Saucony Kinvara 15 Review: Less is More

The Saucony Kinvara 15.

All shoes are reviewed by the Fleet Feet tester team, which represents a wide variety of goals, foot shapes, running locations and terrains. Reviewers pound the pavement, climb the hills, tackle the trails, then come together to compare notes. Debates ensue over the feel of the cushioning, the purpose of the shoe, and how it compares to last year’s model. While each reviewer has their own individual preferences, we hope that capturing our debates will help you make an informed decision.

Nowadays, running shoes seem to be growing taller and taller. A shoe’s stack height, the difference in height from the ground to your feet, is now a main selling point for manufacturers as runners are leaning more toward giant slabs of cushioning as opposed to lower profile shoes.

But what about the runner who doesn’t want a giant stack of cushioning? The one who remembers the days where lighter shoes meant faster paces, without any fancy foams or carbon plates? What about those who yearn for a shoe whose unchanged stack height remains a consistent beacon of hope for the forgotten runner?

While we can’t say that the Kinvara 15 will be the answer to all of those runners’ hopes and dreams, we can say that it offers one of the lowest stack heights and lightest weights we’ve tested this year. But what did that mean for our reviewers? You’ll get to hear straight from them about their experience testing the Kinvara 15:

  • Caroline, who prefers soft shoes with loads of cushioning and bounce.
  • Nate, a firm fiend who hates squishy shoes.
  • Max, who describes his ankles as weak and appreciates a stable ride.

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Tech Specs

Saucony Kinvara 15

Weight 6.2 oz (W), 7 oz (M)
Stack height (heel/forefoot) 29 mm/25 mm
Heel-to-toe drop 4 mm
Category Neutral
Surface Road/track
Price $120
Comparable to... On Cloudflow 4, Brooks Hyperion Tempo

Ride

Cushioning

Energy

What’s new

  • A new, low-profile upper
  • A lower midsole stack height (two millimeters, to be exact)

Saucony Kinvara 15: Fit & materials

The men's and women's colorway of the Saucony Kinvara 15.

Caroline

For some reason, these shoes were really hard for me to squeeze into, but once they were on they felt good…maybe they were just cinched tightly in the box or something. Anyways, once I had these shoes on my feet they felt pretty invisible. They’re super duper lightweight and offer a streamlined fit that’s easy to forget about (in a good way). They have these separated loops that the laces run through, allowing you to tighten the shoes without any excess material buckling around the midfoot. They also have an extra eyelet near the ankle to tie the marathon loop. I didn’t need to worry about tightening my laces or using the extra eyelet, though, as the fit was perfect on my low volume feet. There’s a touch of padding on the tongue and heel collar, but overall this is a pretty no-frills, lightweight shoe.

Nate

The Kinvara has the sleek look of an uptempo trainer with a wonderfully simple upper. It doesn’t feel quite as perforated as last year’s extremely airy upper, but there’s still plenty of room for air to pass through which I appreciate because, gross admission, my feet sweat a lot. The heel collar and cup has a little bit of stiffness to it and some padding reminiscent of what you’d see in a classic daily trainer. The tongue is flat and gusseted with a thin layer of padding underneath. All of this tells me that while the Kinvara cares about speed and lightness, it wants your feet to feel comfortable and locked in for the ride. While I have a wider, higher volume foot, I actually have a narrow heel and there’s something about how Saucony fits in general that perfectly contours to my foot’s shape. However, I do wish the Kinvara had a slightly wider toe box, but that’s because I didn’t test my usual wide size.

Max

Although not much has changed between the Kinvara 14 and 15, it certainly looks like it has and that’s due to the totally redesigned upper. Last year’s model had one of the most breathable uppers in recent memory, but I think the large perforations hindered the overall structure and prevented a good lockdown fit. The upper of the 15 uses an engineered mesh that feels a bit more stiff but provides a lot more structure and stability, which I appreciate when picking up the pace. The fit in both length and width feels true to size, despite looking like a narrow shoe because of its low profile. The asymmetrical lacing followed the top of my midfoot nicely and created a nice lockdown fit, along with the gusseted tongue. The PWRRUN midsole remains the same as the previous version. There’s not too much to write home about regarding the midsole, as many uptempo daily trainers use more advanced, peppier foams…but the “barebones-ness” of the Kinvara 15 is kind of its allure, and it keeps the price point down at $120. The outsole is minimal, to say the least, and it’s the same design as last year’s. There’s not much rubber coverage to keep the weight down, leaving a lot of exposed EVA foam. This makes me question what the grip will be like on the wet cement during the rainy season, as well as the overall durability of the Kinvara.

Saucony Kinvara 15: Ride & performance

The Saucony Kinvara 15.

Caroline

Remember how I said the upper of the Kinvara 15 felt invisible? So does the entire shoe, and this time in a not-so-good way. I should preface this by saying I like a lot of cushioning underfoot, and I do not like to feel the harsh pavement or concrete underfoot at all. With that being said, I’m definitely not the target consumer for the Kinvara. This shoe is perfect for runners who like to feel the ground beneath their feet as their legs slice through the air, unmoored by the burden of heavy foams and padding. While I haven’t been doing much speed work, this feels like a great shoe to run fast in.

Nate

I’m glad to meet a shoe that has some backbone that doesn’t succumb to the trends of the day. The Kinvara 15 shows that not all running shoes have to be soft, mushy, high-stack marshmallows. Okay, I digress. While I recall last year’s Kinvara being, if anything, perhaps a touch too stiff at first, the latest edition seems dialed in right out of the gate. It offers a firm, smooth and incredibly lightweight ride. With only a touch of blown rubber under the big toe and the outer edge of the heel, it offers great grip and traction while still maintaining a low weight.

Max

In the world of max-cushion trainers, the Kinvara refuses to make that leap and stays true to itself, offering a low-stack option. It was a breath of fresh air on my four mile run. The rest of the week was run in other high stack, super soft shoes, so the switch to the Kinvara 15 was stark. I felt more confident in my footing and more stable throughout the run. The PWRRUN foam felt responsive and slightly firm, but was soft enough for me to feel like I had enough protection from the repeated impact upon foot strike.

Who is the Saucony Kinvara 15 best for?

The sole of the Saucony Kinvara 15.

Caroline

The Kinvara 15 is perfect for runners who really like to feel some ground contact, thanks to the low drop and low stack height. If you want a lightweight trainer without the feeling–and cost–of a carbon plate, this is a great option. The Kinvara 15 excels at what it is–a light, fast, simple trainer. While it doesn’t align with my personal preferences, I wouldn’t change anything about it.

Nate

The Kinvara 15 is great for anyone who likes light, firm, uptempo trainers. The shoe can also work for some medium-long runs and workouts. I’d say this shoe is perfect for a 5K all the way up to a half marathon. When I’m traveling and I know I’ll be doing a mix of runs, from recovery miles to some fast workouts, the Kinvara is definitely getting thrown in my bag.

Max

I’d recommend the Kinvara 15 for someone looking for a low-stack and responsive shoe for their tempo days or speed work. If you’re just testing the waters and don’t want to spend $200 entering the market for a speed shoe, the Kinvara 15 is a great entry point.

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