Saucony Kinvara TR Review

The Saucony Kinvara TR ($100; 8.9 ounces) is the much anticipated trail version of the Kinvara and adds only an ounce to the popular road shoe while increasing protection a great deal. Many runners wondered if there was a need for the Kinvara TR due to the very popular Peregrine model, which while at two ounces heavier, does provide an agile and low to the ground feel. However, as newer versions of the Peregrine (i.e., the Peregrine 3.0) seem to get beefier and more protective, Saucony attempted to model the Kinvara TR directly after the Kinvara and stayed firmly on the minimalist side of things.

Saucony Kinvara TR

The Saucony Kinvara TR.

Upper

A lightweight mesh covers most of the Kinvara TR that is thick enough to not end my runs with feet covered in trail dirt. Well placed welded overlays splay from the traditional lacing system to the rand of the shoe, which covers high-wear areas. A synthetic leather toe bumper provides an expected amount of protection for a minimalist shoe, but combined with some sizing issues led me to curse when hitting rocks on several occasions.

Saucony Kinvara TR - lateral upper

The Saucony Kinvara TR’s lateral upper.

The aforementioned sizing issues were significant and the Kinvara TR fits a half size small. Unless you wear your shoes like track spikes, this short sizing coupled with a rather narrow and tapered toe box made my toes fairly sore after only a short jaunt.

Midsole

Before trying on the Kinvara TR, I half expected the same soft cushy experience of the Kinvara due to the inclusion of Saucony’s EVA+ and ProGrid foam in the heel. However, due to the addition of a rock plate and firm outsole, the cushioning actually feels a great deal firmer. This was appreciated on softer ground, but cursed when I had to traverse several miles of road to get to a trail head.

Saucony Kinvara TR - medial upper

The Kinvara TR’s medial upper.

The same 4mm heel drop found on the Kinvara feels much more minimal on the Kinvara TR, partly due to a beveled outsole. While I regularly run in shoes with 4mm heel differentials, my calves and Achilles felt particularly taxed as if I were running in a zero drop shoe.

Outsole

The outsole design of the Kinvara TR is one area where I feel that Saucony did everything right. A durable sticky rubber worked well in every condition, even shedding mud and clay quite easily. The lug pattern on the outsole consists of arrow-shaped lugs pointed forward on the forefoot and backward on the heel, and were shallow enough as to not get in the way or catch on rocks when climbing with tired legs.

Saucony Kinvara TR - outsole

The Kinvara TR’s outsole.

The Kinvara TR feels very agile and Saucony beveled the heel and sides of the shoe, which increases stability on uneven terrain. The rock plate, which Saucony calls the External Bedrock Outsole, offers a good amount of protection while maintaining flexibility and allowed me to take these shoes anywhere with careful foot placement.

Overall Impressions

Honestly, I thought that these would be my favorite trail shoe of the year, and given the increasing choices in the lightweight trail shoe category that is expecting a lot. I wore my original pair of Kinvara until the upper disintegrated and I was expecting the same sort of enjoyable experience. Really all Saucony had to do was throw a rock plate and a lugged outsole on a Kinvara and I would have been sold. But, unfortunately they messed with the fit of the upper too much for me.

Despite the name, Saucony did not seem to set out with the intention of building a Saucony Kinvara with some trail features. Really the only features of the TR shared by the Kinvara is weight and heel drop. Every other aspect, especially the fit, is drastically different. While I often wear shoes with varying sizing, I could never get past how much Saucony deviated from the fit and sizing of the Kinvara and Peregrine models. Gone is the wide toe box and Saucony seemed to return to a more tapered fit and feel which I hadn’t experienced in the Saucony line for half a decade.

Saucony Kinvara TR - taper

The aggressive taper of the Kinvara TR.

Some runners will love this shoe and find that it meets their needs. I recently ran twenty miles of a fifty miler with a runner who wore the Kinvara TR without any issues. He appreciated the narrow fit and with his near-perfect form he had zero difficulties. I struggled to wear this shoe over ten miles, and even if the sizing was correct I still wouldn’t consider the Kinvara TR for anything over marathon distance. The Kinvara TR does show major potential, and hopefully a second version will see more accurate sizing and a wider toe box incorporated into what is otherwise a great minimalist trail shoe design.

Call for Comments (from Bryon)

  • If you’ve tried the Saucony Kinvara TR, what did you think?
  • If you’ve worn both the road Kinvara and Kinvara TR, how do you think they compare?
  • Same question goes for those who’ve run in the Peregrine (original or 2.0) and the Kinvara TR. How do they compare?
Tom Caughlan

is iRunFar’s Minimalist Gear Editor. Tom’s passion for trail running and specialty running retail experience shine through in all of his highly technical reviews, which do range outside minimalist shoes.

There are 29 comments

  1. keith

    The fit issue is a little disheartening. I currently run in the Kinvara 3 for my road runs and really enjoy them. I was looking forward to trying this shoe for my next trail shoes, but the fit issues may have me look elsewhere.

  2. Rob R.

    As someone who jokingly calls himself a "Kinvara Prophet," this is a great review. Other than my new found love for Hoka One Ones, I pretty much do all of my road running in the Kinvara (currently the 3) and have owned more than a handful of pairs in each generation of the road shoe. That said, for my first trail ultra (50 miler) I trained and raced in the Peregrines. Though a bit bulkier, I feel that these are the 'true' Kinvara trails. The New Kinvara TR is really nothing like the Kinvara road. Sizing issues aside, I think Saucony tried to use the Kinvara name and minimalist/lightweight ideals for attraction, but the actual fit of the show is more like an Inov-8 crossed with a much narrower (in toe box as you said) New Balance MT110. Since I'm a huge fan of Saucony, I still purchased the Kinvara TR and I immediately thought they felt different. I took them on an easy 13 miler out of the box and found they were great climbers, but mushy on descents. Also, the upper, as you mentioned, is just off. It's not terrible, but to call it a 'Kinvara" is simply inaccurate. I actually remember saying out loud during that initial run "this is NOT a Kinvara!" However, Saucony is a great and succesful company because they seem to listen to client feedback. If you look at the evolution of the Kinvara road line, the really made modifications (granted with new technology) to make their latest shoe an amazing piece of equipment. In my opinion, Saucony got everything right with Kinvara 3. Furthermore, the Peregrine will still be my go to trail specific shoe, as I feel it works great on those road miles leading to the trailhead. I've heard the Peregrine 2.0 is even better (haven't used it or even tried it on) and the upcoming Peregrine 3.0 looks even more incredible with the use of FlexFilm technology (as seen on the Kinvara 3 upper).

    And Tom, thanks again for the great review!

    Happy trails and training…

    Stay Relentless,

    Rob

    1. Tom Caughlan

      Rob,

      Glad to know you feel the same way, and I think the Inov-8 comparison is apt for the feel of the midsole. I too, continue to stick with the Peregrine as a great all around trail shoe and the fit is great. Hopefully this kind of feedback from Kinvara lovers will result in some positive changes to the upper of the next Kinvara TR!

      Thanks for the kind words,

      Tom

    2. KenZ

      Yep. Have gone through 3 or 4 pairs of the road Kinvaras. Love em (although sometimes they feel like a bit much on the cushioning). Got the trails, and didn't even bother going for a run they were so tight on my forefoot. Yeah, going up 1/2 a size would get me a little in width, but not enough. You are a stronger man than I to have run 10 miles in them; I wouldn't have done that if they were free; not worth the pain. Returned them immediately, and zipped off an email to Saucony telling them how disappointed I was.

  3. Marty

    Agreed on the sizing issue, I normally take 10 and needed to go to 10.5. That said, I have a narrow foot, so I love the aggressive taper. It fits my foot like a glove. I have had no issues (even though my form isn't perfect) up to 50K in these, with good results. If Saucony does start tweaking these, definitely need to correct the sizing issue. I wouldn't change much else, these have become my go to shoe for training.

  4. Eric

    I've had both the original Peregrine and the Kinvara Trail. They are two very different shoes, and I agree that the fit of the Peregrine is closer to the Kinvara Road in the wider forefoot and more substantial cushioning. If they had simply taken the Kinvara road an put on a trail sole I would be concerned about the forefoot being sloppy. I could tolerate the loose feel on the road, but it might be too much on the trail. I agree with the comparison to the NB 110, and think that the Kinvara TR has the advantage. The shoe is a bit stiffer and does not have the raised lateral edge that I've come to dislike on the 110. With the thinner upper and only flexfilm reinforcement, I expect that the the shoe will break down more quickly than the Peregrine. It may not be the best choice for ultras, but does have a place as a shorter run go-fast shoe. If you correct for the sizing issue these will serve you well on any surface, as the outsole is outstanding.

    1. Tom Caughlan

      Eric,

      Agreed on the Kinvara TR being a great shoe for shorter distances. I do love the outsole and I hope it stays on the next version.

  5. Alex (@alexbridgefor

    I love the Kinvara TR! I just put my thinner insole in it from my VIVOBAREFOOT Shoes and it feels great. I can't stand the Kinvara, it is so thin and my foot rolls over the side but when I put on the TR it felt great. I can't believe people actually think the Kinvara is wider. I can't run in the road version because its too thin. The TR is much wider in my opinion.

  6. Meredith

    I, too, love the Kinvara Trail! I have been a Kinvara road wearer since November of last year. I have a fairly flat wide foot, but have had no problem with the sizing of either shoe at a size 8 women's. I wore the Kinara road pacing at Western States and Vermont and the Kinvara Trail pacing at both Leadville and the last 25 miles of Wasatch. I plan to run in them for 50 miles on Sunday and that will be there distance test, but have had no problem running in them for 6-7 hours pacing. Both shoes drain really well when wet, and I like the additional traction of the trail version. The road Kinvara are extremely slippery on muddy trails (I slid all over the place pacing at Rocky Raccoon in the ran in February). All in all, I am very pleased with the shoes!! I would love to see Mike Le Roux chime in as he did the entire Grand Slam in the Kinvara road shoes (3 I believe) WITHOUT socks!

  7. Sarah

    I'm a Saucony fanatic. I run roads in the Kinvara 3. I do speedwork in the Fastwitch/A4's. I've been waiting for a decent trail shoe from them for years. I tried the Peregrine but found them too bulky for my liking. I've started running in the Kinvara TR and I have to agree with some of the things you have said, they do fit small, and they really aren't that much like the actual Kinvara. I do think that they are most like a combination of the great upper of the NB 790's of days of yore and the first NB MT 100's sole. I love them! I wouldn't wear them for a really long race, nothing more than 50 miles. They are light, fast, and pretty snazzy looking. I've gotten a couple comments on the women's green and orange pair.

  8. mtnrunner2

    I was checking that out at REI the other day, and both the tread and the rock protection seem really good. I just wish shoes were made shaped like an actual foot. Whose foot is narrow and shaped like a bullet?? There's no room for my toes. That's why I wear Altras.

  9. Brian

    The review pretty much sums it up. I also wear the Kinvara 3 for what little road running I do so I was looking forward to the release of the Kinvara TR. My trail shoes are primarily the NB 110 and occasionally the Brooks Pure Grit or Montrail Rogue Fly if I need a little more protection.

    The midsole and outsole have a great feel for the type of shoe I like but that shoe is too narrow for me to do much of anything in. I could run 3-5 miles in it but not much more without problems. I believe a big reason for the fit difference is that this shoe was made more off of the fit of the Kinvara 2 rather than the current version.

    It is a great shoe but its mostly suited for someone with a narrow foot that wants a more firm ride and a low 4mm offset. I've recently picked up a NB 1010 and have done around 50 miles in that so far. The 1010 has a totally different fit and feel from the Kinvara TR. It's worth checking out.

  10. Jay

    I just did my first run in the Kinvara TR tonight. I agree with most of what is being said in the review and comments. I love the Kinvara 2 and just did a fairly non-technical 50 in them and they were phenomenal. The TR is a narrower, tighter fit. I don't necessarily agree that they are a 1/2 size small. Maybe a 1/4 size, but I'm not even convinced of that. I occasionally wear a 10, but usually a 10.5. I tried a 10.5 and 11 in the TR and while the 11 was more generous in the toebox and especially for the little toes, it was too long. The risk of catching a toe was too great IMO. I think the issue is the severe taper of the toebox. I have tons of length at my 2nd and 3rd toe in the 10.5, but my big toe and little toes are close. That said, they worked. I was hitting the front just a tad on downhills, but not enough to bother me or cause a problem.

    I too would was a bit disappointed by the shoe out of the box. But then I ran in it. The first mile on pavement was not pleasant. I never have a problem even with minimal trail shoes doing a little road, but something about these just didn't feel right. I personally did not experience any calf or achilles soreness or problems. But I did notice that for some reason the shoe seems to force me more into a forefoot strike. I am normally a mid-foot striker. I really have to try to mid-foot strike in these and even then it doesn't necessarily feel great. That could certainly lead to some calf issues for those not used to a toe striking gait. I think here I find that your "track spike" comparison is most apt: the TR puts me up on my toes and ready to go fast. As soon as I got to the trail everything changed. Within 2-3 miles of technical ups and downs, I was in love. The tight fit is, IMO, an asset on technical up and down terrain. That glove-like fit combined with the very low to ground ride and (as you correctly point out) excellent outsole make for a very precise shoe. I was bombing down some fairly technical terrain on wet trails and felt completely confident, perhaps more than in any shoe I've recently run in.

    For some this might be an ultra shoe. I suspect that for me it is not (though I never thought the 101 was an ultra shoe until I ran my first 50 in them). I also don't think I'd enjoy it on flatter, non-technical terrain as much. But if I need a shoe to go fast on technical terrain or for precision on technical ups and downs, this is the shoe. I guess for me it's a specialist and not an all-arounder (which is slightly disappointing). But for what it is, I like the Kinvara TR a lot.

  11. jhnnyk

    I tried them, but on my first long run found my feet going numb. I'm not sure exactly what's going on yet, but it feels like those black spikes in the outsole poke at the bottom of my feet… like stepping on a pebble in the exact same spot of your foot every single step. Ouch.

  12. Evan

    I have been a Peregrine fan for several years now, and Kinvara for my street runs. I too was excited to get a pair… Until I tried it on. Couldn't even make it out my front door because the toe box was so narrow. I can't imagine what any real distance would feel like in these. Hoping they improve as it looks like the next gen Peregrine is going to be too much shoe. I wish Saucony wouldn't kick a sleeping dog with those… Maybe time to try the Brooks Pure Grit 2!!

  13. Tom

    If this shoe were not called the Kinvara there would not be so many people complaining. This shoe is fantastic, I think that Saucony nailed it and I hope they do not change anything, besides perhaps making the rubber a bit more durable without making it less sticky, like the Sportiva green compound.

    The fit, although not the same as the Kinvara road shoe, is perfect for technical trails. I ran the Speedgoat 50k in these right out of the box without any issues. Fantastic shoe, fantastic fit! Nice work Saucony.

  14. Ali Engin

    I really liked the shoe but it was almost impossible for me to run in them, I don't know what was Saucony thinking because 9 out of 10 potential cusomers complain about narrow fit.

  15. Joel S.

    I'm generally enjoying these shoes greatly. My one complaint is that the upper is quite fragile. An errant stick ripped a hole in the side after only one week of ownership. I'd definitely run just about any distance in these, and appreciate the platform greatly. They also seem a bit better on roads than many of my other trail shoes, though that was only after 50 or so miles of break-in.

  16. Jason E.

    I've been trotting along in my Kinvara TR's for over 200 miles now. It's a nice shoe. I've not owned any other Saucony's prior, and I'm pretty much sold on them after this pair.

    I made one small modification. I pulled out the original insoles and replaced them with a thinner insole from an old pair of skate shoes to get rid of the "mushy" insole feel. Most of my runs are sub 15miles on rugged trails with decent amounts of vertical thrown in. The EBO plate is a must for the chossy descents and loose baby–head–sized–rock trails. No issues with sore feet. My only adjustment would be a reinforcement over the toe area to keep abrasions from sticks and sharp rocks down (so far, nothing some super glue can't fix). This shoe would be even more amazing with a Vibram sole.

  17. Sam

    I wore the Kinvara Trails for a few weeks, longest run being a rambling 30 mile training run. The shoes feel lightweight and, surprisingly, offer sufficient protection even for loose rocky rucked trails. They are also pretty comfortable too. However, the weird fit does make a difference on fast technical descents, where they seem to lack the precision I expect from other similar lightweight trail runners like the Inov8 RocLite and Pearl Izumi Peak II.

    The minor complaint about technical descents is not a huge gripe, but the biggest bummer came a month (maybe 100-150 miles) into wearing the shoes, when I found that the tread had worn down to less than 5 millimeters on the outer edge of the shoe. I realize these are "minimalist" shoes, but I was expecting that label to apply to the experience of the run, not necessarily the durability.

    Pros:

    * lightweight

    * comfortable

    * surprisingly protective against sharp rocks

    Cons:

    * odd fit

    * not strong on technical descents

    * poor durability

  18. William Guy

    I wear Saucony Kinvara 3's for my road training and racing shoe, from anything from 5km to Marathon. I was excited about the Kinvara TR shoe but was let down and feel they are nothing like the Kinvara 3. The narrow toe box is to tight and the sizing is probably half size to small. I regret not getting the Peregrine 2 and will probably hold off until the next release of the Peregrine 3 or the TR 2 come out before I purchase another trail shoe. However the Peregrine 2's are currently on sale at my local store and if they are more like the kinvara 3 then perhaps I should get them on special?

    1. Jay

      If I were you, I'd get them. Peregrines and Asics Fuji racer are next on my list to try. A friend of mine who runs in the Peregrine 2 tried on my Kinvara 2s and liked them. Said the fit was just like the Peregrine. I haven't tried the Peregrine yet, but that's the best I can give you.

  19. Vanessa

    I've just changed of running shoe from the Kinvara to the Kinvara TR and I'm very disappointed. While I prefered the lighter fit, I thought I would find the same (or at least close enough) cushion as the Kinvara but i didn't.

    I had a bad experience with the barefoot type before that led to a stress fracture on my left foot in May and was carefull ever since. I fell in love with the Kinvara 2 and ran them to their death until october.

    Now, after a break from running of a month due to work, I started to run again an after 3 runs of 3kms, the pain has come back with the Kinvara TR.

    Does anyone know if by changing the insole for a more cushioned one I could avoid having to change of running shoes again? Or are the shoes' sole simply too minimalists to be salvaged?

    Thank you for your help!

    1. Jay

      Vanessa,

      No one can say for sure if a different insole would allow you to use the shoe or not, but I'd say that it's unlikely. Insoles primarily provide a bit more of a cushioned *feel* and reduce pressure, but add little in the way of shock absorption. Most also compress fairly quickly so any benefits will fade in short order. Also, the Kinvara TR is so narrow in the forefoot you'd be hard-pressed to find one that was much better than the included insert that would still allow the shoe to fit. Changing the insole can significantly change the fit of a shoe. There are some insoles made by insole companies that are more significant and functional, but this is where I think you'd run into fit issues. I worked in a running specialty store for a while and I generally cautioned people against trying to make a shoe work with an insole (unless it's intended to adjust fit, which does work). You could always take the shoes into a running shoe store and try them with inserts for fit. But I'd be surprised it is enough to allow you to use the shoe long term. The Kinvara road and Kinvara TR are totally different shoes. I think they are both very good shoes, but IMO Saucony really messed up by calling them both "Kinvara." I ran a non-technical trail 50miler in the Kinvara 2, but I don't think I could do more than 2-3 hours in the TRs.

  20. Vanessa

    Thank you for the advices! A friend of mine told me about a way to transition between running shoes, by using them for the last 5 minutes of my runs for a while, working my way up to fully using them. I'll give this a shot I guess, but probably will end up doing short runs with them (luckily is winter in Quebec!)

    Thanks again for the answer!

  21. Lester

    Count me as one of the people who love Kinvara road shoes but was very disappointed in the Kinvara TR. The TR version was narrower and longer than the regular Kinvaras, and the shape was definitely "bullet shaped" as someone else here said. I love the Kinvara's shape, fits my feet perfectly — but the TR is nothing like it.

    I used the Kinvara TR on one 28.3 mile trail race and while the shoe was comfortable enough I tripped a surprising amount, I think because of the length and shape of the shoe. Plus I also slipped on wet rocks in ways I never expected to because I expected the shoes to hold (as my trail hikers would have) but they didn't. I don't trust the TRs, and so am looking elsewhere for a trail runner that works better for me.

  22. Lindsey

    I am happy to hear your calves and achilles were sore! I got my new Knivara trail shoes on Saturday and have run two 6k runs. Today my lower calve is so fatigued and sore.

  23. Sam

    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for the review, always insightful to read fellow runners views. Like many, I am a fan of the Kinvara and have owned multiple pairs of the 1,2 and now 3! I have run some trail races (c.50kms) in the Kinvara Road shoe which, depending on the terrain/weather conditions, work quite well, although may not provide enough protection or stability for some others. The only problem is they tend to last one race…..

    I read of the Kinvara TR with avid excitement (and put off a purchase of the Peregrines in favour) and went a half size larger than normal. While the toebox is noticeably smaller than that of the road shoe, I've not found difficulty with this, more with the firmness of the actual shoe. I've always thought the beauty and 'secret' behind the Kinvara that makes it such a firm favourite, is that the shoe combines a minimalist-esque feel, 4mm drop and sufficient cushioning. This allows for a fore-foot to mid-foot strike while keeping one comfortable over long distances (it may be just me but I can't seem to get my head around running more than 10-15km in pure minimalist shoes). To this end, I think Saucony have missed a trick.

    I'm going to try the Kinvaras TR on a 50km race this weekend (all trail) and will be interested to see how they bear up, I raced 30km last weekend and had some minor pain, swelling around the joints in my toes which has since subsided. Once again, I hope that Saucony listen up to forums like this and take on board what I can only read as a consensus amongst a fairly broad spectrum of runners!

    Thanks again for your efforts,

    Sam

  24. Lee

    You can't review a shoe if you've got it in the wrong size, you just can't. It renders the whole review as pointless.

    You also quote 'I wouldn't wear this over Marathon distance'. The shoe is not marketed as an Ultra shoe. If you'd wear it for 26 miles, it's an excellent shoe, surely?

    I'm with you 100% that it fell short of expectations, but it should have been reviewed as it's own shoe, not as a direct comparison with the road-going Kinvara.

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