The Saucony Kinvara 4: Faster and More Fabulous than Ever!

The Saucony Kinvara is a shoe that has always been near and dear to me. This loyal little foot friend has traveled the world with me, helped me qualify for Boston, and seen me through countless workouts, races, and training cycles along the way. Furthermore, it was none other than a big ‘ole glowing review of the Kinvara 3 that launched The Fast and the Fabulous into existence , so it only makes sense to celebrate my illustrious 1 year blog-a-versary with a review of the new and improved, now available in stores Kinvara 4…

The many Kinvaras I have loved.

The many Kinvaras I have loved.

Seriously, I can't think of another shoe that makes me want to put on a tutu and high-five everyone I know...

Seriously, I can’t think of another shoe that makes me want to put on a tutu and high-five everyone I know…

...And also keeps me jumping for joy, even when the New York City Marathon gets cancelled.

…And also keeps me jumping for joy, even when the New York City Marathon gets cancelled.

Come on, have YOU ever been this excited to get new shoes in the mail?

Come on, have YOU ever been this excited to get new shoes in the mail?

But enough about me. I know you are all one the edge of your seats in anticipation of reading about all of the exciting tweaks and updates to your beloved Kinvara. And I will get to those, I promise, but let’s start with the familiar…

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It.

First and foremost, I think it is important to note that the Kinvara 4 is still very much the low-drop, lightweight, gateway-to-minimalism trainer that you know and love. It maintains the following Kinvara 3 specs:

  • Heel-to-Toe Offset: 4mm (Heel: 22mm, Forefoot: 18mm)
  • Weight: Men 7.7 oz, Women 6.7 oz (Sizes 9 and 8 respectively)
  • Suggested Retail Price: $100.00 (Bravo Saucony! Cheers to exciting new updates with no price increase!)

You may also find it comforting to know that the outsole of the Kinvara 4 has not changed at all. Just like the Kinvara 3, it offers hardy, protective blown rubber only where you need it (lateral heel and midfoot, and at toe-off), and those signature, uniquely Saucony, cushy triangular lugs.

The Kinvara 4 Outsole. Hello, old friend!

The Kinvara 4 Outsole. Hello, old friend!

What’s New?

Adjustments to FlexFlim Upper

So, on to the new and exciting stuff! I am pleased to report that the Kinvara 4 boasts a completely redesigned upper! It features the same seamless, heat-molded FlexFilm technology of the Kinvara 3. However, the upper of the 4 has been adjusted to provide a more breathable but still secure fit through the forefoot and a cleaner, more structured fit in the heel/ rearfoot. In other words, the Kinvara 4 has more FlexFlim material in the heel and less in the midfoot than it’s 3rd generation predecessor.

Forefoot FlexFlim Adjustments.

Forefoot FlexFlim Adjustments.

A closer look at heel/ rearfoot FlexFilm adjustments.

A closer look at heel/ rearfoot FlexFilm adjustments.

Two Things That Really Excite Me About the Kinvara 4’s New Upper…

1. The End of the Line for Pinky Toe Blow-Out:

I am super-pumped about these changes to the upper from the Kinvara 3 for two very specific reasons. Now don’t get me wrong, as a resident of notoriously humid central North Carolina, I love the sound of a shoe that is super-breathable, but the first thing that really has me physched about the upper updates to the Kinvara 4 is the possibility that it could be the end of what I like to call “The Pinky Toe Blow-Out Phenomenon”. All you hardcore Kinvara super-fans out there know what I’m talking about… you get an awesome, brightly colored pair of Kinvaras that you are super-jazzed about and you proceed to blissfully run your heart out in them until one fateful day you look down and the unthinkable has happened… that beautiful, day-glo colored mesh that you love has split open and now exposes your vulnerable little pinky toe! Gasp! I have owned and trained in 7 glorious pairs of Kinvaras from the original to the 3, and I have experienced the pinky toe split in nearly every single pair. I was hopeful that the FlexFlim upper of the 3’s would address this issue, but by the time I hit the 200 mile mark in them that pinky toe of mine was once again flapping in the breeze. Not that this flaw affects the running performance of the Kinvara at all, and it does only occur late in the shoe’s life cycle. It just kind of a bummer to look down and see that sad little gaping hole in the side of your fave kicks. I’m remaining optimistic that the new configuration of the FlexFilm on the Kinvara 4 will eradicate this little pinky toe shoe tragedy once and for all.

Here's hoping that the Kinvara 4's new upper will forever eradicate pinky toe poke-through.

Devastating pinky toe blow-out on Kinvaras of the 2nd and 3rd generation.

2. Lower Heel Collar and Improved First Impressions:

You may already know that when I’m not blogging, running, or working at my full-time job I work at a fabulous locally owned running specialty store. (Stop by to say hello and buy some freshly-released Kinvara 4’s: http://www.bullcityrunning.com/) One of the best things about working at a running store is getting to hear A LOT of feedback from the general running public about the various products we sell. (For the record, this is also sometimes the worst thing about working at a running store.) The primary customer complaint that I observed with regard to the Kinvara 3 was its high-ish, sometimes Achilles-chafing/ blister-inducing heel collar. I have yet to encounter this issue personally and remain heel blister free even after logging countless miles in 3 different pairs of  K3s. But nonetheless, it gives me great satisfaction to announce to all of you disheartened ankle chafers out there that the restructured upper of the K4 features a lower, more Achilles-friendly heel collar FTW!

Notice the daylight between  the purple line and the shoe on my right foot (the K4) vs the collision between the purple line and the K3 on my left foot. #lowerheelcollarFTW

Notice the daylight between the purple line and the shoe on my right foot (the K4) vs the collision between the purple line and the K3 on my left foot. #lowerheelcollarFTW!

And guess what… That wasn’t even the second thing about the Kinvara 4’s new upper that I am super-excited about. The thing that really makes me want to cheer about the K4 upper is the way the added FlexFilm structure through the heel makes the back of the shoe a little sturdier and therefore easier to put onto one’s foot.  As a running store sales associate the Kinvara ranks high on my list of most-frequently-pulled shoes not just because it is one of my personal favorites and I fancy myself to be a (self-proclaimed) Kinvara expert, but also because it is, in my humble opinion, one of the most sensible options on the market for the runner who is accustomed to running in a traditional trainer but seeking transition into something more minimal. Much to my shoe-selling chagrin, I often found that the extra-flexible heel area of the K3 would kind of crumple up as a customer slipped their foot in to try it on. Although I know that this is not necessarily any reflection of the running performance of the shoe, I often worried that this heel-crumpling tendency made a bit of a bad first impression on the customer. I died a little inside each time I sent a formerly-stability-shoe-wearing aspiring minimalist runner home with a zero drop/ zero cushion option just because they thought the fantastically moderately minimal Kinvara was too much work to get into. And that in a nutshell is why I rejoiced to learn that the Kinvara 4 comes complete with  a more structured heel than other Kinvaras gone by. Thus far my feet have slid right into them like a dream, and relished the snug, seamless FlexFilm hug of the new upper. I am optimistic that your feet will do the same!

Upgraded Cushioning Technology:

In addition to its fancy new upper design, the Kinvara 4 comes with a swanky PowerGrid heel cushioning technology upgrade! PowerGrid is the good stuff that Saucony uses in its premium cushion shoes such as the Triumph 10, the Cortana 2, and the Hurricane 15. Although the new PowerGrid heel insert does not necessarily warrant re-labeling the Kinvara as a premium cushion shoe (this would be contrary to it’s lightweight, efficiency-focused nature), it does give the shoe a softer, more plush feeling underfoot than the 3. Hopefully this little upgrade will offer increased durability/ mileage as well. And I for one think that paying $100 for a shoe that uses the same cushioning material found otherwise exclusively in shoes in the $130.00 to $150.00 price point is a pretty sweet bargain.

Get pumped for the K4's new PowerGrid heel cushion insert!

Get pumped for the K4’s new PowerGrid heel cushion insert!

Exciting, Fashionable Color Options, As Always!

I love the Kinvara  for various function and performance-based reasons, and the fact that I can always count on this shoe to come in myriad obnoxiously flashy colors is the icing on the proverbial Kinvara cake of awesomeness. The K4 does not disappoint in the fashion department. It is now available in 5 different color options for both men’s and women’s styles. Check out the entire brilliant Kinvara 4 color spectrum here on Saucony’s website. Also, here are a few color options I am particularly excited about…

Loving the purple/ yellow K2 throwback! My all time favorite Kinvara color combo. (That's the K2 on the left & the K4 on the right.)

Loving the purple/ yellow K2 throwback! My all time favorite Kinvara color combo. (That’s the K2 on the left & the K4 on the right.)

And I really dig how nicely these blue and orange bad boys match some of my favorite running duds. Color coordination is clutch here at The Fast and the Fabulous.

And I really dig how nicely these blue and orange bad boys match some of my favorite running duds. Color coordination is clutch here at The Fast and the Fabulous.

A Quick Recap…

In conclusion, let’s take a moment to review all of the key reasons you should drop what you are doing right now and hightail it to your favorite local running store to pick up a sexy new pair of Kinvara 4s…

  1. It’s still the versatile lightweight, low-drop training that you fell in love with 4 generations ago.
  2. Restructured FlexFlim upper yields improved breathability and snug, yet accommodating fit, plus potential elimination of pinky toe blow-out, heel rubbing, and bad first impressions.
  3. New PowerGrid heel insert for a softer, more cushiony ride.
  4. Plenty of fast and fabulous color options to choose from!

Please note that although my Kinvara 4’s were complimentary, all opinions and observations expressed in this blog post are my own. Many thanks to the great people at Saucony for the energy and effort they have put into making this awesome go-to shoe even better, and of course, for sending some sweet new kicks my way! And as always, thanks to all of you for reading, and let me know your thoughts on YOUR new Kinvara 4s!

Additional Reading:

  • Read more about the Kinvara 4 here on Saucony’s blog.
  • Check out all the juicy details of the K4 piece by piece here on Saucony’s Kinvara 4 website.