Thursday, March 17, 2016

Saucony Kinvara 7...

By Frank

My to go road shoe, the Saucony Kinvara which I have been relying since the third generation till the sixth has been serving me very well from short distances up till 161KM to multi stages event, in my training and also races. It has been the shoe that had allowed me to run from strength to strength at the Comrades Marathon and I believe it will continue to do so. I really like the fact that Saucony only gave the Kinvaras some minor tweaks and changes for the past sixth generations with the third and fifth being the biggest overhaul but yet still maintaining its DNA. That's a good thing for me, but I guess to meet market demands in the very challenging running shoes sector now, Saucony needed to up their game and take the risk and challenges in making the Kinvara an even better shoe, or risk a downfall for one of their most successful model.

Enter the Saucony Kinvara 7 (K7).

The Saucony Kinvara 7.

I was lucky enough to be part of the test team for the yet to be launch K7 back in September 2015. First in Malaysia to receive the shoe, I had my big plans back then to run my Comrades qualifier with it after just a few runs in them. The reason was simple, the shoe is awesome!

Lateral view of the Kinvara 7.

Medial view of the Kinvara 7.

While most of the K7 upper looks pretty much the same to the naked eye, one will notice the big change when they look closer and feel the "foam" texture on the lateral heel and also by turning the shoe upside down paying attention to the outsole. The big overhaul are there!

Same but not same? Kinvara 7 on the left vs. Kinvara 6 on the right.

So let's start with the outsole. From triangular pods at the forefoot section that acted like trampolines in the previous generations of the Kinvaras, the K7 now see a design call Tri-Flex reinforced with XT900 carbon rubber for extra durability. It basically are flex grooves designed like some jagged arrows in allowing for more flex. And according to Saucony, this new design will also allow more impact absorption but yet still providing one of the industries highest rebound rate when worked together with it's new midsole material which I will explain shortly. Honestly speaking, I wasn't really convince on it upon first seeing it back at the trade show in June 2015 as it I felt traction will be compromise. However, my runs in them had proved me wrong. Not only the shoe feels more lively with a slight increase in flex, it's actually more tacky too. Traction has been improved, most noticeable on smooth pavements such as cements and those red inter-lockable bricks.

New Tri-Flex outsole.

Next, the main highlight of the K7, the midsole material. Gone is PowerGrid which had been the driving force since the 4th generation. Introducing EVERUN, a foam like TPU material which is not only more durable, but more efficient in absorbing impact but yet at the same time, lively in giving back with up to 83% of rebound rate from the impact it absorb. However unlike the plushier models such as the Hurricane ISO 2, Triumph ISO 2 and Guide 9 which gets a full length EVERUN midsole insert coupled with a EVERUN topsole, the K7 only gets its insert on the heel. This according to Saucony is to give the K7 a fast feel without being over plush. To me, it does make sense. And the rest of the midsole material are made out of Saucony's SSL (Saucony SuperLite) EVA rubber, the same as its predecessors.

Different setup of the EVERUN insert across its models. 
Kinvara 7 setup shown on the lower far right which is the same setup as the new Peregrine 6 in the heel.

"Foam" like texture on the heel indicating where the new EVERUN material is. 
It's hidden inside though.

Now moving to the upper. Again, first time impression upon seeing the K7's upper was not exactly promising.  It gets a new open mesh looks which looks rather weak. It looked pretty much from the good old days of the Triumph and Hurricane series which has toes busting out from the top and side. However, upon a closer inspection, it actually has the quality from the same mesh of the Triumph ISO. And together with FlexFilm, a light weight synthetic film that replaces stitches and to give the shoe some lock down and structure, the K7's upper is indeed a different class from its predecessors.

Close up on the new open mesh.
Yellow and Green pair are Kinvara 7. Grey is of another shoe.

The mid foot locking mechanism call Pro-Lock which was introduced back in Kinvara 5 sees a slight upgrade. It doesn't look like much of it but it does feels shorter especially from the forefoot point of view. This means less irritation with the correct wrap location around the mid foot area. And for the collar, the moderately padded RunDry collar has been retained to soak up and wick away moisture such as sweat flowing down from the shin and calves.


The RunDry collar.

So with all the mumbo jumbo technical aspects of the shoe explained, the most important question right now will be its ride. The initial testing phase was primarily all done at the dirt road at the Old Deeside Way at Aberdeen, Scotland during the end of autumn and I must say that the first few ride was rather firm. It was firm enough for me to be comparing it with the Type A6. However, after covering about 50KM in it, the shoe felt ready. With the shoe broken in especially the EVERUN TPU foam at the heel, the cushioning of the K7 felt like no other and it was noticeable different from its predecessors, for a good reason. Good protection for heel strikers but yet still bouncy, that is what the EVERUN is all about I guess.

The toe box built with the new upper mesh was roomy and stretchy, even better than the fifth and sixth generations I must say which was already very good. The only downside, it was hard to clean especially when you have dirt and mud sticking to it as I was running on the dirt road of the Old Deeside Way which is always affected by the typical wet Scottish weather.

Dirt on the yellow Kinvara 7's mesh is tougher to clean compared to its predecessor.

The lock down of the shoe provided by the Pro-Lock felt a bit more comfortable compared to the sixth which I had some issues during my fourth Comrades Marathon. On the K7, I did not feel any rubbing at all and it's double thumbs up for this for it felt much more like the setup on the K5. If I had one complain for the K7, it will be the collar which I felt it was built a little too high. My ankle ball was rubbing on it a little, a sensation that I do not feel on previous generations except the K3. I managed to minimise the sensation by wearing mini crew socks though. Oh and yes, the laces on the K7 remains the same as its predecessor which comes undone easily. I can't seem to understand on why Saucony can't change them to flat elastic laces found on their other models. Sigh...

My ultimate test was done at my Comrades qualifier at Istanbul Marathon last year. The K7 performed so well that I ran my second career best marathon time with it and hence the shoe easily gets a 5 star rating from me! And today, at time of writing this, my K7 has covered approximately 350KM and durability is definitely holding up. Overall, I felt the K7 will show its full potential at fast pace while still providing enough protection at slower pace and hence, my second pair will take on this year's Comrades!

Kinvara 6 (400KM) vs. Kinvara 7 (350KM) wear and tear.

With all these upgrades, the K7 still remains at it's legendary light weight of 218 Grams offering at the same stack height of 22MM at the heel and 18MM at the forefoot, a sweet 4MM off set. That's the same over 7 generations of Kinvaras. And the Kinvara series has gone from strength to strength as I continue to improve on my runs at the same time. So by overhauling an already great shoe, is this gamble worth it from Saucony? I bet it is and I am already very excited to see how much the Kinvara can still be evolve into. Amazing work there Saucony.

The Saucony Kinvara 7 will retail at a recommended selling price of RM429.00 and will be available nationwide at Running Lab - Tropicana City Mall, Stadium and selected Royal Sporting House outlets this April 2016 in 3 colourways for the men and 2 for the ladies. Like Max ad Miles from Saucony says, "You should get your feet on this stuff!".

This pair of the Saucony Kinvara 7 is kindly provided by RSH (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, the authorised distributor of Saucony in Malaysia for test and review purposes and all opinion are based solely on personal takes.

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