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Road Running Shoes • February 26, 2018

Brooks Launch 5 Performance Review

Brooks Launch 5

The Good

Robbe: The Brooks Launch 5 lives up to the name. For Brooks fans, the Launch has been a staple of their lineup over the last seven years, and this version may be the best yet. 

On first look, it’s obvious that Brooks is trying to make an attractive running shoe from a design perspective; CEO Jim Weber confirmed as much in a recent Bloomberg interview. I’ll give them a passing grade on this one, because this is one of the first Brooks shoes that I’d be okay with wearing in public, maybe even to a grocery store on an early Sunday morning.

The step-in feel is Goldilocks level on the feel chart— not too soft, not too minimal, but just right. The Launch 5 has a re-engineered upper from its predecessor, featuring a one-piece mesh overlay outside of a bootie that envelops the foot precisely as a bootie should. This is the main difference between the 5 and the 4, which was a cocktail of space mesh and synthetic overlays. It’s nice to see this straightforward, clean, and breathable design with the 5. I’m particular about laces; the standard laces are oval and just the right length. The ankle collar features enough cushioning to provide adequate stability, while the firm heel cup carries the rest of the load. Up front, the toe box offers just the right amount of space— it wasn’t roomy, but I also didn’t experience any toe-rub. Again, another Goldilocks feel. 

The outsole looks clunky, with its 10mm drop and upwards taper design on the heel, but it feels anything but. I found the responsiveness to be excellent overall. Not the best, but what you’d expect for a daily neutral trainer. The BioMoGo DNA midsole isn’t anything groundbreaking to the Launch line, but it still provided a pleasant springiness to each step. For those unfamiliar with the DNA material, it’s Brooks’s proprietary cushioning technology that allegedly tailors a different energy return dependent on every step, providing better cushion and performance than typical EVA or gel materials.

On a lesser note, the midsole technology also wins my award for best PR bullshit term, in that the DNA cushioning is supposedly made of a “non-Newtonian material” as per Brooks’s website. Insert hand-clap emoji. 

Bullshit running tech-speak aside, it works.

With an overall weight of 8.5 oz (for my size 8), the shoe wants to go fast, and it offers no resistance in doing so. I threw it into easy runs, tempo runs, and long runs at the peak of marathon training, and it took them all and gave me back nothing but good feels.

In all, I ran 75 miles in them. The durability is excellent so far, as it should be. One thing I have to say is this because it’s the first time I’ve been able to say it: I went on a 24-mile long run in them on sidewalks and streets, and I felt great at the end. I had the expected soreness in the legs and shoulders, but my feet felt completely fine. I’ve had an issue with banging my second toe on long runs in other running shoes (even sizing up), and I somehow had none of that in this shoe. I’m running the Rock ’n’ Roll D.C. marathon in a couple of weeks, and I’m leaning towards this as my race day shoe. 

Erin: Oh, man. The Launch. I bought a pair of these when they came out in the fall of 2009, and this was the first time in my running career where I bought several pairs at once in anticipation of Brooks ruining what, for me (and many others), was the perfect neutral daily trainer. Shockingly, Brooks left the Launch mostly unchanged for over two years, aside from the addition of some new (and sometimes hideous) colorways. Then, in 2012, they announced that they were discontinuing the Launch. The shoe had such a loyal following that I became convinced this was some stupid marketing stunt and decided I’d never buy another pair of Brooks again. They were dead to me. Yeah, I know, this section is where I’m supposed to talk about the good parts of the Launch 5, not rehash in great detail my grudge against Brooks. So let us talk about the Launch 5, shall we?

I wish I had a pair of the original Launch so I could compare the two, but I’ll have to trust my recollection of that shoe. It was simple. Light. Responsive. Maybe not the most attractive shoe in the world, but man, it was great: I wore it for everything. Long runs, track workouts, races.

Perhaps the most noticeable difference between the old Launch and the new is the upper, which is an engineered lightweight, flexible mesh that allows for a sock-like fit. The single layer of engineered mesh lays over an internal bootie which enhances that fit. Step-in comfort is excellent; like the Levitate, the Launch 5 has a well-padded tongue and heel collar. The laces are a suitable length, which is refreshing.

The Launch 5 midsole is made of Brooks’ proprietary BioMoGo DNA, which is what’s so great about this shoe. It’s a comfortable but fairly unremarkable shoe at slower speeds, but when you pick up the pace, the Brooks Launch 5 responds, and it feels great. It feels much snappier at a 7:30 pace than a 9:00 pace.

I’ve only put about 50 miles on these guys, but the HPR rubber outsole seems pretty durable and isn’t showing any wear thus far. The other notable thing about the outsole is how grippy it is. I did a few icy runs in the Launch 5 and was impressed with the traction.

Brooks Launch 5

The Bad

Robbe: The outsole on the Brooks Launch 5 is a little on the firm side, but I also ran most of my runs in sub-40 degree weather, which naturally hardens up the material to some degree. I had no real problems with it, and the responsiveness was still excellent. The sizing seemed a little on the small side. Most size 8’s feel a tad too big for me; however, this shoe felt perfect. I prefer a narrow shoe, so those with wider feet may have a different experience than me. That said, Brooks does have a 90-day satisfaction guarantee on their shoes, so there’s no harm in trying them out. 

Erin: The midsole has what Brooks calls a “transition zone”, which is designed to help the shoe go from heel to toe (or wherever to toe) quickly; if you look at the bottom of the shoe, you can see a sort of figure 8 pattern on the midsole and the outsole where the crossing point of the 8 is under the arch. Now, I did not have any issues with the Launch feeling unstable, but several other reviewers have mentioned this as an issue, and it’s pretty clear to see how that would be the case when looking at the shoe. Since this seems to be particularly bothersome to some, I thought it pertinent to mention here. I’d guess that if you are more of a midfoot striker, this would be less of a problem.

When I ran in the original Launch, I wore an 8. I received these in an 8.5, and they’re fine with thin socks, but I probably could have sized up to a 9. They seem to run short so keep that in mind.

I hate the conspicuous magenta midsole. Brooks seems to like making their midsoles in bright colors. The other three colorways have white midsoles, and I wish I had gotten a pair of those instead because it looks like a completely different shoe. Anyhow. Not performance related, just an aesthetic gripe.

Brooks Launch 5

Brooks Launch 5 Conclusion 

Robbe: I loved this shoe. I would have no qualms using this as a daily trainer, from tempos to long runs. Everything felt right about it. I wish I could attest to running it in warmer weather (for breathability and responsiveness), but from the general design, it should be adequately breathable in any condition. If you’re already a Brooks or Launch fan, then buy away. If you’re a Nike head, then buy these when they go on sale and wear them in the dark, so nobody knows you’re cheating on the swoosh. Lastly, they come in at an excellent price point; as always, use our code BELIEVE10 to get another 10% off at Runner’s Warehouse. 

Erin: The Brooks Launch 5 seems a little firmer and snappier than the original Launch, and it’s a much better-looking shoe (aside from the aforementioned midsole color). Remember the Ronald McDonald Launch? Ugh, terrible. The Launch 5 reminded me why I loved the original so much: it’s just a solid shoe that you can wear for almost anything. At less than 8 ounces (7.9 for a women’s 8, to be exact) and less than $100, it is hard to beat.


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