A product doesn’t often make it into legacy numbers unless a couple of important things are apparent. First, the evolution of the thing has to be consistent enough to keep people’s interest and curiosity piqued and second, and perhaps more importantly, it has to keep loyalists hooked despite its evolution. Now in its seventh iteration, the Saucony Kinvara is a running shoe that has entered the consciousness of a huge portion of the running world. Since its debut in the beginning of the natural running craze people have flocked to its 4mm drop and solid ground feel to carry then anywhere from track workouts and 5K’s up to marathon distance and beyond.
Despite the fact that it doesn’t come out until March of 2016, we were fortunate enough to get our hands on the Saucony Kinvara 7 now and get in some very solid miles on a shoe with a legacy which continues to reinvent itself.
Strictly from and aesthetic view the outsole of the Kinvara 7 is probably one of the biggest changes in this version. Since the beginning we’ve become used to the ubiquitous triangles that have adorned the sole. In this version Saucony has continued to use intelligent placement of key iBR+ and XT-900 rubbers for the sake of durability and traction.
Looking at the image below, the green material is XT-900 rubber which is a carbon rubber compound used in high-abrasion areas to maintain the durability of the shoe. In this case the XT-900 is located in the same spots as in previous versions of the Kinvara – on the lateral heel and in the toe – and seemingly only the shape of the pods has changed. This is certainly a case of not messing with what works.
The iBR+ appears in the orange sections on the Kinvara 7’s outsole. This material is built for traction and for a bit of cushioning as it has about 15% more cushioning that traditional blown rubber. Like the XT-900 the iBR+ on this shoe is largely in the same places as the triangles in previous versions though in a different design. Up the lateral arch the iBR+ takes the form of a series of three chevrons with ample flex grooves in between. Under the forefoot and metatarsals the triangles have been replaced by strips of iBR+ laid out on about a 40/140° angle. The remainder of the outsole is exposed EVA+ yet the new, chevron-esque grooves are maintained throughout.
First let me touch on the new flex grooves which adorn the outsole of this shoe front front to back. I love the idea of theses grooves and the amount of flexibility they afford the Kinvara 7 is what I’ve come to expect from this shoe. The rubber does a great job with placement and the EVA+ only shows wear right at the front of my arch which is typical of my stride. I don’t question the durability of the rubber at all but I would maybe like to see the XT-900 extended up the lateral side a bit since that’s where I personally tend to chew up outsoles like they’re candy. In this case there’s certainly no accelerated wear, but the iBR+ does show a smidge more wear than the XT-900 might in that area – which is to be expected. The rubber in the toe area has truly nailed it for my stride and the EVA+ surrounding it remains all but untouched with the rubber doing its thing perfectly.
For me one of the most exciting parts of the redesign of the Kinvara 7 is one of the things you can’t outwardly see and that is the midsole. First, Saucony has moved away from EVA+ and into using SSL EVA, though EVA+ still appears in the outsole as mentioned above. This change will result in less material breakdown and as a compliment to the real star of the midsole update and that is Saucony’s new EVERUN material.
As we’ve seen with other brands of late, people are looking not just for a midsole material that provides a good amount of cushioning, but also for something that will maintain its resilience both over the course of an individual run and over the lifespan of the shoe. EVERUN is such a material. In the case of the Kinvara 7, EVERUN appears as a drop-in material in the heel of the shoe. But why only in the heel you might ask? Well, I did ask and Saucony was great in putting Gearist in touch with a product developer where I could throw questions. First, Saucony didn’t just say, “Hey, let’s put this in the heel and call it a day.” Rather, they did extensive wear testing with several different iterations including having EVERUN only in the forefoot and under the entire foot. Throughout this testing both with in-house runners and Kinvara devotees, the overwhelming preference was for the new material to appear in the heel. I’ll get much more into my personal feeling on EVERUN in the RIDE section below so, read on.
Another big fave of the redesigned Kinvara 7 for me is the flexibility which, as I mentioned earlier begins in the outsole with its huge network of flex grooves. These grooves carry over well into the midsole material and provide flexibility throughout. One thing about the flexibility of this shoe that I also found very nice is that it’s not flexible in that it simply folds when your bend it, but it maintains a uniform curvature throughout – a function that is apparent in the heel/midfoot to forefoot transition by way of its consistent feel and smoothness.
I’ve always enjoyed the way that the Kinvara series has looked and this is no exception. With it’s bright green fading into black (in the version I have) the Kinvara 7 is walking that line between the fluorescent colors of the past seven or eight years and some people’s desire for shoes that are a bit more subdued.
The structure of the upper of the Kinvara 7 is once again the very lightweight yet strong FlexFilm. In past versions of the Kinvara there have a been some issues with durability, mainly with the mesh and with some delamination of the film. While it’s tough to make a full call based on the mileage that I’ve got in these (~45 miles so far) the FlexFilm seems to be placed in some areas where fabric issues have arisen in the past making me believe that this is a solid design. As for how the structure feels, as with previous versions, I love the light weight and airiness of the Kinvara 7 and it flexes nicely with the sole unit.
The mesh of the upper seems to have a nice upgrade in this version. Across the front half of the shoe the mesh remains very open and breathable while backed by a finer mesh for keeping out debris yet keeping breathability at the forefront. In the midfoot Saucony’s PROLOCK system makes an appearance. In this iteration, the setup meant to hold the midfoot more snugly seems to disappear into the rest of the upper more than in past versions. With earlier versions of the PROLOCK system being clearly felt when the shoe is on, this is a nice change and something that will take little to no getting used to.
The heel counter in the Kinvara 7 is only semi-rigid about halfway up the heel of the shoe and above that, the material is flexible and soft against the achilles. Foam around the collar and on the tongue, enclosed in RUBDRY fabric, is spot on and as always is a bright spot for me (I know, it’s a weird thing to enjoy). The changes made to the upper of this shoe are very solid and everything working in concert does a very thorough job of keeping the shoe very close to the foot which, in turn, enhances the sense of control, agility and speed in the shoe.
Sizing in my size 11’s is right on and consistent with Saucony as well as the rest of the industry – something Saucony does very well. Additionally, the shoe tips the scales at 8.9 ounces in my size 11’s which is consistent with it’s recent predecessor.
Starting with the heel of the Kinvara 7; the fit here is quite nice with the gentle hold of the relatively low heel counter and supple material around the collar. The heel cup is subtle yet well formed and nicely attuned to road running and not overbuilt. In the midfoot I felt very comfortable in this shoe though I wonder how it would fit someone who generally reaches for something a bit wider in that area. While there is a bit of wiggle room, the PROLOCK is unlikely to accommodate someone with a truly wide foot. The toe box is classic Kinvara for me, which is to say that I’ve got plenty of room to wiggle and splay and once again, that mesh is wonderfully breathable to keep my toes from getting warm.
I think the first thing I should mention here is that Saucony’s EVERUN material in this application is not bouncy like what you’d find in Adidas’ Boost foam. So what did it feel like to me? Well, if you’ve ever read my reviews before then you likely know that I’m a pretty solid midfoot/forefoot runner. With that in mind, I was curious how a new type of foam embedded in the rearfoot would affect my running. Early in my runs, the Kinvara 7 felt to me very much like prior versions though perhaps with a bit more firmness. Once I hit about four or five miles though, I began to relax into the shoe more and my heels settled into the rearfoot while in full on mid stance with more ease. It was at this point that I could feel the heel material loading with added resiliency. To be honest, on longer runs I felt like my legs were less gassed than they should be, even on the heels of longer trail runs (in other shoes) the day before. I’ve also got to admit that I’d love to put my foot into a version of this shoe – or something similar – with a full-length EVERUN layer.
As I mentioned earlier the flexibility of the Kinvara 7 has increased and the response to the foot is enhanced because of it. With this flexibility though the rigidity necessary for a super “poppy” feeling isn’t there but again, the EVERUN foam takes care of some of that and the foot is allowed to respond through its musculature rather than the work falling strictly to the materials. I found that running slowly in this shoe (for me) was a tricky proposition – which I love.
Once again Saucony has done a great job with the Kinvara 7. Kinvara loyalists and newbies alike will like the lightweight, responsive and speedy feel of this shoe. I’m eager to keep putting miles on this just to see how the EVERUN material holds up over the long haul. This is a shoe that could easily be your shoe for anything from a 5K and up and at a consistent $110, the Kinvara continues to be a lot of bang for your buck.
The Saucony Kinvara 7 will be available on March 1, 2016.
Born and raised in the great state of Virginia, Brandon is a former opera singer (true story) who’s had the outdoors flowing through his veins since day one. Brandon now lives in Colorado with his daughter Sydney (AKA, Baby Gearist).