Oh. God.

Kinvara5_lateral-570x325Yesterday I caught Pete’s post about the sneak peek of the new Kinvara 5.  After I caught my breath and changed my underwear, I read a few more sentences and was reminded why I’ve loved this shoe so much.  After all, the Kinvara were the shoes that I was wearing that reinforced the idea that if the shoe disappears on your foot then it is likely the right shoe for you.

So I pulled out of the closet my favorite Kinvara of all time—the K3, with the navy and yellow, now almost entirely unrunnable—and put them on for the walk up to the new ramen joint for breakfast tacos.  On the walk I realized that it had been a while since I’d thought of the Kinvara (my last pair of the K4 expired long ago) and that the excitement of the new K5 was such that I probably needed to untuck my shirt if I was going to be walking facing traffic.

I’d missed them that much.  It was kinda like after college when you and your girlfriend broke up after she threw some of your Transformers on the ground and so you didn’t see each other for, like, a two weeks and then you ran into her at some happy hour and you both realized how much you missed each other and shit got crazy in the women’s bathroom and someone chipped a tooth.

What I like about the Kinvara, and ultimately what makes a shoe really desirable is the simplicity of it all.  Really, all of the shoes that turn me on tend to be on the simpler side of the design spectrum.  Mostly foam and fabric and that that’s pretty much it.  Think about the running shoes that make you feel funny in the pants:  the Kinvara, the New Balance 14001, the ASICS Tarther, the original adidas Adios, of course the Launch, which gets mononymous labeling because of the military grade badassness.  All of these are liberated from the shackles of technologies that serve only to allow grand marketing to the masses.  (Hm.  Half of these are extinct.  Hhhmmmmm.)  And then there are those models that have some techy stuff—nothing that isn’t entirely functional—but are beauties of design nonetheless:  Newton Distance2 and Energy, the Skechers GoSpeed, the Adios Dos, the INOV-8 233’s and these ON Cloudracers3, which are so subtly arousing that I’m almost embarrassed to mention them publicly on the internet.

Running used to be simple.  Now it’s a business that’s pretty much next to yachting, except if you played polo with yachts.  Other than the couple of years when the whole “minimalism”4 thing was full on, running shoe companies are pretty much in the business of out-teching each other.  And so I find a greater appreciation in a pair of shoes that are functional, simple, timeless.  The ride has to be smooth!  That’s the most important thing.  The fit has to be right on!  That’s the most important thing.  Wait.  Also.  More importanter.  Like a really good pair of jeans, and not the ones with the prefabricated holes and skidmarks and rhinestones and shit.  Like when jeans were jeans and not kindasorta dress pants.

Here is pretty much what you should be thinking when looking for your running shoes.  You should be thinking like this guy:

“I think finding the right fit is important. You really want to be comfortable in your shoes. It’s about how it feels…Everything to me is the fit, the feel of the shoe. Do you feel biomechanically like you’re moving barefoot? That’s what you want…For 30 years I’ve thought they’ve had too many gimmicks on the running shoes. Various companies copying each other and trying to outdo each other and adding roll bars and computers on the shoes. It was unnecessary and made things more complicated than it should be.”

So even though the K5 look a little more, I don’t know, complicated in the upper, I bet I’ll publicly molest at least one pair.  The hope is that the fit issues of the K4 will go away.  I like that the durability thing has been addressed, both in the upper and in the midsole/outsole.  I thought then, and still think now, that the Kinvara platform should be the Saucony platform, that all their shoes should be built around the Kinvara.  It’s that important.  The Ride and Guide are really good, a little archaic still.  But getting there.  And the Type A should be called the Kinvara Racer.

Simplify your shit.  These technologies will not stand, man.


1Or the 1600.  Either way.  I’d write a fucking haiku about that shit.

2Now with 5 lugs!

3Don’t tell anyone, ok? No, I’m not really embarrassed!  I just think we should wait to tell everyone.

4What does that mean, anyway?  Philip Glass makes running shoes?


13 responses to “Oh. God.

  1. I have been toying with the idea to go for Kinvara’s for “Road & Trail running” BUT am also impressed by the cushioning in the zero drop Altra Torin to help cushion the forefoot when logging serious milage as a “fore foot runner” ! What are your thoughts on best shoe for me in the Saucony range that is close to Zero Drop BUT with good fore foot cushioning ?

    • Thank you for asking. I’m inclined to say that the Kinvara, if it fits your foot, is the way to go, but I understand that the durability of the forefoot cushioning is something that many people consider. I’ve worn the Cortana a bit, so that might be worth a shot. Think of it like a luxury Kinvara. It is maha soft, so if that is something that works for you then you might be good to go.
      Please let me know how things work out.

  2. While I don’t agree with your boner-inducing feelings for the Kinvara, I love your description of a failed relationship complete with Transformers in the dirt. Kudos for a Phillip Glass reference as well.

    • Thanks, Robert. As much as I like the general feel of the Kinvara, I like the idea of it. Really simple, really basic.

      Can you imagine if Glass had scored the music for a Transformers movie? Everyone wins!

  3. Great thoughts on the K5 and awesome post, as usual John! BTW, I am a HUGE fan of the Launch also, and just saw a interview with Brooks on youtube where they are talking about a V2 coming out in 2015. All I know is that they better not jack up my fave shoe of all time with too much of that tech crap!!

    • I’ve been talking to a Brooks guy about Launch v2. Brooks generally does well not to make too many changes on what works.

      With simple updates in foams and meshes, immediately the weight is down an oz. and a half. A BioMoGo/DNA compound would allow them to drop the heel a couple of mm without offending anyone–making for an even smoother ride.

      My hope is that they keep it simple enough to retain all the good things it has now. I don’t remember the exact quote, or who said it, but I believe that simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Or something like that, anyway. Not that I know a thing about sophistication.

      • You got the inside hookup on the V2 design from Brooks? That’s stinking awesome! What you describe in lowering the weight and dropping a few mills of the heel sounds like the PERFECT shoe for me. Ohhhhh man, I’m even more excited now than when I —— I don’t know!!

      • Well, I haven’t seen anything yet, so I don’t know. And since they’re 18 months out from the shoe wall, I think they’re still playing around with ideas.

        But a drop in weight is almost assured. It isn’t superlightweight anyway. But Brooks is good at playing conservative on design changes. It is easily, in my opinion, the best shoe they have out right now–it works for so many people across the spectrum. But it is a difficult one to market, so there’s that also.

  4. OK, OK, the Kinvara 5 looks pretty boss. Hey, while we’re talking about running, I have a personal question for you, John. When you’re testing these shoes, what kind of mileage do you put in them? And what kind of weekly mileage are you doing? While I tend to do well myself in lighter weight shoes, I’m surrounded by legions of masters runners (old dudes) that while you can race in a lightweight shoe, you need a big cushy mamma-jamma for big miles.

    • Thanks, Mitch.

      You’re absolutely right, there are a lot of people who need bigger shoes.

      But I still believe that you’re best off if you can go with the least amount of shoe you’re comfortable in. Like Bill Rodgers said, you want them to feel “…biomechanically like you’re moving barefoot…” For some, that might be an 890, or a Glycerin, or a HOKA even.

      I run in several different models, which I think is helpful to keeping my legs fresh. Right now I run an hour, give or take, 6 days a week. Two days a week I do something faster, either continuous or intermittent.

      The shoes I write about are, for the most part, in my rotation. Some fall out of favor faster than others. For example, the first month I ran in the Sayonara, I loved them. Then, something in my foot just wasn’t right when I wore them, so I shelved them. The Launch is another shoe I’ve written about and that is always in rotation. One of my favorites, the NB 1600, gets pulled out maybe once every two weeks–maybe for the track, or a grass workout–but it is still always at the top of my list.

      Thanks so much.

      • Thanks for the reply, John! Personally, I totally agree with you that the best shoe is often the least shoe you can handle. But like every obsessive runner type, there are times when I find myself nursing more than the usual aches and pains and I think “Maybe I need a heavier trainer…”. Usually, these are the times I do really clever things like increase my weekly mileage by 25% two weeks after a mountain 50K. But it can’t be related to training right? It’s gotta be the shoes….

        It’s nice to hear someone else with the same opinion as me, because sometimes it gets tiring defending my choices to some of running partners who are sporting the latest incarnation of the GT-XXXX, and yes, even Hokas.

        Keep up the great work, really enjoy the blog.

      • Thanks!

        I do want to clarify that if someone wears a 2000 series, or the like, and it disappears underfoot, then likely that’s the shoe for them.

        My dislike of heavier shoes is not so much because they are just heavier, but most often because they have a bunch of unnecessary crap on them that provides no real benefit to the user. It’s a design thing.

        And I think you’re right: We tend to look first to our shoes if there is a problem, neglecting to take into account that in all likelihood, whatever ails us is probably our own doing. I think if we make our bodies strong enough, we’ll recognize that the shoes have much less importance than we give them.

        Thank you for reading.

  5. I returned to running three months ago with the Saucony Guide 7 after a four year break. I just ordered the Kinvara 5 after reading your blog and Peter Larson’s posts, and testing the 4s in a store.

    After suffering on two pairs of the Brooks Beast for years (my fault for not listening to the guy at the store who advised going for less support) and then the Adrenalines GTS13 six months ago but not being able to run a mile in them without major knee pain (I listened to the guy at the store this time). The Saucony Guide 7 felt closest to “right” and got me back into running. Lately though the heel has been feeling just a little too firm, a little too tall and just kinda getting in the way of my stride as I’ve gotten stronger (and a little faster).

    My goals are modest: run 3-5 miles, 2-3x a week at a pace of 10 minutes/mile. My feet are completely flat (have been so all my life) with some over-pronation from what I’ve been able to figure out. I strike mid-foot mostly … I think. I weigh 147 lbs. There’s so much conflicting advice about shoes for flat feet. It has taken a while to sift through the info, not waste too dough much on trial and error and understanding what might work best for my feet and legs.

    I can’t wait too see if the Kinvara 5 works the way I hope. The freedom of being able to run again has me pumped.

    Love the content and tone of the blog. Thanks for it.

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