Brooks I.D. sponsored runner program for 2010, I needed to break in some Brooks running shoes in preparation for the Disney Marathon on January 10th, which will be my first race of the new year. I'd been reading rave reviews of the Brooks Launch for several weeks on Dailymile from the likes of Matthew L. and Daniel N., the latter of whom boldly stated "If my Launch were a woman, my wife would be reasonable to be suspicious of my time with her. I'm smitten." The Launch was also been chosen by Runner's World as the "Best Debut" in it's Winter 2010 Shoe Guide, where it was described as " lightweight, flexible, and supportive with a fast feel." Given this level of positive feedback, I decided to beg my wife for a pair of Brooks Launch shoes for my birthday (more like I had my kids running around the house chanting "Brooks Launch, size 10" over and over...). She came through (with my running addiction, I'm easy to please when it comes to gift giving), and I had a pair of shiny new shoes ready to be broken in starting last week. At this point, I'll keep things brief as I've only run about 25 miles in the Launch, but my initial impressions are highly favorable.
Appearance: The first thing you'll notice about the Brooks Launch is that they're about as flashy and brightly colored as a shoe can get. I tend to like running shoes that make you stand out in a crowd, and these certainly fit the bill - I received several comments on the shoes just walking down the hall at work on my way out for a run, and they turn heads on the road. Not only do they draw attention, the red/orange color combo just looks fiery, and you can't help but feel fast with these things on.
Fit: The Launch is an extremely comfortable shoe. The forefoot is plenty roomy for my medium width foot, and blistering has not been an issue after 25 miles of breaking them in. They feel really springy when I walk in them, particularly in the forefoot, though they seem to firm up while running. It's strange, but the sensation I get from these shoes when walking vs. running is very different - not sure why or how this happens.
Performance: As a lightweight trainer (my size 10's weighed in at exactly 9.9oz on my postal scale), the Launch is right at the border of my self-imposed limit for shoe weight (I prefer not to wear anything over 10oz). They are definitely lighter in feel than something like the Brooks Adrenaline or my boot-like Asics Kayano's (which were retired long ago), but heavier than my Nike Free 3.0's or Lunaracers (which I ran in for most of the earlier portion of this year). They fill a nice middle ground between a racing flat and a more typical training shoe. As I mentioned above, I've only done about 25 miles in the Launch so far, but that includes a few speedier runs where the shoes lived up to their name. Last week I ran a solo 5K at about a 6:40 min/mile pace in them, and yesterday I did 11.75 miles at a 7:23 min/mile pace - on both runs the shoes were comfortable and held up well, so they're looking promising as a marathon shoe for Disney. I also have a sense that I'm landing further forward on my heel (although still clearly heel-striking) in the Launch. Others have commented on this as well (e.g., Caleb M. on Dailymile), and I'm not sure if it's how the shoe is engineered or if my stride is just adapting to all of the work I did in more minimalist shoes this summer - I plan to shoot a slow-motion gait video (like these) soon to see exactly what's going on for me in the Launch.
Summary: My initial feelings about the Brooks Launch are very positive, and this will likely be my marathon shoe in Disney in January. I've also ordered a pair of the Brooks T6 Racer's, which are lightweight racing flats, but it's been suggested to me that they may not be enough shoe for the marathon distance. Although most of the shoes I've been running in for the past 9 months or so are lighter than the Launch by a full ounce or more (the Free 3.0 is over 3.0oz lighter), they don't feel bulky, and their comfort and performance negate any initial concerns I had about their weight. I plan to follow up after I've put in some additional miles in the Launch, and I may use them in a local 5K in a few weeks, which will give me a better handle on how well they work for speed. At the very least, they're flashy appearance makes me feel feel fast, and sometimes in running the mental advantage can be as important as any actual performance advantage that might be conferred by a shoe!
Video Update 11/17/09: Below are videos showing my footstrike in the Brooks Launch. I'm clearly still a heel-striker in them, though the wear pattern so far would indicate that I'm landing further forward in these shoes, and the heel-toe transition is very smooth. The second video gives a nice view of the cushioning being engaged all the way through the forefoot.
Brooks Launch Footstrike from Pete Larson on Vimeo.
Brooks Launch - Closeup of Footstrike. from Pete Larson on Vimeo.
Brooks Launch from Pete Larson on Vimeo.
Slow motion video of treadmill running in Brooks Launch - mild heel strike here. Video shot at 300 frames-per-second with a Casio Exilim EX-F1 camera. Courtesy of http://www.runblogger.com/.
Update 6/10/2010: For another very positive take on this shoe, check out the Brooks Launch Review by my buddy Jay P. over on the dailymile Community Blog.
Update 1/17/2010: I'm happy to report that I rode the Brooks Launch to an 8:00 PR at the Disney Marathon last week. They performed marvelously, and my feet were in far better shape afterward than they have been after any of my previous 4 marathons (I'm very prone to blistering in marathons, and I was left with only 2 tiny ones after Disney). I don't know how much to credit the Launch for playing a part, but this was also the first marathon in which I didn't hit "the wall." I've put 150 miles total on the Launch so far, and I'd have to say that they rank right up there with the original Nike Free 3.0 as my favorite running shoes that I have owned. I will definitely be buying another pair when these wear out.
Update 12/16/09: The Brooks Launch was awarded the "Best Debut" award in the December issue of Runner's World Magazine. Check out the video below for their overview of the shoe.
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