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Shoe review: Saucony Kinvara 2. My calf muscles hate me now, but they’ll learn to love me again.

Posted Oct 04 2011 5:00am

I’ve seen a lot of people running barefoot or in the Vibram FiveFingers and while that kind of minimalist running never appealed to me, I’ve always felt less is better when it comes to running shoes.

So a few weeks ago, I bought a pair of Saucony Kinvara 2. This is a lightweight trainer. And when I say lightweight, I mean 7.3 ounces, which is some three to four ounces lighter than most running shoes. Yet the biggest difference between the Kinvara and other shoes I’ve run in like say, the Adidas Boston, Brooks Launch, or Asics Sky Speed is a term called heel-to-toe drop.

The heel to toe drop is the difference in the height of the heel of a shoe and the forefoot of a shoe. In most shoes, the heel-to-toe drop is about 10 to 12 millimeters. That means that when you your foot is in a shoe, your heel sits 10 to 12 millimeters higher off the ground than your forefoot. This difference encourages heel striking.

Saucony Kinvara 2

The Saucony Kinvara 2 has a heel-to-toe difference of 4 millimeters. (If you want to know the heel-to-toe difference and weight of your favorite running shoe, has the specs on most of the major brands . This low heel-to-toe difference encourages mid- and forefoot striking.

You may think the difference of 6 to 8 millimeters is not much.

But trust me, wear a pair of the Kinvaras and ask your calves if there is a big difference. (See illustration below to see what the difference in 8 millimeters is.)

This is the actual size of a ruler. As you can see, there is a marked difference between 4 millimeters (which is the heel-to-toe drop of the Kinvaras) and 12 millimeters (which is the heel-to-toe drop of the Adidas Bostons).

I’ve run in my new Kinvaras eight times for a total of 86.5 miles. My paces have ranged from easy (8:50 min/mile) to moderate (8:00 min/mile) to MGP pace (7:30 min/mile). I’ve run hills and flats, and in distances ranging from 7 miles to 20 miles.

And the verdict is this: This is very solid, lightweight trainer with a little more cushion/springyness than you’d expect from such a shoe. And that’s a good thing.

But let me warn you first: If you are not used to wearing a minimalist type of shoe, ease into it first, because the shoe will put an extreme amount of stress on your calf and lower leg muscles. Mine hate me right now and it probably was not a good idea to completely go away from my Adidas Sky Speed cold turkey.

But that’s what I did.

My first run in the Kinvara’s was a Sept. 17 10-miler on a hilly Austin course where the last four miles were northbound on Lamar up to 35th Street. One week later, I ran 20 miles in the shoe.

I’ll be honest. After putting about 50 miles on the shoe the first week I had them, I’ve had some kind of pain in my calves/lower leg muscles. But the pain/soreness usually goes away after the first couple of miles during a run and the post-run soreness is subsiding.

Again, I was stupid. I ran in the shoes every day the first week I had them. Now, I’m alternating between the Kinvaras, the Adidas Bostons, and the Brooks Launch, and my feet and legs are thanking me.

I've highlighted the heel-to-toe drop for the Kinvara. 21mm at the heel and 17 at the forefoot equals a drop of 4mm.

Still, I believe as soon as my calves get use to this shoe, it will become my favorite shoe to run in. Like I said earlier, the soreness in my calves usually goes away after the first few miles of a run, and when it does, I feel fast and springy. During the 20-miler, my feet felt great and my legs thanked me for the lighterweight shoe as the miles piled up.

Again, if you buy this shoe, I suggest you ease into it at first. Make sure you stretch and ice and roll out your calves a lot (I didn’t and I am paying for it). Despite my experience (which is totally due to my own stubborn-headedness), I think a low heel-to-toe drop shoe such as may be the route to go.

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