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 Levitate: My Human Hamster Wheel Shoes

Brooks Levitate

In thinking back about my runs in the Brooks Levitate, I realized that I haven’t taken them for a spin outdoors. As my motivation to run has waned (seriously, seriously waned), I’ve opted to throw on shorts and a T-shirt and hit the treadmill rather than take the time to pile on the layers and risk saying “to heck with it” and skipping a run altogether. Spending 10-15 minutes to get my gear together because I always seem to forget something and have to go from room to room looking for it is agonizing. It makes me feel like the run is taking forever and the run hasn’t even started yet! Cold weather and slippery roads are a good excuse to stay inside, but really I’m not afraid of harsh conditions, just afraid of getting too frustrated to stick with running through the tough times to get back to my previous fitness level.

So, I have a treadmill-exclusive pair of shoes.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Weight
My men’s size 8 weighed in at a hair under 10.6 oz. This comes as no surprise. The Levitate is a premium daily trainer with all of the bells and whistles: a plushly padded heel collar, a thick, full-coverage rubber sole, and Brooks’s new polyurethane-based DNA AMP midsole. I generally prefer lightweight shoes. If I start light my feet and I’ll stay light on my feet, plus less to carry over the long haul. However, some shoes’ performance belies their weight. The OG Saucony Triumph ISO springs to mind as a built-up model that feels ready to fly — it’s one of my favorite marathon shoes since it’s forgiving when I’m fatigued and my form deteriorates. The Levitate isn’t nearly as inspiring of a heavyweight. Its weight gets in the way of any springy sensation I’m supposed to feel from the DNA AMP. This might change when I put it to the test on pavement, but on a treadmill it just feels heavy. Sacrificing some of the luxe features might have made this a livelier shoe. 5/10

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Ride
I didn’t notice the promised energy return from the DNA AMP (Brooks’s answer to Boost, incidentally also licensed from BASF), but I didn’t hate the ride. The full-coverage blown rubber outsole provides ample cushioning and allows for smooth transitions. Heavy, but they don’t run like bricks. I like the feel enough to still reach for these for treadmill days and I am looking forward to new models that will make use of the DNA AMP midsole material. 7/10

Fit
Brooks is famous (with me, at least) for having pointy toe-boxes. The Levitate is no exception, but the smooth knit upper material is accommodating and allows my toes to splay. My narrow heel stayed locked in the padded heel cup. Not a tuned racer fit, but excellent for a trainer. 8/10

Comfort
The Levitate boasts a premium price and premium materials, but only manages middle of the road comfort as far as I’m concerned. I’m expecting an “ahhhh” experience when I step into these and they’re just alright. Disappointing given the components and cost, but taken alone, not bad. 6/10

Traction
I can’t offer an informed opinion about the traction in outdoor conditions. The traction pattern looks reasonably aggressive and I had no problems on the treadmill. I can’t in good conscience take any points off in this category. 10/10

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Flexibility
There’s not much of it. I think this is a plus as it seems to keep me in check (whereas the VERY flexible Altra Escalante had me flopping all over the place if I didn’t pay close attention). Stiffness is a plus for me on the treadmill as when I’m exhausted and pushing the pace at the end of a session I occasionally misstep onto the sides of the belt if my feet have too much free rein. 7/10

Durability
Another trait Brooks is famous for (again, with me) is its luscious blown rubber. This buttery soft sole material contributes to great cushioning and grip, but it also wears about as fast as butter would (unproven theory, obviously). Even with only treadmill miles on these, I’m already seeing significant wear in the forefoot and the lateral heel of each shoe. The upper seems to be holding up beautifully. If I stick to only using the Levitate on the human hamster wheel, they could last for 300+ miles (about what I’d hope to get out of a premium trainer if I ran my shoes into the ground instead of compulsively growing my collection), but that’s hardly a reasonable use case. 6/10

Looks
The Levitate is pretty smooth looking for a Brooks shoe. With only 3D-printed overlays and precious few of those, the Levitate has risen above (ha) Brooks’s “traditional old school trainer” look. I wouldn’t recommend wearing them on a date and they don’t compete with the likes of most Nike sneakers and some of New Balance’s suaver models, they’re just fine. They look sporty and there’s no need to make excuses for that since they’re a literal running shoe! I’d be happier with a white midsole (I have to admit that I like parts of the “traditional old school trainer look”) than the shiny silver, but that’s really just a quibble. 7/10

Price
At $150 retail, the Levitate is not cheap. There are more budget-friendly models available with adequately nice materials that can beat the Levitate in many of these categories, and a number of category peers that could too. The upper, midsole, and outsole strike me as overbuilt rather than premium since they make the shoe far heavier than it needs to be. I’m not so put off that I’ll steer clear of v2, but I’m not overly impressed. I might be missing out on how this shoe shines on the road. If that’s the case, I’ll post an update. But for now, I can’t endorse the price. 4/10

Suitability for Intended Purpose
I think a lot of people would like these for daily training, and despite my words of tough love, I am a fan too. The Levitate features a comfort fit, ample sole material, and enough cushioning to absorb high mileage. 10/10

Overall
Weight: 5/10
Ride: 7/10
Fit: 8/10
Comfort: 6/10
Traction: 10/10
Flexibility: 7/10
Durability: 6/10
Looks: 7/10
Price: 4/10
Suitability for Intended Purpose: 10/10
TOTAL: 70/100

Your mileage may vary unlike my all treadmill, all the time mileage on these shoes, so take this review with a bigger grain of salt than usual. The first iteration of the Levitate is a decent workhorse, but uninspiring. I’m hoping that Brooks can drop the weight (or at least the price) when they release v2.

 

 

 

Brooks PureCadence 2 Review

Truly excellent running shoes never go out of style. Color palettes may change and trends may slide up and down the minimalist/maximalist spectrum, but the shoe that works for you will still work for you. Buying last year’s models is a great way to snag premium shoes for cheap. So what if they aren’t the latest and greatest of what’s available?
With this in mind, I offer up the Brooks PureCadence 2 for your consideration. Brooks introduced the PureCadence 3 at the start of 2014, so the PureCadence 2 is on its way out, although it may still be on the wall at your favorite specialty running store, and it’s still widely available online.
Brooks exhorts runners to try the Pure line with the tagline, “Feel more with less.” Somewhat ironically, I consider these shoes to be feature-rich despite the minimalist/reduced running shoe hype.
Features:
-Lightweight: 9.3 oz for men’s size 9
-Low drop: 4 mm drop
-Ideal Heel: undercut heel discourages heel striking
-Nav Band: elasticized band creates a personalized fit
-Stay-tied laces: lumpy lace ends reminiscent of sausages help secure knots — I always double knot my shoes in order to avoid having to stop to re-tie my shoes, so I’m not really in a position to notice any benefit from this feature, but it’s worth identifying
-Split toe: Supposedly this small split at the front of the toe box allows the big toe to flex independently from the other toes. I call bologna here. All I noticed the split toe doing was kicking up rainwater and getting my feet absolutely drenched. Check out my complaints in my mid-testing update about the PureCadence 2.
-Progressive Diagonal Rollbar: a tri-density midsole which controls mild-moderate pronation and smooths transitions. This pronation control is subtle.I can’t recall having been fit for a shoe that was perfect for my specific pronation control needs, so I don’t know what “just right” feels like, but I do know what crazy floppy and out of control feels like (I’m looking at you, Adidas Energy Boost), and this felt controlled and comfortable.
-Burrito style tongue: the tongue is only loose on one side, so it doesn’t squish down into the front shoe when you stick your foot in the shoe. I thought I would hate this, but the tongue is the right size so it doesn’t gap. In fact, it’s so gapless, that I frequently try to move the wrong side of the tongue — the side that’s attached to the rest of the upper. Surprisingly precision fit.
-One piece upper(?): It looks like the upper of the PureCadence 2 is one piece of fabric with some overlays. This gives the shoe a pretty slick look, and I imagine that it saves weight as well.
My Runs in the Brooks PureCadence 2:
-1/3/14 (morning): 4.03 miles, 31:55, 7:55.19/mile average pace, 6:00/mile max pace, Treadmill
-1/3/14 (evening): 4.03 miles, 32:05, 7:57.67/mile average pace, 6:00/mile max pace, Treadmill
-1/6/14: 1.5 miles, 11:38, 7:45.33/mile average pace, 6:53.79/mile max pace, Treadmill
-1/7/14: 4.04 miles, 32:05, 7:56/mile average pace, 6:00/mile max pace, Treadmill
-1/11/14: 10.27 miles, 1:27:30, 8:31/mile average pace, Paved trail and somewhat hilly sidewalks
-1/12/14: 3.13 miles, 26:24.40, 8:26/mile average pace, 6:35/mile max pace, Mostly hilly sidewalks
-1/20/14: 14.14 miles, 2:02:18, 8:39/mile average pace, Paved trail and somewhat hilly sidewalks
-1/21/14: 6.14 miles, 49:04, 7:59.48/mile average pace, 6:00/mile max pace, Treadmill
-1/24/14: 4.14 miles, 32:43, 7:54.14/mile average pace, 6:00/mile max pace, Treadmill
-1/27/14: 4.03 miles, 31:31, 7:49.23/mile average pace, 7:08/mile max pace, Treadmill
-1/28/14: 8.19 miles, 1:03:59, 7:48.74/mile average pace, 6:00/mile max pace, Treadmill
Total: 63.64 miles, 8:41:12.40 time running in the Brooks PureCadence 2
Free Form Thoughts About the PureCadence 2
Sometimes I run for speed, sometimes I run for distance, and sometimes I run for mood — a good run can make the crappiest day melt away. These shoes are a good choice for any of those types of runs. The light weight can go long and go fast, although the lower drop leaves my legs more tired than more traditional running shoes since muscles that aren’t used to working so hard are put through their paces in the PureCadence 2. The more miles I put in these shoes, the better they felt — I think I was beginning to adjust. I completely forgot about my shoes during the 14-mile run.
Despite the rubber pods on the sole, the ride is reasonably smooth, but those pods don’t make for ninja-like footfalls…at times I heard myself slap slap slapping along. Eventually I either got better at running in these shoes, or I figured out how to tune out the slapping noises eventually.
The medium-plush heel cup provides a touch of extra comfort which cradles my heels with a soft fabric hug. I’m excited about the maximalist trend in running shoes. You may never catch me in Hoka One Ones, but I like to feel protected and cushioned in my shoes, especially over the long haul. Other features such as pronation control are arguably more important, but the comfy shoe and the good-looking shoe win the day with me, and probably most runners if they’re being honest, when buying new running shoes. If the looks and the out of box feel don’t excite me, the shoe isn’t coming home since I won’t want to run in it.
My Non-Running Activities in the Brooks PureCadence 2
-Casual wear
-10 hours of driving to a friend’s wedding
-BFit workouts
-Regular gym workouts
The PureCadence 2 is eye-catching, especially the all-over red version that I have. I took off my high heels after my friend’s wedding and donned these bad boys to drive to the hotel and really confused the night manager when I strolled in with my loud, incongruous shoes. These will be great casual shoes when their running life is over since they look great and perform adequately in non-running applications.
By the Numbers
Looks: 10/10
Just awesome. Initially I thought that I wasn’t that into the non-traditional look of these shoes, but when I opened the box and put these on, I fell in love pretty quickly.
Durability: 7/10
The all-fabric toe ripped when I fell during a run. Rocks, crooked sidewalks, and other obstacles will occasionally and naturally get kicked during a run. It’s a shame that the upper can’t stand up to the ordinary rigors of road running. I can’t fault any of the seams or the construction, but the lack of an exterior toe cap (there is a semi-rigid plastic toe cap underneath the fabric) is a significant flaw as far as I’m concerned since tears in the toe area can affect the entire upper because it’s one piece.
Comfort: 8/10
Certainly not the most plush shoe I own, but the interior fabric is soft and cushioned all around. Good comfort, but not great.
Feel: 8/10
I can go fast in these shoes, but I don’t necessarily feel fast in these shoes, if that makes any sense. The lower drop makes me work harder, but I realize that that’s my problem, not the shoe’s problem; were I more into reduced/minimalist running shoes I would be better equipped to run in the PureCadence 2 without difficulty.
Price: 10/10
Jump on these if they sound like your cup of tea and if you can find them — expect to pay less than $70 since retailers will be looking to clear them out in order to make room for the new PureCadence 3.
Overall: 9/10
I surprised myself with how much I liked these shoes — they aren’t perfect, but they are very, very good.