Shortly after May 5, 2009 the whole running industry went completely berzerk! All of a sudden cushioned shoes with a large heel-to-toe offset were blamed for millions of runners injuries. The ‘normal’ running shoe was completely shunned and minimalist shoes were set up as the saviours of the sport of running. Minimalist and Barefoot shoes inspired a more natural form of running which many claimed would end all running injuries forever. Barefoot shoes hit the scene in a big way as runners scrambled to run like the Tarahumara Indians, who ran for days on nothing but tyre treads wrapped around their feet and a mix of Pinole and Chia in a brown bag. Why did the industry go completely berzerk you ask? All because of a book called “Born to Run“.*
Fast forward 4 years and suddenly barefoot shoes were the enemy and ‘maximal’ shoes were now being hailed as the answer. Shoes with insane amounts of cushioning hit the market as the pendulum swung through the masses of injured runners to the other end of the spectrum. The very shoes that were supposed to fix all running injuries were now causing new ones. In defense of the minimalist shoe it was mostly down to runners not transitioning correctly. Running 100km weeks in cushioned shoes does not mean you can go straight into 100km weeks in minimalist shoes. Nevertheless this outbreak of injuries was the catalyst for the ‘maximal’ movement and once again the industry went through a complete revamp.
Before the industry was swinging from one extreme to the other, in late 2009 Saucony released a shoe that would effectively influence their entire future production catalogue and eventually the whole running shoe industry. The designers at Saucony had the foresight to find the middle ground before anyone else did. A product that could sustain runners over high mileage training weeks yet still encourage a more natural form of running. The legendary Saucony Kinvara.
The name of the shoe was inspired by Boston’s rich Irish heritage. Kinvara is a little town in the Irish country side surrounded by giant castles, steep cliffs and lush green fields. Saucony liked the town so much they even gave the mayor of Kinvara a replica of the shoe which was made of bronze.
Now in its 7th version the Saucony Kinvara has to have one the biggest cult followings of any shoe we know. We know of people who have at least 4 of the 7 versions, some even all 7. This intrigued us greatly – why were a whole bunch of people so besotted over a single shoe? No one knew just how popular the shoe would become when they launched it, even after it won numerous industry awards like the Runner’s World Best Debut award in 2010. Needless to say we were tremendously excited to see what all the fuss was about when we got a pair of the new Kinvara 7.
Saucony Kinvara 7 Review
The Saucony Kinvara 7 features Saucony’s TRIFLEX outsole technology. Paired with the new EVERUN technology in specific parts of the midsole, the shoe is incredibly stable for a lightweight neutral trainer. With the lateral flex grooves along the base of the shoe the outsole design disperses pressure well throughout the whole shoe. Every runner who is training for a marathon has experienced that ‘hot foot’ feeling under their forefoot during long training runs. The TRIFLEX design does it’s best to disperse that friction throughout the midsole preventing that ‘hot’ feeling over certain parts of the foot. As far as we can tell in training, Saucony have nailed it. The base of the shoe is also incredibly wide as the midsole and outsole flair out from the upper to give maximum ground contact. Admittedly this has been quite distracting for us. The Kinvara 7 does lack that sleek racing shoe feel but then again this shoe is meant for logging high mileage in training and not necessarily for out and out racing.
That’s what the Saucony TYPE A6 is for.
The Kinvara is no slouch though, weighing in at 218g it will rival most racing flats in the weight department. The one advantage of the wide toe box is it allows your toes to open up inside the shoe, another great hand-off from the minimalist movement.
Probably the most exciting upgrade of the Saucony Kinvara 7 from the other derivatives is the use of Saucony’s new Midsole Technology, EVERUN. The previous models featured Saucony’s legendary POWERGRID which was excellent at dispersing the force generated while running throughout the whole midsole. This lessened the impact on the body greatly. So how is EVERUN different?
EVERUN is basically “continuous cushioning”, never failing, and always returning to its original shape. 83% Energy return. 3 x more durable than standard EVA. Bold claims but they seem to have the science to back it up (See video below for more info). We have only had the shoe for a couple of weeks so we can’t comment on the ‘never failing’ part but we can definitely comment positively on the comfort, energy return and response of the cushioning. We are noticing a significant difference between the feedback of POWERGRID based models compared to the EVERUN in the Kinvara 7. EVERUN, for us, feels to be by far the more comfortable material. Plush but not spongey. Just enough ‘bounce’ in your step to feed energy back into your stride. Rigid enough so it doesn’t give the feeling that you are running on marshmallows. We won’t be surprised to see EVERUN starting to feature in plenty more of Saucony’s models as it filters through the ranges. The new Peregrine 6 trail shoe has EVERUN in the heel which is probably the best news we have heard all year. We found the Saucony Peregrine 5 to have a distance limit of about 30km’s. With EVERUN the Peregrine 6 will comfortably get up to Ultra Trail distances like 100km and 100 miler events.
One of the reasons the Kinvara models have been so popular in the ‘natural’ running community is Saucony’s commitment to keeping the shoe at a 4mm heel-to-toe offset. The Kinvara was one of the very first ‘natural’ running shoes ever made and it remains at the pinnacle of the category. The best thing the minimalist movement did to the running shoe industry was to bring down those monster heel-to-toe offsets. Gone are the days of 17 and 14mm offsets with most brands settling on around 8-10mm. It is the offset and not the amount of cushioning that inspire a more natural form. The Heel Stack Height sits at 22mm and the Toe Stack Height 18mm giving an offset of 4mm, as we mentioned earlier. This keeps the minimalist feeling by ensuring the bodies centre of gravity remains closer to the ground, while providing enough comfort to sustain high mileage in training.
Saucony have a very exciting Racing department which focuses on producing shoes that perform in the most competitive of situations. Thankfully for us ‘slower’ runners some of the technology filters down through the rest of the ranges. One of those is Saucony’s FlexFilm Upper. Most running shoes have to have support built into the inside of the shoe to increase durability, this can be a problem as the seams where each layer is joined together can cause friction and friction causes blisters. Saucony developed the FlexFilm as an external exoskeletal support allowing for less support needed inside the shoe. FlexFilm is hot melded to the shoe instead of being stitched giving the runner a nearly seamless interior. Think of the suit that Human Torch wears in the Fantastic Four. Made to withstand his “Flame On” fun while protecting and supporting him from the elements. FlexFilm does exactly that, plenty support and less friction. Plus it is oh so pretty to look at.
Another great feature of the Kinvara 7 Upper is a support band that is built into the lace system. It is basically a panel that is stitched into the base of the midsole, is attached to the tongue of the shoe and the laces are fed through the top. We found this made the shoe incredibly stable and the support it gives over the arch of the foot is fantastic.
In 2010 the original Kinvara effectively revolutionised the running shoe industry. After testing the new Kinvara 7 we are very confident that the Kinvara 7 is poised to do the same in 2016. With the new EVERUN technology the Kinvara 7 is set to take Energy Return and Durability to a whole new level. Watch out world, this shoe is coming out of the gates like a Bare Knuckle Boxing Champion with all of the luck of the Irish.
*slight disclaimer: We are not for or against any specific type of running or running shoe, in fact Born to Run is one of our favourite books. We are more fans of moderation and what works for each individual runner, than the extremes. Minimalist running might work for Runner A but not necessarily Runner B. Find what works for you. As Kinetic Revolution says, “Form before Footwear.”