Shoe Review: Saucony Kinvara 7
My experience with the Kinvara dates back to version 1 (ViziPro version), the 3, and 2 pairs of the 5 (the Runshield as well as the regular version). You can say that I’ve a pretty good idea on how far the K has come since the early 2000s. Since major changes are put into the odd numbered (1, 3, 5) Kinvaras, I’m in a unique position to have experienced the enhanced editions. Since I’ve ran my best marathons in the 5s, I’ve a soft spot for the Kinvara.
The Kinvara has always been positioned as a low drop (4mm), conventionally stacked (23/19mm) lightweight trainer/racer. Its DNA have been that of simplicity, although the shoe has seen its ride qualities alternating between soft and firm. When v7 was announced last year, I was already enthused, bugging Frank when the release dates would be. The thought of a new midsole material, new upper and a rocking look only added to the impatience! Having used the Ride 8 as a slow-burn trainer, and the Zealot ISO the ultra versatile shod, I was eager to bed in the K7 quickly in preparation for the 3 marathons I’ve committed to this year. Through the help of a friend, I secured the Tokyo edition (¥9000) and promptly got down to seasoning it. The brand had a large presence at the Tokyo Marathon expo, from the looks of the photos here.
Aside from the Sakura-motifs, the Tokyo edition certainly lives up to the visual aesthetics of Toshikazu Nosaka, a pro skateboarder and artist. There’s a bit of Zen in the understated black and white colorway punctuated by the green Saucony logo. It’s been awhile since I wore a shoe with this much white and I’m torn between dirtying it and giving the shoe its due (i.e. putting many miles and getting them dirty and soiled)! #firstworldissues. A consolation is that the entire range of K7’s are lookers themselves, and replacing this pair eventually will not be as painful a thought. The regular colorways that we will see in Malaysia (3 for men, 2 for the women) will no doubt appeal to many, what with the anything-but-boring dark-to-light cues. The Boston Green Line edition which is due out in time for the world’s second oldest marathon has a simpler all-green take.
The upper is an improvement over the K5 in several ways, from the greater use of Flexfilm overlays. The sleeker logo, relocated to a more forward position, is now a thin strip which means it no longer presses down onto the top lateral side of the forefoot when flexed at push-off. The mesh looked ever more refined on the K7 as well. Apparently the position of the Pro-lock has been moved back a little for better midfoot support, but the feature isn’t something I particularly needed.
Moisture-wicking RunDry lining continues to be used on the sockliner and collar. The padding around the collar is just nice as on the tongue. The tongue is semi-gusseted which means sliding will be kept to a minimum. What would be nice though, is for the Kinvaras to have a slightly longer tongue – just 2cm extra just so that the laces have a bit more room to secure over.
Moving along to the SSL EVA midsole, there are changes to be had as well. There are now horizontal grooves on the medial side and a concave impression on the lateral side, possibly to promote a smoother transition. The use of Everun isn’t visible in the case of the K7, unlike the Hurricane and Triumph ISO 2 where the molded PU material can be seen on the topsole as well as in the heel section. Instead, the implementation is much subtler for the K7, with the Everun layer inserted into the heel.
Tri-Flex configuration for the outsole replaces the triangular lugs. While this may seem like a design decision, I notice a subtle change in how the shoe feels. More of that when I cover the wear experience. There are sufficient IBR+ material used to ensure durability doesn’t take a drastic hit. I’ve worn enough shoes over the last 10 years to state that IBR+ is the most durable blown rubber material I’ve experienced. The heel plug remains the dependable XT-900 carbon rubber variety.
I’ve logged close to 80K in the K7 and thus have a better idea on how the shoe rides. Runningwarehouse rate the K7 as firm and responsive, and that would be pretty much my take as well. It has a performance feel to the toe-off phase, not hard but more of a fast and firm bounce, resulting in a very engaging experience. The Tri-Flex configuration makes the midfoot to toeoff transition snappier and urgent than before – I can’t explain how or why, just that it feels that way! Heel cushioning is there but it’s not what anyone would call plush (for that, look to the Ride 8 or Triumph ISO 2) since the Everun layer is placed deeper into the midsole. I like the furrow in the midsole, which extends from the heel to the midfoot area. Besides being a weight-saving move, the longitudinal groove will provide some “center-of-the-pressure” cushioning during the impact-loading phase.
The ride characteristics change as you put in the miles in the K7. Having inched closer to the century mark, I notice a mild midsole softening which should stay the same for the life of the shoe. The wear and tear signs are not as pronounced as expected, a sign that version 7 will most likely outlast my ageing K5 . The traction offered by the K7 is exceptional, which is surprising, given the understated appearance of the outsole. The K7’s hold on the wet tiled and brick surfaces felt superbly assured as I ran at pace during one rainy day.
So what of the supposed narrower toebox? I don’t notice it at all, maybe because my choice of socks tend to be that of thinner material. The upper is still a little stretchy, no different from the previous version. That said, if your favorite socks are as thick as those traditional Thor-Lo’s, you may want to first try out the shoes in the stores before committing to a size.
You can surmise then, that the K7 is more suited for uptempo sessions than long easy runs, at least for me. For the most parts, the Kinvara 7 continues its tradition of providing a fast and lightweight ride. The fit remains true and if you’ve been a Kinvara faithful over the years, you’ll recognize it the moment you slip the it on. The slight bump in the weight department doesn’t slow the shoe down. The converse is, in fact, true. An enhanced midsole and a re-tweaked outsole config ensures that all you need to worry about is whether you can keep up with it.
The Saucony Kinvara 7 is available from today at Running Lab – Tropicana City Mall, Stadium and selected Royal Sporting House outlets, and retails at RM429.00.
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