considering $110 8.2 7.0 10.9 21 26 6 5.8 5
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 5
Altra Escalante Review Altra Escalante Best of the Best $130 9.1 8.7 13.5 28 25 -1 7.9 6
Saucony Fastwitch Review Saucony Fastwitch Highly Recommended $90 9.5 7.1 11.1 20 22 4 6.8 7
Topo Fli-Lyte 2 Topo Fli-Lyte2 Review Pending $100 6.7 9.1 14.2 24 26 3 6.1 5
Saucony Freedom Review Saucony Freedom Recommended $160 5.4 10.7 16.6 25 29 3 5.8 6
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 4
Asics GT 2000 Review Asics GT 2000 Not recommended $120 4.8 11.2 17.4 28 35 5 5.4 2
New Balance Hanzo S Review New Balance Hanzo Worth considering $110 7.6 6.9 10.7 21 19 2 5.2 5
Hoka Hupana Review Hoka Hupana Recommended $115 6.1 8.9 13.9 31 36 7 5.4 4
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 7 Review Asics Hyper Speed Highly Recommended $75 10.9 6.3 9.8 22 26 5 6.8 6
Altra Instinct 4.0 Review Altra Instinct 4.0 Worth considering $120 6.0 9.8 15.3 29 25 -1 5.9 5
Asics Tarther Kainos 3 Review Asics Kainos Worth considering $130 10.0 6.9 10.7 17 27 9 6.8 6
Saucony Kinvara 8 Review Saucony Kinvara 8 Best of the Best $110 9.3 8.6 13.4 26 31 3 8.0 5
Nike LunarSpider R5 Review Nike LunarSpider Recommended $125 6.9 6.7 10.4 17 21 3 4.6 6
Hoka Mafate Speed Review Hoka Mafate Best of the Best $170 7.6 11.9 18.5 39 40 4 9.0 1
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 4
Hoka Odyssey Review Hoka Odyssey Highly Recommended $130 8.5 9.4 14.6 37 45 5 8.0 3
Altra One 3.0 Review Altra One Recommended $100 6.1 8.8 13.7 23 23 0 5.4 6
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 6
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 7
Skechers GoRun Ride 3 Review Skechers Ride Worth considering $85 5.9 8.5 13.2 18 28 6 5.0 8
Nike RN Distance 2 Nike RNDist2 Review Pending $120 8.0 9.2 14.3 25 28 4 7.4 7
Inov-8 RoadXTreme 220 Review Inov-8 RXT-220 Worth considering $120 5.2 8.0 18.2 14 17 3 4.2 8
Topo ST-2 Review Topo ST-2 Highly Recommended $90 8.2 7.3 11.4 20 18 0 6.0 7
Hoka Stinson Lite Review Hoka Stinson Highly Recommended $160 7.3 11.6 18.1 35 40 6 8.5 0
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 5
Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Review Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Highly Recommended $160 7.7 6.6 10.2 17 21 4 5.1 5
Altra Torin 2.0 Review Altra Torin Worth considering $125 5.8 9.6 14.9 28 25 -1 5.5 4
Hoka Tracer Review Hoka Tracer Recommended $130 7.2 7.4 11.5 21 24 2 5.3 5
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 6
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
Nike Vaporfly 4% Nike Vaporfly Review Pending $250 10.4 7.2 11.2 25 37 8 7.5 2
New Balance Vazee Pace Review New Balance Vazee Pace Worth considering $110 6.0 8.6 13.4 18 24 6 5.2 5
Asics TartherZeal 3 Review Asics Zeal Worth considering $140 10.9 6.3 9.8 17 27 9 6.8 6
Saucony Zealot 3 Saucony Zealot3 Review Pending $130 8.9 9.5 14.8 29 32 4 8.5 6
Hoka Clifton Review Hoka ZZ Clifton Best of the Best $130 9.5 8.2 12.8 28 32 4 7.8 4

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, Hoka Huaka Review, Patagonia EVERlong Review, Asics 33-DFA Review, Hoka Conquest Review, Saucony Cortana Review, Puma Faas 100 R Review, Saucony Fastwitch Review, Nike Free Review, Asics Gel Lyte 33 Review, Skechers GOmeb Speed Review, Skechers GOrun Ultra Road Review,

 Nike LunaRacer Review,  Altra Paradigm Review.