Times Change, The Kinvara Doesn’t

What You Need To Know

  • Weighs 7.7 oz. (219 g.) for a US M10.5/6.2 oz. (184 g.) for a US W8
  • Still light, still firm, still a Kinvara
  • It might be time for a few tweaks to the classic formula
  • Coming soon to Running Warehouse for $120

THOMAS: You know that weird feeling you get when Facebook shares a memory with you, and you’re like: “WTF was I thinking? Did I write that?” I’m not even close to the person I was back in 2010, and for the most part, it’s a good thing.

However, the Kinvara 13 is still like the original Kinvara. But maybe it shouldn’t be. Back in 2010, the excess of other available shoe options are what made the Kinvara unique. The average daily trainer at the time weighed around 11 oz. (312 g). There were thick overlays, generous amounts of rubber on the outsole, plastic heel counters, and trusstic systems. At the time, the industry seemed to go with the mantra “more is more.”

Then, Christopher McDougall’s book Born to Run knocked the whole running shoe industry on its ass. The Vibram 5-fingers and running sandals became big sellers. There was initially no middle ground for those not ready to feel the barefoot experience, that is, until the Kinvara.

The first Kinvara was revolutionary. With more cushion than a racing flat and a stripped-down upper, the Kinvara was light, fast, and could get you through a marathon in relative comfort. It was minimal without the pain. The drawback was in the durability. The Kinvara did away with full coverage rubber on the outsole to cut weight. That doesn’t seem crazy now, but then it was unique. But, without the rubber, the exposed foam shredded away long before you could hit 300 miles. Priced around $100, the Kinvara’s problem with wear seemed reasonable.

Then Nike’s Vaporfly and new foams forever changed the running market. Now, lightweight isn’t enough anymore. The cushioning has to be plush and responsive. The Kinvara hasn’t evolved, which leaves the shoe in a weird spot. Not as cushioned or as explosive as the plated plush racers and not as comfortable for daily miles as many of the other trainers in the $120 price range. So, where does it fit in the running lineup?

AUSTIN: You’d think Saucony felt lucky with the Kinvara 13, but it seems like all the midsole magic landed in the Endorphin line (thanks, PWRRUN PB). Translation? If you enjoy a lightweight shoe with a basic midsole (PWRRUN) and more ground contact, version 13 feels a lot like version 12.

The Kinvara 13 is half an ounce lighter than its predecessor and sports the same stack height (28.5/24.5). Ultimately, as footwear prices continue to rise in 2022, is this lightweight trainer worth the $10 price jump that smacks your wallet on drop day?

Brandon: The Kinvara 13 is pretty different from most typical daily trainers you might see in running stores today. With the world pivoting toward high stacked and well-cushioned daily trainers, it seems like there’s no room in the market for a lightweight, lower stack, firmer daily trainer anymore.

Well, Kinvara is here to sort of fill that role. I’ll jump right into it. The shoe isn’t all that special. Sometimes a simple upper, a nice stack of foam, a reasonable price, and a nice fit is all you need to keep moving forward with your training. Everything about this shoe is middle-of-the-line average and not too exciting when it meets the eye.

The support level is neutral. It has a 4mm drop, costs $120, and has some recycled materials. You’ve heard it all before. The stats sound like every shoe ever made in 2014. They say sometimes simpler is better. Well, with this shoe, you definitely get simple. But is it really any better?

The Good

THOMAS: If you like the Kinvara 12, the good news is, the midsole hasn’t changed at all. Further, if your foot is on the wider side, you will appreciate the generous new upper. It looks good and has features like a breathable engineered mesh, a gusseted tongue, and a well-designed heel counter. Even better is that the Saucony Kinvara 13 is half an ounce lighter than its predecessor. The character of the Saucony Kinvara 13 stays true to its origin and provides a smooth, no-frills, lightweight ride. My 10.5 weighs 7.7 oz. (219 g.) with a 4mm 28.5/24.5mm offset.

AUSTIN: Unlike BITR’s fearless leader, Thomas, I haven’t run in all thirteen iterations of the Kinvara. I think the last version for me was number three (in the Mutant colorway, if I remember correctly). Damn, I feel old, though I vividly recall running seventeen miles in the Kinvara 3 and feeling great afterward.

So, let’s fast forward ten years to version 13. I do think the forefoot has stiffened up quite a bit in the last decade. The Kinvara 13 is noticeably firm, though I wouldn’t describe the ride as harsh. The upper breathes well, the tongue is modestly padded, and the heel counter holds without slip. Like Thomas, I have narrow feet, so I needed to cinch up the laces a few times to dial in the fit. And I liked the ride. Honestly, it wasn’t amazing by any stretch, but for easy runs, no complaints here. Maybe it’s a nostalgia thing too. You know, drifting back to the groundbreaking days of the early Kinvara, when a simple, soft, and yet responsive shoe wasn’t a racer but could easily tackle the marathon distance with ease.

Brandon: Despite it being “non-traditional,” so to speak, it doe have some admirable and notable qualities to it. Starting with the upper. The upper is breathable, light, and locks down the foot really well. At first, the shoe seemed to be a little wide, but I had no issues running in it when cinched down correctly. The engineered mono mesh upper accommodates various foot shapes and sizes. If you have wide feet, this is a shoe to consider. The toe box isn’t super wide, which I love. I have no idea why people like a wide toe-box. In my opinion, a nice snug race fit feel is always the best fit.

Speaking more on fit, the lockdown is best around the midfoot due to the upper’s thin tongue, lacing system, and gusset. The newer model has removed some unneeded overlays, which has made the shoe lighter, so that’s a plus too. The traction underfoot is strong despite having very little additional rubber coverage.

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saucony kinvara 13 sole

The Bad

THOMAS: The new upper is too voluminous for my narrow foot. I had to cinch up the throat aggressively and still didn’t find a secure fit.

AUSTIN: No glaring issues emerged after multiple runs besides cinching up the laces.

Brandon: I’m not sure I would call this a “bad” section, necessarily. I think it’s more of a “not for me” section. The midsole is less than to be desired. I found the shoe firm for my liking and just not that exciting to run in. If the shoe isn’t going to be fast or snappy, then at least let it be comfortable. I just didn’t find the shoe all that fun to run in for over an hour.

The midsole of the shoe consists of a block of PWWRN foam. This means no dual-density, no cushion, no soft. None of that. This is a firm feeling shoe underfoot. A firm feeling shoe underfoot is fine if it’s comfortable and fast. Unfortunately, this shoe is neither of those things. I understand that it’s a lightweight, faster daily trainer, and someone out there might appreciate it, but for right now, I’m not sure I find a use for a shoe in this category.

On easy days I want a daily trainer that is well very cushioned and comfortable underfoot. For faster days, I transition to a tempo shoe or racer. There’s not really a position where the Kinvara fits into my everyday rotation.

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saucony kinvara 13 hero

Saucony Kinvara 13 Conclusion

THOMAS: Like an old friend that you have grown apart from, I find myself wanting to talk about the good ol’ days. However, there isn’t a lot to talk about after that. It’s not that you don’t like the friend anymore, you’ve just moved on with a new crew. You have new inside jokes that the old friend doesn’t get.

The Kinvara was a good friend, but it hasn’t grown with me. Other shoes in the price range serve the same purpose, and I enjoy spending time with them much more. Consider the Nike Pegasus ($120), the New Balance Rebel v2 ($129), Atreyu Base Model ($85), ASICS Novablast 2 ($130), Hoka Rincon 3 ($120), to name a few. I’d share a beer with any of those shoes before turning into the Saucony Kinvara 13.

The Kinvara still has a place for the runner that wants a simple, fast, lightweight shoe, so I’m sure it’ll make new friends.

AUSTIN: I look forward to running the Saucony Kinvara 13 into the ground for the time being, at least until I read the review of the updated New Balance 880 (I don’t like what I hear about the 1080).

Of course, with very little carbon rubber on the outsole, the midsole will shred fast. I think a part of me is disappointed to admit that plated daily trainers (Saucony Endorphin Speed ​​2 and the Mizuno Wave Rebellion) have spoiled me a bit. I mean, you can now train in plates and race in plates. Still, it’s nice to occasionally return to a lightweight, no-frills trainer that I’d always choose over the Ghost or Ride or Mach. Just kidding about that last one.

Brandon: The Saucony Kinvara gets the yellow light for me. It’s not great, but it’s not bad either. There weren’t many changes to the ride from the previous model, so if you loved last year’s Kinvara, you’ll definitely like this year’s version too. For $120, this is an alright shoe. However, I can think of many other shoes in the $120 to $140 range that are better. For $90 to $100, it would be a pretty great deal. The design and color of the shoe definitely look better than last year, so I give Saucony’s design team props for that.

You can pick up the at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.

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saucony kinvara 13 side

Brandon is the video editor and fastest runner on the Believe in the Run core team. He’s from New Jersey but lives in Baltimore where he recently graduated from Loyola University.

Austin, who lives north of Atlanta, is also a husband, father, and writer. He loves Christopher Nolan films, NBC sitcoms, peanut M&M’S, and a good playlist for long runs.

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