Friday, March 30, 2018

UA HOVR Sonic Connected Review: Stylishly Understated, Tracks Runs Phone Free, a Great Value for a High Performing Trainer

Article by Dominique Winebaum

UA HOVR Sonic Connected
Weight:  W8 8 oz/225 g
Stack Height 17mm/25mm, 8 mm offset +sock liner 6mm
$110. Available now

The HOVR Sonic is my first pair of Under Armour running shoes!
First Impressions
Out of the shoebox, my first impression is that, color wise, it is an understated running shoe -- I received two pairs: “Overcast Gray/White” and “White/Elemental.”
However, after a few runs, I am thinking that less is more, as gray/white are colors that complement my running outfits, whatever color jacket/top I am wearing.  Also, I can comfortably dress-up in jeans wearing my understated running shoes!  Available in three colors for women and five colors for men – not all understated - the shoes have contrasting and/or subtle color accents.  I would lean for the color Formation Blue/Brilliance for a distinctively attractive and sleek look.

Connected means that a pod, the UA Record Sensor, is built into a water tight compartment in the right shoe. It records run data, including: pace, distance, time, stride length, and cadence-no phone or watch required. The pod battery is designed to last the life of the shoe.  I followed the instructions on the shoebox on how to connect my shoe to the MapMyRun app allowing me to run phone-free. Everything happened seamlessly and fast.

Connected frees me from having to start and end my workouts on my app, not to mention dealing with app malfunctions, or need to take my phone as the shoe will do it for me. The Record Sensor does not require any GPS basing its data on the pod's accelerometers. As such, it is also ideal for recording indoor run workouts.

We tested the pod versus a high end Garmin Forerunner 935 watch. The HOVR Sonic Connected with no phone or GPS in the mix recorded 3.98 miles, the Garmin 4.02 miles, so remarkably close out of the box.
Top Run Tracked Phone Free, Bottom Run Tracked with MapMyRun and GPS on  a different  route.
My shoe through the MapMyRun app which receives all the data will tell me how many miles I have run in them. However, even as the shoe will record my mileage, duration, and pace, there is a give and take, as it won’t play music as I run, nor will play queues to keep me on track with my pace and splits unless I use it conjunction with the MapMyRun app.

The UA HOVR Sonic CT Connected is more than just a running shoe or a sensor but is an affordable run tracking option in a great shoe at $110, only $10 more than the UA HOVR Sonic NC without the feature.

HOVR Sonic on the Run
A new brand/model of running shoes brings opportunities for change, and the UA HOVR Sonic delivered just that! After 40 years of running, and lately in super cushiony shoes (Clayton/Hoka and Torin/Altra), I needed something to boost my performance.

Fit and Upper
The fit is perfect at my usual true to size. This said while the shoes may feel a bit snug at first, they will slightly stretch as you run in them.  In terms of breathability, a fast drying and breathable upper made of UA Microthread technology, including a highly ventilated midfoot panel, all contribute to optimizing the comfort level of your feet during your runs – short or long.

HOVR is a great deal more responsive than my prior shoes, I run more effectively, thanks to the UA HOVR technology, which “provides ‘zero gravity feel’ to maintain energy return that helps eliminate impact step after step.”
The HOVR tech embeds a soft inner core wrapped in a compression Energy Web. into a firmer midsole carrier for great cushion, energy return and stability without any if the mushy soft feel of my prior shoes. I have had no issues with the additional firmness and am running faster than normal.
The wide, round, almost court shoe heel makes them stable on the run and can also make them great option for the gym as well. The rear rubber is firm and long lasting, the front blown rubber soft and responsive.
Running 60 miles in them in the span of 3 weeks, my pace is faster by 20 seconds per mile on the exact same courses and with roughly the same efforts!

Overall, I really like the UA HOVR Sonic Connected as the shoes deliver both comfort and performance, are reasonably priced, and come with a digitally connected feature to track performance as well as enhance one’s running experience.

Reviewer Bio
Dominique has been running for 40 years. She has a marathon PR of 3:16, in her second marathon ever in the 80's which made her the 11th all time fastest Swiss woman at the time. These days she runs 4-6 miles, 4 days a week, year round, along the New Hampshire coast and in Utah.

Shop for the HOVR Sonic Connected at Under Armour here

See our in depth review of the non connected Sonic HOVR with comparisons here
The Sonic was provided at no cost.The opinions herein are entirely the author's.

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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Salomon Sonic RA Pro Review; Light, Easy Going, Any Pace Road Cruiser

The Sonic RA Pro is called out by Salomon as the Quick Transitioning model in its new three shoe Running Avenue line. It is the lightest model in the line at 8.3 oz/235 g weighing  0.3 oz/9 g less than the Sonic RA. It has a lively, easy going natural ride at all paces.

Weight: 8.3oz/235 g (M9), 7.1 oz./201 g (W8)
Stack Height: 18/24mm, 6mm offset
$130. Available now.

It differs from the more classic daily trainer Sonic RA and more guidance fore foot support oriented Sonic Max (RTR review) in 4 key ways:

1. Pro has no mid foot outsole rubber as the other two have.

2. The longitudinal Geometric Decoupling line is furthest to the medial side to speed transition and for me also provides a more natural run feel.
RIGHT: SONIC RA PRO                        LEFT: SONIC RA
3. The midsole heel features a 6mm Opal insert to reduce vibrations whereas Sonic RA and Sonic RA Max have 12mm heel Opal inserts and also include 6mm forefoot Opal inserts.
BOTTOM:  SONIC RA PRO                    TOP: SONIC RA
4. Pro has lighter single piece mesh upper without the mesh saddle of the Sonic RA and Sonic RA Max,with more minimal SensiFit underlays, and a less prominent toe bumper.

One would expect given these features and the “Pro” name that it is the speedster of the group.
Read on to see we found.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The North Face Flight RKT - A Screaming Fast, Plush Cushioned, Pared Down Race Machine

Article by Jeff Valliere

The North Face Flight RKT
8.3 oz/235 g US Men's Size 9  7.2 oz/204 g US Women's Size 8
27mm heel/19mm forefoot, 8 mm drop
$150, available now including at the links at end of the article.

First Impressions/Overview:

The Flight RKT is extremely light out of the box and especially on the foot, see through airy mesh upper, paper like tongue, an outsole that looks more suited to the road than the trail and a very unique looking colorway, which can either look like camouflage or clouds (as in wearing these is like floating on clouds) depending on the viewing angle.  I prefer the latter, which given the colorway is listed as "Flagstaff Storm", we'll go with that.

This shoe was designed in collaboration with TNF star Ultrarunner Rob Krar, who is known to run in fairly minimal road shoes for his Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim record setting runs, as well as victories at the Western States 100 (as well as numerous other races).  Rob is among the fastest Ultra runners out there and wanted to design a shoe that would keep up with his feet for 100 miles.  He said: "There is a whole lot of Flagstaff and the desert Southwest in the shoe." Will the Flight RKT perform?

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

New Balance Summit Unknown Review: Fast, Stable & Light Trail Rocket

Article by Sam Winebaum and Jeff Valliere

New Balance Summit Unknown 
Sam: The New Balance Summit Unknown is a light, agile, and protective trail runner/racer which sets the bar very high for performance and all terrain versatility. Very stable, it is firm but not overly so, and has a very supportive and comfortable snugger upper ideal for its speed purpose.

Its directional 4mm lugs provide good all purpose traction and also help make it excellent on road, making it a very fine hybrid.

It can be characterized as a New Balance 1400 for trail. It shares the 1400's light weight although as a trail shoe it weighs approx. 1.5 oz more, agility, 10 mm drop and Revlite midsole while adding a RockStop plate, more trail oriented upper and the lugged outsole. New Balance told us it should fit similarly to the upcoming 1400v6.

Monday, March 19, 2018

La Sportiva Lycan Review - A More Accommodating La Sportiva. Light, Fast and Ideally Suited for Moderate Terrain

by Jeff Valliere

La Sportiva Lycan
9.7 oz/275 g US Men's size 9  7.9 oz/224 g US Women's size 7
25mm heel/19mm forefoot (6 mm drop)
$115. Available now

Initial Impressions:

The La Sportiva Lycan is a bit of a departure from the La Sportiva norm, as it is lighter weight with lower profile lugs and a more accommodating fit that will be sure to appeal to a wider variety of runners for more versatility on less extreme terrain.  The Lycan is light in the hand and even lighter on the feet, comfortable and seems as though it just wants to go fast.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Salomon S/Lab Hybrid Jacket Review: Highly Functional Minimalist Protection

Article by Sam Winebaum

Salomon S/Lab Hybrid Jacket
$275. See sale pricing at the end of the article.
I am a huge fan of Salomon's S/Lab products and especially their gear and apparel. Developed for Salomon's top athletes needs, prototyped in house at the Annecy Design Center (see RTR article about my recent visit here), then impeccably manufactured  and sold to the public in limited quantities and at stout prices but... I always find the features and quality well worth it.

The S/Lab Hybrid Jacket is clearly the product of the S/Lab process. Here the goal was to create a running shell adaptable on the fly to rapidly changing mountain conditions. As such the Hybrid features:

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Zeal Optics Sable Polarized Sunglasses Review: Run and Around Town Ready

by Jeff Valliere

Zeal Optics Sable Polarized Sunglasses
28 grams

Zeal is an innovative, environmentally conscious company who prides themselves in making high quality sunglasses out of plant based materials with their Z Resin frame and Ellume lens.  The Z Resin used to make the frames is produced from castor oil derived from the castor plant, a renewable resource that reduces CO2 in the manufacturing process, replaces petroleum based products and ultimately produces a lightweight, comfortable and durable frame.  The polarized Ellume lens is also created from plant based materials, while retaining impressive impact resistance, durability and optical clarity.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Reebok OSR Grasse Road Review: Heavy Duty, Stable, Super Cushioned Daily Trainer..Without the Heavy Part!

Article by Sam Winebaum

Reebok surprises again with the Grasse Road, a light 9.8 oz max cushioned neutral trainer with steady stable manners bordering on that of stability shoe at the heel and with some livelier neutral shoe personality and transition further forward.

Grasse Road has a substantial 30mm heel, 24mm forefoot stack, a just right for me 6mm offset, some rocker to the front midsole with also decent flexibility for such a massive stack, and copious coverage of thinner but still substantial firmer rubber. It is priced at $130.

Friday, March 09, 2018

Saucony Kinvara 9 Review: At Long Last The K Shoe Returns to Top Form!

Article by Sam Winebaum, Dave Ames, and Peter Stuart

Saucony Kinvara 9
Weight: 7.6 oz/215g (size M9)  6.8 oz/ 193 g (size W8)
    Test sample M8.5: 7.5 oz/212 g
Stack Height: 23mm (Heel), 19mm (Forefoot)
$110. Available now.

First Impressions and Fit
Dave:  The Saucony Kinvara is a shoe I have tested through many versions and really, really wanted to like. Over the years, I have loved the aesthetic look, reduced weight, and overall concept of this shoe.  Unfortunately, update after update the Kinvara did the same exact thing o me-It tortured my achilles and heel bone. The hard heel collar inflamed my heel bone and caused a calcaneal spur.  That, combined with the softness or too much firmness in the ride of Kinvara over the years, always changing, from version to version, just created an unpleasant experience.  Note: I last ran in the K7.

Well, all that seems to have changed!  I am absolutely in love with the Kinvara 9!  Yes, the heel collar is causing a bit of an issue again (I struggle with all hard heel collars), but this time it is not pulling into my achilles.  The fit is outstanding via the rubberized Pro-Lock system in the middle of the “throat” of the shoe, I have a great locked and loaded fit when laced up.  My size 9 does run a hair small, but I like wearing my shoes on the smaller side (years of track spikes) - - If you are looking for a bit more wiggle room, I’d suggest going up a half size.  

Peter: I really enjoyed the first couple of Kinvaras (Kinvarae?). Somewhere around 4 they lost me and I could barely muster up the enthusiasm to run in the 8, so I came into the Kinvara 9 with pretty low expectations. There are so many shoes out there that have delivered on the recipe that the early Kinvara established--light, relatively highly cushioned, and somewhat minimal. How was the Kinvara going to keep up with the many shoes it had inspired? 

I agree with Dave, it seems like they’re back on course with this shoe. The fit is a tiny bit snug, but in a good way. I didn’t have any rubbing or blistering, just a very nicely fitting shoe. These are one of the rare modern shoes that actually seems to need a little break in. They felt a bit too stiff on first run, but have opened up as the miles piled up. 

Sam: I have not really enjoyed a Kinvara until.. The early groundbreaking models, really the first low drop (4mm) very light and minimal shoe from a major company, were overly “natural” for me, not enough upper structure and overly flexible, The Kinvara 7 was a pretty darn good shoe but stiff and with an awkward overly constraining upper, all a sharp contrast to the early models. The Kinvara 8 while improving on the 7’s upper and regaining flexibility was overly soft underfoot at the heel and not lively. 

Well with the Kinvara 9 Saucony has really brought the K shoe forward with nods to its "natural" ride through its flexibility and light weight but with upper support and under foot performance now more central to the recipe.  The upper is much improved in comfort but is clearly a performance type fit initially, retaining the Pro-Lock strap which now is thinner and more pliable and is actually useful and effective given the soft engineered mesh upper. Pro-Lock is no longer a literal pain as in the past. Underfoot, the ride is lively and relatively firm, just right by me, but also well cushioned particularly in the forefoot.

The fit is true to size, if a bit short and low way up front initially but stretched nicely with some use. After some miles, 30 or so, the fit relaxed considerably as the soft mesh stretched but the hold is still secure becoming a very secure slipper like fit and feel. Kind of neat!
I wondered at first try on if they were going to work as they were snug and seemingly low volume over the midfoot. Barely through my first 5 miler, I noticed that the fit improved and quite dramatically. The sockliner packed down?  Pro-Lock strap and upper stretched a bit? The soft mesh makes the relatively snug fit, truly foot conforming, in a sharp contrast to the stiff flat mesh of the Kivnara 8 which had little give.  This is a shoe that doesn’t need to be laced overly tight for a good foot hold given the Pro-Lock strap.  I agree with Peter, the first run they were stiff but after 10 miles became very flexible. 

Dave:  Boasting a new more substantial upper than the Kinvara 8, which also increases breathability, the K9 fits me pretty well.  The toe box is a bit jammed, which unless you like a snug fit, this is why I would say to go up a half size.  Wider footed runners may struggle with the upper on the K9 as it really seems to at least me, to have a narrow fit.  That being said, I love the update and it molds extremely well, making this be a great race shoe if you wanted it to be.
Peter: I think the K9 has an exceptionally well designed upper. 

There are some great features that help assure a great fit. 
The tongue--which looks like it’s slightly too short every time I go to put the shoe on but then is just fine--has a perfect amount of padding. 
Saucony FINALLY made the Pro-Lock system an integral and useful part of the lacing system. This is by far the best implementation of the Pro-Lock system. You can really fine tune the midfoot lock by making-micro adjustments on the Pro-Lock. 
At first I was afraid the K9 was too narrow, but with a little bit of fiddling with pro-lock I got the mid-oot to give a bit and had a great fit. The mesh up front is super breathable. I still prefer a great engineered mesh like the one on the Saucony K9 to a knit upper. The ankle collar has nice padding and the foot is held really well inside the new woven heel cup. The upper is finished off with sleek flex-film overlays. It’s great looking and all works together to function beautifully. 

Sam: I will agree with Dave and Peter that this is an outstanding upper if somewhat narrow. The upper is foot conforming, soft, well held and secure. Those with higher volume feet may have a better chance in this upper, unlike the last few versions if a snug fit is your preference, and by potentially sizing up a half size.  
LEFT: Kinvara 8                                             RIGHT Kinvara 9
Saucony wisely brought back a few overlays to hold things together up front given the soft mesh. 
At midfoot the Pro Lock strap is notably thinner and more pliable than in the K8 and does its job of stabilizing and locking the foot to the platform without bothering as it did before. 
TOP: Kinvara 9                         BOTTOM: Kinvara 8
Further the strangely placed substantial lateral gray overlay of the K8 is removed, replaced by thin pliable overlays. For sure, I can feel the extra room where foot meets sockliner as now the foot can expand a bit in that area and as said before the Pro-Lock is thinner and more pliable as well. More importantly given this change the flex of the upper and the foot is now longer and smoother as a result of the overlays removal and the softer mesh overall, harkening back to the original K shoes.  
Towards the rear, the new woven lace to ankle collar wrap supports seamlessly and securely, 
The tongue loses the “puff” of the K8 and works perfectly in conjunction with the laces and Pro-Lock. I found this is a very easy shoe to lace and go after the first snug run, and one that does not require over tightening which I found can lead to a bit more pressure from the Pro-Lock strap. 


Sam: The K9 retains the EVA+ midsole and EVERUN topsole of the K8 but here due to visible changes in the midsole geometry and what feels upon pressing as slightly firmer foam we have a vastly improved feel and ride which is dynamic, fairly firm yet well cushioned and flexible. The K8 was overly soft for me especially at the heel, the K7 was very firm and stiff. 
LEFT: Kinvara 8                                             RIGHT Kinvara 9
The midsole underneath now has two deep longitudinal grooves for flexibility and moves to 3 zones of forefoot contact from the Tri-Flex outsole for I think a fuller, more stable and responsive ground contact. 
LEFT: Kinvara 9                                             RIGHT Kinvara 8
There is also a change to the heel geometry making it less concave right at the outsole so less compression on heel strike yet with also less outsole rubber thickness (and durability..?) to keep things from getting harsh.

As with prior Kinvara the midsole platform is wide and the medial side walls vertical which gives the shoe some inherent stability at mid foot. so those who prefer some pronation control might find it to be a good race shoe option. 
Personally I would prefer a bit more of a sculpted less vertical medial side wall as I actually found the support under foot on that side a bit much interrupting the transition to that smooth forward flex a bit at pace. At slower paces daily training and in the later stages of a marathon I would certainly appreciate it!  

So in summary without changing the basics of EVA+ and EVERUN Saucony has produced a significantly better overall midsole and ride.

Dave:  Through the use of new EVERUN in the topsole and EVA+ in the rest of the midsole, this baby can flat out fly!  EVERUN is definitely one of the best midsole materials out there right now and can rival the stuff Nike (Zoom X), Skechers Performance (FlightGen) Altra (A-Bound) and Brooks (BioMogoDNA) are putting out there in the run industry right now. The combination of EVERUN and EVA+ produces a very, very smooth heel to toe transition, making mile after mile effortless, however when you get to your mid load position and about to transition into your forefoot, the EVERUN begins to shine.  There is a huge sense of pop off of the forefoot and the snappiness is abundant!  I seek this in every single shoe I ever review, and Saucony put it perfectly where I like it.  It’s the bread and butter of how a forefoot should respond at toe off in my opinion.   So, so good!

Peter: Prior to the K9 I have been pretty underwhelmed by Everun. It just hasn’t felt that responsive OR cushioned to me. The K9 finally incorporates the Everun in way that creates some symbiotic harmony with the upper and the outsole. While the K9 feels pretty cushioned over the length of a run, it’s not particularly soft at any point in the run. Suffice to say that it’s cushioned, but not cushy. There are no dead spots in the forefoot here (a problem I had with the Freedom and the Liberty and to some degree the Nike Epic React). As Dave mentioned above, the Kinvara 9 just pops off of the forefoot. It’s fine at slow speeds and really livens up as you go faster. 

Sam: The outsole as with all Kinvara is mostly midsole. The new longitudinal flex grooves make a huge positive difference in how the shoe runs giving it a very fluid any pace transition. As noted above, there is a bit less heel rubber. The forefoot now has Tri Flex patches all the way across to the lateral side which the K8 did not have. 
LEFT: Kinvara 8                                            RIGHT Kinvara 9
I do worry a bit about the removal of the lateral outsole.  Overall the K shoe does not have a lot of rubber and while the minimal rubber contributes to the super light weight for the cushion and  ride, durability likely won’t be up there but that is part of the trade off for the light weight, flexibility and dynamic ride. 

Dave:  The Kinvara has struggled over the years with durability issues.  For me, it was always in the 200 mile range. Again, and I think we overlook durability in regards to a runner's gait, weight, etc, this K9 update should last a bit longer.  It seems the K9 has addressed some of these issues by providing a re-tooled outsole, with added flex grooves to allow smooth transition so less potential scuffing and potentially increased longevity of the shoe.  I think that if you were to exclusively make this a training shoe, you may need 2 or 3 pairs for a marathon cycle if you are a runner logging say 50+ miles a week.  Again, to each his or her own.  The ride of it alone will make you want to keep coming back, mile after mile, therefore you may need an extra pair or two.

Peter: Where the K8 felt stiff and brick-ish, the K9 feels more flexible (thanks to deeper flex grooves and less rubber on the bottom) and more fun to run in. It seems like Saucony decreased the amount of blown rubber on the lateral part of the foot, which helps with flexibility. As I mentioned above it took a few runs for me to feel these loosen up a bit, but wear is pretty minimal so far.

Dave:  The Kinvara 9 is one of the best shoes I’ve run in so far in 2018.  It’s easily in my Top 5 of Spring 2018 (Rankings coming via RTR soon!) and it’s currently going to be rotated heavily with the Skechers Performance Ride 7, which is my current fave!  

The K9 is smooth, snappy, vibrant and makes your running effortless.  While it is labeled as a light performance trainer, don’t hesitate to just plain run in this shoe.  Like, just run.  Easy days honestly feel great.  If you want to crank it up it really shines for tempo days, Fartleks and can be used on long runs with some MRP work in it.  I will not be afraid to throw it out there that the K9 can make a great marathon racing flat.  It’s energetic and exactly what I like on my feet for the long haul. 

Peter: With the caveat that it feels a bit stiff in the first few runs, this is a great riding shoe. The upper and midsole work together to hold the foot really, really perfectly. The shoe disappears on the foot and you can just run in it. I agree with Dave that this is a great shoe at any pace. It falls into the swiss army knife category for me. I wouldn’t hesitate to take it out on a slow 20 miler, a medium fartlek session or a longer race. I’m hoping it breaks in even more and continues to get smoother. 

Sam: The KInvara 9 has a fabulous, any pace ride. It has enough cushion for any distance and with its responsive midsole and its flexibility it can handle slow pace transitions as well as up tempo. It's a rare double, a very light “performance” oriented shoe which can race or train. The midsole is just firm enough, the outsole just thin enough that the ride bridges response and cushion brilliantly with no overly soft bottoming out as K8 had, and without the stiffness and harshness on landing of the K7. 

Conclusions and Recommendations
Dave:  In all, an outstanding job by the product development team at Saucony to bring back to life a shoe that in my opinion somewhat lost its way over the past few years.  Recommended for the runner looking for a fast shoe, but also the runner looking for something to just cruise some effortless miles in the middle of the week.  It’s built strong enough for the long run and like I said above, I may think about racing my next Full Mary in it!  For the runner looking for a lightweight option in the shoe rotation this should definitely be added, especially if you are a fan of vibrant midsoles.  EVERUN is certainly the real deal.

Peter: A return to form for the Kinvara. I’m not as enamoured of the K9 as I am of the Skechers Ride 7, but it’s a different ride. It’s a bit firmer than the Ride 7. The K9 works well at any speed, looks good and will be a great workhorse. Agreed that it’s one of the more fun shoes of the year so far--and running should be fun, right? Right?

Sam: Kinvara 9 is one of the best shoes of 2018 and is an outstanding update. Other than potential outsole durability concerns, K9  has tremendous pace range and comfort in a very light weight package. It can be a daily trainer, performance trainer, and for sure a fabulous longer race shoe. Yes, it is on the snugger, narrower side, but the new soft mesh upper and Pro-Lock modifications keep the comfort for daily use in the realm of just fine and up tempo and race really fine. So unless you want an unstructured “slipper” where most often performance will suffer, or have a very wide high volume foot, the K9’s fit is where it should be in such a shoe. I particularly appreciated the combination of comfortable upper support, under foot stability-if a bit overdone for my tastes, great flexibility, the dynamic ride and smooth any pace transitions. If you are seeking a light do it all shoe with a low drop the K9 is a delight to run, a big smiles shoe and is highly recommended.

Dave’s Score - 9/10
-.5 for too firm on the heel collar (causing a spur)
-.5 for a tight toe box

Peter’s Score: 9/10
-.5 for somewhat tight midfoot, takes a minute to dial in
-.25 may run a bit small for some
-.25 stiff at first

Sam’s Score 9.7/10
-0.15 for outsole durability concerns. A few fractions of an oz of additional rubber would be good.
-0.1 for somewhat short and low upfront. The toe bumper could potentially be stiffened a bit to raise the fit.
-0.05 for somewhat overdone mid foot midsole support for this neutral runner


Saucony Kinvara 9 vs. Saucony Kinvara 7 (RTR review) and Kinvara 8 (RTR review)
Dave:  The K7 was my last Kinvara, as I skipped the 8, thinking I wasn’t going to see a change.  By far, the K9 is the best Kinvara ever built.  It’s extremely responsive and seems to be built for the long haul (at least better than previous versions)  The K7 shredded my achilles and lacked the key flex grooves in order to give me a smooth heel to toe transition and pop off of the forefoot I like.

Sam: The Kinvara 7 was a fine fast shoe but it had a quite frankly painful upper which was very snug and made snugger by the massive Pro-Lock which even had a cross piece. It was super stiff and quite firm. K9 resolves all the of the issues of K7 for me.

Kinvara 8 on the other hand was soft at the heel for me and was not a very lively shoe. It did regain some flexibility.  

K9 puts the snap back in the ride, is flexible and improves the upper significantly. Version 9 is by far the best K shoe for me to date.

Saucony Kinvara 9 vs. Saucony Freedom ISO (RTR review)
Sam: Same company, Everun in the mix but completely different rides and fits. The full Everun midsole in the Freedom is bouncy, somewhat sloppy and lively, overly so for serious daily running or even racing for me. The Freedom upper is snug but lacks support over the soft underfoot platform. So we have a wild ride in the Freedom and a fun one but for training or racing I much prefer the lighter, steadier, more responsive and evenly cushioned K9.
As for the Liberty ISO same as the above but with a bit more support and stability.

Saucony Kinvara 9 vs. Skechers Performance Go Run Ride 7 (RTR review)
Dave:  Easily two of the best shoes to debut in the early stages of 2018. This is an extremely tough call, but the edge goes to the Ride 7.  FlightGen is just a touch more lively than EVERUN and the M Strike technology in Skechers Performance just really hits home with me when I step down on the gas.  However, don’t count out the K9.  I personally just want both in my rotation and will keep it that way!

Sam: The Ride 7 has a superior no compromises upper which is clearly roomier. It is not as stable or responsive under foot as the K9 but does have a softer, livelier bounce and more cushion from its higher stack. While the Ride 7 is a great shoe, I prefer the stability and lively responsiveness of the K9 and bonus, it is close to 2 oz lighter. 

Peter: Ride 7 still top dog for shoe of the year for me. K9 is definitely firmer and has a different feeling ride, but the Ride 7 is a little more comfortable and just bounces off the pavement for me. 

Saucony Kinvara 9 vs. Skechers Performance Go Run 6 (RTR review)
Dave:  I can’t run in the Run 6.  A sloppy upper and a underfoot that is far too soft, the K9 gets the easy win for me.  Upper wise, the Run 6 trumps the K9 upper, but it’s too sloppy on my foot and is worn casually. 

Sam: Generally concur with Dave here. The Run 6 weighs 0.4 oz less and has less overall stack. Its midsole seems softer so I tend to bottom out in them and don’t get the lively response of the K9. The K6 stretch knit upper is super comfortable but just isn’t enough for serious well supported running as the K9’s upper delivers.

Peter: K9, no doubt.

Saucony Kinvara 9 vs. Brooks Launch 5 (RTR review)
Sam: The considerably heavier and somewhat more cushioned Launch has plenty of durable outsole rubber that the K9 lacks. Launch 5's new fabric like engineered mesh upper with no overlays at all does not match the narrow mid foot midsole platform. It is unstable at speed and on curves. It has a bootie as the K9 has but no Pro-Lock or underlays and either or both are sorely lacking as the middle of the foot support in the Launch at pace is inadequate while in the K9 it may actually be a bit over done. I also prefer the liviler, smoother transitioning ride of the K9. K9 the clear winner for me.

Peter: I prefer the K9 from the upper to the ride here. The Launch remains stiff after many runs, while the K9 is breaking in more and more. Smoother and more enjoyable ride for the K9.

Saucony Kinvara 9 vs. Skechers Performance Go Meb Razor 2 (RTR review)
Dave: These both have that lively snappy feel.  They both want to go fast, but when dialed back for an easy day, keep your stride nice and smooth.  I like the narrower overall last of the Razor 2, but I’m not sure it pops as much as the Ride 7, and the K9 pops like the Ride 7.  So to clear all of this confusion, the Kinvara 9 beats out the Razor 2.  

Sam: I am with Dave here. The Razor has a great upper but its midsole is overly firm for me. It lacks the pop and smoothness at all paces of the K9.

Peter: For shorter races (up to and including 13.1)  I’d go Razor 2 in a heartbeat. The upper fits me a little better on the Razor 2 and it is FAST. The K9 would be a longer run or Marathon racer for me. 

Saucony Kinvara 9 vs. Nike Zoom Elite 9 (RTR review)
Dave:  To me, not really a comparison because I think the K9 now enters a more daily trainer category, that’s just really lightweight.  The ZE9 is a workout shoe for me and when reaching to the never ending mountain of shoes in my place, the ZE9 is just plain faster.  I wouldn’t take the K9 on the track and I will with the ZE9.  That seals the deal for me.

Peter: K9 trainer, long race day shoe. ZE9 is a faster shoe that can go long. Different shoes. If I had to choose 1 it would be the ZE9.

Saucony Kinvara 9 vs. Nike Epic React Flyknit (RTR review)
Sam: All the buzz these days the flashy attractive Epic React just doesn’t make me smile other than at its looks. Its upper is similarly snug to the K9 and also with some use will stretch. Underfoot the K9 ride is far more pleasant and lively for me. The Epic React is more cushioned but somehow lacking a bit of soul. The K9 has a longer easier flex which is something I especially like in a trainer.

Peter: I ran these back-to-back today. On step in, the Epic react is MUCH more comfortable and cushy. When I run in it though I feel like I lose just a bit of energy in the forefoot landing and take-off. I want to love it, but I just like it a lot. The K9 pops off the toe more and is more fun for me to run in. 

Saucony Kinvara 9 vs. NB 1400 V5 (RTR review)
Peter: This is an unfair comparison. I love the NB 1400 V5 so damn much that very few shoes can compare. It’s blazing fast race shoe that I can run any distance in. The ride of the K9 is a bit firmer, though a bit more cushioned--if that makes any sense. I prefer the 1400 v5, but I’m glad I have both of them. 

Saucony Kinvara 9 vs. Salomon Sonic RA Pro (RTR review soon)
Sam: Both shoes have similar more “natural” ride intents and feel. The 6mm drop Pro comes in at 8.3 oz so 0.7 oz more than K9 has a roomier yet well held upper and tons of durable outsole rubber, likely most of the weight difference. The Pro is slightly more cushioned particularly at the heel with its Vibe insert. The Pro transitions almost as well at all paces but has, despite its outsole rubber, less pop than the K9 with a slightly more easy going ride.  Pro would be a good choice if you want a light long lasting daily trainer with some racing capabilities with the K9 a better choice for up tempo and racing. 

Peter: I found the RA Pro to be really tight in the toe-box--causing irritation on both sides of my feet. The ride of these is pretty similar, but so far I like the K9 better. 

Reviewer Bios
Peter Stuart is a late 40's avid LA based runner with recent sub 3 hour marathons and sub 1:25 halves.
Sam Winebaum is the Editor and Founder of RoadTrailRun. He has been running and shoe geeking for 45 years. As he turned 60 in 2017 he was thrilled to clock a 1:35.24 half.
Dave Ames is the Founder and Head Coach of Ame For It Run Coaching, a nationwide run coaching business, training athletes of all ability levels from 5K to Marathon.

The Kinvara was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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