Saucony Kinvara 8 Review

TL;DR

The Kinvara 8 returns to the classic characteristics of the Kinvara lineage: Light, flexible, bouncy, with a somewhat snug fit. The key change from v7 is the full length Everun topsole, giving it a high amount of cushioning, particularly in the forefoot. Its compliance makes it a good choice for a runner looking to transition from a conventional trainer into “less shoe”.

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IntroThe Saucony Kinvara is pioneer of the “cushioned minimal” category. These are shoes that have low offset, good flexibility and road feel, but some cushioning. Compared to full-on minimal shoes, this expands the appeal to more mainstream runners and allows for higher mileage runs. It also serves as a good gateway to more minimal shoes. One of the pioneers in this segment, some consider the Kinvara is the category benchmark; the shoe which all others in the segment are compared to. When competitive shoes are often coined “Kinvara-killer”, you know who the tog dog is.

In more recent versions, the Kinvara has gained more features and components. More stuff that moves it away from its stripped-down, efficient roots. How does the eighth version compare?

Upper

The upper is mostly engineered mesh, with Flexfilm welded overlays in a only a few areas. Notable is the overlay-free toebox, which should be more accommodating of wider feet. That said, the overall fit is medium width, with a particular taper along the lateral (outside) edge at the front of the shoe.

The navicular (instep) area continues to have the triangular vinyl section that links the outside with one of the lace eyelets. Introduced as Pro-Lock in v5, the part on v8 is curiously lacking in branding.

The tongue is partly gusseted, making the tongue-stay somewhat redundant. It’s positioned adjacent to the  Pro-Lock eyelet, which makes for a busy lacing area near the top of the shoe. The heel collar has lost much of the padding in the prior version. This is excellent, as I find that a poofy collar prevents a good fit and lace lock-down at the throat of the shoe.

There is a decently stiff heel counter, again, carried over from recent versions. This, combined with the wide platform, does give the shoe some stability characteristics, despite not having a medial post. I feel it has more inherent stability than the Freedom, which has less heel structure and a narrower rear outsole.

Midsole / Outsole

As in prior versions, the Kinvara has a ground contact EVA outsole. The tooling is similar to v7, with the Tri-Flex chevron pattern. This is a departure from the trademark triangular pistons lugs in the first six versions. Key wear areas are reinforced by blown rubber, specifically in the toe, metatarsal area and lateral heel. Notably, there is no reinforcement in the front lateral edge, which some runners have previously complained about.

The major change from v7 is the swap of the Everun TPU foam heel insert with a full-length Everun topsole. I think this adds a significant amount of cushioning, especially at the front of the shoe. I suspect this will be a welcome change for forefoot strikers, which I think compromise a decent fraction of the Kinvara user base.

I found the midsole more flexible than the K7. Again, this is more similar to earlier verisons of this shoe.

The midsole + outsole stack is 19mm front / 23mm rear, for an 4mm offset. The insole adds 5mm to the overall stack.

Running Experience

One of the best news in the v8 update is that the weight has not increased from the prior version. Ever since v1, the published weight has been 7.7oz for Men’s size 9.0. This is unchanged. My pair weighed in at 225g (8.0 oz) for men’s 9.0.

The overall ride is smooth and flexible. I found the shoe to be very highly cushioned, similar to a Triumph or Ride. It is a stark contrast to the Freedom, which is somewhat firm compared to the Kinvara. It’s soft enough that I would consider using the Kinvara for my long runs, rather than mid-week tempo runs, where I prefer a firmer ride. The K8 has an unmatched cushion to weight ratio compared to most high mileage trainers. I can easily see the K8 being a mararthon-distance shoe for many more runners, compared to the prior versions of the Kinvara.

Recent Sauconys have fit slightly small and this is also true for the K8. The toe box is somewhat narrow and I had to be careful to keep the lacing loose to keep the the toe box open and roomy. Some runners may consider going a half size up to compensate. The Pro-Lock does a good job of securing the navicular area, although I personally keep that section loose because of my high instep. I had no issues with the heel fit or slip, with my narrow heels and ankles.

Despite the full-length Everun insert, I found the heel to be quite firm compared to forefoot. Heel strikers may find the transition from firm rear to soft front, a bit unusual. Most shoes behave the opposite way – soft rear, firm front. This shoe will work better for mid and forefoot strikers that impact primarily on the softer section of the soft.

Conclusion

The K8 returns to classic Kinvara traits of a simple, efficient shoe that is highly flexible and cushioned. The cushioning level is high, particularly in the forefoot. The cushion-to-weight ratio is unmatched. This will make it easier for runners in more traditional shoes to transition to the Kinvara, but may discourage those already running in prior versions that are accustomed to a firmer feel underfoot.

Ideal for:

  • Runners transitioning from a more conventional shoe
  • Mid and forefoot strikers
  • Runners with narrow or medium width feet

Less ideal for:

  • Runners who prefer a firmer ride
  • Runners with a wide forefoot
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