Shoe Review: Saucony Kinvara Pro
Remember Sonny the Cuckoo Bird, the Cocoa Puffs mascot who was “cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs?” Now imagine a group of compression sock-clad runners jumping up and down, screaming “cuckoo for carbon plates!” It’s no secret that the carbon-plated craze has taken the industry by storm, and it seems that everywhere we turn, a new shoe is being updated with a carbon or plastic plate for maximum performance. While this technology used to be reserved for racing shoes, it’s found its way into everything from trail shoes to daily trainers. Enter the Saucony Kinvara Pro.
Fleet Feet reviewers got a first look at the Kinvara Pro at The Running Event in 2022. It was one of the most hyped shoes at the trade show but, due to embargos, we were unable to spread the excitement…until now.
We tested the Kinvara Pro during tempo sessions, recovery runs and long workouts to see if too much of a good thing can actually exist. Here’s what we decided.
Saucony Kinvara Pro
|Weight||8.5 oz (W), 9.5 oz (M)|
|Heel-to-toe drop||8 mm|
|Stack height (heel/forefoot)||42 mm/34 mm|
|Comparable to...||HOKA Mach X, New Balance SuperComp Trainer v2|
Kinvara Pro blurs the line between trainers and racers
Most running shoes we review fall into one of four categories: the daily trainer, the speedwork shoe, the race-day shoe or the trail shoe. The Saucony Kinvara Pro, equipped with a three-quarter length carbon-fiber plate, falls somewhere between a daily trainer and a speedwork shoe, depending on who you ask.
“The Saucony Kinvara Pro is pleasantly light and peppy, comfortably cushioned, and with just a hint of bounce,” Alex says. “The shoes helped my feet turn over quickly during my test run.”
The three-quarter length carbon-fiber plate is shorter than the plates used in the Saucony Endorphin Pro and Endorphin Elite, which are designed for all-out racing. The Kinvara Pro, according to Saucony shoe designers, is meant to be worn for the other 99 percent of your runs—the runs when you’re chatting with friends and running at your easy pace rather than chasing down a new PR. Despite this, reviewers noticed the Kinvara Pro really comes to life as you pick up the pace.
“When I first put the Kinvara Pro on, they felt pretty firm,” Caroline says. “As I started my 6-mile progression run, the shoes didn’t feel as bouncy as I hoped they would. But the further along I got, the more they came to life. With each mile as I picked up the pace, the shoes felt springier and more responsive. By my last mile, my feet were practically singing! The foam offered a firm platform for landings and just the right amount of springiness to help my feet pop back off the ground and into the next stride. I was able to finish my workout much faster than I had expected, despite my tough gym workout the night before.”
The Kinvara Pros’ dual-layer midsole is another confounding feature that blurs the lines between shoe categories. A lightweight, springy layer of Saucony’s PWRRUN PB foam, the foam used in Saucony’s racing shoes, sits right underfoot to provide a responsive feeling. Beneath that is a layer of PWRRUN foam, Saucony’s proprietary EVA-based midsole foam used in daily trainers like the Ride 16. The result is a delightful combination of durable comfort and subtle propulsion.
“I love the sensation of running in the Kinvara Pro,” Kate says. “It feels like a cycle in which I sink into the cushion for a split second, then rock and bounce forward. The forward momentum feels a bit like floating.”
Traditional upper offers secure fit
While the Saucony Kinvara Pro may have a snappy carbon plate underfoot, the upper is a stark contrast to the racing supershoes seen today. If we’re keeping score, that’s one point toward placing this shoe in the “daily trainer” category (or making up a new category altogether.)
The upper is made with engineered knit material and hugs your foot in all the right places. It’s roomy in the toe box with a snug midfoot and heel lockdown. A subtly padded tongue adds a touch of extra softness. Reviewers felt it fit true to size, but could do without the suede accents around the ankle collar.
“The upper looks and feels like your average daily trainer, nothing to write home about,” Caroline says. “It has a bit of padding around the heel and tongue and a decently breathable material around the toe box and midfoot. It doesn’t necessarily feel like a racing shoe-style upper, more like your average training shoe. There’s even a nice little pull tab on the back of the heel to help you slide into the shoe, along with a suede-like material to accent the heel. I am seeing this trend more and more in running shoes and I really don’t like it…but that’s a problem for another day, I guess.”
Saucony Kinvara Pro vs Saucony Kinvara 14
Saucony Kinvara Pro
Saucony Kinvara 14
8.5 oz (W), 9.5 oz (M)
6.2 oz (W), 7 oz (M)
42 mm/34 mm
31 mm/27 mm
The Saucony Kinvara Pro and Saucony Kinvara 14 may share the same name, but that’s where the similarities stop. While the Kinvara 14 is designed to be a lightweight, no-frills training shoe, the Kinvara Pro is more suited towards runners who want all the frills, like a carbon plate and an ultra-high stack height. The Pro weighs more, too, likely due to all the added cushioning.
Reviewers thought the Kinvara Pro felt more akin to something from Saucony’s Endorphin line, like the Endorphin Pro 3 or Endorphin Speed 3, although it’s somewhat of a toned down version in terms of responsiveness.
“The Kinvara Pro offers a different feeling than what you’d get from a true race shoe, like the Endorphin Pro,” Kate says. “They’re a little less lively, but they seemed to help me get into a rhythm and I loved the bouncy sensation during my 13-mile long run workout.”
How does the Saucony Kinvara Pro compare?
Saucony Kinvara Pro
New Balance SC Trainer v2
HOKA Mach X
8.5 oz (W), 9.5 oz (M)
8 oz (W), 10.1 oz (M)
8 oz (W), 9.4 oz (M)
42 mm/34 mm
40 mm/34 mm
42 mm/37 mm
The Saucony Kinvara Pro is the latest addition to a “gray-area” category of shoes—not quite racing shoes, but definitely not your average daily trainers—like the New Balance SC Trainer v2 and the HOKA Mach X. Even though Saucony markets the Kinvara Pro as a “conversational pace carbon-plated trainer,” our reviewers are much more likely to pull it out for tempo workouts, speed intervals and challenging long runs.
“The double-layered cushioning system offers plenty of spring, while the firmness feels inherently stable,” Max says. “I honestly couldn’t tell that this has a three-quarter length carbon plate compared to a full-length carbon plate, but I could definitely tell there was a carbon plate of some sort underfoot as it really propelled me forward.”
The Kinvara Pro falls somewhere between the New Balance SC Trainer v2 and the HOKA Mach X in terms of its firm-to-soft ratio, with the SC Trainer falling in the soft, squishy category and the Mach feeling much more stiff and firm.
Who is the Saucony Kinvara Pro best for?
The Saucony Kinvara Pro is well-suited for runners who like a hefty amount of cushioning underfoot, but not necessarily a soft underfoot feel. Several reviewers noticed that, despite the high stack height, the firm cushioning gives the shoe inherent stability.
“The cushioning in the Kinvara Pro is thick in a wonderful way,” Kate says. “As long as I feel stable in a shoe, I love a big, fat slab of cushion, and this one doesn’t disappoint. It’s delightfully thick without making me feel like I’m going to topple over. When I take a step, I feel like I should have some sort of a “BOING” sound effect.”
The Kinvara Pro is also a great choice for runners looking to dip their toes (pun intended) into the crazy world of carbon plates with a more affordable option than a race-day supershoe. Of course, it’ll likely also be a top pick for those cuckoo birds who already have their fair share of carbon-plated racers and want something durable to rack up their training miles in.