Brooks Divide 3 Review: Have You Ever Seen a Price so Right?
Weighs 10.1 oz. (286 g.) for a US M9 / 9 oz. (255 g.) for a US W7.5
Can you believe this is Brooks’ first road-to-trail shoe?
It’s an unbelievable value for the right type of runner
Just be careful with the road part of road-to-trail
Available now for $100
SAM: It seems almost counterintuitive that we’re closing out a 2022 of hybrid road-to-trail shoes with the latest installment in the Brooks Divide series. You’d think that the quintessential “my first running shoe” company would be all over this part of the market with an offering primed to start a new wave of road-to-trail runners.
Instead, the first two models in the Brooks Divide series weren’t even marketed as hybrids — they were sold as intro to trail shoes. In function, they were similar to hybrids but lacked a little refinement for the road. We thought the Divide 2 offered a lot for the money, but we weren’t as sold on the firm underfoot ride or the presence of the rock plate. With the Divide 3, we have a complete redesign and the first official road-to-trail offering from Brooks.
It has a road-familiar fit in a new mesh upper, TPU rock guard overlays with drainage slits, a new DNA Loft midsole, and a new TrailTack outsole with trail-ready lugs designed to still perform well on roads.
MICHAEL: Like the rise of gravel racing in the cycling world, road-to-trail has become a hot commodity in the 2022 trail season, with brands like Saucony, Altra, and Nike diving after the door-to-trail commuter or trail-curious buyer. So naturally, my expectations for the shoe were not unlike Sam’s. Brooks would apply its classic formula of cost-effective midsole + great fitting, comfortable upper + decent low-profile outsole, and voila, we have a great beginner road-to-trail shoe at an even better price. However, this changed when the formula we thought would be a simple addition included… well… you know… division.
What I anticipated to be a Saucony Ride 15 TR, Altra Outroad-esque cruiser quickly turned into a ridge running, technical terrain tackling, lightweight racing flat for $100… but how?
SAM: Brooks wouldn’t be Brooks without its comfortable, appealing uppers, and the Divide 3 is no exception. The new air mesh is almost svelte on the step in. The heel is spacious but padded, and the toe box is forgiving and accommodating, even with the oversized TPU rock guards that go almost to the heel counter. The hex pattern on that TPU paired with the bright accents in all the available colorways gives the shoe a futuristic tech look, and it’s cool — like the shoe is fueled by microchips.
There’s a ton of underfoot protection for a shoe with little stack (30mm heel/22mm forefoot). The Divide 3 doesn’t have a rock plate like its predecessors, and with that lower stack, I expected to feel the brutal punishment of every pebble but found that my feet were protected even on gnarly, sharp foot-sized rocks.
The outsole is the most impressive part of these shoes (outside of the price tag – that’s next). I’m going to go with calling the shape of the lugs a tri-chevron, but whatever they’re named, they have great traction on trails, rocks, and even muddy leaves. Brooks’ TrailTack is grippy enough for even the most technical excursions you can get yourself into. The lugs are flat on the bottom, and they don’t feel much different than any traditional road outsole on pavement, but pavement is not where TrailTack shines. The rubber, even with all that grip, seems very durable – not quite to Vibram levels, but enough that your typical runner won’t be able to put any kind of wear on these that would be detrimental to the performance of the shoe.
And finally, you get all this in a package that will only set you back one single Benjamin. Between the oversized TPU rock guard, the protectively firm midsole, and the tri-chevron outsole, this shoe seems nearly bulletproof. You’ll have to put these through a serious beating to degrade the performance beyond what you get out of the box, and to get that for only $100 is borderline ridiculous.
MICHAEL: Right out of the box, the outsole on this shoe is seriously impressive. Just like on the Caldera 6, the outsole has actually stuck to my kitchen floor when trying it on for the first time. I’d like to think I keep my kitchen (mostly) clean, so it’s great to see the same quality on the Divide outsole as Brooks’ higher-end offerings. Simply put, all great trail shoes require great outsoles, no matter the price, and it’s nice to see Brooks not sparing the best in-house tech on what may be the cheapest trail shoe on the market right now. A shoe comparable to the Divide is the Hoka Torrent 2. Similar to the Divide, the Torrent 2 is a budget-friendly, low-stack shoe but is significantly hampered by its lack of a quality outsole. It’s refreshing not to see the Divide also fall prey to this.
Brooks didn’t cut corners on the fit, either. The light, airy mesh upper feels great, and I found the lockdown fantastic. Light TPU overlays wrap the sides of the shoe, offering some appreciated light protection and looking pretty cool while doing it. I received numerous compliments on Divide while on the trail, and even one from my mom.
In my mind, the words Brooks Trail Running are synonymous with Ballistec Rock Shield, as this has been the stalwart feature in their longstanding Cascadia model. The Divide (along with the Caldera 6) is an exception, and I don’t think it suffers. The full-coverage outsole and comparatively stiff midsole provide sufficient underfoot protection for moderately technical trails.
Beginner trail runners (especially beginner trail racers, more on that in the conclusion) will benefit from the lower stack, which helps keep things stable around quick turns.
Lastly, I want to echo everything Sam wrote about the price. Absolutely unbelievable. I honestly can’t think of another $100 trail shoe on the market right now except for the Atreyu’s Base Trail, let alone a budget-friendly model with such well-polished simplicity. The Peregrine 12 is $130, the Torrent 2 is $125, and the Altra Superior 5 is $130. As far as I’m aware, there’s nothing else in this class, especially when you consider how these will likely see discounts for as low as $60-$70.Shop Brooks Divide 3 – Men Shop Brooks Divide 3 – Women
SAM: The downside of a bulletproof midsole is that the DNA Loft here feels like it might as well be hard enough to stop actual bullets. Running in the Brooks Divide 3 on pavement feels like strapping two wooden planks to your feet and heading off down the sidewalk. In an age of rockered and tapered soles, the transition in this shoe feels flat and as good as the tri-chevron outsole is, those broad, flat lugs slap at the pavement like flyswatters. They also don’t seem to love trails with larger-sized gravel pieces, and I found myself skittering across collections of rocks bigger than peas. The outsole/midsole combination is flat and stiff enough that catching rocks or roots on the edge of the sole twists your ankles all about.
The road-like upper on this shoe isn’t terrible at lockdown, but most of the pressure seems to activate right at the top of my foot, right under the laces. Think about lockdown here like a seatbelt — on the Divide 3, the lockdown is like the lap belt on the middle seat of your mom’s old minivan: it does the job, but it’s just holding your waist down adequately. I want the lockdown in a trail shoe — even a road-to-trail shoe — to feel more like a 5-point harness from a race car.
MICHAEL: Like my high school economics teacher used to say, “There are no free lunches,” and the saying rings true in the Brooks Divide 3. The midsole of the shoe is downright firm, like, really firm. Once I stepped off the singletrack, the Divide was downright harsh on the tarmac, completely negating any recommendation I could offer for road-to-trail application. The ride reminds me a lot of the Brooks PureGrit 5, a since discontinued trail shoe with holdover characteristics from the Brooks’ minimalist-minded Pure line.
If you’re reading this and just shuddered a little at the word minimalist, I understand entirely, but I don’t think this imposes a death sentence for the shoe, just a redefinition of what it’s good for. Let’s revisit the PureGrit 5, which was actually my first trail shoe. The PureGrit was, in essence, a racing flat with a grippy lugged outsole and light protection for the minimalist trail runner or racer. I was a high school triathlete primarily training on the roads for fast draft-legal racing but needed something with more grip and protection for Xterra off-road races, and the PureGrit fit the bill perfectly. Was it terrible on the roads? Absolutely. But it was perfect for running a fast trail 10k distance at the end of an Xterra race. I think the same will hold for the Brooks Divide 3.Shop Brooks Divide 3 – Men Shop Brooks Divide 3 – Women
SAM: The Divide 3 might not shine brightly on the road part of a road-to-trail shoe, but you can’t go all that wrong with a $100 price point on a shoe that will last a long time on easy to moderate trails. If you’re just vaguely curious about trail running and don’t mind a firm midsole, this is a steal in the world of trail shoes.
If you’re an experienced trail runner who wants a shoe to suck up training miles, you can pick up a pair of these and save $40-$60 over most other trainers. Save that to spend on your race day shoe or a date night with the person whose budget you victimize with all the shoes you buy. The Brooks Divide 3 is still an intro-to-trail shoe like its predecessors, and it doesn’t fit the hybrid bill too well, but as a pure trail trainer, I don’t know if you can find a better one for the price.
MICHAEL: While it might not be well-suited for the wide, broadly beginner customer base Brooks intended, some customers will love the Divide 3. The first runner that comes to mind is the ex-collegiate cross-country athlete who wants to primarily train on roads but race a local 8k-15k trail race on a budget. The low-stack height of the Divide will boost confidence, and the fantastic tri-chevron traction (thanks, Sam) will keep up with that XC speed.
Another runner who may enjoy the Divide is the seasoned trail runner who appreciates low stack heights and even lower prices and is looking for a budget daily trainer to eat up that big 50k mileage block leading into the winter race season. We can’t recommend the shoe for door-to-trail, but for these other usage cases (and honestly, for anyone looking for the lowest price shoe on the market), we can’t argue with such a rare overlap of performance and price.
You can pick up the Brooks Divide 3 for $100 using the shop link below.Shop Brooks Divide 3 – Men Shop Brooks Divide 3 – Women
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Sam lives in Baltimore with his wife and two kids and spends his days fixing espresso machines for Ceremony Coffee Roasters. He runs with the Faster Bastards when he can, races ultras, and has been working on completing the AT section by section. He thinks the best days are made of long miles on nasty trails, but that a good surf session, a really stunning book, or a day of board games are pretty all right too.
All-time favorite shoes: Saucony Xodus Ultra, Topo Athletic Ultraventure 3, Altra Lone PeakMore from Sam