The Saucony Kinvara has always been a running shoe with fans, ever since it launched back in the simpler time that was 2010.
The thing it’s important to understand about the Kinvara 6 is that it’s not trying to set the world on any kind of fresh fire.
No wheels will be reinvented here.
What will be happening is that everybody who loved previous iterations of the shoe will nod sagely, grab the 6, and practically immediately forget they ever owned a 5. Continuation of a legacy is the keynote that Saucony has imbued into every fiber of the Kinvara 6.
If you know what was good about previous versions, you’re going to be right at home in the Kinvara 6 – or at least, that’s the promise. Whereas if you haven’t ever worn them in the past, the Kinvara 6 is a great jumping-on point for one of Saucony’s most effective brands, with a passionate fan base.
If you’re looking for a TL;DR version of the magic of the Kinvara running shoe, it’s very simple.
Firstly, it looks like it would add 20 cool points to your feet and your whole image just by virtue of you putting it on. There are plenty of color combinations to choose from, and more or less every one of them will draw attention.
Secondly, it’s comfortable in a way that feels vaguely like a sin, so you almost invariably look around the first time you put it on, to see who’s watching you in the middle of an act of self-care so sweet it must surely be against somebody’s law.
And thirdly, it’s almost ridiculously convenient for various types of life and running. You can use it as a standard everyday trainer and just hang around sucking the cool out of the shoe.
You can use it if you go speed training, and it will give you the support and cushioning you need so you don’t come home, collapse on the couch with a bowl of Doritos and vow never to do anything like that again. And, if your heart feels the mysterious call of the long-distance runner, the Kinvara will be with you every step of that long and winding road, too.
What we’re saying here is that the Kinvara running shoe has always been worth at least… two of your three-dimensional friends. Three, if you include Kevin.
That’s why no wheels will be reinvented with the Kinvara 6. The wheel Saucony has is already pretty freakin’ tip-top, thank you very much.
Fresh out of the box
So what’s the experience of the Kinvara 6 like, compared to its predecessors? Well, we’ve pretty much covered the fact that what you have here is the gentlest of evolutions of a pretty joyous running shoe.
Fresh out of the box, they do that thing that all running shoes do in the Heaven or Valhalla or Nirvana of your dreams – they immediately convince you that your life just got a little bit better, and brighter, and faster and lighter.
Yes, absolutely, let’s not get freakin’ carried away here, they’re running shoes, they’re not manna from Heaven. Except in an odd way, they have a similar vibe.
The shape, the color scheme you’ve chosen, the all-round competence reflects your intentions back at you, whatever they are. And don’t tell us you didn’t have any intentions.
Whether it’s just to hang around in some cool-looking running shoes, or whether you want to run the New York Marathon for puppies with cancer, you pull the Kinvara 6s from the box, you get an immediate sense of “I got ya. We can do this.”
You put them on, you lace them up. Boom. There’s that balance that fans of previous versions of the Kinvara running shoe know and love. It’s the same vibe – whatever reason you had for buying the shoes, the shoes are all “We’re down for that.” The balance between chillout comfort and running performance is right there on the ends of your legs.
The runner’s experience
Start running with them though, and there are a couple of things that start occurring to you.
First, the practically trademarked comfort of the Kinvara series is still there, and is still more than enough to protect your feet, irrespective of the surface underfoot. You can run them on roads, on gravel, on limestone, on dusty trails. Anywhere you can think of running, the Kinvara 6 shoes have you covered.
There have been only miniscule changes to the PowerGrid technology that made the version 5s such a triumph for runners. The foam under the sockliner still works to distribute the impact of every step, and so stop you feeling like the running surface is hitting your feet with hammers every time you run a step.
Backing up that action, the blown rubber at strategic points in the sole makes for a lightweight running shoe that’s still durable enough to do all the miles you want to do.
Meanwhile, the Flexfilm external support frame has had a touch more of a makeover, giving it extra flexibility in the 6. You won’t notice-notice it as such until you get home and review your run (because… that’s normal, right? Everybody does that…), when the extra flex will reveal itself to you in hindsight.
So – there are no issues with the Kinvara 6 at all, then, and we should all rush out and buy them, right?
The straitjacket issue
Mmmm, hold on a second there, Sprinty. There may be issues for particular kinds of runners trying to use the Kinvara 6.
Exhibit A – the Pro-Lock lacing system. The thing is, the Pro-Lock lacing system is kind of a genius idea, stopping laces from shifting while you run all the miles under the sun.
Tell you what else stops things shifting no matter how you move. A straitjacket. Which is an unfortunately appropriate analogy for the Pro-Lock lacing system – at least when you first take the Kinvara 6 out of the box.
Some runners, especially those with lower arches, wider feet, or, perversely, extra narrow feet, might well find the Pro-Lock lacing system intrusive, restrictive, or even exhausting and painful when they start breaking in their Kinvara 6 running shoes.
The thing to do if this happens to you is not to panic. Yes, even if your feet go numb while you’re wearing them. No, sadly, we’re not even kidding – that can happen to some people.
It can happen because the Pro-Lock pieces sit between the main upper and the tongue and act like that motel bedsheet that’s been tucked in by a sadist, so that, like the bedding of a black hole, nothing can escape from it, not even light or hope.
That can be the feeling the Pro-Lock lacing system initially gives to your midfoot – you’re in now, dammit, you’re never getting out again, even if your feet turn blue and eventually drop off.
Fortunately, we’re given to hyperbole, and you actually can loosen the Pro-Lock sections and the laces themselves – it’s just oddly unnerving if you’ve worn previous versions of the Kinvara running shoe, because you never imagine you will actually have to do that.
For at least the first hour, you convince yourself it’s you. That somehow, your feet are just not cool enough for the shoe anymore, and that they’re being rejected by the newcomer.
Breaking them in
Relax. Relax. Relax.
In a sense, this is a by-product of having had it so good with previous iterations of the Kinvara shoe. The notion of ‘breaking them in’ has frequently been thought of as something that happens to other shoes. But you may well need to break in the Kinvara 6 shoes, to come to an accommodation with them where you adjust them until the battle is won, and they soften and give in to you.
It’s counter-intuitive to have to think like this and act like this, because the rest of the shoe is doing everything it’s been designed to do – to make you as comfortable as possible throughout the whole course of your run. So to have one mutinous little system seemingly trying to suffocate your feet to death feels like a movement against the flow.
But as we say, relax. Things will get better. The runners we know who’ve used the Kinvara 6 have either reported having no problem with the Pro-Lock lacing system in the first place, or having the problem, but feeling the pieces mellow and soften, letting go of their foot-crushing death-grip over time.
Once you’re past this awkward phase, the Kinvara 6 gets back to the business of taking the legacy of the line forward. It remains a ridiculously comfortable running shoe, mile after mile after mile, and with its lightweight construction, slightly tweaked Flexfilm support frame, it’s barely changed PowerGrid technology, and the eventually obedient Pro-Lock lacing system, it’s pretty easy to see why the Kinvara has the legions of fans it does.
The Kinvara 6 is a fine update on the Kinvaras that came before it. Very little has changed, and surprisingly, one of the things that has changed takes a little while to wear in, but ultimately, as far as running shoes go, it’s a thing of both beauty, comfort, and durability that maintains the legend of its line.