Since Todd mentioned that he's going to start looking into minimalist shoes, I figured it's about time that I blogged my experiences with the Kinvara 2, a shoe that seems to be all the rage among runners looking to go minimalist. I've been running with them for about 50 miles now, over a variety of surfaces and for a variety of distances.
I'm going to start by describing what the shoe is not, after which I'll describe what it is.
The Kinvara 2 is not:
An "almost barefoot" shoe. Sure, it is extremely light: the shoe weighs 7.3 oz. But there is still lots of cushioning underfoot -- 17 mm at the forefoot, and 21 mm at the heel.* That's more than I'm used to (my previous shoes had 10 mm and 19 mm). And that's more than fine by me -- in fact, since I've been running longer distances, it is just what I was looking for.
A shoe with less technology. Saucony could have given every part of this shoe a high-tech sounding name. The could have said it had an ultra-vector-lateral-heel system, coupled with ultra-trivarate-impact soles. Etc. Instead, they laid off the marketing, saying that the shoe has a "foam heel collar" and the sole is made of "durable foam." Smart move. Everyone has responded by believing this is the kind of shoe Christopher McDougall would approve of, and it has taken off.
Terribly durable. The super lightweight foam means the sole wears out super fast. I'm already seeing significant treadwear after only about 50 miles.
On the other hand, the Kinvara 2 is:
Very comfortable. I've run in these for over 19 miles on pavement, and my feet still feel fine. (My only complaint is that I do consistently get a blister on the outside of my right big toe. I can't figure out why, but something is rubbing there.
Built on an extremely wide platform. See below for a comparison to my prior shoes. Giventhe fact that the heel is very flexible, and the soles are quite thick, the width makes sense to me. As a bonus, it means the shoe has a nice, wide toebox, which is great for long distance runs.
Relatively breathable. I say relatively, because, despite how airy the upper looks, it does have three layers of different mesh, so they are less cool than I had hoped. They are still better than most shoes in the summer, but I wouldn't call the uppers revolutionary.
Affordable. Saucony's suggested retail is $90, and it is not hard to bring the price down with discounts, either online or from your local shop. So, if it wears out faster than a more expensive shoe, that's fine by me.
In short: I've been enjoying running in this shoe. I feel comfortable running on both pavement and trails, and my feet and joints don't seem to be taking as much of a pounding. If I don't watch my form, I can feel my pronation problems kicking in, but if I pay attention to my stride, I'm fine.
I've read a lot of people claiming that this shoe has magically helped transform them from heel strikers into midfoot strikers. I am skeptical that a few millimeters less of heel buildup is going to change years of ingrained mechanics. But I'm also skeptical of the claim that midfoot running is innately "better."
A final note: the Kinvara 2 seems to run a bit small. I normally wear a size 12. For this shoe, I wear a size 13.
If you have any questions, let me know!
*Stats are from runningwarehouse.com, based on the size 9 men's.