Friday, June 24, 2016

Shoe Review: Kinvara 7s (spoiler: thumbs up!)

So, yeah. I've been loving my cheap-ass Brooks Launch 2s &, like the original Launch before them, they've served me well as a great marathon/long run shoe. Here's hoping version 3 will be just as good.

I was pretty excited about how great the Launch 2s were working out since my beloved Kinvara 5s had long since sold out, and, update on the Kinvara 6, they pretty much suck. I don't know what it is about the upper but the more I ran in them, the more they started to feel like a vice grip on my foot in the vertical direction. I finally got to the point that I couldn't even tolerate the one pair I had for an easy 3-4 miles & relegated them to gym shoes. I took them to Ireland for walking around in, but even that was a mistake.

This made me a little iffy on trying a pair of the 7s. For the last couple of years, when Saucony has done a new Kinvara release, I've done a X-vs.-X+1 head-to-head comparison post using a brand-new pair of each (K3 vs. K4, K4 vs. K5, K5 vs. K6), but there was no way I was buying another pair of 6s just for that. In fact, the only reason I own a pair of 7s at all is because I picked up a barely-used return at Sports Basement for like $25.

So, post-Ireland I decided to give the Kinvara 7s a shot & see if there was any hope for them as functional running shoes, and the answer is an emphatic YES.

Now, I'm not doing a head-to-head comparison with the K6 here because the K6 is so completely awful that there's just no point. (However, Running Warehouse has, if you're curious about their thoughts.) But since the K7 is the current iteration you can actually buy and it's not completely awful, here's just a quick run-down of what I like about it:

Sizing & Comfort

Other than a few aesthetic adjustments to the upper, the 7s look more or less like every other pair of Kinvaras I've ever owned.

Full disclosure: In the past I've worn a size 7.5 in Saucony shoes (vs. 8 in most other brands), but lately I've been desirous of more and more room in the toe box.

(I mostly blame this on walking around in Hoka Cliftons when my PF was at its worst; they may be the weirdest, sloppiest, most useless running shoes I've ever tried, but they are UNBEATABLY comfortable for just tooling around with a messed-up foot, partly because of the cavernous toe box, which I will admit to kind of falling in love with.)

The discounted pair from Sports Basement was a size 8 and that was comfortable, so I bought them (which I mention so that it's clear that when I'm comparing the K7 to previous iterations, it's not really apples to apples).

That said, as soon as I slipped my feet into them, I got an undeniable "Ahhhhh...." sensation. I've mentioned before that part of the reason I like Kinvaras is because the last they use seems to fit the shape of my foot really well, and that is definitely still true.

But in addition to that, they were just comfortable--cushioned but not squishy, no hard or rough edges rubbing against my foot anywhere, and plenty of room not only in the toe box but in the mid-foot as well. I A/B'd them with a few other pairs of (size 7.5) Kinvaras I have, and it's unmistakeable--these are the most comfortable pair of Kinvaras I've ever owned.

The K5s are a close second; who knows, maybe the difference is all in that extra half size.

I'd been wearing a pair of K3s around this morning, which felt more or less fine until I slipped on one of the 7s, and holy crap, the 3 suddenly felt intolerably tight and pinchy! How did I used to run in these???

You can see just by looking that there's a noticeable difference in the width of the K7 & K6:

K7 on the left, K6 on the right.

K6 on the top, K7 on the bottom

K6 on the left, K7 on the right

Flexibility & Support

No real difference here that I could detect. I A/B'd them on some short runs with a recent pair of K5's and it all feels more or less the same, but with a little extra toe room.


My first pair of Kinvaras were version 3, so I can't speak to what the first two versions felt like, but I have read that some folks who have been wearing this shoe since it first arrived on the scene in 2010 felt like none of the versions since the first two have been as responsive as the K1 and K2, and that maybe the K7 recaptures some of that original feel. From Running Warehouse:

    "Since the fit did not change much [I beg to differ but that's neither here nor there], the improvement of the Kinvara 7 takes place underfoot. Gone is the PowerGrid heel inset, which has been replaced by Everun. However, I think this change is only a small part of why the Kinvara 7 feels better. More so, I attribute the change to the midsole sculpting along the lateral side of the shoe. The sculpting allows for more compression and a smoother feeling of deceleration of impact forces. Also, the outsole IBR lugs have a different orientation and are wider for better shock dispersion. The result is a more comfortable ride. A ride that moves in the direction of the original Kinvara and its first successor."

Again, pretty similar to the K5s in terms of how they feel on the road--a nice balance of flexibility & support, enough cushion to stay comfortable for multiple hours of slogging but firm enough for decent ground feel, and a little extra room for the toes. Definitely my new favorite for long runs in terms of comfort & plain old getting the job done.

That said, I think I'll probably stick to these for long, easy runs. Yes, they're super roomy and comfortable, but on the track or in a short, fast race I'm not sure they'd be quite responsive enough for my liking. In those cases I actually like a snugger fit like in the Kinvara 3 or 4 (which doesn't bother me for short periods of time).

Bottom Line

Man, I am loving these shoes. After version 6 I'll admit that I had begun to lose faith, but version 7 has restored it. They're still full price right now but the second this shoe starts to show signs of disappearing, you can bet I'll be stocking up just in case the next version sucks.

1 comment:

  1. I see that FINALLY the inner foot has some tougher material on the sole. That's excellent for me, since I toe-off completely on my bunion, which wears that area out terribly.