The Saucony Kinvara 12 has been overhauled in look and feel, but it retains the lightweight, low-to-the-ground design while morphing into more of a reliable, lightweight, high-mileage workhorse than its old persona as a go-fast trainer.
The Saucony Kinvara was one of the first low-offset, lightweight, softly-cushioned performance trainers to emerge out of the minimalist revolution a decade ago, and it remains as one of the best in its class among neutral-oriented everyday trainers even as dozens of other competitors have emerged.
A new FORMFit mono mesh upper design and updated outsole pattern give the Kinvara 12 a more secure feel, a lighter spec weight and a more streamlined fit, feel and vibe.
It retains the PWRRUN compound (EVA/TPU blend) in the midsole and a thin slice of PWRRUN+ in the top sole under the footbed, but they interact slightly differently with the new outsole and upper.
There’s very little rubber on the outsole, but it doesn’t inhibit the shoe’s traction. Most of the outsole is comprised of exposed midsole foam accentuated by flexed grooves and a bit of tread for grip and flexibility. The addition of more ground contact makes the transition from landing to takeoff faster and smoother.
Although it doesn’t impact performance, the bold, eye-catching color patterns and sleek design give this shoe considerable aesthetic appeal. If you believe the adage that if you look good, you’ll feel good then the Kinvara 12 might provide some added buzz to motivate you on your daily runs.
FIT, FEEL, RIDE
The Saucony Kinvara 12 fits true to size with a narrow-medium interior volume, featuring a snug, slightly reinforced heel, a locked-down sensation at the arch/saddle and a bit of wiggle room in the toe box.
The thin, lightly padded gusseted tongue helps keep the foot in place, while the new mono mesh upper is soft enough to be comfortable but firm enough to keep the foot secured to the midsole/outsole chassis.
The ride isn’t as soft or responsive as previous editions, but it has more of a semi-firm sensation that’s mildly bouncy and just resilient enough for up-tempo training. It all combines to give the Kinvara 12 the fit, feel and ride of a trustworthy, modern version of a minimally designed everyday trainer.
Our wear-testers reported the Saucony Kinvara 12 to be one of the best-fitting and most comfortable shoes among new models available in early 2021. The upper and midsole are very well integrated, both when it’s laced up and also in motion out on a run.
WHO IT’S BEST FOR
Runners with a neutral gait pattern who appreciate a versatile, lightweight daily trainer with a consistent feel and ride will really enjoy the updated Kinvara 12. Although it’s still versatile enough to run at a wide range of paces, it’s probably less desirably as a race-day shoe than it was in the past.
It just doesn’t have the same speedy vibe that it used to. (But that’s also partially because there are so many other super shoes that are such superlative racers like Saucony’s Endorphin Speed and Endorphin Pro.)
PROS: SAUCONY KINVARA 12
The new upper is the best feature of this edition of the Kinvara. It’s soft, light, sleek and secure. Lightweight printed overlays gives just enough structure to the breathable, adaptable mesh upper to feel secure without weighing you down.
With a $110 price tag, the Kinvara 12 is a high-value shoe that offers a great combination of accommodating fit, consistent ride and versatility. Overall, it’s a good, update from the previous edition, a no-nonsense shoe that fits, feels and runs well.
CONS: SAUCONY KINVARA 12
The only drawback is that the Kinvara has lost its speedy vibe. It used to be an ideal race-day shoe for 5K to half marathons and quick enough to run faster intervals on the track.
It’s still moderately fast, but not nearly as quick and nimble as it once was.