First, let me start off saying that I love New Balance 1400v2 to death. It is exactly how a shoe should be like. Simple, lightweight, and extremely fast. But I am not a professional runner whose legs are made of steel. While some people can run a marathon in it, I would like to have a wee bit more cushioning. This is where Saucony Kinvara 5 comes in.

After reading rave reviews of the Kinvara line, from the 1st to the 5th iteration, I finally jump on Kinvara’s bandwagon. This is the shoe that I choose to run my first marathon in. This is the shoe that I want to love. I have a sky-high expectation of the shoe.

After 43-km over 5 sessions, it is time for a first impression review.

Saucony Kinvara 5 in black
Saucony Kinvara 5 in black

The Look

This is subjective. I personally believe that Nike makes the best-looking shoes. I love the look of the seamless upper of Nike’s Flyknit and Adidas’ Primeknit. Kinvara looks more like a traditional shoe. Its sole is quite thick. I like it, but I do not love it.

The Feel

Upon picking up the fresh pair, I find it a little bit bulkier compared to 1400v2 and a tad bit heavier as well. But I know it is a different breed of shoe. I need more cushioning, and it comes with a little bit more weight. I can live with that. I wear US7 for most of my shoes and Kinvara 5 is no different. I always buy running shoes a thumb bigger from the end of my big toe to the nose of a shoe. This gives some room for my toes to splay and move forward. When I lace it up, the length feels fine. But it is a bit wider than my other shoes. The fit is slightly off. The shoe does not hold my feet in place well.

The Ride

This is the most important thing in a running shoe. It is either make or break. The first time I put it on, it feels completely different than 1400v2. It is so cushy to the extent that I think it is way too cushy to my liking. It definitely makes a good walking shoe. But is it a great running shoe, for me?

I take it for 8km run for the first time and it does not feel as lively as 1400v2, as expected. The extra cushioning bothers me. I love 1400v2 to bits and pieces mainly due to the great road feedback, and the extra cushioning takes this feeling away from me. Kinvara 5 is a 4mm heel-to-toe drop shoe which essentially encourages runners to run more on forefoot. But it feels the opposite. My strides are altered and I find myself running more on midfoot, rather than forefoot on 1400v2. 1400v2 has 10mm heel-to-toe drop. This concerns me a lot.

On the synthetic track at KLCC park, the shoe performs disappointingly poor where it is squished with every stride when the soft sole makes contact with the softer track surface. The energy return feels meh and I find myself running slightly off-balance. The fact that I am still nursing from a bad knee does not help.

Another issue with the shoe is concerning the fit, as mentioned before. It is too wide for my feet, and despite it comes with ProLock technology (a triangle piece of material on either side of the shoe) that is supposed to snug the feet better, it is too wide to make it work properly. Due to this, I lose a lot of traction especially when I run on a loose surface, like sand or gravel. During my last run (12.1km), I tighten the lace of the shoe and it performs better. My feet do not move as much but I have to lace it so tight it makes my feet feel squeezed. I am afraid for a longer run, my feet will heat up quickly and feel uncomfortable, and fatigue easily.

The Breathability

Those who know me know that I sweat a lot. There is a medical term to describe people like me. And my feet sweat really easily and much quicker than global warming melts the poles. For this reason I like mesh upper, and fortunately Kinvara 5’s upper is made from mesh. But for a reason, its tongue is so chunky. This will undoubtedly affect the breathability of the shoe.

The Durability

From the online reviews, this is one of the few cons of the shoe. The upper is easily torn. That is true for Kinvara 4, and Saucony listens to the customers and improve the upper in the 5th iteration. After 43-km, I can say that the upper is holding up pretty well, but the same cannot be said about the sole. I can already see the pattern diminishing from the lugs. My youngest brother owns a pair of Kinvara 5 as well which he runs and walks in. The film on the outer side of the shoe has ripped apart. It  does not compromise the integrity of the shoe though. Will it last for at least 400km? It is still early to judge.

The diminishing pattern
The diminishing pattern
Heel area
Heel area

First Impression

I hate to be so critical of the shoe. This is a shoe that I hate to hate. But I have the highest of expectation of the shoe and after a slightly longer than a marathon distance, it falls short. When I come across a very good deal on Adidas Adizero Adios Boost 2 (same shoe worn by current marathon holder, Dennis Kimetto) on Adidas Malaysia website, I contemplate whether to ditch Kinvara 5, and get the Adizero or goes back to my trusted and proven 1400v2. With barely two weeks before my first marathon, I believe it is a safer bet to put faith on Kinvara 5 and learn to appreciate it like majority of others. I won’t do it a proper justice until I run a marathon in it. After all, it is named as the best running shoe in 2014 by the reputable Runner’s World.

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