Brooks Launch Review: First Impressions

Having committed to the Brooks I.D. sponsored runner program for 2010, I needed to break in some Brooks running shoes in preparation for the Disney Marathon on January 10th, which will be my first race of the new year.  I’d been reading rave reviews of the Brooks Launch for several weeks on Dailymile from the likes of Matthew L. and Daniel N., the latter of whom boldly stated “If my Launch were a woman, my wife would be reasonable to be suspicious of my time with her. I’m smitten.” The Launch was also been chosen by Runner’s World as the “Best Debut” in it’s Winter 2010 Shoe Guide, where it was described as ” lightweight, flexible, and supportive with a fast feel.” Given this level of positive feedback, I decided to beg my wife for a pair of Brooks Launch shoes for my birthday (more like I had my kids running around the house chanting “Brooks Launch, size 10” over and over…).  She came through (with my running addiction, I’m easy to please when it comes to gift giving), and I had a pair of shiny new shoes ready to be broken in starting last week.  At this point, I’ll keep things brief as I’ve only run about 25 miles in the Launch, but my initial impressions are highly favorable.

Brooks Launch

Appearance: The first thing you’ll notice about the Brooks Launch is that they’re about as flashy and brightly colored as a shoe can get.  I tend to like running shoes that make you stand out in a crowd, and these certainly fit the bill – I received several comments on the shoes just walking down the hall at work on my way out for a run, and they turn heads on the road.  Not only do they draw attention, the red/orange color combo just looks fiery, and you can’t help but feel fast with these things on. 

Fit: The Launch is an extremely comfortable shoe.  The forefoot is plenty roomy for my medium width foot, and blistering has not been an issue after 25 miles of breaking them in.  They feel really springy when I walk in them, particularly in the forefoot, though they seem to firm up while running.  It’s strange, but the sensation I get from these shoes when walking vs. running is very different – not sure why or how this happens.

Performance: As a lightweight trainer (my size 10′s weighed in at exactly 9.9oz on my postal scale), the Launch is right at the border of my self-imposed limit for shoe weight (I prefer not to wear anything over 10oz).  They are definitely lighter in feel than something like the Brooks Adrenaline or my boot-like Asics Kayano’s (which were retired long ago), but heavier than my Nike Free 3.0′s or Lunaracers (which I ran in for most of the earlier portion of this year).  They fill a nice middle ground between a racing flat and a more typical training shoe.  As I mentioned above, I’ve only done about 25 miles in the Launch so far, but that includes a few speedier runs where the shoes lived up to their name.  Last week I ran a solo 5K at about a 6:40 min/mile pace in them, and yesterday I did 11.75 miles at a 7:23 min/mile pace – on both runs the shoes were comfortable and held up well, so they’re looking promising as a marathon shoe for Disney.  I also have a sense that I’m landing further forward on my heel (although still clearly heel-striking) in the Launch.  Others have commented on this as well (e.g., Caleb M. on Dailymile), and I’m not sure if it’s how the shoe is engineered or if my stride is just adapting to all of the work I did in more minimalist shoes this summer – I plan to shoot a slow-motion gait video (like these) soon to see exactly what’s going on for me in the Launch.

Summary: My initial feelings about the Brooks Launch are very positive, and this will likely be my marathon shoe in Disney in January.  I’ve also ordered a pair of the Brooks T6 Racer’s, which are lightweight racing flats, but it’s been suggested to me that they may not be enough shoe for the marathon distance.  Although most of the shoes I’ve been running in for the past 9 months or so are lighter than the Launch by a full ounce or more (the Free 3.0 is over 3.0oz lighter), they don’t feel bulky, and their comfort and performance negate any initial concerns I had about their weight.  I plan to follow up after I’ve put in some additional miles in the Launch, and I may use them in a local 5K in a few weeks, which will give me a better handle on how well they work for speed.  At the very least, they’re flashy appearance makes me feel feel fast, and sometimes in running the mental advantage can be as important as any actual performance advantage that might be conferred by a shoe!

Video Update 11/17/09: Below are videos showing my footstrike in the Brooks Launch. I’m clearly still a heel-striker in them, though the wear pattern so far would indicate that I’m landing further forward in these shoes, and the heel-toe transition is very smooth. The second video gives a nice view of the cushioning being engaged all the way through the forefoot.

Brooks Launch Footstrike from Pete Larson on Vimeo.

Brooks Launch – Closeup of Footstrike. from Pete Larson on Vimeo.

Brooks Launch from Pete Larson on Vimeo.
Slow motion video of treadmill running in Brooks Launch – mild heel strike here. Video shot at 300 frames-per-second with a Casio Exilim EX-F1 camera. Courtesy of http://www.runblogger.com/.

Update 6/10/2010: For another very positive take on this shoe, check out the Brooks Launch Review by my buddy Jay P. over on the dailymile Community Blog.

Update 1/17/2010: I’m happy to report that I rode the Brooks Launch to an 8:00 PR at the Disney Marathon last week. They performed marvelously, and my feet were in far better shape afterward than they have been after any of my previous 4 marathons (I’m very prone to blistering in marathons, and I was left with only 2 tiny ones after Disney). I don’t know how much to credit the Launch for playing a part, but this was also the first marathon in which I didn’t hit “the wall.” I’ve put 150 miles total on the Launch so far, and I’d have to say that they rank right up there with the original Nike Free 3.0 as my favorite running shoes that I have owned. I will definitely be buying another pair when these wear out.

Update 12/16/09: The Brooks Launch was awarded the “Best Debut” award in the December issue of Runner’s World Magazine. Check out the video below for their overview of the shoe.

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. This is a great shoe. For anyone who traditionally uses the Ravenna (also great), check this one out – very similar but lighter (and cheaper).

  2. You seem to be a Brooks addict like me..check this site out if you want new shoes. Idk where you are able to get them now but this is pretty good.
    http://www.runningcompanyshoes

  3. I’m thinking of getting the Launch as well. How did the fit workout? A few websites I’ve seen mention getting the shoe half a size bigger.

  4. ps. Jack is adorable!!

  5. noobrunner says:

    Thanks for taking the time to put together a truly informative review. I have been told I’m a neutral to slightly over pronator (on one side). In your opinion, do you think the Launch provides a slight amount of stability that I would benefit from? I’m currently running in the Lunarglide but am starting to think that the “adaptive support” is not adapting to me. I’m an average joe, 5’10″ 160lbs. and am thrilled when I tick off sub 9 minute miles.

    • Pete Larson says:

      I was told that I was a mild overpronator as well, but have had no
      issues running in the Launch, or any other neutral shoe for that
      matter. Can’t promise it will work for you, but I love the Launch!

      pete

  6. I was about to write to apologize for recommending the Disney marathon. I hadn’t read any other posts at the time of my first comment; sorry. Will definitely check out the 100 push-up site. Will your wife be running as well (the half?)? Another question: what do you use for fuel (brand etc.). I used to use Carb Boom but now find it too sweet. Husband just ordered some Hammer Gel which I tried on my last long run – not bad, so far. I am still figuring out the correct balance. Ugh. Looking forward to Goofy – I hear the races are really well organized. Should be a great time for you and your family. YOu may want to consider making dinner reservations in advance if you are planning on eating on site at one of the restaurants where the characters visit the kids (http://www.mousesavers.com) is a great site for finding some decent Disney deals btw.
    Happy training.
    Alett

    • Pete Larson says:

      No need to apologize – I never expect anybody to read all of the stuff I put
      on here – I’m just happy when anyone stops by! My wife will not be running
      - she’s pregnant (due in April) and has stopped running as of about 2 months
      ago (hip problems). She’s hoping that the extended rest will help things
      get right with her hip. I also use Carb Boom, and find that watering it
      down a bit in a flask helps a lot – not quite as sweet that way. I have
      some Hammer products, but haven’t tried the gel, though I know others on
      Twitter who swear by it (there’s a huge running community on Twitter – not
      sure if you’re on it). Are you familiar with Team Allears? Several of my
      Twitter friends are running Disney with that group (
      link to allears.net… and I may try to meet up with them
      down there.

      Pete

  7. Hurleydan says:

    Appreciate your review. I have 100 miles on the Launch and I like the cushioning and lightness. As a masters runner, its nice o have a minimalist shoe that has a degree of cushion.

  8. Julianey says:

    I’m obsessed with these shoes. The reason why you are feeling like you are hitting further up on your heel is because they have a very small heel drop; the shoe is pretty much the same level from heel to toe. They are a bit of a transition from normal running shoes to the minimalist style. I noticed you mentioned you were running in kayanos and the adrenaline…I would be careful once you start adding on the miles because these are very neutral shoes. They’d be great racers for anyone, but for training they definitely suit a neutral stride, seeing as there is no medial posting and the upper is so minimal.

  9. Are you still running in the Launch? Did you ever measure the heel/toe heights?

  10. Brad Patterson says:

    Pete,

    I have spent a bunch of time on instant chat with Brooks customer support the last few days to confirm that the Launch is going to be discontinued in January of 2013. When I pressed them as to the reason why this great shoe is being killed off, they basically told me that even though there are a “passionate group” of Launch fans (myself included), the sales volume for the Launch does not warrant continuing the manufacturing production of this shoe. They also are killing off the Green Silence for the same reason in Jan of 2013.

    I have been told multiple times by Brooks that the Pure Flow is the “replacement” for the Launch, but unfortunately these 2 shoes are very different in fit, design, features, feel, and performance. 

    I am a bit surprised that Brooks came out with this latest new color scheme for the launch (the orange and yellow); considering they were already planning to kill the model.  So it appears that Brooks is leaving no options for “middle of the road” lightweight and more minimal in design neutral trainers like the launch, with their only options being the low heel toe drop Pure line or their more built up and heavier “traditional trainer” models.  Their customer service rep confirmed this gap in their product offering and told me to stay tuned for future updates to the Pure line that MIGHT be a closer approximation to the venerable Launch model.

    In the meantime, I’m stocking up on size 10-1/2 launches!

  11. When I first saw the picture of the new running shoes, I was like “Ugh oh… running shoes addiction!” Wow – You are tempting me to buy Lanch this time. It really does stand out like Dorthy of the Wizard of the Oz. You know those shiny red ruby shoes ! Pretty soon, you are going to need a bigger closet to hold your current shoes collection.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Ted,

      Good to hear from you! I got a note that you sent me a message on Dailymile
      before you left the other day, but it looks like it was deleted with your
      account so I didn’t get to read it. Are you going to continue with the
      blogging (hope so!)? Regarding the shoes, we both know well that I have a
      problem! The thing I like best about the Launch is the flashy appearance -
      definite head turners!

      Pete

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