Spartan Race

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Quack's take on the Newton Gravitas vs. the Saucony Kinvara

About 6 months ago, I made the decision to switch from my old, lumbering, heel-strike to a more forefoot/midfoot style of running. In the process of doing that, I not only switched my gait, but switched my shoes as well. I started off with Newton Gravitas and recently also acquired a pair of Saucony Kinvara. What follows, in no particular order, is my brief, non-scientific comparison of the two based on a good number of runs and a lot of races in the Newtons and somewhat fewer in the Saucony.

Upper: One thing I have to say about both of these shoes is it takes a fair amount of what would have been referred to in the 1930s as moxie to wear either one of them. My Newtons are a bright red-orange (the new ones are a bright aqua). Mrs. RQ laughed at me the first half dozen times I put on the Newtons. That said, I now find the usual drab-white-and-some-other-random-color running shoes pedestrian (no pun intended), and as a result elected to go with bright red soled Kinvara. The Newtons have a very open mesh upper - in fact, if you look just right, you can see our friend Sir Isaac (who is printed on the insole) staring back at you. They feel like you are putting on a slipper and let all sorts of breezes blow through while your running - or slush and grime if you happen to run in such things. Personally, I think it is worth the trade off.

The Kinavara are a little different, and to describe the structure, I'll have to progress from the inside out. The inner most layer is about the same diameter mesh as the Gravitas, it, in turn, is surrounded by some sort of stability webbing. This webbing is then covered, for some reason, with a sort of light weight, open-weave cloth that feels like it's almost made out of really thin monofilament line. The shoe comes off light, but a bit more closed in. It will still breath, but it offers more protection. Both the Gravitas and the Kinvara fit well and are quite comfortable. My feet tend to run hot, so I prefer the Gravitas mesh to the more closed weave Kinvara. I've honestly been tempted to cut the monofilament mesh off of the Kinvara, but more because it seems extraneous than because it is something I really notice. Edge: Gravitas, but not by much.
Sole: This is where the shoes diverge quite a bit. The Gravitas have a full rubber outersole and incorporate Newton's famous lugs in the forefoot. In theory, these lugs return energy as you run (Newton calls this Action/Reaction Technology). In practice, they probably do, but what they also do is provide great feedback on how you are running. When you are correctly running in a midfoot manner, there's a certain feel to every step. It was invaluable to me when I first started midfoot running, and it still tells me when my gait is off. There's a learning curve associated with it, but not a huge one. I've read reviews in which folks have complained about the lugs hurting their feet. I've never experienced this - my suspicion is that either these folks are not engaging in a good midfoot/forefoot strike or are too light to fully deform the lungs. I run about 190lbs, so I haven't had an issue with the latter. The shoes seem to wear well. I've got several hundred miles on mine, and they're still in great working order. The heel is a bit of an after thought on the Gravitas, but it doesn't really matter - it won't bear the brunt of the impact. I've also read that it's been beefed up a bit recently. The Saucony, on the other hand, doesn't really claim to be a midfoot/forefoot shoe. It claims more to be a minimalist shoe - which I think most people interpret to mean something like barefoot running and therefore midfoot/forefoot running. It still has a bit thicker heel than forefoot - that said it's only a few millimeters. It really feels like a flat shoe. That said, it incorporates Saucony's Progrid into the heel - which is odd unless the company intends for people to heel strike in it. I have no trouble with a midfoot strike in it, though. The Kinvara saves weight by only placing carbon rubber in strategic places on the sole. The first run I did caused some wear in the EVA portion of the sole, but a good number of subsequent runs hasn't seemed to put more on the shoe. It provides good cushioning on asphalt and concrete. I like it, but I like the Newton better. Edge: Gravitas

Weight: Technically, the Newtons weigh 9.4 oz. The Kinvara weigh 7.7 oz. I really can't tell a difference on my feet. Edge: Kinvara (but if you can tell a difference in less than 2 oz with your feet, I'm sure that pea under your mattress was awful)

Off Road Running: The Newton's lugs don't really lend themselves to running on dirt or sand. I find myself sliding all around. That said, Newton's supposed to have a trail shoe out this fall. The Kinvara have neither the traction nor the cushioning to be successful off road. Even running briefly on the side of the road last weekend I could feel every stick and rock. Which has led to me to this conclusion- for trail stuff use another shoe. Edge: New Balance N100
Random Stuff: This is going to sound a bit odd, and it isn't a big deal, but I don't always take my shoes off immediately after a race. I've also gotten into the habit of making my old, used up, running shoes my casual shoes I use for walking around, lifting weights, ultimately mowing the lawn, etc. The Gravitas is, without question, a single use shoe. You run in them, period. They feel odd walking around after a race (my perception is that I'm leaning backward, not really sure if I am, or if this even makes sense), and I'd never consider a day in Disney in them. For lack of a better way of putting it, the Kinvara can have a life after you can't run in them anymore. If this is important to you... Edge: Kinvara

Cost: No comparison here. Kinvara $90. Gravitas $175 Edge: Kinvara
Bottom line: I like both shoes a lot. That said, I prefer the Gravitas. I think both shoes are comfortable. Both are conducive to midfoot/forefoot running. Both are well made. The Gravitas run better. That said, they're quite expensive, and for training runs, I'm not sure they run $85 dollars better. For now, I'm going to continue to use both. I put the Kinvara through the paces and they're great shoes. I'm very comfortable using them for long runs and speed work - and pruning my hedges when their no good for running anymore. But I'll be racing mostly in Newtons - be they red, teal, chartreuse, purple or fuchsia. Mu.

1 comment:

  1. Glad to see you like the Gravitas more. And you might be surprised how you get used to walking in them if you do it enough—don't count them out for Disney :-)

    Keep us updated on your progress in the Newtons!

    Run Strong,
    Sir Isaac