Review of the Saucony Kinvara as a Marathon Shoe

The Saucony Kinvara has been one of the hottest shoes on the market over the past several months, and it’s a favorite of a sizable number of runners here on dailymile. What makes the Kinvara unique is the fact that it’s lightweight (7.7 oz in men’s size 9), reasonably well cushioned, and it has a relatively low heel (only a 4mm drop from heel to forefoot). Given these attributes, the Kinvara would historically have been classified as either an extremely lightweight trainer or a racing shoe. However, with the rising number of runners putting in large numbers of miles in so-called minimalist shoes, the Kinvara seems well positioned as a lightweight shoe that is suitable to withstand the rigors of long runs or a long-distance race (including the often inevitable form-breakdowns that occur with late-race fatigue).


Recently, three dailymilers opted to run the Smuttynose Rockfest Marathon in Hampton, NH in the Saucony Kinvara. Matt W., Brendan M., and I (Pete L.) all had our sights set on a PR, and perhaps even a Boston Marathon qualifying time, on what was being billed as one of the fastest marathon courses in New England (Smuttynose was a new marathon this year). We each independently converged on the Kinvara as our race shoe, and the goal of this post is to report on our respective experiences. In particular, we’ll explain why we chose to run in the Kinvara, and report on how things worked out during the race.



Brendan M.

The decision regarding which shoe to wear for my recent marathon was easy, the hard part was the color selection. I started wearing the Saucony Kinvaras last June, 2010 and used them exclusively as my training shoe for my fall marathon training cycle, averaging 55-65 MPW.

When I first tried on the Kinvara, the shoe felt more like a slipper than a running shoe, extremely lightweight at 7.7 oz. I would soon find out that despite the lightweight feeling, the Kinvara still offered support for those long runs of 20-23 miles. The fit was comfortably snug with plenty of room in the toe-box. They quickly became my training shoe of choice as these shoes felt fast and natural. The minimal heel-toe drop will help runners attempting to land more on the midfoot/forefoot. As a slight overpronator, I never felt like this shoe collapsed on me, even at the end of longer runs.

On October 3, two of my other friend’s, Pete L. and Matt W., each had selected their own shoe of choice – the Saucony Kinvara to run the Smuttynose Rockfest Marathon. We were all vying for personal records and seeking Boston qualifying times. We hoped that these magical running shoes would get us there. I fell short of obtaining my BQ time by 33 seconds, running a 3:21:32, but a PR nonetheless by 5 minutes.

The Kinvara performed very well for me on race day, as they had during my training cycle. For the marathon, I never thought about my feet…no issues with blisters, with laces gone untied, or cramming of the toes against the front of the shoe. Running 26.2 miles, a runner needs to be focused on other things than one’s feet, and the Kinvara allowed this to happen.


Matt W. (aka Luau)

For over 18 months now I have been a Vibram Fivefingers runner. I ran three marathons (Manchester 2009, Boston 2010 and Providence 2010) in some model of the VFF. I was, as my Twitter profile stated, a Vibram Apostle. That changed about 5 weeks before the Smuttynose Marathon. I had been suffering through some knee pain brought on by a chronic hamstring issue. Working my way back to health, and with only a few weeks to go before Smuttynose, I decided I needed a shoe that was a little softer underfoot but still had a minimalist feel.

A little research led me to the Kinvara’s. When I slipped my feet into the shoes I knew I had made the right choice. Over the course of the next few weeks I ran in my new favorite shoe on all but one run. When I took them out for a 20 mile long run while on vacation, I forgot all about my run while enjoying the scenery at just short of marathon pace.

At Smuttynose Pete, Brendan and I came together as Team Kinvara. I had decided to go with the Kinvara’s more because they had been all I had trained in for the previous 3 weeks – that’s right, this “VFF Apostle” had gone cold turkey. I was NOT able to take the Kinvara’s off of my feet.


During the marathon I never thought of my feet – not once. It was the first time I had gone through a race longer than 10K that I didn’t think of my feet. These shoes, quite simply, did the job.

The result? I finished with an 11 minute PR and a 3:19:19 BQ. I was fortunate enough last year to land an invitational application to run the Boston Marathon. With the help of my Kinvara’s I will run there in 2011 there on my own merits.

In three weeks I will be running the ING New York City Marathon. My original plan had been to run Smuttynose in my Kinvara’s and then run New York in my Bikilas, but at this point, I’m having a hard time taking my Kinvara’s off. I think I’m just going to have to give my ViZi Pro’s a chance to carry me to a possible 3:15 marathon in New York.

Oh, and my Twitter profile now reads: Kinvara Apostle.

You can check out my Smuttynose Marathon report on the Run Luau Run blog.


Pete L.

I’m somewhat lucky in that as a byproduct of writing a blog (www.runblogger.com) that features a lot of shoe reviews, I have an unnecessarily large running shoe collection. The difficulty with this is that it makes it hard to choose which shoe to go with for a given race. Heading into the final weeks preceding the marathon I had narrowed my choice to either the Nike Free Run+ or the Saucony Kinvara. Normally, I run in as little shoe as possible (I’m generally a minimalist when it comes to shoe choice), but for a marathon-length race I wanted something that had a bit of cushion in case my form broke down in the late miles. I opted to go with the Kinvara since it performed well on several of my long runs and was a tad lighter than the Nike Free Run. I’m 100% happy with the choice.

I’ve written a much more in-depth Saucony Kinvara review on my personal blog, but in a nutshell my reason for liking them has to do with their light weight and low heel. I have worked hard over the past several months to shift my running form to a midfoot-style stride, and the Kinvara’s low heel-toe drop worked well with this change in form (see video below). During the marathon, I was able to focus on maintaining good form for most of the race, though the last 5-6 miles are a bit hazy and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if I slipped at some point. Nevertheless, the shoe performed marvelously, and as Brendan and Matt both noted above, I never once had to think about my shoes. My feeling is that if you can run a marathon and not notice your shoes, then they have done their job – that’s exactly what the Kinvaras accomplished for me.



So what was my result? My finish time was 3:15:21 – good enough for a 9 minute PR and my first ever BQ. I can’t say that the shoes are what got me there, but they most certainly did not get in the way. I give the Kinvara a huge thumbs up as a marathon shoe. You can check out my full Smuttynose Marathon race report here.

So there you have it – 3 PR’s and 2 BQ’s on the day in the Kinvaras. Hard to beat that for a shoe endorsement!

About Peter L.

I'm a dad to three little kids, small college anatomy/physiology professor, distance and dog running fanatic, blogger (http://www.runblogger.com), dailymile Team member, and gear/shoe junkie from NH.
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