Saucony has jumped on the minimalist running bandwagon with its recent release of the Saucony Progrid Kinvara, a lightweight (7.70z) training/racing shoe that boasts a smaller-than-usual heel-toe offset of only 4mm (this essentially means that the heel is only 4mm thicker than the forefoot). The upshot of this is that the Kinvara, with it’s relatively flat sole, is better suited than many shoes on the market to promoting a midfoot/forefoot footstrike. We decided to put the Kinvara to the test by having two naturally midfoot striking runners review and compare the Kinvara to another shoe that is designed to promote a midfoot/forefoot strike: the Newton Gravitas.
Here are the reviewer details:
Thomas N.: Averages 141 miles per month around a 9 min mile pace. Neutral foot with a high arch, 180 lb. Natural mid foot striker. Running 3.5 years. 8 marathons, Grand Canyon Rim to Rim, 1 Ultra.
Steve S.: Runs 200 miles per month at an average 7:20 per mile pace. Neutral foot with a moderate arch, 138lbs, natural mid/forefoot striker. Running 29 years. Completed 28 marathons (including one win at Grand Cayman), 1 Ironman, a handful of 50Ks and too many other shorter races to mention.
Up first is the Saucony ProGrid Kinvara:
-4mm heel-toe drop
-Suggested retail = $90
Below is a video about the Saucony Kinvara:
Thomas N. – Amazingly light is the first thing I noticed when I tried on the Kinvara. How cushiony the shoe felt with minimal heel surprised me. For me the shoe felt like a sock with a sole. I was able to lace the shoes to create a snug fit around the foot.
Steve S. – First impression at the local running store was the weight of the Kinvara, or to be more accurate, lack of weight. Weighing in at 7.7oz on the Running Etc. scale, the Kinvara is one of the lightest shoes in my current collection. I can’t recall owning Saucony shoes in the past, so the excellent fit was a very pleasant surprise – a comfortably snug feeling achieved by the secure, yet basic lacing system, plenty of room in the toebox without any extra slack, and a cushy heel cup that sits at just the right height. All in all, the Kinvara felt more like a carpet slipper than a running shoe, so I was really keen to test them out by running up and down the aisle in the store.
Thomas N. – I don’t care what anybody says, for me, boring looking shoes suck. I need to go down to my closet at 5:30 a.m. and pull out a pair of shoes that look fast even if I feel like a sloth. I have that problem with the rest of the Saucony line – the designs are uninspiring. I want greased lighting on my feet when I run! The Kinvara with the red sole and simply styled uppers promise fun. They are a great looking shoe without going over the top. The last pair of Saucony I liked this much was a pair of bumblebee yellow and black Triumphs.
Steve S. – Unlike most of the other shoes in the Saucony lineup, the Kinvara look pretty futuristic. I must admit I like a shoe to look a little different from the norm, but it’s not the major selling point for me. As long as the shoe does what it’s designed to do, I’ll take it. However, the snazzy red side panel paired with a black and red sole certainly had me nodding my head in approval. One question to Saucony though – what is the purpose of the fine mesh covering the more open mesh upper? In the summer months I think I’d prefer to feel the extra breeze on my feet, and I’m just wondering if the silky mesh covering will trap heat inside the shoe. Just a thought…
Thomas N. – The first run in the Kinvara was AWESOME! It was an eleven-mile run. I was thrilled with the shoe. My feet felt great after the run, and I have no complaints about the shoe. There was no rubbing, the cushioning was perfect and my legs felt fresh. My only concern was when I examined the noticeable wear on the outsoles after the run (see photo to the right). I don’t know if it will play into the life of the shoes or not, but the outsole of the shoe showed significant wear from the first run and continues to show wear (after only 21 total miles of running). The foot strike to toe off is smooth.
Steve S. – The initial “up and down the aisle” run in the Kinvara was tremendous! Carpet slipper with cushioned sole is a pretty accurate description of the experience. You may be surprised that I didn’t snap up the Kinvaras right there and then. I actually did the right thing for once, and left the store empty handed but with thoughts about adding yet another shoe to my collection. However, the lure of the carpet slipper had me going back to the store the very next day to snap up the last remaining pair of size 9.5s. Must have been fate I guess.
My first real run in the Kinvara was a six mile progressive effort. After a tentative opening mile (7:17 pace), I let the shoes do the running and ended up with six miles in just over 38 minutes at a crazy 6:25/mile average pace! Thrilled is very much an understatement of my initial impression – no complaints about the performance, the fit or the feel. I guess my only concern is with the wear of the sole after roughly 30+ miles (see photo to the right). The small triangular lugs are pretty much flat already and I’m wondering how many miles I can expect from the shoe.
Next Up: Newton Gravitas
-Highly breathable, fast-drying
-Forefoot actuator lugs
-Metatarsal stretch panels
-Suggested retail = $175
If you’re not familiar with Newton running shoes, they’re one of the few shoes manufacturers out there that caters specifically to midfoot-forefoot strikers. Their shoes have a relatively small drop from heel to toe, and the forefoot has cushioned “actuator lugs” to absorb and release impact force during forefoot running. Below is a video about the action-reaction technology found in Newton running shoes to give you a better idea regarding what these shoes are all about:
The Newton Gravitas fits snug to the foot, much less room than a traditional running shoe. The shoe has a light feel throughout your workout.
I currently have two pairs of Newton Gravitas in my current shoe rotation, and have owned four pairs in total over the last couple of years. The Gravitas fit snug to the foot (almost too snug in the toe box to be honest) but are very comfortable and supportive. I particularly like the open mesh design, which provides a very airy experience in the summer months. Walking around in Newtons takes a little getting used to – after all, the forefoot lugs are meant to enhance the running experience – but out on the roads, the Gravitas takes over. The shoe is light enough that you almost forget you’re wearing them.
These shoes are not for the timid – the colors are bright and attention grabbing. I love how loud the shoes are. The 2009 Gravitas were REALLY red, and the 2010 Gravitas are an electric blue that leaves an burn on the retina. I feel faster in these in just standing still!
The Gravitas are definitely a head turner. The first couple of pairs I owned were bright orange (actually, I still have one pair of “the orange” in my current rotation). The 2009 Gravitas were very red, and the latest model (which, incidentally, I don’t own) are a very cool electric blue. If you don’t feel fast wearing the Gravitas, I’m not sure what to suggest Again, I really like the open mesh design, which definitely helps keep the weight under 10oz and provides plenty of air conditioning in the warmer months.
Newtons fit the way I run. I naturally land mid foot, so the first time I tried the Newtons it was an Ah Ha! Moment. I felt like I had been carrying around extra shoe on all my other runs. I need more cushion in the front of the shoe versus the heel, and Newton delivers this.
I find it very difficult not to run fast wearing the Gravitas. Some may feel that the Newton actuator lug technology is a bit gimmicky (see picture to the right), but I definitely experience and appreciate the energy return on every stride. The forward propulsion from the Gravitas is a very unique feeling and honestly one that I really like. The only downside to running in the Gravitas is the lack of stability on corners and bends. The forefoot lugs tend to rock from side to side which usually causes me to ease off the pace and just coast the turns — not ideal in a race situation but fine for everyday training runs. Oh yeah, just make sure you take time to adjust to the “Newton” way of running otherwise your calves will not be happy!
Thomas N. – So how do the shoes compare to each other? The Kinvara is super light and you can feel it towards the end of the run. The shoe itself runs very similar to the Newton with the exception of the lugs on the bottom of the Newton. The lugs on the Newton are great for training you how to footstrike on the midfoot/forefoot, but if you know how, you don’t really miss them. The overall fit of the Newton feels a little bit more secure than the Kinvara. Both shoes are a great fit for a neutral runner with an efficient stride. It comes down to the quick wear on the Kinvara and the high price of the Newton for me. At $90, even if I only get 200 miles out of the Kinvara, I will have spent approximately half of what it costs for one pair of Newton Gravitas. My Newton Gravitas have worn extremely well and one pair out of the two pairs I have is well over 300 miles and still holding up great. If the Kinvara can hold up, they will be a great shoe to keep in the rotation that will help extend the life of my Newtons. I will most likely run both of these shoes together throughout the summer.
Steve S. – Comparison time! Performance-wise, the Kinvara and Gravitas are pretty similar. I find them both to be light, comfortable and fast. However, I particularly like the almost 2oz lighter weight of the Kinvara and their superior ability on corners. With regards to durability and wear, I have no complaints with the Gravitas whatsoever. Many people suggested they’d only last for a couple of hundred miles, but I’ve been able to log between 350-400 miles on each pair I’ve owned. At a higher-than-other-brands suggested retail price of $175, this was good news, although it would be nice if companies could design a shoe that would last closer to 1,000 miles! The Kinvara is an unknown quantity in terms of wear and anticipated lifespan, but at $90 I would hope for 250 miles as a bare minimum. Time will tell I guess.
The authors of this post, Thomas Neuberger and Steve Speirs, are runners from Baltimore and Virginia Beach respectively. You can view Thomas’ dailymile profile page at http://www.dailymile.com/people/thomasneuberger, and Steve’s dailymile profile page at http://www.dailymile.com/people/stevespeirs. Read more about Thomas’ running trials on his personal blog, Believe in the Run. More info on Steve can be found on his site, Run Bulldog Run. Steve and Thomas met online through twitter and dailymile and have since completed a 50k race together with other runners from dailymile.