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Saucony Kinvara TR Trail Shoe: First Run Thoughts

Posted on July 25 2012

Saucony Kinvara TR yellowIf you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you know that I’m a big fan of the Saucony Kinvara running shoe – it’s the shoe that has carried me through my last two marathons, and is a personal favorite for long runs on the road. Lately, however, I’ve been doing a lot of my runs in lightweight trail shoes as I’m working on reviews of the Brooks Pure Grit and Merrell Mix Master 2 (I’m liking both a lot!). Thus, it was with a fair amount of excitement that I received a package today from Running Warehouse containing a pair of the new Saucony Kinvara TR (these were a personal purchase). The Kinvara TR is being marketed as the trail running version of Saucony’s extremely popular lightweight road shoe, and it’s one of the most eagerly awaited shoe releases of this summer (at least it was for me!).

My excitement to try out the Kinvara TR quickly gave way to skepticism when I opened the box. The shoes look fantastic from an aesthetic standpoint, but when looking at the last shape it has a distinct “bullet-shape” that I know from past experience does not work too well for me (e.g., in the Saucony Grid Type A4). The forefoot looked to be only a tad wider than the midfoot, and the forefoot came to a distinct pointed taper as the forefoot angles inward on both sides (see image below). I like a shoe that hugs my heel and midfoot closely, and that opens up into a spacious forefoot. This shoe did not look to fit that mold.

Saucony Kinvara TR Top

Putting the shoes on my feet did not provide any reassurance – they are definite toe-squeezers, which is a huge red flag for me. I pulled the shoes off and took out the insoles, and was comforted by the fact that the inserts were fairly well-cushioned, a bit more-so in the heel than in the forefoot. I’ve found with many shoes that swapping out a factory insole with a very thin one from another shoe can make a world of difference when it comes to fit (I prefer older Nike Free insoles or the fantastic insoles from the Skechers Go Bionic). Swapping out the insoles made the shoes more comfortable, and I decided to give them a go on a run (it may be worth trying to size up 1/2 size if you buy these shoes).

As I stood on the road in front of my house, I thought really hard about whether I wanted to go back in and package the shoes back up for a return. I was that concerned about how the forefoot fit felt. But, recalling that the Nike Free 3.0 v4 felt similar and loosened up a bit as it broke in, I decided to go for it.

Saucony Kinvara TR side

Turns out it was a good idea. With the swapped insole and loose lacing up front, the shoes felt progressively better as I ran in them. A bit of break-in really seemed to help. The fit is still off – sloppy in the midfoot and too tapered up front, but it’s tolerable on the run. I ran 7.5 miles in them, mostly on roads for today (it was a speedwork day, ran strides and 4x1200m intervals in them), and they handled the asphalt just fine. They have a fairly substantial rock plate, and on the few stretches that I ran on gravel and rutty asphalt they provided plenty of rock protection. The outsole looks to be very durable, and feel underfoot is firmer than the road Kinvara.

Saucony Kivara TR Sole yellow

I plan to get some trail miles on these shoes soon, maybe tomorrow, but my first impression is that the Saucony Peregrine is a closer trail sibling to the road Kinvara than this shoe. The fit feels very different, and hopefully will be improved in future iterations as I really like most other aspects of this shoe. The sole is solid, and at 3mm drop (18mm heel, 15mm forefoot) should appeal to those who like more minimal shoes. Weight is 8.9oz in size 9, which is comparable to other shoes I like in the lightweight trail category. But, if I had to run a trail 50K tomorrow I’d probably go with the Merrell Mix Master 2 since it fits my foot almost perfectly. Who knows, things may change with additional miles, but my initial run in the Kinvara TR did not vault it to the top of my lightweight trail running list.

Have you tried the Kinvara TR? What are your thoughts on the fit? Leave a comment!

The Saucony Kinvara TR is available for purchase at Running Warehouse.

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