In the competition of men's running shoes, 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. The shoe's weightlessness and ground response made it one of our favorites on uptempo and more strenuous efforts, particularly when putting the power down. If you are looking for a springy and responsive trainer with a great upper, then this model is for you. Some view this model as a great affordable addition to your collection of footwear. But, those that desire more cushioning or support may want to consider a different model.Editor's Note: This gear review was updated on March 6, 2022, to include new sections to help your product determination.
Saucony Kinvara 12 Review
Cons: Minimal support, lacks cushioning, lacks outsole rubber
Our Analysis and Test Results
Compared to other top men's running shoes, the Saucony Kinvara is ideal for runners looking for a lightweight design that keeps you agile on your feet and provides an excellent ground feel. Weighing 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, the minimalist design also comes with a smaller price tag that is more affordable than the others we tested.
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.
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, 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.
This upper shares a lot with the Endorphin Speed; a contender that received 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.
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.
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, this shoe's minimal weight, durability, and 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.
Should You Buy the Saucony Kinvara 12?
The Kinvara 12 is a fast shoe, which 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 experienced runners who know they like a stiffer responsive feel or for those looking to run a bit faster for 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. For years, dedicated runners have loved the Kinvara series, and this model is no different.
What Other Running Shoes Should You Consider?
If you don't need the lightest shoe on the market, but rather settle on a high-scoring, well-rounded, daily trainer, we think the Saucony Endorphin Speed 2 is worth considering.
— Matthew Richardson
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