One of the things I found out while researching the differences between heel strikers and runners who land on the fore or mid-foot, was that different styles of running shoes can offer very different experiences during the run. The vast majority of shoes have a very highly cushioned heel to accommodate the more common heel strike; whereas for the true minimalist or barefoot running shoes, there is little or no padding at all. The effect of this padding in regular shoes not only means that the foot is protected from ground impacts, but the heel is also held higher than the front of the foot. What I was looking for – as a midfoot striker – was a cushioned shoe with a lower heel. Saucony Kinvara 2 was the choice I ended up making.
Running Shoe Styles and the Heel Toe Drop
If you are a forefoot or midfoot striker and have already made the switch to a true minimalist shoes, for example the Vibram Fivefingers or Vivobarefoot, then you are running in shoes where the heel and toes are striking the ground at the same height. In other words, there is a zero heel-to-toe drop. This is one of the reasons that the calf muscles get such a good workout when wearing this style of shoe. Of course, the running style itself can also be fairly taxing on the calf and achilles, which is why special care needs to be taken when transitioning from a heel strike to a forefoot or midfoot strike.
On the other hand, if you wear regular running shoes, the heel toe drop could be a high as 14 millimeters. It doesn’t sound a lot, but if you switch from these shoes to a racing flat or minimal shoe, you could be putting extra strain on your leg muscles and tendons.
Saucony ProGrid Kinvara 2 Review
I was looking for some running shoes with a lower heel toe drop than the 12 millimeters on my Saucony Ride 2, because a lower drop is best for enabling midfoot strike during running. The model I ended up buying was the Saucony Kinvara 2. Apparently, other reviewers liked the original Kinvaras but were slightly disappointed with the lifespan of the soles. So for me, it was a bit of a punt getting a pair of the second issue Kinvaras. However, I am now a good three months into them, and the treads look great still, so maybe the rubber compound for the Kinvara 2 shoes is a little more robust than for its predecessor.
Out of the box, I was actually astonished by just how lightweight these shoes were. They weigh in at 7.7 ounces and you can imagine the cumulative benefits you’ll get if you run any kind of distance in these compared to other heavier shoes (my Ride 2’s weigh 1.6 pounds!) They slide on easily and feel a bit like wearing just socks; they really are that light. But unlike socks, they have quite substantial forefoot and heel cushioning. This was quite surprising when I first wore them, because I thought the lightness would mean quite a lot of breaking in before I’d be able to run pain-free. In fact, they felt great, straight out of the box.
The only minor problem I have had with these is not really a problem with the shoe itself. As I was in rehabilitation mode after a calf injury, I found that the lower heel height could cause some slight stiffness in my lower calf, especially if I tried to do too much running too soon. This almost stopped me from running a scheduled race, as my calf tightened up and need physio to loosen it up again (I ended up running that race in my Ride 2’s to take the pressure off my soleus and achilles).
If, like me, you are a huge fan of Saucony running shoes, then you will be pleased to know that the sizes are pretty standard. I’m a size 9.5US, and this size has always fitted me, whichever Saucony model I have chosen. So if you already wear this brand, you should be fine with the same size if you need to order your Kinvara 2 online, like I had to.
I’d definitely recommend these shoes, especially if you are going through the gradual transition from being a heel striker to a mid- or forefoot striker. Or if you just want some seriously lightweight shoes for racing, but which also have some nice protective cushioning. My plan at the moment is to stick with the Kinvaras for races because I love them, but alternate with other shoes for training. My Ride 2 shoes are soon coming up for retirement, and the word from Saucony is that this year’s Ride 5 will feature a smaller heel toe drop of just 8 millimeters rather than the previous drop of 12 millimeters. This will make them the ideal pair of training shoes for when my calves are feeling a little too tight for the Kinvaras. I hope you’ll love the Saucony Progrid Kinvara 2 shoes as much as I do; for me, I reckon I’ll always have a pair of these in my rotation from now on.