Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Feather-light, comfortable up to the marathon, inexpensive
Cons: Unsupportive, low durability
Best Uses: Road running, workouts, racing, transitioning towards minimalism
Be the speed demon you've always wanted to be with our Top Pick, the lightning fast Saucony Kinvara 4. Just 7.7 ounces in a size 9, a 4 mm heel to toe drop, and the right amount of cushioning makes the Kinvara 4 an ideal neutral shoe for workouts and races up to the marathon. We also feel it's great for those making the conversion towards more minimal road shoes. The 4 mm heel to toe drop can be a huge change for those who have always used a typical road shoe, most of which have a 10mm or more discrepancy. We think the Kinvara 4 feels amazing, but remember to gradually adjust to shoes like this. The Kinvara 4 puts a lot more work on your lower legs in comparison to normal trainers such as the Brooks Ghost 6. Don't be surprised if your lower legs are super sore after the first few runs in these quick racers.
The landing in the Kinvara 4 is well cushioned but in no way too cushy. It has just the right amount of cushion to still be a responsive shoe. We notice a smooth transition and propulsion in our gait cycle given the Kinvara 4 force you to land more midfoot and heel strike less. The landing pad features nine triangular lugs, which we noticed gives us amazing grip on the roads. These definitely add to the propulsive feeling of the shoe. In general, we highly recommend the Kinvara 4. This is truly a fun shoe to run in. You just might have trouble slowing yourself down.
The Saucony Kinvara 5, $100, is now available. The 5 is made from IBR rubber, which is very durable. It features a pro-lock lacing system to hug your midfoot; the heel collar is plush and the shoe has a mesh upper. The Kinvara 5 offers reflective elements and a 4 mm heel-to-toe offset for a more natural fit. The powergrid is a lightweight cushioning foam that offers up comfort. This shoe is also available in the women's version: Saucony Kinvara 5 - Women's. If the Kinvara 5 is anything like the 4, these minimal shoes will be ideal for your big race day.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Being the lightest shoe we tested as well as having the smallest heel to toe discrepancy, the Kinvara 4 is our favorite shoe to take out when we want to feel fast.
We rate the Kinvara 4 as having the second most responsive ride in the group behind the Mizuno Wave Prophecy 3. Though, the two shoes are completely different and each use their own design to create a responsive feedback to the runner's gait. Unlike the springiness we feel in the Wave Prophecy 3, the Kinvara 4 give much more of a natural responsive feel since your heel strike is almost completely gone. This natural feel is caused by the small discrepancy in the height of the cushioning from the heel to toe, as well as being nearly half the weight of the Prophecy.
The Kinvara 4 come in a tie for the second highest score in landing comfort. We don't feel it needs much breaking in and is ready to roll with high out-of-box comfort. With just a 4mm drop in the heel to toe, Saucony created a smooth and natural landing with full ground contact. Most of the shoes in our test group have at least a 10mm discrepancy from the heel to toe. The Kinvara's 4mm offset facilitates a more natural running gait, forcing the runner to heel strike less and land on the midfoot, creating a more efficient running gait. This puts less shock on your joints but will in turn make some of your leg muscles work harder. Overall, we feel this is a good thing for our body. Though the Kinvara 4 facilitates the runner to land with their midfoot, heavy heel strikers can rest easy knowing Saucony integrated PowerGrid cushioning in the heel to absorb impact and reduce shock. Most runners will likely use the Kinvara 4 as a workout or racing shoe but many may also enjoy using it as a daily trainer once they are used to the more minimal style.
The Kinvara 4 score relatively high compared to the rest of the group in upper comfort. Saucony designed a crazy light material called FlexFilm that stretches and adapts to the form of your foot. This upper in the Kinvara 4 is unique from all the other shoes we tested in that it is seamless. The great thing about this is that it decreases the chances of chafing and some runners can even get away with wearing no socks at all. Though, make sure to keep in mind that everyone's feet are different and we don't recommend doing this for the first time at a race. The Kinvara 4's upper is perfectly snug and gives us a sock-like fit. The inside of the heel features two small memory foam pods that give you a personal fit and help secure your foot. We feel the fit is best for those with narrow feet though average width feet could possibly pull it off. There were many user review complaints about the fit, especially the toe box being too narrow. Note that Saucony does have a larger width available. If you're interested in reading our review of the shoe that scores highest in upper comfort check out the plush Asics Kayano 20.
If you've made it this far, you probably don't need an explanation on why the Kinvara 4 receives our lowest score in stability. This is the most neutral shoe of the group and falls on the line between a cushioned and minimalist shoe. It is perfect for those who want to work towards minimalism but not for those who need support and posting in their shoe. We have a great in-depth review of the shoe that scores highest in stability, so if that is what you need, read the Asics Kayano 20 review.
Having a fully seamless and ventilated upper, the Kinvara 4 receives our highest score in breathability. Saucony uses their most minimal and lightweight yet functional upper in the Kinvara 4. Other than the seamless outer layer, there is only a single thin mesh layer lining the inside of the upper. The Kinvara 4 also comes with an aerated insole to help keep your feet cool. This shoe won't protect your foot much from the winter elements but will definitely help you finish your run faster to get back inside.
The Kinvara 4 blow the rest of the group out of the water when it comes to weight. At 7.7 ounces in a size 9 it is the lightest and most minimal shoe in the group. It is perfect for those who want to make a slow transition towards minimalist footwear while still having a moderate amount of cushion and protection. One significant way Saucony cut down on weight is only using high density rubber in high wear areas of the shoe. The Kinvara 4 is also an ideal shoe for the road racer doing 5k distances and we feel it is comfortable all the way up to the marathon distance. If you want a light, neutral and well cushioned shoe that's not as minimal, take a look at the Brooks Ghost 6.
We like to think of the Kinvara 4 as a Formula 1 car tire. It won't be able to take the same miles as the tires on your commuter car, but the miles it does take are amazing. That being said, we noticed the tread on the Kinvara 4 does wear away faster than on any of the other shoes in our test group. Saucony added high durability rubber to high wear areas noticed on the last model, which made a bit of an improvement, but don't expect to log as many miles in the Kinvara 4 as some of your other trainers. We logged over 60 miles in our pair and already noticed slight wearing on the outsole. Though, it's hard to say what they'll look like at three or four hundred miles. The seamless upper is nice, though we assume it probably won't last as long as many of the heavier designed uppers. If a more durable shoe strikes your interest, take a look at the detailed review of our Editors' Choice winner the Brooks Ghost 6.
Old vs. New Versions
We had the luxury to log some miles in both the Kinvara 3 and 4. For the most part, we notice the two versions to be very similar and only small changes were made. Saucony upgraded the old ProGrid heel pad which is now called PowerGrid. PowerGrid is a lighter compound which is also more durable. So, if you're a devoted Kinvara user, don't worry about the 4 feeling much different than the 3.
Don't be surprised if you set a PR in local 5k's all the way to your big marathon in the Saucony Kinvara 4. These are the ideal shoes for race day or if you're looking to gradually make the switch towards minimal road shoes.
Less shoe is more performance with the Kinvara 4 at $89-$99.
We think you should highly consider the Kinvara 4 if a minimal shoe works with your running style. This shoe has a great balance of minimalism and plentiful cushioning.
This shoe is narrow! Wider sizes are available. We also recommend sizing up ½ your normal shoe size.
The Saucony Kinvara 5, $100, is now available. The 5 is made from IBR rubber, which is very durable. It features a unique lacing system to hug your midfoot. The heel collar is plush, while the shoe has a mesh upper. The Kinvara 5 offers reflective elements and a 4 mm heel-to-toe offset for a more natural fit. This shoe is also available in the women's version: Saucony Kinvara 5 - Women's. If the Kinvara 5 is anything like the 4, these minimal shoes will be ideal for your big race day.
— Jimmy Elam
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Most recent review: March 8, 2014
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