Kinvara is a village in Ireland. The name means “head of the sea”. Which is of absolutely no relevance whatsoever to Saucony’s Kinvara TR trail running shoe. Fitting then, that there’s not much of a connection between the trail version of the Kinvara and the popular road going model, either.
Rather than simply update the road going Kinvara with a rockplate toe protection and better grip – which may have been a winning upgrade in itself – Saucony has remodeled this shoe into its own beast with defiantly idiosyncratic tendancies that lean more towards the echo of one of the slicker Inov8s than one of its own brand.
First thing you will notice is that the fit is at least half a size small. I tested the Saucony Peregrines (love, love, love) at the same time. Same size. Totally different fitting on my foot. The Kinvara’s sucked around my slab of meat with a narrow toe box and mid foot fitting. This could work for a sockless run, however the length also came up toe-bangingly short.
Don’t get me wrong, they are comfortable and super lightweight and I’d be interested in a half size up testing, but even then, the slim upfront design will be snug.
For those with narrow feet and a minimalist leaning, these 4mm heel to toe drop puppies will delight, however, the ride being fairly firm with a stiffer sole, the aggressive lugs giving traction by the tonne and the rockplate providing enough protection despite the midsole being basic at best.
Inside, a small heel cushion bump ergonomically kept my heels in tune with the shoe – if you have fat ankles, they may rub, but worked a treat on my concave heel anatomy.
The upper is treated with Flexfilm, a web of lightweight but strong rubber giving some structural integrity to the otherwise full (extremely breathable) mesh covering. The gusseted tongue keeps out debris lower down but the gusset doesn’t rise high enough and the stitch finish lacks finesse.
That all said, on trail, even in a pair a half size too small, these low-riding, trail munchers gave excellent trail feel despite the protective rockplate being firm. They felt like a purebred race shoe, perhaps more suitable for short sharp stuff, like the current crop of 6-15km distance trail series popping up around the country, which have fast but technical courses.
RRP$159.95 AUD/ $199.90 NZ
Great for: thin footed minimalists, short to middle distance technical trails
Not so great for: fat footers, ultras
Test conditions: mostly singletrail, soft to firm, some graded track, technical, rocky, 95km+
Tester: Chris Ord
Tester mechanics: Mid-foot strike. Slight pronator. Prefers minimal shoes, but technical trail. Medium width feet.