Monday, November 25, 2019

Saucony Kinvara 11 Multi Tester Review

Article by Hope Wilkes, Sally Reiley, Peter Stuart, and Sam Winebaum

Saucony Kinvara 11 $110
Introduction
Peter: Kinvara, Kinvara, Kinvara. The Kinvara, in many ways, started it all in terms of lightweight, highly cushioned trainers. It has gone from the originator to one of many. For a while it felt like the Kinvara lost its way and by last year’s Kinvara 10 it felt like it found its way back to its roots as a fun, light daily trainer. So how does the 11 compare? Well, let’s see how everybody here feels. For me, it’s a meh. 
Hope: The Kinvara keeps changing slightly. If you’re a fan of innovation for innovation’s sake, that’s a good thing. If you fell in love with any one Kinvara, it means you can’t rely on the newest model living up to your expectations. The Kinvara 11 is edging ever closer into full-on trainer from the trainer-racer space where it’s been top of the heap for years.


Sally: I really enjoyed the Kinvara 10 and have kept it in my rotation. The K11 has many similarities, but notable differences: it is still a great one shoe quiver kind of shoe, good for easy training miles or faster tempo workouts, but is now softer, bouncier, and more cushioned. I might consider wearing the K10 as a low-key race shoe, but the K11 is definitely more of a reliable trainer. Thumbs up in my book!


Sam: I was most interested to see what the new PWRUN EVA/TPU midsole felt like. The Guide 13, a light stability shoe also sports this new midsole foam and felt great as it was  bouncier than EVA, and more stable than say Boost. I was eager to see how it performed in a lighter more neutral shoe. I liked the K10 and agree with Sally it is more a race shoe feel on the firm side and responsive. Would the K11 move towards one shoe in the quiver for both training and racing status for me?


Pros
Peter: surprisingly good grip for as little rubber on the outsole, good fit.
Hope: Less rubber, softer underfoot feel, even more pliable upper
Sally: well-cushioned with an easy comfortable fit; soft, bouncy, flexible, smooth, classic look
Sam: 
Great looking and fitting upper with an easy lace up  ,that big not overly soft tongue is a great platform to snug with no bite
Bouncier more forgiving and fun all around (train and race) ride than K10
4mm drop? Really? No bottoming out on heel strike makes it an honest 4mm and feels higher


Cons
Peter: Thickest tongue ever. Ride feels a little harsh (especially compared to some other foams).
Hope: Maybe not the thickest tongue ever (Kinvara 5 probably has it beat), but thicker than necessary
Sally: Missing the quick push forward that I was hoping for, despite the flexibility and foam
Sam: PWRUN foam is a big improvement but not a zingy, springy super foam


Stats
Weight:: men's 7.8 oz  / 233 g (US9) women's 6.9 oz / 200g / (US8)
  Samples: 7.9 oz / 234 g US M9 (same as K10)
Stack Height: 28.5mm heel / 24.5 mm forefoot, 4mm drop
Available Feb 2020  $110


Tester Profiles
Hope is in her 20’s and after several ultras is now more on the road. She has a marathon PR of 3:47. She trains about 50 miles per week with many of her runs in the (broad) 8:00-10:00/mile range. She is happy to hit 7:30 miles on tempo days.
Peter lives in Austin, Texas and has been a sub 3 hour marathoner as well as a 1:25 half marathoner in recent years
Sally is a mother of five who ran her first marathon at age 54, and has now run the past six Boston Marathons and one Chicago, with a 2017 Boston PR of 3:29, good for 8th in her age group. Along the way she has raised over $200,000 for Massachusetts Eye and Ear Hospital running with Team Eye and Ear. A relative newbie to road racing, she has achieved All-American status in the 10K (44:04) and 5K. To commemorate her 60th birthday she ran the NYC Marathon in November finishing 2nd in her age group with a PR time of 3:28:39.  Sally is a compact (petite) runner at 5’2’’ and 105 pounds.
Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 62 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. Sam has been running for over 45 years and has a 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5'10" tall and weighs about 165 lbs.


First Impressions and Fit
Sam: Run side by side with a K10 the fit is more padded at the area and noticeably so at lace up. The toe box no longer has built in creases and feels smoother over the top of the toes. The look is bright and beachy. I was sent a size 9, a half size up from normal and for general training the fit was perfect. For racing I would go true to size.


Peter: Looks a little more like a daily trainer (think Ride) than the cool, sleek Kinvara. The tongue is insanely padded. Step-in is good, fit is nice and the materials are plush. 


Hope: The women’s colorway I received is gorgeous. Agree with Peter: step-in comfort is good. I was sent a US W9 instead of my usual USW9.5. Fit was basically perfect, so you may want to try these on in a store to be confident about fit.

Sally: True to size, cushioned comfort right out of the box. Secure hold. Yes, there is a lot of padding, but it feels just right. LOVE the women’s colorway of mint greens and blues.


Upper
Peter: The mesh upper is terrific, comfortable and holds the foot well. If it weren’t for the swollen tongue, it would be a home run as an upper. I should say, though, that the foot is held well and you don’t notice the tongue at all when running. 
There’s no fancy lacing system and the shoe is better for it. Ankle collar is nicely padded and holds the foot. Toe-box is just-right and there are no pressure spots at all. 


Hope: The upper seems to have lost some bulk from the K10, but the tongue is a bit beefy. I wasn’t bothered by it, but it’s noticeable since it’s different from what competing models have done. Lockdown is good. Comfort is exceptional and I had no issues with blisters, even when changing into them during the second half of a 20-mile run.
Sally: The upper is simple and classic, similar to the beautiful Triumph 17, and it works well. 
It fits easily, conforming nicely to my foot. I don’t mind the padded tongue because the shoe is so uber comfortable. No hot spots or pressure points anywhere on my foot, and the overall feel is even better after about 45 miles in this shoe.


Sam: This gimmick and overlay free upper works very well, I say overlay free which isn’t quite correct as there are a few but they are as soft and foot conforming as the rest of the upper and mostly decoration. The K11 has a stretch bootie seemingly identical to the K10’s
The lace up here is impeccable, particularly so given the soft upper and no overlays. A reinforcement band secures the last 3 lace holes and provides some structure for the lace up. That thick tongue is soft and thin down beyond the first 3 laces and stout, thick and very well padded but not in an excessively plush way towards lace up I think this thick tongue allows a secure snug lace up without any pressure, quite vital given how essentially unstructured the whole front of the shoe is.
The rear collars are actually a touch less thiclkly padded than in the K10 but a touch softer in feel with the achilles collar of the K11 higher. The yellow protruding side of ankle pads of the K10 are eliminated. Overall the rear fit is very secure and more than adequately padded without over doing it.



Midsole
Peter: I’ll let Sam get into the details about the midsole. I’ll just say that it doesn’t feel as special as other midsole materials out there. It’s fine, it runs decently and absorbs a decent amount of road vibration, but it doesn’t thrill..
Sam: The stack is a considerable 24.5mm forefoot, 28.5mm heel, especially so for such a light shoe. The Kinvara 11 has a new PWRUN midsole. PWRUN is made of a blend of EVA and TPU. As such it should and does for me have more bounce than the more conventional EVA+ of the K10 but as the others say a little less firm pop. Run side by side with the K10 the K11 is clearly a touch softer and bouncier, something I appreciate as a positive change if one is considering the K11 as an all around light trainer with some racing in the mix.

The midsole geometry is also slightly modified. 
The straight medial midsole side walls are not quite as vertical in the K11l with a different more longitudinal pattern of grooves whereas the K10 sidewalls were less sculptued. 
The sculpting is yet more pronounced on the lateral side with I am assuming, and noted on the run, the  purpose it seems to soften impact and ease transitions much as New Balance’s Fresh Foam sculpting does. 


The result is that the quite distinct feeling of midfoot medial support which made the prior K shoes a race choice for those seeking some pronation support is “tuned down”. It is still there but the feel is more akin to a neutral shoe and softer overall on landing and for me also leads to an easier transition off midfoot.


Hope: I liked the feel (somehow removing the rubber pods in the forefoot dramatically improved the feel for me), but I agree with Peter: this doesn’t feel special. Downmarket shoes have midsoles at least this good. All I got was softness, not any noticeable energy rebound. Past Kinvaras have been good for the marathon distance for many people. There’s not enough pop in the K11 to keep tired legs turning over.


Sally: Much as I love the fit and feel of this shoe, it does lack a little of the forward thrusting POP I felt in the K10. The landing is definitely soft, especially in the heel, and like Hope,  I miss the energy return of its predecessor. I did find it a more enjoyable ride than Peter did, 


Outsole
Peter: very little rubber here. Two of my runs in the Kinvara 11 have been in slick, wet conditions. I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by the grip of the Kinvara. No slipping. I haven’t put enough miles to get a sense of wear on the exposed EVA, but early wear seems normal. 

Hope: I don’t have my K10 pair handy, but I seem to recall rubber under the forefoot, not just the toe area. Removing it has made the K11 a quieter and softer shoe. I noticed what I would characterize as accelerated wear on the heel rubber, but this might level off as happens with some rubber compounds. To be on the safe side, I think it’s fair to call it average or slightly below average in terms of durability. Grip is great. Like the rubber-free Hoka outsoles, the forefoot of the K11 grips surprisingly well.


Sally: I don’t typically notice the outsole much unless there is an issue with it. In this case, Saucony for the most part remedied what I found to be a problem in the K10. Tiny stones would get stuck in the deep square grooves of the outsole of the K10, but Saucony changed the ridges/grooves to be shallower and more angled, thus less apt to trap stones and grit. The soft rubber makes it reasonably quiet, a big plus for me. Great traction on wet surfaces. Durability will remain to be seen, but my K10s have seen many miles and no issues.


Sam: I note no significant changes to the outsole beyond noting the chevrons up front are more rounded than in the K10.

Ride
Peter: The Kinvara rides like an old school training shoe. That’s not necessarily a compliment. The ride is a little jarring, a little firm and doesn’t seem to return much energy. Transition is reasonably smooth and they’re definitely not unpleasant to run in. There’s just not a lot of thrill in the ride. 


Hope: I found them to be smooth, and soft, but not special. This feels like a shoe that should’ve come out during the renaissance of high cushioning to weight ratio -- big time softness in a fairly light package, but not much else. I expect more zip out of the Kinvara. The only zip came from the shoe not weighing me down. I didn’t discern the presence of the special foam at all.


Sally: I found the ride more pleasant than Peter did, though by no means is the shoe a home run and an absolute joy to run in. They feel light and agile underfoot and they transition smoothly, but they don’t have the quick responsiveness and push forward that I was hoping for. 
Sam: I will agree with Hope that there is a bit less decisive zip in the K11 but I think considerably more cushion and bounce. We are not talking bouncy, bouncy but compared to the K10 the ride is less harsh, slightly softer, and easier to transition. I do think more rubber would improve the pop and snap but as a lightweight highly cushioned trainer, that can race, it is a wonderful and quite forgiving ride in comparison to its recent predecessors. I find it easier on the legs, easier to move along at slower paces, and an overall pleasant ride, 
WATCH OUR VIDEO REVIEW
Comparisons to Kinvara 10, New Balance Beacon 2, and Hoka Rincon

Conclusions and Recommendations


Peter: As much as I respect the lineage of the Kinvara, I have to say that I think there are other shoes out there that are in the same category--(reasonably light daily trainer/tempo shoe)--that just do it better. I’m thinking the Skechers Go Run Ride 8, The NB Fresh Foam Tempo, the Skechers Razor 3. I just didn’t have a ton of fun running in the Kinvara. 
Peter’s Score 8.5/10 
Totally fine, but not super exciting. Tongue is way too big. I ran in them again this morning, and liked them a bit better. They are still a little firm, but that pays off in being pretty efficient. 


Hope: Since I can’t feel the special midsole foam, I wouldn’t want to pay for it and would suggest you look at other models which are either more special (e.g. the Razor 3 which Peter cited) or the Brooks Revel 3 (a wicked fun ride that won’t hurt your wallet). It’s a fine shoe and quite good looking, but this version didn’t wow me. I’m alarmed to see the style trending towards the trainer side of things. The svelte Kinvara 3 and 4 are what epitomize this model for me and I’d like to see Saucony take the design back in that direction.


Hope’s Score: 9.0/10 -- if light and soft work for you, these are a fine choice, but if you’re expecting more bang for your buck (and to feel the tech in your shoe), you may be disappointed.


Sally: The Kinvara 11 is a solid do-it-all lightweight trainer for a wide cross-section of runners, and, true to its origins, can handle both easy runs and faster tempo runs. It will become a favorite for daily training runs for runners who don’t want to invest in an array of shoes. It is a solid, versatile shoe without a load of fancy extras and gimmicks. Not my choice for a race of any length, but that may be because I have too many choices. Others may choose these for everything!
Sally’s Score: 9.25/10.0  
-.50 for lack of toe pop, -.025 for lack of ground feel 


Sam: I often have to much to say so why not, for once, totally agree with how Sally conclusions. I would add that for me the K11 is a solid improvement over its predecessor in the versatility department as it is softer and easier to run making it a yet better light training option that can race and a true one shoe in the quiver for those seeking a lighter more agile option than say Saucony Triumph 17. The new PWRUN midsole is the key ingredient here which while not a totally new “super foam” does add TPU into the EVA mix and new side wall sculpting for some measured bounce and softness in a mostly EVA ride
Sam’s Score: 9.2 /10
Ride: 9 (50%) Fit: 9.5 (30%) Value:9 (15%) Style: 9 (5%)


Comparisons 
Index to all RTR reviews: HERE


Saucony Kinvara 11 vs Kinvara 10 (RTR Review)
Hope: I prefer the firmer Kinvara 10. It has more pop. Closer to the Kinvaras of old for which I’m so nostalgic.
Sally: K10 was definitely spunkier, K11 more wear all day comfortable. I would prefer K10 because I like speed.
Sam: Clear preference for more comfort top to bottom yet still a K shoe version 11


Saucony Kinvara 11 vs. Skechers GoRun Ride 8 (RTR Review)
Hope: I prefer the flexibility of the K11’s midsole, but the GRR8’s more toned-down application of HyperBurst (relative to the Razor 3 in which it debuted) makes it a trainer lots of people should find fun, but not too bouncy. GRR8 gets the nod.
Sam: The GRR8 is more shoe and a better choice if you want a cushioned daily trainer with a lively ride. Pick the K11 for faster fun or if you prefer a lighter ride with more ground feel.


Saucony Kinvara 11 vs. Skechers Razor 3 Hyper (RTR Review)
Hope: The R3 remains one of my favorite shoes period. Its bouncy ride is downright exhilarating to run in, even over the marathon distance. The Kinvara 11 can’t match that dynamic feel or that “how did they do that?” light weight, so R3 is my preference.
Sam: Razor is not a trainer for most and certainly not for me. A 10K max shoe. The K11 can easily be my daily trainer. While a more exciting ride you need to stay off your heels in the Razor. The K11 is more forgiving if not quite the speed demon


Saucony Kinvara 11 vs. New Balance Fuel Cell Propel (RTR Review)
Hope: This one is tougher as both are quite soft. Despite its superior upper, I think the Fuel Cell Propel is a bit more mushy, so the K11 gets my vote.
Sam: Agree with Hope here. 


Saucony Kinvara 11 vs. Hoka Cavu 3 (RTR Review soon)
Peter:  I haven’t finished my full review of the Cavu yet, but I ran these back to back today and can report that while the Kinvara has a much better, more traditional upper, the feel of the Cavu is everything I wished the Kinvara was. It’s smooth and provides some energy return while also feeling really natural. It reminds me more of the original Kinvara than the Kinvara 11 does!


Saucony Kinvara 11 vs. adizero adios 4  (RTR Review)
Hope: Very different shoes. The A4 is a close-fitting racer and uptempo trainer with tons of pop coming from the midsole. That close-fitting upper irritated my feet a bit since the interior is scratchy and feels a bit unfinished. The K11 has a more comfort-minded fit and a more ponderous underfoot feel. K11 will be the better choice for general training for the majority of runners. A4 is a do-it-all shoe for efficient runners who prefer less shoe and a racer and speed workout shoe for the rest of us.
Saucony Kinvara 11 vs. Hoka One One Rincon (RTR Review)
Sam: Lighter and stiffer yet with a fairly similar stack to the K11 if you enjoy a rocker type ride
Saucony Kinvara 11 vs. New Balance Fresh Foam Beacon 2  (RTR Review)
Hope: The Beacon has more snap and a more lightweight, pliable upper, so I favor it over the K11. 
Peter: Agreed!


Saucony Kinvara 11 vs. Reebok Forever Floatride Energy (RTR Review)
Peter: Overall the Floatride Energy just works a bit better for me. It’s firm but not harsh at all. Pretty similar rides.
Sam: Agree with Peter on rides. A touch more zing from Floatride Energy, a considerably superior upper and slightly softer for K11.

Read reviewers' full run bios here
The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are the authors'.
Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

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4 comments:

Gene said...

Sam:
Does the stack height include the sock liner? 28.5mm 24.5mm is more than you listed for the Ride ISO2 in your review, 27mm 19mm.
Great review as always. Thank you.

Mark said...

Sam (or any other of the reviewers here):

I'm looking for a new long run shoe for marathon training. I don't really need a one shoe quiver kind of shoe, as I have other shoes in my rotation. What is your favorite long run shoe at the moment?

Thanks

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Gene, s. I do note that the K11 stack height increases to 28.5/24.5 vs K10 23/19 in the Saucony catalogs for respective seasons so it appears they are including sock liner for K11 but not for K10. As far as Ride ISO 2 for for Fall 19 it is at 27/19, corresponding to same catalog as for K10 so would assume sockliner there is also not included, Running Warehouse had K10 at 25/21 and RideISO2 at 28/20.
Sorry for any confusion
Sam, Editor
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Unknown said...

The K11 does fall back into the fast daily trainer realm now the new Endorphin speed and carbon plate Pro will take the mantle or race shoes. This is nearly a reshuffle of the Saucony line up, the same kinvara lives on to be a low profile natural trainer/racer it always was/is.