Saucony Wars: Kinvara v. Zealot

Saucony wars

I’m a girl who likes to talk shoes. Saucony, Nike, Asics, Hoka, Brooks, Mizuno, Adidas, New Balance, Newton… if it runs, I want to know all about it. Don’t get me wrong, Manolo Blahniks and Jimmy Choos are beautiful in my eyes too but they occupy a very small corner of my world that does not get visited very often.

I’m a runner. When I’m not out running, I’m recovering from a run. This means comfort, cushioning and support and howsoever I can manipulate my daywear/ work shoes to incorporate these elements. I don’t see the point in going to the trouble of doing a really good run or training session, only to then punish my feet and my legs even further by balancing for the rest of the days on heels. On a purely practical level, it delays recovery and makes my leg muscles work even harder. I like a bit of fashion and admittedly am a sucker for a gorgeous pair of Jimmy’s but if you’re serious about recovery and training, then sacrifices need to be made. S’all about the compromise.

Saucony takeover up in here. I'm a wee bit biased ;)
Saucony takeover up in here. I’m a wee bit biased šŸ˜‰

I mentioned a short time agoĀ that I’ve become something of a Saucony nut. I’ve been running in Saucony Kinvara’s for the last few years and these guys have occupied the master shoe position in my running kit without exception since in or about 2012. I started off in the Kinvara 3s and then moved on to the 4s, 5s and more recently, the 6s. I’ve loved them all, to varying degrees and for different reasons. I’ve completed 4 out of 5 marathons in this shoe and have never had any issues with them.

Enter the gamechanger: I wanted to experiment. I’m not bored with the Kinvara but for a while now, I’ve been wondering whether I’m missing out by sticking with the same shoe so I’ve got to living dangerously and bought myself a pair of Saucony Zealots. A bit of nifty internetting and a short time later, I was in a possession of a brand new pair of Saucony Zealots and Saucony Kinvara 6s. (Don’t judge me… I needed a new pair of runners anyway as their predecessors were fast fading and I wanted to break in a new pair before the Dublin marathon)

Side note: I do not work for Saucony nor did they gift me any shoes nor are they paying me for this little review. I bought the shoes myself and did this purely out of interest and personal experimentation! My views are brilliant my own.

Saucony Kinvara 6: contender for marathon shoe?
Saucony Kinvara 6: contender for marathon shoe?

Saucony Kinvara 6:Ā Definitely different to the Kinvara 5 and the Kinvara 4. The 4s were a narrower, less cushioned and more minimalist shoe which was very light on the foot. I liked the 4s because I felt like Peter Pan running in them. Very light and neat. The 5s were wider, a LOT more cushioned, though they still retained a very light weight and they also introduced a midfoot lock system, which aimed to lock your midfoot in place via an additional panel of material in the lacing system. The Kinvara 6 is narrower than the 5 was, is generally a closer fit and has retained the midfootĀ Pro-LockĀ system. There are no major changes to the shoe but that’s fine with me.

More cushioning than no.5 but minimal structure.
More cushioning than no.5 but minimal structure.

Why I like em:Ā I love this shoe because it feels very light on your foot and I can’t stand heavy, clunky shoes. There is a bit of cushioning, particularly around the heel, which means that although it is a minimalist shoe, it’s not so extreme as theĀ New Balance MinimusĀ orĀ VibramsĀ which make you feel like there’s just a bit of material between you and the ground. Likewise, the 4mm heel to toe drop gives a bit more lift and bounce to the shoe than the MinimusĀ would. I am happy to use these shoes for speedwork, general aerobic runs, races and even recovery runs. I’ve done my last 4 marathons in them and at the end of each of these races, I’d no regrets in having done so. Bottom line: I’m comfortable in them (and they seem to like me back šŸ˜‰ ), enjoy running in them and have incurred no major injuries (touch wood) to date because of them.

Snazzy design on the Zealot. Love the colours.
Snazzy design on the Zealot. Love the colours.

Saucony Zealot:Ā Firstly, these shoes look awesome. Reason enough to get a pair, right? Very snazzy design from the fashion gurus in Saucony so full marks on that front. I chose this shoe because I was looking for a runner similar to the Kinvara but that had more cushioning without bringing in a whole load more clunk and weight. As I mentioned, I don’t do clunk or weight. If I bought a pair of runners that were too heavy or bulky to run in, I’d simply avoid wearing them and they’d end up as a “spare pair” that never got used. Ā The Zealot seemed to fit the bill.

More structure wrapping the heel than the Kinvara, with more grip underfoot too.
More structure wrapping the heel than the Kinvara, with more grip underfoot too.

What I like about the Zealot?Ā The Zealot brings “maximum cushioning” (Saucony’s own words), bears the same 4mm heel to toe drop as the Kinvara and weighs in at 210g, making it only ever so slightly heavier than the 184g Kinvara. Although I went into this new shoe full of lots of positivity, I was doubtful that I would take the new model, having become such a loyal wearer of the Kinvara. And God knows, I am such a creature of habit! BUT… drumroll please…. I love these shoes. The Kinvara now has competition!

How the Kinvara and Zealot compare:Ā The Zealot is a very comfortable shoe and just like it says on the packet, what I feel on my feet is a lot more plush comfort but without any extra clunk around the sole of the shoe or noticeable weight, as compared with the Kinvara. Where you really notice the additional padding is in the heel, the tongue and along the midfoot area. As someone with wide feet, there is plenty of room in the shoe, more so than in the Kinvara. However, there’s not so much room that your foot’s swimming around in there – theĀ Pro-LockĀ system ensures that your foot is hugged into place and all is secure. It’s also much grippier underfoot – not a technical term obviously but as your foot makes contact with the ground, you can feel it grip the road more than in the Kinvara.

I presumed that the Zealot would become my easy /recovery run shoe as I presumed with the extra weight and cushioning etc., I’d naturally run a bit slower in them. However, when I took them out for their first semi-long spin last week on a 12 miler, I finished up in 1.46.45, as compared with my usual time of 1.51- 1.53. I’ve since worn the Zealots for shorter runs and a very long run and find that I’m happy with them, whatever the circumstances. Having said that, I think I’d still opt for the Kinvara for shorter races, such as a 5km, as I think they still feel a bit snappier underfoot.

Marathon Shoe?Ā I’d be happy to wear either the Zealot or the Kinvara for the upcoming Dublin Marathon. I ran a 22 miler at the weekend in the Zealot and found them fine but as I’ve ran the last few marathons in the Kinvara, I’m probably more inclined to revert to what I know I can rely on. I plan on running my last long run (16 miles) this weekend in the Kinvara and will make my decision then.

It’s been fun trying out new shoes and it’s great to have an alternative model to switch to when I need to or when I just feel like it. If the funds allow for it, I hope to do this more in the not so distant future!

Have you tried a new pair of running shoes lately? Thinking of changing it up? Anybody else like Saucony to run in?


5 thoughts on “Saucony Wars: Kinvara v. Zealot

  1. I’m so happy to have found your review of these two shoes =) indeed, i’m planning to buy new shoes with small drop as i’m on a transition onto “natural” running (hope you’ll understantd ^^), and i was wondering wich one of these saucony would be the best for me. I’ve read plenty times that the kinvara were meant to be used on speed races, not more thant 10km so i thought marathon would be just impossible with these one, but you did it ! I’m not exactly sure wich ones i’ll take for the moment, but thanks again for this review šŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve ran 5 marathons in the Kinvaras- the 3s, 4, 5s and 6s and honestly I had no complaints. I love the way they feel on my feet and personally, I find that there’s enough cushion in them to last over long distances like that. It might take you a while to build up the distance in them but they are definitely a solid shoe. Good luck with your hunt!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I know it’s long past when you posted this, but I wanted to add my experiences. I tended to do exactly what you state, use the Kinvaras for my faster, shorter runs, and a pair of Brooks Ravennas (much heavier, much more cushioned) for my longer runs. However, when I ran Big Sur last year, I tried my 22 before the race with the Kinvaras and decided that, not only did I come out without the pains I expected from the long distances in light shoes, I actually felt like I came out better than I had on my previous runs in the heavier shoes. I ran Big Sur in the Kinvaras, and loved it. My Ravennas have now just become my backup walking shoes.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Rob, thanks for your comment and great to get your feedback and hear about other people’s experience with these. Delighted to hear that the Kinvaras have worked out so well for you over the longer distance and it’s quite a change from running in the Ravennas. You must feel like you’re running on air by comparison! Personally, I love a lighter shoe and the Kinvara are a good balance of that lightness but with enough cushioning for longer distances.


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