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Saucony Kinvara 12 Review: A Solid Speedster, But Outclassed By The Competition

The Kinvara 12 is a good shoe, but unless you want a more traditional feel on the run there are better options

Saucony Running Shoes
(Image: © Unknown)

For

  • Lightweight and fast
  • Responsive and stable ride

Against

  • Can be too firm for some
  • Not as fast or springy as rival shoes

In This Series

When updating popular, long-running shoe lines, many brands err on the side of caution and make small changes that verge on the imperceptible. That has not been the case with the last few generations of Saucony Kinvaras, which have seen the shoe shift to a cushioned daily training option. But this 12th edition reverts to type, delivering a low-drop, lightweight and speedy trainer that you can also race in. It fits true to size and looks sharp, too.

Compared with the 11, the Kinvara 12 is a firmer shoe that loses some bounce, delivering a ride that lets you feel the ground beneath your feet. The firmer feel is more in line with the earlier Kinvaras I tested (my first was the Kinvara 8), and the reversion to that ride will please many people who weren’t such fans of the softer Kinvara 11.

It does give the Kinvara 12 more of a kick when running fast, and the most enjoyable runs I’ve done in the shoe have been sessions doing short reps, either 400m or 60 seconds long. It’s without doubt a speedy shoe, and although the ride is firm, it doesn’t beat up your legs as much as a traditional racing flat with minimal cushioning.

Saucony Running Shoes

(Image credit: Unknown)

However, it’s still harder on the legs than a lot of other shoes. I did not enjoy using the Kinvara 12 for easy runs or longer tempo efforts. I’ve been spoiled by the new generation of shoes that combine the ability to handle a higher pace with a softer, bouncier ride: shoes like the Saucony Endorphin Speed or the Hoka Rocket X, both trainers you can race in that have plates (nylon in the Speed, carbon in the Rocket X) and softer, springier foam in the midsole.

There are also shoes without plates that are light and fast but have a more enjoyable ride than the Kinvara 12, like the Hoka Mach 4. The more comfortable ride of the Mach makes it versatile enough to do all your training in, and it matches the Kinvara 12 in the pace stakes.

Unless you have a real craving for the traditional feel and firm ride of the Kinvara it’s not a shoe I’d recommend. At £120 it’s a fair bit cheaper than the £155 Endorphin Speed, but the Hoka Mach 4 is around the same price.

Even if you do enjoy a firmer ride, the Brooks Hyperion Tempo is a better shoe than the Kinvara 12. It’s more suited to easy training runs while still bringing the heat in speed sessions.

The Kinvara 12 is not a bad shoe by any means, but it doesn’t stand out against better options available from other brands and Saucony itself.

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Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.