Disclosure: I bought these shoes myself and my opinions are entirely my own.
Further Disclosure: I have a lot to say about the Launch 5. Click here to jump to the overall, skippers.
I have been a big fan of the Launch since v1. It’s been a classic, do-everything shoe for me. Want to pop off 10 miles at half marathon pace? Lace up the Launch. Want to slog out a long run? Reach for the Launch. Want to do a five mile threshold run? You guessed it, choose the Launch, again.
Part of what made the Brooks Launch a classic line was its old school styling, high heel-to-toe offset, and midsole/outsole tooling that hardly changed from year to year. For v1-v4, that has meant that Launch lovers could rely on the model to deliver a lively ride, excellent ground feel, and a dad shoe-approved overlay-heavy upper. The Launch came up short on style points when measured against the likes of Nike, but it competed quite capably where it counts: on the road.
With a record that strong, why mess with a good thing? The Launch was updated for v5 with a sleek, overlay-free upper atop what seems like the exact same midsole and outsole used in v4. While the looks were improved, the shoe’s performance was not. It might be time to send this workhorse to the glue factory!
The modern, one-piece upper sacrifices stability and lockdown for good looks. Even though the Launch 5 is far from a “natural” or “reduced” running shoe, I can’t help but be reminded of the Saucony Kinvara 5 from a few years back. The Kinvara 5 was slipper-like in the worst way: sloppy all over, no amount of lace tension would dial in a precise fit. Running in the Kinvara 5 felt like fighting the shoe at every step. If I wanted to go left, the shoe wanted to go right, or at least anywhere else BUT left because it was far too loose to be nimble.
Likewise, the slipper-like Launch 5 can’t benefit from its responsive BioMoGo DNA midsole, or its grippy blown rubber outsole. The imprecise fit makes the shoe feel sluggish where it should feel springy. The more locked-down (thanks, dad shoe overlays) fit of the previous versions made me feel in command, like I was grabbing the road with each stride and pushing it hard behind me.
I did not weigh my pair (or photograph it) before taking it for a spin, so I can’t provide an accurate weight (or any deadstock shoe glamor shots). Per Running Warehouse, the weight is 9.2 oz for a men’s size 9, 8.2 oz for a women’s size 8. The Launch 5 is not a featherweight, but it doesn’t promise to be one. For a daily trainer, I’m pretty happy and it doesn’t feel heavy. 8/10
Messy. Sloppy. Sketchy when cornering. Doesn’t inspire confidence on downhills. Just really, really not good and it’s got the bones (i.e. the outsole and midsole of the Launch 4) to be great. 3/10
In a word, imprecise. There’s more room here for long run-induced foot swelling and toe splay than I’d like — much more. If my heel and/or mid foot felt locked in and I had room to wiggle my toes, that’d be one thing. This is a running shoe that fits like a slipper. The internal heel counter keeps my heel in place, I guess. It’s not lifting out, but it doesn’t feel super secure either. 3/10
Slippers are cozy, after all. In my experience, Brooks always gets it right when it comes to comfortable interiors crafted from premium materials. The Launch 5 is no exception. Smooth lining material covers the moderately padded heel (read: not skate shoe puffy…I’m looking at you, old school Altras). No overlays certainly means less support than I’d prefer, but it also means no trouble spots for blisters. I can’t say I hate the comfort. 7/10
The Launch 5 boasts largely the same outsole (or exactly the same outsole?) as the Launch 4. Great road feel, and if I could get the fit dialed in, I’m sure I’d feel the same “grip it and rip it” grab that the Launch 4 had on the roads. Soft-ish blown rubber contributes to cushioning, but doesn’t hold up well for me. I’ll get to that in durability, but it’s a traction issue, so I’m mentioning it here. 8/10
This shoe would be so nimble if it had a more supportive upper. Its flexibility is stellar. Easily bent in hand and easily bent on-foot, it would seamlessly meld with my foot if not for the sloppy fit. I can’t fold the Launch 5 in half like some more minimalist shoes, but its flexibility lands right in my sweet spot: not at all stiff as a board, but still supportive. 10/10
I haven’t identified any trouble spots on the upper. It’s certainly thinner than the uppers of the Launch 1-4, but it doesn’t bunch up and since it’s roomy, my toes aren’t stretching it to the limit. I expect the outsole to wear down quickly, which is disappointing for a daily trainer, but not outside of the norm for Brooks models I’ve tried. 7/10
Meh. These don’t have any “athleisure” pretensions. The Launch 5 is a core running model, built to perform. That said, there are plenty of performance models that look a lot sexier. The Launch 5 looks sleeker and more modern than its predecessors, but it’s not a great looking shoe. Plus, the colorways out now are seriously uninspiring. 5/10
Thanks, Brooks, for keeping the MSRP of the Launch 5 to just $99.95. If they work for you, they’re a great value. Solid build quality and premium (not ultra-premium, but premium) materials are highlights of this budget-friendly model. 10/10
Suitability for Intended Purpose
The Launch 5 isn’t as versatile as the Launch 1-4. I would happily race anything from 10 miles to a marathon in one of the previous versions, but this model lacks the surefooted peppy bounce of its ancestors. As a training-only shoe, it’s just fine, but it’s a step down from what the Launch has been in the past. 6/10