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Saucony Kinvara 4 – A Disappointing Update

Posted on November 04 2013

Saucony Kinvara 4

It pains me to write what I’m about to write, but sometimes you have to be honest and tell a good friend that they are headed in the wrong direction. So, Mr. Kinvara, I apologize for being critical. I know we’ve been through a lot together, but we need some time apart until you get things sorted out.

This post was prompted by the following tweet that I received earlier today:

@Runblogger have run in Kinvaras last 4 yrs…having issues at end of marathon with feet killing me…more cushion? any suggestions?

— DMT (@dougmt) November 3, 2013

I responded with this:

@dougmt Kinvara 4 causing the trouble or earlier model? Could be width and not cushion.

— Pete L. (@Runblogger) November 3, 2013

Turns out it was indeed the K4, and @dougmt indicated he’d not had similar problems with the Kinvara 3. My suspicion is that the issue was not cushioning, but squeezing from the sides due to the tight forefoot fit of the Kinvara 4. My wife has this issue with her neuroma – narrow shoes squeeze her foot and can cause numbness and tingling.

The Twitter exchange reminded me that I’d never written a review of the Saucony Kinvara 4, and got me thinking about the shoe. My delay in reviewing them is simply because I have not run in them very much. And my reason for not running in them very much is that they are in my opinion a step back for the Kinvara line.

I have a long history with the Saucony Kinvara. The Kinvara 1 was one of my favorite shoes ever, and I ran two marathons in them, including my BQ race back in 2010. The Kinvara 2 was just an incremental upper update, so pretty much the same shoe. Sacuony tinkered with the sole a bit for the Kinvara 3, adding a bit of rubber in a few spots to add durability, and the upper was once again reworked. I really like the upper of the Kinvara 3 – in my opinion it felt a tad roomier in the forefoot than previous models and let my toes move around more freely.

Saucony Kinvara 4 top

Saucony Kinvara 4 – that material on the forefoot does not stretch!

I wore a size 10 in each of Kinvaras 1-3 with no major complaints or issues. None were particularly roomy shoes, but fit was ok on me, and I found the Kinvara 3 to be most comfortable of the three iterations. I assumed the Kinvara 4 would be the same in terms of sizing, but after trying on my usual size 10 it was clear that something was different. The forefoot was tight and the upper had very little give – my toes felt squished together. I then tried a 10.5, and while it felt better, the shoe still felt like a toe scruncher. I ran in them a few times and the sole felt like a typical Kinvara, if a tad firmer due to the addition of their PowerGrid foam, but the comfort factor of the upper was a huge problem. The forefoot still felt tight and restrictive, and I can’t stand wearing a shoe that does not allow my toes freedom of movement. As such, I only ran in them a few times and they wound up sitting unused on my shoe rack.

I dug out my pairs of the Kinvara 3 and 4 earlier today and tried them on, one version on each foot. Sure enough, the Kivara 3 in size 10 feels roomier and less constrictive than the Kinvara 4 in size 10.5. The fit of the Kinvara 4 is simply too tight up front for me, and it’s a shoe that I can’t run comfortably in. I really dislike the material that Saucony used to build the upper, it’s reminiscent of the original Nike Lunaracer which also had very little give.

Saucony Kinvara 4 side

My other big problem with the Kinvara 4 upper is that I anticipate durability problems. The upper is made from a plasticy synthetic mesh the just screams “tear me!” In perusing the reviews on Amazon (since I haven’t run in them more than 10 miles myself) it appears a number of people have complained about forefoot tearing, and in this great video review by Ginger Runner he discusses this issue as well:

My take is that the Kinvara 4 is a step back for Saucony, and unless you have narrowish feet or don’t mind a lack of toe freedom they aren’t going to be a great choice. And durability is a potential issue for the forefoot upper.

It’s a shame to see one of my favorite shoes suffer a setback like this. Even worse, I’ve heard that the Kinvara 5 is going to be quite different, more trainery, and frankly that scares me. The Kinvara is basically what I think a shoe should be – simple, lightweight, and relatively inexpensive compared to other shoes on the market. The progressive addition of technology tends to ruin shoes in my book – fix the upper and keep the Kinvara simple Saucony!

My advice if you are looking for a Kinvara is to get a pair of the 3’s or wait until they update to #5 and hope that it doesn’t change too much from the winning formula of earlier versions. It looks like Shoes.com has a bunch of Kinvara 3’s still in stock for $90, with an additional 25% off with code 25sale (total comes out to $67.50). You can also still find a bunch of the Kinvara 3 in stock for $75 at Saucony.com.

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