Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Brooks: Launch 3 Review

Houston we have no problem! Brooks’ Launch 3 has launched…literally. Well, it was actually launched at the beginning of the year but I never had the chance to review it back then. But no worries, this shoe still creates a lot of buzz. A shoe this good must be shared and runners like you and me ought to know more about it. Sharing is caring, right?

I did a review on some of Brooks shoes this past couple of months, the PureFlow 5 and the Transcend 3, you can read my reviews here and here. This time it’s the Launch 3. I’m sure you can see some pattern here, most of the shoes that Brooks launched this year is a reiteration of the previous generation. I thought for a moment that they might just be running out of names or design but that’s basically not the case here. As I mentioned before, only good shoes bear the rights to continuously get the update not because consumers like it, but they love it. The Launch 3 is no exception and even before I go further, this shoe is absolutely amazing!

I never had the opportunity to run on the previous versions so I cannot say much about the ride and the quality of materials. But reading thru the reviews, the previous version has gained so many merits and lauded as one of the best shoes that hit the shoe market. This really drove my curiosity, so when I received this in the mail, I was completely stoked and I immediately put it to the test.

Description
Like most shoe companies, Brooks have their own unique way of categorizing their shoe line up. It is categorized by the following:
Cushion Me: Soft, protective and cushion shoes.
Energize Me: Optimized for energy return, responsive and springy lift to every stride.
Connect Me: Lightweight, flexible and low profile shoes.
Propel Me: built for speed and low profile shoes

The Launch 3 belongs to Energize Me category and is considered as neutral shoe; designed for runners with medium to high arches and perfect for runners with natural gait. The shoe weighs in at 9.8 ounces for men size 9 and 7.9 ounces for women size 7. The heel to toe drop is 10mm for both men and women shoe. The shoe I tested was a size 10 and it really feels true to the size.

Like the Transcend 3, there are five key features that Launch 3 is known for:
1.) BioMoGo DNA midsole cushioning 2.) Midfoot Transition Zones and Segmented Crash Pad 3.) Blown Rubber 4.) New 3D Fit Print 5.) Air Mesh

Upper
The entire upper is made of a new seamless 3D fit print material that provides a strategic stretch like “hug your foot fit” feel according to Brooks. This material is much lighter and more breathable compared to the heated overlays of the previous version, which is denser and doesn’t provide good air management.

The shoe I tested is a size 10, medium width (D) and it provided enough room for my wide foot to lay flat and not constricted. Brooks are not known for having a wide toe box like the Altra or Topo but they do have an average width that is good enough when my foot expands during the run.

The front side of the shoe is reinforced with a toe cap for added security and protection. Looking closely at the mesh construction, from midfoot all the way to the top end that it is made of double layer material. The inside layer with larger holes does provide a good ventilation and breathability, keeping my foot cool and dry. While the outside mesh has a very fine silk-screen opening to prevent debris from getting inside. From midfoot all the way to back, Brooks incorporated a cross pattern design with added cushion on the heel collar to get that nice feel and support especially on the heel cup. Unlike the Transcend 3 and other shoes I tested, the heel cup of the Launch 3 is firm, it didn’t even collapse when I pushed it down. This helps in locking the heel down and preventing it from sliding out and helps eliminate the over tightening of the lace.

It is worth mentioning how well padded the tongue is, making it so comfortable when I tried to cinch down the lace half way up. Brooks also added another feature on the tongue, where they incorporated a small loop near the top (instead of the middle) that the lace can go thru. This helps the tongue from sliding down the shoe, so it basically stays where it needs to be.

Sole
The outsole has a lot of rubber on it contrary to some shoes in which they try to minimize the outsole to make the shoe lighter. But this is not even an issue for me since I think the shoe has just the right balance on weight. One thing that stood out the most is the "tire-like tread" that covers almost all the outsole area. The tire-like tread was placed more on the midfoot area instead on the heel where most runners tend to strike. Looking closely, it is visible that the forefoot area is much thicker than the rest. This provides a springier toe off and softer landing that helps minimize the impact. Though the heel doesn’t have that much rubber compared to the midfoot, it is still durable. I’m a heel striker myself and I ran it for 30+ miles, I was totally surprised that heel area didn’t even show a sign of wear compared to some shoes I owned. Trust me, the sole is very durable and I believe that this could probably last at least 400 to 500 miles which is beyond the life of a normal shoe.

Majority of the shoes I owned offer tons of cushion. The Launch 3 is one of the few shoes I owned that doesn’t fit that category and thought that this might not work for me. But after the first run of 5 easy miles, my whole concept change. The midsole is made of BioMoGo DNA material that provided higher energy return, smoother and dynamic cushioning that runners will surely appreciate. I felt the soft cushioning throughout the run and Brooks could probably even classify this under the “Cushion Me” category. The BioMoGo DNA material has the right balance on the sole, not firm and not too cushy. Brooks really hit a sweet spot on this area (no pun intended).

The Ride
I ran a total of 30+ miles on this shoe but I still couldn’t get enough, the shoe is absolutely amazing! My test runs consisted of easy, tempo, interval and long. I’m happy to say that I was overwhelmingly satisfied to how it performed and exactly what you expect from a brand like Brooks. The shoe has the right amount of midfoot flex exactly located on the cut groove of the outsole. I even tested the shoe on a loose track close to my work and it offered a lot of grip and control, no sliding or whatsoever. This was even more noticeable when I ran this on the pavement, the shoe provided high energy return, responsive, and a smooth heel to toe transition during landing and take-off.

I believe this shoe is really built for speed. Don’t expect that your easy run will be easy, once you hit the road, the shoe will beg for speed. I thought I was the only one who had that experience, but my training partner had the same feeling as well. I had him tested the shoe after my run and he ended up doing a tempo, though his program calls for an easy run. We were kidding that the shoe might be doped or juiced. I tried this also on my long run, the day after I rode my bike for 50 miles. My legs still felt jelly from riding and my plan was to take it easy but I ended up doing a mid-tempo. The shoe responded very well on those miles and never did I have any problems like hot spots or blisters and I’m hitting the pace with no problem.

My Verdict
Not all shoes are created equal and can be used in different types of run. This is the reason why I test the shoe in four major areas that runners are accustomed to: easy, tempo, interval and long. In my personal opinion, I found the Launch 3 to be the right running shoe regardless of what type of run you might like to do. Whether it is for training or racing, the shoe will not disappoint, it is responsive, has a decent amount of cushion and comfortable fit to give you that smooth ride.

I tend to find something I don’t like when I review an item or shoe, but this shoe is just perfect for me. I’m so pleased with the Launch 3 that this is now on my favorite list. The name of the shoe is really fitting, LAUNCH...so if you need some boost on those days that you don’t feel like running, grab this shoe and it will energize you to go far and fast.

You might be thinking that a shoe this amazing comes with a hefty price tag…nope! The Launch 3 sells for $100 only, which I think is just below the average price of the shoes today. There is really no excuse for you not to try it with this decent price. You can buy the Launch 3 directly on Brooks website or at retail stores near you. You can also grab this at Amazon if this is your preference.

Give the shoe a try and let me know what you think. I love to hear feedback so feel free to post below. 

2 comments:

  1. I use the Nike zoom pegasus 32s and they fit me perfectly. How would you compare the fit of the 32s vs these? I've heard the launch 3s run a bit small.

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  2. Hi Paul,
    Thanks for the comment. Unfortunately I haven't had the chance to test out yet the Nike Zoom Pegasus 32 so I couldn't make a comment on that. But as far as the Launch 3 is concern, I didn't have any problems with the fit. I wear a size 10 and it is true to the size (upon comparing it with other shoes I tested). I have wide feet and the Launch 3's toe box is just average and is not as roomy as the Altra, despite that I never had any issues with hot spots or blisters (if that is one of your concerns). Let me know if you have other questions.

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