Brooks Launch 5

Brooks Launch 5: Kinvara Vibes?

Brooks Launch 5
TL; DR: The Launch 5 features the outsole and midsole of the Launch 4 topped off with a new, one-piece upper. Less than the sum of its parts, the Launch 5 has a sloppy, slipper-like fit — reminiscent of the Saucony Kinvara 5.

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!

Brooks Launch: We Have Liftoff

20131216-224823.jpgI really need to get a shoe caddy to hang over my door. As it is now, I’ve got a huge pile of colorful running shoes in the corner of my room (“There, that’s clean! It’s clean now!”).

Running nutrition arguably makes a bigger difference in my running performance, but no other running gear item excites me quite like running shoes do — each model is a design and engineering marvel. There’s only so much apparel companies can do with tights and shirts, but there are limitless possibilities when it comes to shoe innovation.

When I see that pile of running shoes, I get motivated to run. Running, even in the bitter cold, feels like a ‘get to’ rather than a ‘have to’ — I get to wake up at 4:00 am and play outside while everyone else is sleeping!

The Brooks Launch, the shoe so beloved by runners that they convinced Brooks to un-discontinue it, has been sitting in my pile for about a week. The just-short-of-rioting-in-the-streets furor surrounding the planned demise of the Launch piqued my interest. There’s inevitably grumbling when a company updates models in its line, but this was beyond grumbling, and it was loud enough, and passionate enough, that the company capitulated. I wanted to see what all of the fuss was about.

There are other shoes in my pile that I need to run in, so I can write informed reviews of them sometime this…decade. (I’m getting close with the New Balance 870v3 and I’m thinking about doing a video review. Chew on that crumb of teaser!) But the Launch has been calling to me, insofar as a shoe can call to a not-insane person. With a bright teal and salmon colorway straight out of Miami, the Launch not only has the mystique of a shoe brought back from the dead, it looks like fun.

So I gave in: against my better judgment, I took my brand spanking new Launches out for a ten-mile run without even walking around in them first.

The running gods didn’t strike me dead. Even better: I get it now; I get why people lost their freaking minds when this shoe was pulled. The Brooks Launch is an awesome shoe. One run, and a mere ten miles in, I’m calling it. Awesome.

Some thoughts:

-Firm ride with good road feel, but enough material underfoot to protect my feet and joints during the punishing downhills on my running route.

-Lightweight upper with few overlays — the lightness of the Launch was most noticeable, and appreciated, during the turnover part of my stride.

-Cushy heel cup — I’m a sucker for a plush heel cup. This isn’t the most cushioned heel cup I’ve encountered in a shoe, but it manages to be plenty soft, supportive, and cozy without being huge or overstuffed.

We’ll see if/how my feelings evolve as I get to know this shoe, but as with all launch countdowns, the Brooks Launch started with a ten.