This week begins a new series of articles that will pay attention to your favorite topic—or, rather, my favorite topic—running footwear. Shoes. Kicks. Trainers. Flats.
The topic each week might not be the newest, or the latest and greatest, and certainly it won’t get glossed over with the marketing and promotional material that the vendors send us. Instead, we’ll pick a shoe or two and tell you how it really functions, how it feels, and what the benefits are, if any.
Along the way, too, there will be a bit of history, perhaps some not very well disguised soap boxing, and perhaps some insight as to what the running shoe industry is doing to make you a healthier and happier runner.
This week, I chose the Brooks Launch because it is arguably the hot shoe of the year. The other side of the argument will be discussed next week, so kick off your shoes stay awhile.
I very seriously doubt that Brooks expected the Launch to be as successful as it has been. And by successful I mean not available. They’ve pretty much sold out of the thing, and our wait list for the Launch is ridiculous. It has become our best selling model to both men and women in a matter of a couple months.
If you haven’t worn it yet, you’ve at least seen it on the trails. The colors for both men and women are pleasantly obnoxious—there are no flames or flowers on them, but the colors are pretty out there. Designed and marketed as a neutral lightweight trainer, the biggest surprise behind the success of the Launch is that it is a shoe that works well for almost anyone. My memory works intermittently, so I can’t remember when there was a shoe that worked so well for such a wide range of people. Probably right before the time when someone decided that pronation is a bad thing. I’d even go so far as to argue that the target audience got the short end of the stick, which is to say that a real lightweight trainer could be a bit lighter and certainly a bit more responsive. But neither of those statements is a negative.
About the only people I’m not completely comfortable with wearing the shoe are those with Flintstonesque peds—it is not a roomy, wide or high volume shoe by any stretch of the imagination—or with overpronation visible on Google satellite maps.
The design and construction is pleasingly simple. It is, in my very humble opinion, what running shoes should be. No proprietary compounds or gels to reduce sensory feedback; no arches, no bridges, no trusses to cast the foot; no posting to inhibit natural movement. Simple foam that is in complete contact with the ground surface from heel to toe, allowing for the smoothest ride of any standard trainer sold today. It’s like butter, if you could run on butter.
The people at Brooks tell me it is because of the foam compounds they use in the midsole, but I think the shoe is so smooth because there is nothing in it to screw up what should always be a smooth ride. I imagine if they made the shoe a bit firmer, more repsonsive, the ride might not be as plush, but it certainly would not make for a ride any less smooth.
The Launch is so well balanced (for all the above reasons) that even people who think they need some overpronation control have worn the shoe without a hitch. This is one of those examples that prove the less is more theory.
We joke around the store that we could open up a store for the Launch exclusively, and we’d kill. Not all that far from the truth.