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Saucony Kinvara 12 Review

A model that makes you feel quick, fast, and light that provides maximum energy transfer and forward momentum
Saucony Kinvara 12
Photo: Saucony
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $110 List | Check Price at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Responsive, light, fast affordable
Cons:  Minimal support, lacks cushioning, lacks outsole rubber
Manufacturer:   Saucony
By Matthew Richardson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 15, 2021
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73
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 10
  • Cushioning and Landing Comfort - 25% 6
  • Responsiveness - 25% 9
  • Upper Comfort - 20% 7
  • Lateral Stability and Support - 15% 5
  • Weight - 15% 9

Our Verdict

The Saucony Kinvara 12 is one of the lightest trainers we've tested. With minimal support/stability or cushioning, this model is for runners desiring an all-around trainer built for speed. Weightlessness and ground response when putting the power down made this a favorite of ours on uptempo and harder efforts. If you are looking for a springy and responsive trainer with a great upper, then this model is for you. At an attainable price tag, some could view this as a great addition to the quiver. Those that desire more cushioning or support may want to consider a different model on the site.

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Saucony Kinvara 12
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Pros Responsive, light, fast affordableLightweight, great cushioning, comfortable upperResponsive cushioning, smooth heel-to-toe rocker, durableExcellent cushioning, comfortable upper design, responsiveResponsive, well-balanced cushion and support, performance fit upper
Cons Minimal support, lacks cushioning, lacks outsole rubberLess responsive, lacks rubber outsoleLoose heel cup, support under heel lackingUncomfortable arch support out of the box, cumbersome at timesStiff outsole, lacks arch support, tight toe-box, slightly heavy
Bottom Line A model that makes you feel quick, fast, and light that provides maximum energy transfer and forward momentumThese lightweight shoes have top landing comfort and maximum cushion with a great upperA rockered design with responsive cushioning keeps legs feeling powerful and fresh into longer effortsMaximum cushioning that is dense enough to offer great responsiveness with a wide upper that allows for natural, stable footingA classic model that is fast and responsive with great energy transfer and a performance fit upper
Rating Categories Saucony Kinvara 12 Hoka One One Mach 4 New Balance Fresh F... Hoka One One Clifton 8 Nike Air Zoom Pegas...
Cushioning And Landing Comfort (25%)
6.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
Responsiveness (25%)
9.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
8.0
Upper Comfort (20%)
7.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
6.0
Lateral Stability And Support (15%)
5.0
5.0
5.0
6.0
7.0
Weight (15%)
9.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
5.0
Specs Saucony Kinvara 12 Hoka One One Mach 4 New Balance Fresh F... Hoka One One Clifton 8 Nike Air Zoom Pegas...
Weight (per shoe, size 9.5) 7.7 oz. 8.1 oz. 9.4 oz. 9.1 oz. 10.5 oz.
Heel to Toe Drop 4 mm 5 mm 8 mm 5 mm 10 mm
Midsole Material PWRRUN PROFLY Fresh Foam EVA React foam
Sole Rubber Foam with rubber inserts Rubberized EVA Ortholite Rubber Rubber
Upper Material Mesh Engineered mesh Synthetic, mesh Mesh Synthetic mesh/recycled polyester
Width Options Normal, wide Normal Narrow, normal, wide, extra wide Normal, wide Normal, extra wide
Sizes Available 7 - 15 7 - 14 6 - 20 7 - 14 6 - 18

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Saucony Kinvara series has been a standout for runners that prefer a lightweight trainer that keeps you light on your feet and provides great ground feel and power transfer. This model is no different. Coming in at 7.69 ounces (men's size 9.5), this is one of the lightest all-around trainers we've tested.

This model is stiff, agile, and aggressive and rewards experienced runners who are soft on their feet. For us, once you start heading north of 10 miles, this model can become unforgiving if you don't maintain proper form. The upper is comfortable but lacks the support and stability that others may look for in their everyday trainer. Luckily with the minimalist design also comes a smaller price tag which is more affordable than others we tested.

Performance Comparison


The Saucony Kinvara 12 is our favorite featherweight responsive...
The Saucony Kinvara 12 is our favorite featherweight responsive trainer.
Photo: Matthew Richardson

Cushioning and Landing Comfort


There is little to be said about cushioning when talking about the Kinvara 12, but that is by design. The landing comfort, however, feels natural and precise. There simply isn't much shoe to do the work for you; your form and landing type will determine if this shoe would work for you. There is a subtle but firm cushion on the landing, which seems to dissipate once you put pressure into the ground again. This makes the model feel firm and lively but doesn't offer much forgiveness.


The comfort and cushioning are very similar to the Nike Zoom Pegasus series, which also received lower marks in this category. This shoe is recommended for those experienced runners looking for a firm platform to run fast with. Ultimately, it's hard to view this as a downside because this shoe is not designed for above-average amounts of cushioning and landing comfort, and with the weight this low, it would be hard to ask for anything more.

Minimal cushioning is provided by the Saucony Kinvara 12.
Minimal cushioning is provided by the Saucony Kinvara 12.
Photo: Matthew Richardson

Responsiveness


While the Kinvara 12 does not have the best in class cushioning and landing comfort, it does have top-of-the-line responsiveness. With the low weight, this is meant to be run in fast and the hard, and the mid and outsole allows you to do just that. When initiating a push-off, these shoes come to life with subtle compression to help spring your power forward.


Using a similar PWRRUN foam found in the Saucony Endorphin Speed, this model has great power transfer, and we would choose these first for our shorter race and tempo efforts. Over longer periods of time, you may desire more cushioning to help reduce fatigue and muscle soreness which could be a downside of this harder outsole. With a 4-millimeter heel-to-toe drop, low cushioning, and higher density foam, you could find these harsh towards the end of longer activities.

Maximum energy transfer due to the firm responsive design.
Maximum energy transfer due to the firm responsive design.
Photo: Matthew Richardson

Upper Comfort


This upper shares a lot with the Endorphin Speed, which got high marks for its performance fit and lightweight breathable fabric. This upper has a slightly looser knit, which most likely reduced the weight of the upper. The tongue shares the same thin fabric design that is flexible and easily wraps to conform to the top of your foot. There are no seams in the toebox which reduces any hotspots or blisters.


The toe box tapers from the midfoot to provide a locked-in feel which reduces side-to-side motion when cornering or on uneven terrain. The laces are well-positioned and securely lock down the midfoot. The heel cup is well fitted, and there is no up or down slippage. This upper received high marks for its pure comfort and simplicity.

A performance fit thin breathable upper keeps your foot snug and...
A performance fit thin breathable upper keeps your foot snug and ready to drop the pace.
Photo: Matthew Richardson

Lateral Stability and Support


Due to the lightweight go-fast style of this trainer, there is little added stability to depend on. Due to the stiff platform and lower stack height, the shoe feels solid under each foot plant. However, there are no added support features found on some of the other models we tested. Odds are, if the above features sound suitable to your running style, you won't have an issue with the lack of support.


Those runners who need more support or prefer a shoe to help out when fatigue starts to set in may want to check out a different model that we have reviewed recently. Creating additional supportive features would ultimately drive up the weight, so we can see why Saucony limited these features.

Due to light weight design there is minimal support or stability.
Due to light weight design there is minimal support or stability.
Photo: Matthew Richardson

Weight


The Kinvara 12 is one of the lightest models we've ever tested, and it sometimes feels like you are running with nothing on your feet. This fits well into the style of low impact high output. Users that are looking for the lightest all-around trainer should look towards this model. Unfortunately, with this shoe's minimal weight, durability and a more rugged outsole are left to be seen. While we experienced no durability issues on the upper, there is simply less fabric than other models. The outsole is all exposed foam except for a few spots of rubber on the heel and toe-off points.


One of the lightest models we've tested has minimal outsole rubber.
One of the lightest models we've tested has minimal outsole rubber.
Photo: Matthew Richardson

Value


Often in the outdoor world, minimalism in weight is made at the sacrifice of cost. Luckily with this model, it's one of the more affordable models we tested. Durability may be a concern for those that plan to use this as a daily trainer, but we think this is a great value. If you are an experienced runner who desires to fill a void with a lightweight, fast trainer, then we think this value is well worth the cost.

Conclusion


The Kinvara 12 is a fast shoe, and that is signified by its low weight, streamlined materials, and simplistic design. Providing maximum responsiveness and a very subtle cushion, this trainer is for those looking to push the pace. The upper is designed to be breathable and extremely comfortable and locks your foot down when you start to put power through the shoe.

We think this shoe would be great for those experienced runners that know they like a stiffer responsive feel or for those looking to run a bit faster for some shorter efforts. Once fatigue starts to set in, there isn't much the shoe can do to help you out. There is no rocking feature, high heel drop, or extreme cushion that will try and make your run nicer to your legs. We wish there was more traction on the outsole but understand that weight is one of the main reasons we love this model. Dedicated runners have loved the Kinvara series for years, and this model is no different.

The Kinvara 12 from Saucony is super light and responsive.
The Kinvara 12 from Saucony is super light and responsive.
Photo: Matthew Richardson

Matthew Richardson

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