I really love Saucony; I thought I had brand loyalty until I discovered Brooks, but I still love Saucony. As you know well from this blog, I am in love with the Saucony Kinvara 2. It was my first minimalist running shoe and I never looked back. I loved it. I retired two pairs of the 2 and now own the Kinvara 3. I’m going to try and center this review on the Kinvara 3, due to it’s general newness, but I will be talking about the K2. Not much has changed between the versions, and the 2s are so cheap to pick up nowadays, they’re really worth at least a small bit of this review.
Initial Thoughts: You can compare this pair, the Kinvara 3, to pictures of my old K2s: here and here. You can see that the original rubber triangles on the bottom have been conserved, but moved around. Unfortunately, Saucony did not reinforce the outer edge of the sole, leaving me high and dry as a supinator (this is where all my wear and tear happens, usually). That being said, the sole is marvelous. The same EVA+ material is used in both versions and provides a soft feel that is not at all marshmellowy. For a minimalist shoe, there is less “ground feel” than some (like the Nike Free 3.0 for example), but enough cushion despite a low weight to please any runner. This EVA+ material tends to be worn away rather quickly, hence the need for reinforcing rubber outsole pieces, but can take a beating. My K2s lasted ~350 and ~400 miles each, and the pair pictured above only has ~50 miles on it. Don’t mind the dust, otherwise they are pristine.
The predecessor: The Kinvara 2 was one of the hottest running shoes of 2010, and was a very mild update from the K1. Having never owned a K1, I can’t say much for the changes, but I loved the K2 as a new-to-me brand (Saucony) and product. The only update from version to version seems to be the upper. Monomesh on K2 replaced open mesh on the K1. I personally love the K2 upper, especially more than the K3. The K3 has FlexFilm technology, plastic overlay that allows the K3 to be a sockless shoe with light weight and a secure fit. I personally like the fit and feel of the K2 better, but the Kinvara 3 does not disappoint.
Beyond the upper and redesigned outsole, not much has changed. Both versions clock in at 7.7 oz with a 4 mm heel-toe drop. The soft feel does not change much between shoes, although the lacing system on the K3 feels slightly different as the lowest eyelet has been removed.
Both models retain the same wide footbed as the original Kinvara, making it a favorite for runners who like room to toe-splay or just have wider feet. There is a wide size available for runners with truly wide feet as well. This sets the Kinvaras apart from more racing-flat style minimalist shoes like the PureConnect and the Nike lines which tend to use narrow, tight toeboxes.
The Upper: I’ve already discussed the differences, but my favorite is the K2. the K3’s “flywire” (to steal a Nike term) doesn’t impress me much, and the fit hasn’t changed for me. With the added plastic, I feel the K3 doesn’t hug my foot as well. I hope this will change as I invariably find the lacing pattern that works best for this shoe/foot combination.
The Sole: Retaining the beloved 4mm drop of it’s predecessors, the Kinvara is a performance or minimalist trainer. The original draw of the Kinvara was this heel-toe drop, allowing runners to run “barefoot” with a more natural stride. Though, it has never been marketed as a barefoot shoe, and is not one. You certainly lose a lot of ground feel with these kicks. With soft cushion that allows for a nice stride transition, the low drop may be just what you’re looking for to translate from regular trainers to “less is more” shoes like this one. Unlike the Nike Free 3.0 and Brooks PureConnect, the Kinvara is softer and more forgiving; a better fit for transitioning runners not ready to immediately feel all the rocks and roots beneath their feet.
Not as flexible as some models I’ve tested, the Kinvara is more widely known for its ride than its flexibility. The sole has no creative siping, but is wide and allows for a larger range of runners to enjoy the brand. Heavier and efficient runners alike will appreciate the light weight with lots of cushion thanks to the EVA+ technology. Below you can see the flexibility limitations:
I love the Kinvara because it was my first love. Your feet sink happily into them and stay there, secure and cushioned. I have never gotten a wayward blister from anything other than a rainy run. Beware wearing these shoes sockless, the K3 is much more able to accommodate that request than the K2. Also, you can find some great prices on the K1 and K2 now. At $90-$100 (depending on your store), the Kinvara is certainly worth every penny. In a world of “minimalist” running shoes touting low heel-toe drops with reduced cushioning, the Kinvara provides the light weight of a performance shoe with the comfort of a trainer. Similar to the PureFlow from Brooks or the Nike Free Run (with a lower drop of course), this performance trainer stands alone despite the endless wannabes.
These shoes run a regular size. I wear a 9 in these, and the width is perfect.
Weight/Heel-toe Drop: 7.7 oz (mens, 6.7 womens), 4mm drop.
Pros: Wide toebox, thick cushioning, and a low drop. Beautiful colorways and a “cheap” price (especially if you spring for an older model). I love everything about this shoe.
Cons: The “flywire” on the K3 does not impress me, seems to change the fit. And why didn’t they reinforce the outer edge of the outsole? Ugh.
Comments: This is honestly my perfect shoe. If you are looking to transition from regular trainers, I would try this minimalist model first. Good for runners of all types looking for a low-profile shoe with lots of flashy color that will stay with you for a while. I can’t bear to throw my old pairs out, they are still in my rainy-day treadmill collection despite having gathered over 400 miles. The sole does wear away over time, but the excellent fit and feel just gets better (like wine, cheese, other items of greatness?).