Brandblack Kaiju Review: Form and Fashion Done Right
ROBBE: We’ve been on a bit of a monster kick lately here at Believe in the Run. First, we reviewed the On Cloudmonster, a max cushion daily trainer. Then, we reviewed the Brooks Caldera 6, which is basically a monster truck for trails. And now we have the Brandblack Kaiju, which translates to “monster” in Japanese.
Brandblack is typically known for its offerings in the fashion/lifestyle segment, desirable among sneakerheads for its eye-catching designs and limited releases. Based out of Los Angeles, the brand is helmed by David Raysse, an industry journeyman whose design resume includes the original Grant Hill Fila, as well as a long track record at other brands, including Nike. It should also be noted that he was part of the original Skechers Performance team that brought us the Razor and Ride, and was really the first to market with the supercritical foam that so many brands have pivoted towards in recent years.
We’ve only received one Brandblack shoe in the past, the Tarantula. That shoe was supposed to be a running shoe with supercritical foam, but something went awry in the design or production process, rendering the shoe unrunnable. It was heavy, it was wide, it was long, it was nothing we wanted from a running shoe. We ended up just canning the review.
Suffice it to say, when Brandblack came back to us with the Kaiju, we weren’t exactly optimistic. However, after a decent amount of miles in the shoe, I have to say– I’m thoroughly surprised at the turnaround.
So what is the Kaiju? In short, it’s a lightweight, max cushion daily trainer (34mm stack in the heel, 30mm in the toe, 4mm drop), built on a full slab of supercritical foam. A mono mesh upper with a thin, non-gusseted tongue makes up the upper. A patch of Kevlar in the forefoot is meant to give additional spring to the toe-off. Not as much as a plate, but a bit extra with virtually no addition to weight. Speaking of weight, the entire package weighs 7.6 ounces for a US M9.0.
Time to go Godzilla on this beast.
THOMAS: Brandblack may not be well known on the running scene, but basketball sneakerheads should know all about the brand. It’s known for dope fashion-forward styling made for performance, especially the Rare Metal model. While the team has made styles you could run in before (kind of), the Kaiju is the first true running shoe from Brandblack — even if they might not agree with that assessment. I’ll put it another way: The Kaiju is the first shoe from Brandblack I’d run in or recommend for running.
P.S. If you aren’t familiar with the Japanese word Kaiju, check out this video to get a quick education. A small detail on the shoe’s tongue will also give you a hint. Honestly, I’m here for it if Brandblack wants to stick with Japanese pop culture references for its upcoming shoes.
ROBBE: Let’s just start with the design. Wearing this shoe on several runs and for travel/walking/hanging out, I’ve heard a variation on this question quite often: “What is that??” Some people thought it was a Nike, others thought it was an Adidas. There are no apparent markings or labels on the outside, so it is difficult to know it’s Brandblack, unless you know it’s Brandblack.
All that to say, the shoe stands out. It’s a bit wild, but I love the design of it, and it really grew on me the more I wore it. The cartoon monster details on the tongue are the icing on the cake for an all-around fresh design for a running shoe.
Now, onto performance.
As I said before, I had low expectations for this shoe coming into it. The Tarantula fell flatter than a squished arachnid, and I was hoping the Kaiju didn’t follow suit. I’m happy to say it didn’t.
I took this shoe out for several runs, including a 10-mile long run. The more I wore it, the more I fell in love with it. It’s a very lightweight shoe with a fairly high stack of cushioning, two things I love. The upper locks down nicely (though I had some issues with fit, more on that later), and though the tongue isn’t gusseted, it’s thin enough that when it slides to the side it’s not a huge nuisance. Overall, the upper is light and breathable and locks the foot down really well if you utilize the last eyelets, which I felt I had to do.
The midsole is supercritical done right. On the run, it offers a comfortable ride with a bit of pop, though not as much as some of the super shoes out there. Because it’s lightweight, it picks up very nicely when needed, while still maintaining a controlled feel on easy or everyday miles. This is going to sound crazy, but the feel of this shoe reminded me a lot of the Takumi Sen 8, our favorite tempo shoe of the last year. Not as squishy or as much pop as the Adidas EnergyRods give, but the overall sensation is similar.
It’s actually a bit more stable than I thought it would be. Even though it has a fairly high stack height, its base is wide enough and the midsole density is firm enough that I wasn’t rolling my ankles all over the place. The geometry and design of the midsole remind me of a mix of the Takumi Sen 8 and the Brooks Hyperion Elite 3, which is one of the more stable high-stack shoes out there.
The outsole rubber coverage is adequate and actually grips fairly well, but it’s a fairly thin layer so I wouldn’t expect it to last several hundred miles.
Overall, I really enjoyed this shoe and continue to enjoy it as I’ve been wearing it everywhere both on and off the run for the last couple weeks. It’s just a fun shoe.
THOMAS: “Keep it simple” seems so complex for many shoe companies. I get it. These days you need several categories of trainers, and you have to do things to set each one apart in your lineup and, more importantly, separate it from the competition. The Kaiju is unfettered by useless complications. It features a simple ripstop translucent mesh upper with underlays that provide structure and support. A gently padded collar and heel counter work well with the lacing to lock the foot over the midsole. The tongue is minimal, and there’s a removable sock liner.
Brandblack chose an EVA-based supercritical foam called Jetlon for the midsole. It feels neither squishy nor firm, which helps protect your body from impact but still feels fast underfoot. The closest comparison would be the Brooks Aurora BL with DNA Loft foam. The Kaiju has a 4mm drop (34mm/30mm) and one totally unique detail: A strip of Kevlar between the bottom of the foam and the rubber outsole. I can’t tell you if it actually adds anything since I’ve never tried the shoe without it, but I’d imagine it’s there to add rigidity to the toe-off. What I can tell you is that the ride is smooth and can handle any distance you want to throw down.
Also, the styling of the Kaiju turns heads — in a good way. I heard more than one “What are those?” People were drooling over our Instagram posts and reels of the Kaiju, too. Did I mention the sweet pull tab?Shop Brandblack
ROBBE: I like a snug upper, but this is just too snug, most notably in the toe box. The ceiling/toe box height is very low, and the toe box itself closes in on you real quick, like a merging traffic lane in a construction zone without any signage. While maybe not a huge issue on shorter runs, on my 10-mile long run, it was definitely an issue. Afterward, throughout the day and the next morning, my toes hurt from the pounding they took. I also don’t think going up a half size is the solution (stick around for Thomas’s assessment below) because I think the shoe fit just right everywhere else. I also have a thumb’s width between my toes and the front but the ceiling is just too low. By the way, this is an issue I’ve had with every Brandblack shoe from the Milspec to the Tarantula, so I believe it’s specific to whatever factory they use. I asked Brandblack’s David Raysse about this, and he noted that future models should have more room.
Again, I think if your purpose is a fashion shoe that can perform as a pretty great running shoe for anything under 5 miles, then it won’t be an issue. Or if you’re mixing it up with other running shoes in your rotation. But just be wary of the fit and know this is not a shoe for wide footers.
I think due to the lower drop and the big slab of supercritical foam, the shoe falls a little flat during the run, in that the toe-offs aren’t super snappy. I’m not sure what the Kevlar section does or why it needs to be there. I don’t think it adds or subtracts anything, just not sure why it’s necessary.
The non-gusseted tongue does slide off to the side, but because it’s so thin it doesn’t affect the feel or performance. It just feels a little cheap, or an afterthought.
THOMAS: The Kaiju runs a bit long, which has become standard for Brandblack shoes. Everything I’ve tried from the brand has been about a half-size big. If possible, you might want to try your regular size and also a half-size down. Moving forward, I’ll go with a 10 for Brandblack. The only other complaint I’d mention is that the tongue would benefit from a saddle.Shop Brandblack
ROBBE: Overall, I was pretty surprised at how much I enjoyed this shoe. The midsole and ride felt pretty great in such a lightweight package. It’s definitely a shoe that can be used for pretty much anything you need, including casual wear when fishing for compliments. Be aware of the snug forefoot though, as it can create a monster mash scenario for the toes. That said, as far as fashion/lifestyle shoes go, this has to be one of the best, if not the best running shoe in that category. The $250 price point may make you pause, but you can also get 20% off if you sign up for their email list, so that brings it into a more reasonable range.
THOMAS: I happily put miles in for the Kaiju review. It’s a solid offering for runners who want to toe the line between fashion and performance. Brandblack categorizes the Kaiju somewhere between neutral trainer and racer, and it can cover those bases for many. For me, I’d use it only as a trainer, but one in which you can pick up the pace. Similar shoes include the Brooks Aurora BL and the APL Streamline. The only thing monstrous about the Kaiju is the $250 price tag. That’s the price you pay for exclusivity and fashion. Either way, the Kaiju will stay in my rotation and collection.
You can pick up the Brandblack Kaiju in summer 2022 (tentative) for $250 at the shop link below.Shop Brandblack
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