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Road Running Shoes • June 10, 2020

Brooks Bedlam 3 Performance Review

What You Need To Know

  • Weighs 10.8 oz. (306 g) for a US M9.0 and 9.5 oz. (269 g) for a US W8.0
  • Updated GuideRail support and Fit Knit upper
  • Slightly firm, responsive DNA AMP midsole is now 20% lighter
  • Fun fact: Stability Santa lives in Texas and doubles as a sport psychologist

ADRIENNE: Let me tell you about the time I got Brooks bombed. It was a typical day at the office, and right before lunch, I get the magical text that yet another pair of shoes is waiting for me at home! This is where I turn from 30-something professional to little kid! To my surprise, a larger-than-expected box was on the front porch.

Upon opening, I saw not one, but twelve pairs of shoes. The dozen of them were all Bedlam 3. I do love me some running shoes, but dang, twelve pairs of the latest stability cruiser is a bit overwhelming. Anyway, it was likely a case of fat-fingering an order, but for a moment I thought I had been deemed the Stability Santa. (Thanks, Robbe and Alina at Brooks for helping me get the other 11 back to Seattle where they belong.)

So, the Bedlam and I had never met before. I was not sure what to expect exactly but knew that Brooks has made efforts to lighten the DNA AMP polyurethane midsole (it’s 20% lighter than last year’s midsole). I also knew that people had weight-related issues with previous models. Either way, I had to see for myself.

Looks-wise, these are the prettiest stability model I’ve probably ever seen; a simple one-piece engineered mesh with a touch of stretch fit like a sock on my foot; much more performance-oriented than the earlier versions. It gets a little weird up top with a thin, narrowish tongue and laces with a ribbon-like character. Perhaps this was a move to save weight? Those who like a snug-fitting upper will appreciate the Bedlam 3; however, be advised that this is not the easiest shoe to get on. The pull tab on the back is more function than gimmick in this model.

The DNA AMP midsole is identical to the Levitate 4, with the addition of Guiderails to tap a wandering foot into place. My narrow feet didn’t notice these too much, except for the sensation that I was sitting more ‘inside’ the shoe than without the rails. The foam appears resilient and firm to the touch, complete with an iridescent sheen. Why have one color when you can have multiple depending on the lighting? The cushioning is pretty pneumatic in nature, as the PU is encased in the iridescent film. The idea is to create energy return and a nice “pop.” But does it deliver? We’ll find out shortly.

Another ‘amp’-ed up feature is the rubber coverage. The sole is nearly covered in it– one thing that can be either a good or negative quality, depending on who you ask. Traction was decent, even on a rainy run but didn’t perform as well on wet asphalt as it did concrete. The rubber is thin, so durability is a question, but it does help lighten the shoe up. Diagonal geometry to help with transition is all up in the sole too. I’m no expert, so this confused me a little to look at.

Now, the ride. Lemme see… this is a harder one to describe. It’s not exceptionally heavy (anymore), yet not light. To Brooks’ credit, the shoe is trending more in a direction that more runners may enjoy, and I prefer it to Brooks’ other higher-end stability model, the Transcend. I had a hard time dialing in at first with the Bedlam 3, but they seemed to get better, more flexible (impressive given minimal grooves) as I put more miles on them.

The midsole to me felt relatively firm to say, the Ghost line, but once you get going, has a pleasant ride to it; not too jarring, not too soft. I found this shoe performs the best when you relax into it and let it do its job. Don’t let the minimalistic heel collar fool you, this shoe has a very stable, secure heel-it locks in and doesn’t let go. Transitions are fairly smooth, and this shoe can work for both heel and forefoot strikers alike as the 8mm drop midsole is fairly consistent in cushioning. If I were to compare the cushioning experience, I would say it’s closest to Saucony’s PWRRUN in feel, maybe a little firmer. Don’t expect to be launched forward, but the sensation underneath is decent and so is the protection. Minus one thing, my feet and legs felt great after running in the Bedlam 3. The stability isn’t in your face, but likely is helpful, especially if you’re feeling tired and beat up.

ROBBE: Adrienne is too good at breaking things down. I can’t even say anything else, other than I as a non-stability runner I was fully prepared to hate this shoe. And I was totally wrong to think that. Let’s keep moving.

JEREMY: While the name Bedlam conjures up images of confusion or pandemonium, the Brooks Bedlam 3 is actually designed to bring stability to the madness of overpronation and knee pain. As someone who has run far too many miles in the Brooks Adrenaline, I definitely have a place in my heart for Brooks stability shoes and their daily trainers, so I was excited to try this model out and see how it compared. The Bedlam weighs in at 11.3 ounces in a Men’s 11.5 with an 8mm drop and the new features of this shoe are the DNA AMP cushioning that is 20% lighter than the previous model, an updated knit upper, and an improved GuideRail support system.

brooks bedlam 3 - heel

The Good

ADRIENNE: Interesting ride, interesting-looking shoe. Kudos to Brooks for shaving off some weight, nearly an ounce from the previous model, and the ride I found fairly smooth and not lumbering. The DNA Amp’s cushioning is an interesting concept and feels consistent throughout runs. And after about 20 miles, the midsole opened up and started displaying a gentle flex. The last time I ran in a good stability shoe that flexed was the Nike LunarGlide.

While I’ve never run in any previous versions, I suspect this one is an improvement from the previous because I was expecting rigid cinderblocks on my feet. Fortunately, this was not the case. The upper looks awesome, upon wearing does not scream “stability shoe!!”. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…. I’m just a neutral runner. These shoes also have a different feel from the rest of my rotation. Not weird, just unique. The ‘energize’ line does seem to feel quite a bit different from the ‘cushion’ line as I was simultaneously testing the Ghost 13 (which I ended up loving). It was also fun to pretend to be Des Linden while striding down Terramont Drive-but that has nothing to do with the shoe’s performance!

ROBBE: Sometimes a shoe comes along that makes me question all I know about shoes and reviewing them. On paper, I should hate this shoe. It’s not lightweight (it’s a full ounce heavier than the Ghost 13), it’s a stability shoe, and at first seemed like it may be too firm. And then I ran in it, and wtf, why do I love this shoe so much?

I’ve always been a Brooks fan since the Launch 5 carried me through an entire marathon cycle, and while they’ve had some misses in the recent past (the Launch 7 is a terrible shoe), this one hit me just right. The cushion is adequate to handle longer stretches but provides just the right amount of responsiveness. It’s not “poppy” per se; instead, it’s that proper balance between firm and soft. Although, I do like a firmer shoe, so some people may find it a touch too firm.

As Adrienne said, the upper does not scream stability shoe, and I love that. There’s definitely a general trend in the shoe industry away from classic stability structures, and this is a good step in that direction. I felt that it gave me a great lockdown and I had no issues with heel slippage or anything else.

And this is going to sound totally insane, but I’ve kind of been doing a fast mile once a week during COVID, just for the hell of it. Last week I was feeling good and wanted to let it rip and I ran– according to Strava– my third fastest mile ever in this shoe, faster than I ran in the Saucony Endorphin Speed the week before. So there goes everything I think about shoes. I should probably just quit reviewing altogether.

Lastly, it really is a good-looking shoe.

JEREMY: This is a sharp-looking shoe with an iridescent midsole and a quality looking knit upper, overall an excellent aesthetic design and color scheme. Functionally, I enjoyed the upper, the heel tab makes it easy to get the shoe on/off and the knit is a great balance of comfort, breathability, and enough rigidity to keep your foot from sliding around during runs. I also appreciated the soft, cushioned tongue that is extra comfortable against the top of the foot. The Bedlam provides plenty of stability with both guide rails and a very sturdy platform. The outsole has excellent tread and provides plenty of traction on rainy days and in the grass.


The Bad

ADRIENNE: Okay, don’t judge (too harshly, at least), but I often like to run sockless. Believe it or not, blistering is rarely an issue for me (we’ll call that adaptation!) but taking these out for a 7-miler in 94% humidity, my heels and pinkie toes were talking back to me. This also leads to the fact that while the upper is very comfortable and pretty, I did not find it very breathable. If you don’t run hot like I do, this shouldn’t be an issue.

Also, the toe box narrows toward the toe bumper and those with wider forefoots need to be careful with this one, maybe even size up a half size. This shoe is starting to get into form, however, still use to shave a little more weight in order to really compete with others in the crowded daily trainer market. While unique, the ‘energize’ line of Brooks confuses me a bit; on one hand, protective and snappy (minus the Launch 7), yet not as nimble as I would like.

ROBBE: I get what Adrienne is saying about the room in the toe box. After some longer runs, I did feel a bit in the pinky toe, and I feel like I get that with a lot of Brooks models, so it could just be me. Second, while I loved this shoe, the simple stability structure needs to equal less weight in the future. Come down at least a half-ounce.

JEREMY: While these shoes aren’t exceptionally heavy for a stability shoe (~11.3 ounces for a M 11.5) a huge proportion of that weight is located in the base. The light knit upper contrasts heavily with the base which just felt unwieldy underfoot. In addition to this weight, the DNA-Amp cushion midsole felt quite firm underfoot, without too much energy return and a little stiffness even after breaking in the shoes. This combination of stiffness and a heavy shoe didn’t translate well for me.

Shop BROOKS – MEN Shop BROOKS – WOMEN brooks bedlam 3 - outsole

Brooks Bedlam 3 Conclusion

ADRIENNE: To wrap up, runners who deal with some excessive foot movement looking for a daily trainer that falls in between a true mileage-soaker and something a little livelier, this is a good option. Like I mentioned at the beginning with the “love it or hate it”, this shoe I think will be a little less polarizing than previous versions.

It seems to me to be best suited for daily training at easy to moderate paces has the goldilocks combination of not too stiff and not too bendy. Although still plenty of room for improvement, Brooks seems to keep making continual progress with this shoe, so it will be interesting to see where they take the Bedlam/Levitate in the future. Just wear socks.

ROBBE: I’m actually going to keep wearing this shoe for daily training type runs, especially as I put up more miles during GRIT. I can’t explain it, but I just really like this shoe. If you’re used to the weight of stability shoes and are looking for something that gets the job done right, the Brooks Bedlam 3 is a winner.

JEREMY: If you’re an over-pronator, or just looking for a stability shoe in general I would rank this pretty close to the Brooks Adrenaline. This is definitely a good-looking shoe that can be worn for easy days/every day running providing a stable, firm platform underfoot. Personally, there is just too much weight underfoot that gives a real bottom-heavy and overly firm feel to each step. For $150, this shoe is a tough sell as it doesn’t really differentiate itself from other stability counterparts significantly.

The Brooks Bedlam 3 drops August 1, you can pick it up for $150 at Running Warehouse (featuring free 2-day shipping and 90-day returns) by using the shop link below.

Shop BROOKS – MEN Shop BROOKS – WOMEN brooks bedlam 3 - heel1

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