Last Updated on September 26, 2019 by Heather Hart, ACSM EP, CSCS
When I first stumbled head first into the world of running, I did so in a 2 year old, torn up, worn out pair of too small sneakers that picked out long ago solely based on aesthetics alone. They were cute, they looked good with my work uniform, and that was all that mattered to me. Back then I had no idea that while looking at the wall of women’s sneakers at foot locker that each one of those shoes offered a different property or structure for various foot conditions. Pronate? Stability? What? Seriously I thought the only real choices you had were “what matches the majority of my workout clothing?”
Older, wiser, and a runner now, I realize that the market for running sneakers varies as widely as the opinions on how much cushioning you actually need. I realize now that the right or wrong shoe (or no shoes at all for some) can mean the difference between a smooth comfortable run, or painful nagging issues.
If you are a runner, you know the plight of finding YOUR running shoe. There’s the gait analysis. There is trial and error. And so many times you find the shoe that works for you only to realize the shoe company stopped producing that model.
Within in the last year, I have done a lot of reading and research on the biomechanics of mid-forefoot running and the pros (and cons) of minimalist/barefoot running, both here through the great world wide web and from actual scientific research journals in school. My personal opinion is that less is better in this case, and running on a cushiony cloud of heel is not really as pleasant as it may sound. I am not ready to go 100% barefoot or VFF, so a minimal sneaker was what I was looking for.
Last February, I weaned myself from my highly cushioned, stability sneakers to a pair of Nike Free’s (5.0 V4’s). Low heel drop, minimal cushion, flexible sole, I LOVED them. My running form improved, my joints started to feel better, no more shin splints, and the only injuries I sustained were those due to my clumsiness (ahem, that damn log that will forever haunt me). I swore I would never run in anything else, ever again.
BUT…as the life span of my current pair of Nike’s was dwindling…I kept hearing things about the Saucony Kinvara. People on dailymile were absolutely raving about them. They were also named “Gear of the Year” by Outside Magazine and “Best Debut” by Runners World Magazine. They had my attention.
What Saucony says:
The ProGrid Kinvara, weighing only 7.7 ounces (based on a men’s size 9), debuts Saucony’s lightest cushioning technology, ProGrid™ LITE with Respon-Tek™.
The springy trainer offers a plush feel and efficient transition from heel to toe-off, thanks to a lowered heel to forefoot ratio. Saucony’s EVA+ exposed foam midsole allows for lightweight protection underfoot while maximizing rebound and flexibility. Triangular lugs in the XT-900™ carbon rubber outsole act as independent pistons, providing cushioning at multiple points of contact while reducing abrasion. The upper’s booty construction, midfoot indo-skeleton and heel memory foam deliver a secure, foot-hugging ride. A breathable mesh upper and EVA sockliner add to the lightweight comfort of the ProGrid Kinvara.
The Saucony Kinvaras offered everything I loved about the Nike Free, and I was highly intrigued to find out why people enjoyed them more than the Free’s. Thankfully, I recently got the opportunity to test them out myself.
Introducing, my Saucony ProGrid Kinvaras in “VIZi PRO” , or as I like to call them, “Traffic cone orange” (this picture does not do the color justice!)
First impressions: lighter than the frees. Just as flexible as the frees. And the best part (for me atleast) a wider toe box. I couldn’t believe how much room there was for my toes to spread out inside the Kinvaras. My pinky toe, the one who always loses it’s toenail despite always having enough room for the bigger toes, breathed a sigh of relief! While I noticed this wider toe box right away, I noticed it EVEN MORE when I put my free’s back on later that day to go teach a class. They seemed tighter! In the Kinvaras, my feet felt absolutely uninhibited, more so than in any other shoe I have ever worn (flip flops excluded, haha)
First run: 3 miles. The cushion in the sole seemed to be focused under the mid sole, which I appreciate. I do not heel strike (or at least I try my best not to) so if I’m going to have any sort of minimal shock absorption, where my foot strikes the ground first is ideal. I think I over thought my running trying to decide if the shoes had any sort of negative impact, but they didn’t. Still a decent mid to fore-foot strike. And did I mention how light they are?
It’s harder to see in this photo…but you can notice the wider toe
box…especially for my poor pinky toe!
Oh yeah, and I set a PR by over 8 minutes. Not that I’m giving the shoe the credit for that one (sorry Saucony! ) but having a good shoe certainly helps!!
Having that extra space in the front of the shoe for my toe to move uninhibited and for my foot to land freely while running (as opposed to an unnatural cramped position) really made a difference in how my feet felt post half marathon. No cramping whatsoever in my feet. No tired feeling, like I had just pounded asphalt for 13.1 miles.
The ProGrid Kinvara, available at select specialty run retailers, comes in
men’s sizes 7-13, 14 and15, and women’s sizes 5-12. The suggested retail price
of the ProGrid Kinvara is $90.00. To find a retailer near you, call 800-365-4933
or visit www.saucony.com.
Heather Hart is an ACSM certified Exercise Physiologist, NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), UESCA certified Ultrarunning Coach, RRCA certified Running Coach, co-founder of Hart Strength and Endurance Coaching, and creator of this site, Relentless Forward Commotion. She is a mom of two teen boys, and has been running and racing distances of 5K to 100+ miles for over a decade. Heather has been writing and encouraging others to find a love for fitness and movement since 2009.