Saucony Kinvara 12 review TL;DR: if you are looking for a fast running trainer, look no further than the Saucony Kinvara 12.
I don't think I was ready for the Saucony Kinvara 12 after testing the Saucony Endorphin Shift recently, an all-cushion running cruiser for slower training days and recovery. Before that, I tried another Endorphin shoe, the Saucony Endorphin Pro, a high-stack running racer that might be a bit too firm for my taste. After these experiences, I started to associate Saucony with chunky running trainers, but the Kinvara 12 offered something different, something fresh, something... exciting.
Unlike the Endorphin Collection, the Kinvara franchise has been going on for 12 years, and you can tell it's not the first iteration of the shoes. The Kinvara 12 uses the latest Saucony tech, such as the PWRRUN midsole and the FORMFIT upper, but at the same time, optimises both for faster, more responsive training. I'm going to go out on a limb here by saying that the Kinvara 12 are the best running shoes Saucony offers right now. There. I said it.
Saucony Kinvara 12: Price and availability
Saucony Kinvara 12 review: Tech
The Saucony Kinvara 12 is the latest iteration of the Kinvara franchise and therefore only introduces iterative changes to the shoes. There is nothing too revolutionary at present here we haven't seen in other Saucony shoes, but this definitely doesn't mean the Kinvara is old news. Most of the latest innovation from Saucony is present here.
The PWRRUN midsole cushioning might sound familiar to Saucony fans: it has been featured in many other Saucony shoes. Even the Endorphin Collection uses a variation of this foam, a turbocharged version with an integrated carbon plate.
Also present is the FORMFIT upper that "wraps the foot in 3D comfort for a personalised foot-hugging fit", as Saucony puts it. I generally prefer tighter uppers but I quite enjoyed the roomy toebox of the Kinvara 12: it doesn't have that 'lockdown' feel to it but that's quite alright; FORMFIT works perfectly here.
The Kinvara 12 features an updated outsole pattern that is said to deliver "increased ground contact" and indeed, this is one of the best aspects of the shoes. The XT-900 rubber further enhances the durability in high-wear zones on the outsole so one could hope the Kinvara 12 will last at least for a bit.
Saucony Kinvara 12 review: Ergonomics
Running in the Saucony Kinvara 12 is a sublime experience. I was the most impressed with the ground contact feel: it reminded me of the ASICS Metaracer, in a good way. The stack height is just fine to alleviate the impact force during landing but not too high, so it would take away from the 'directness' of the shoes.
The FORMFIT upper allows air to enter the shoes and since it is a bit roomier in the toebox, running in the shoes is a comfortable experience. The heel counter is firm but not restrictive; I found the fit at the rear perfect. The padded tongue and the 'luxurious' foam collar are just icing on the cake.
The Kinvara 12 rolls beautifully but not like the Endorphin Pro does: the movement is more organic here, following your natural gait cycle. Thanks to the lack of a carbon plate or any other propulsion enhancing features, the shoes bend well and make you work harder during toe-off. In return, you are more in contact with the ground and able to control the movement of your feet way better.
Saucony Kinvara 12 review: Aesthetics
The Saucony Kinvara 12 is part of the Bright Future Collection and the shoes are definitely bright, or more like, vibrant. The tested Future/Black colourway has all the colours of the rainbow on it, pasted over the black canvas of the FORMFIT upper.
I'm glad Saucony is trying to inject more personality into its shoes, but this might be a bit over the top. I'm not a designer myself but it feels Nike and Adidas do a better job in finding ways to make their shoes more appealing to the sneaker crowd. That said, the Kinvara 12 is available as a sneaker (opens in new tab), in case you're interested.
Saucony Kinvara 12 review: Verdict
I created a basic checklist to see if you should get the Saucony Kinvara 12:
- Do you like running fast?
- Do you like to be in control of your running stride?
- Do you prefer shoes that stand out from the crowd with their bold colors?
- Do you prefer shoes that have a bit more room at the front?
- Do you like running?
If the answer to those questions is yes, you should buy the Kinvara 12. You will get more use out of it than those carbon enhanced racing shoes and enjoy the process way better. The Kinvara isn't the cheapest running trainer, but it's also not super expensive: considering the joy it provides when you run in them, they are worth the price.
Saucony Kinvara 12 review: Also consider
The Brooks Hyperion Tempo is probably the best running trainer released in 2020. It is light, responsive, and springy while being super comfortable and supportive. The DNA Flash midsole makes each landing buttery smooth and running a great experience overall.
The Nike Air Zoom Pegasus 37 is a versatile running trainer. It combines the supportive React foam with the Zoom Air pockets, the latter being only under the forefoot instead of the full-length version found in the shoes' predecessor. These are the shoes to go for non-competitive runners who like their Nikes.