Our Favorite Trail Running Shoes
Check out our Best Trail Running Shoes article to learn about our current favorite trail running shoes!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?