Saucony Kinvara 9 Review:
Weight: 220g (M9) 182g (W7)
Stack height: 23mm-19mm (4mm offset)
There are some true icons in the running shoe industry. Some are revered for their longevity like the Nike Pegasus (model 35 drops in June) and others because of their popularity (if you haven’t been sold an Asics Kayano by a 16 year old kid in a general sports store then have you even lived??).
Then there are the ground breakers. The pioneers. Shoes that had a concept or idea around them. I’m talking about products like the Nike Free range that broke the mould of the traditional running shoe and offered something totally outside what we all thought of as ‘safe’.
The Saucony Kinvara is another of these shoes that’s as much a concept as it is an actual shoe. I feel it changed the way that many people thought of shoes and was a huge presence at a time of big change in the running industry.
I first remember seeing the Kinvara when I was in college in the US in 2011. The most popular shoe on the team at this time was the Nike Free. Most of the kids weighed less than 60kg and had beautiful running techniques so it was hard for my 72km, heel striking overstride to understand how these whippets could get away wearing a minimal shoe for their 100 mile weeks!
The overly flexible nature of the Nike Free was not conducive to performance but their racing flats would break down too quickly if they wore them every day. Enter the Saucony Kinvara. Finally, a shoe they could wear that had the cushion of a training shoe, the natural motion of a minimal shoe, the light weight of a racing shoe and a price tag that matched its durability. Half the team were wearing this shoe by the end of the season and it opened my eyes to what could constitute a mileage training shoe.
When I returned home and began fitting shoes at TRC Geelong, the Kinvara played a big role in helping to temper the desires of confused runners looking to make the almighty leap to true barefoot running. Immediately following them reading the ‘Born To Run’ story, they’d walk through the door committed to throwing their ‘evil’ shoes away and buying some Vibram Five Fingers. Instead of submitting to their demands, I generally negotiated a compromise in them using the Kinvara as a stepping stone due to its low heel to toe offset but stable and cushioned base. I’m sure it saved hundreds of stress fractures in Geelong!
Fast forward 9 years and the Kinvara 9 stays true to its heritage. A couple of key traits that have stood that test of time are as followed –
– 4mm heel to toe offset but large stack height (23mm – 19mm).
– Full contact outersole with no plastic shanks or plates.
– Minimal upper with strong lock down through midfoot and generous toebox volume.
– A very competitive weight vs cushion ratio.
– A simple and natural underfoot ride.
So why has this shoe been so successful?
When I travelled for 5 months, I had room for a single shoe in the luggage. It had to be a shoe that could handle day to day easy runs, speed work, long runs and to race marathons. If I went too ‘race focussed’ I would struggle with a harsh underfoot ride on day to day runs and a higher level of general soreness. If I went too ‘conservative’ and looked after my easy runs then I’d risk wearing a shoe that’s sluggish for faster running and feels terrible on race day.
The Kinvara nails ‘versatility’ and I never felt wanting in any areas of my running
during that trip. Put simply, the K9 can be a racing shoe for some runners, a training shoe for others, it’s a genuine ‘allrounder’.
A few further thoughts on the Kinvara 9 –
– The heaviest feature on a shoe is the rubber outersole. To reduce weight, the
Kinvara 9 uses minimal rubber in high wear points only, so expect less durability in this shoe.
– 4mm offset shoes offer a natural feel and can feel nice when trying to achieve a
midfoot strike however if moving from traditional higher offset shoes, exercise
caution in your transition as higher loads are placed through the Achilles and calf.
– The new model features a more responsive and firmer feel than the previous model
(Kinvara 8). This is more consistent with earlier models of the shoe.
– The shoe also gains some more toebox volume in the new model so expect a slightly
broader foot to be happier and a very narrow foot to strugge.
– The Kinvara 9 uses only a small layer of ‘Everun’, Saucony’s new TPU midsole
material. The major foam used in the shoe is EVA which bucks the trend of the brand
to use Everun as an entire midsole. Here at The Running Company Ballarat we find
that on a daily basis, runners are likely to prefer the traditional response and
cushioned feel of EVA when compared with the TPU foams on the market these
All runners have a different footwear history which heavily influences whether the role that a K9 might play in their footwear arsenal. Other factors to consider when looking at footwear in general are current and previous injuries, running technique, foot shape and most importantly, a runner’s preference for the feel for the shoe. I’d encourage you to visit your local specialty running store (gold medal for The Running Company!) and have a chat to work out if the Saucony Kinvara 9 will work for you.