Brooks Sports was founded in Philadelphia in 1914 and started producing and marketing sports shoes in the 1930s. More recently, Brooks has been focusing on running.
In 2015, Brooks was rated 1st for ethical manufactured sports shoes by German consumer organisation Stiftung Warentest. The overall rating was made up of company policy, manufacturing, sole production, components and transparency.
As it happens to most brands, once their collection starts to get filled with shoes, it gets harder for runners to understand what each shoe is supposed to be. Let us clear this up for you!
Brooks is moving away from using degrees of stability as the key differentiation for models in their range. Other brands are moving in this direction, with Nike being the largest example at this time.
“Run Happy” is Brooks motto and their running shoe philosophy is that there is no right or wrong way to run. That a running shoe is not intrinsically right or wrong for you, but that each runner should choose the shoe they want based on their individual preference and the experience they want to get out of a run.
They therefore split their running shoe collection into 4 “silos” that reflect 4 different kind of runs (Brooks calls them “experiences”):
- Cushion: Soft and protective to cushion your every step.
- Energize: Responsive and springy to add extra lift to your stride.
- Connect: Lightweight and ﬂexible to naturally feel your run.
- Speed: Fast and streamlined to propel you through your run.
Let’s have a closer look at these silos/experiences, but first let us introduce you to Brooks running shoe technologies. Understanding a few of these key terms will help you better understand the shoes.
Brooks sole technologies
Launched in 2008, BioMoGo is the material found in virtually all Brooks midsoles. Due to its formulation, BioMoGo is completely bio-degradable. While a standard EVA foam will take approximately 1,000 years to fully degrade in a landfill, BioMoGo can biodegrade in roughly 20 years when placed in the same environment.
What makes this technology incredible to me is that Brooks decided not to patent it, but to offer it as a “open source” innovation for any other shoe producer to use. Way to go!
Launched in 2010, DNA is a cushioning technology that is also present in most of Brooks’ running shoes.
Brooks claims that DNA is the first cushioning technology that dynamically adapts with each foot strike to the ever-changing amount of force placed on the foot during the run. No matter what the age, weight, gender, gait… DNA adapts itself to deliver the right amount of cushioning.
How’s that possible? DNA is a non-Newtonian compound.
A non-Newtonian material is a material that behaves very differently from what we expect, based on the impact applied to it. Although it sounds crazy at first, it is a real thing! Please watch the video below. It’s from Brooks, it’s quite cheesy, but the demonstration give it justice more than I could by writing about it.
Super-DNA is the latest version of DNA and we can expect in the near future most of Brooks’ running shoes to be featuring this new compound. Still based on the same principle of the DNA, a non-newtonian based material offers different amount of cushioning based on the force of the impact applied.
This new version adds 25% cushioning to the previous BioMoGo DNA material while preserving all the other specs, including the bio-degradability.
Shaped like a caterpillar, the Segmented Crash Pad is a midsole made up of independent, yet fully integrated shock absorbers.
As your foot strikes the ground, the segments work together to customize your individual lay down to provide the right amount of cushion and seamless heel-to-toe transition for you – making the most of all that effort you put into each stride.
Guide Rails are the latest introduction in Brooks technology and like all the others, it seems to veer in the direction of “we don’t correct your stride, we let your body define how to run”. This latest is about providing some stability without traditional stability technology (ie. dual posts).
Guide Rails are specialized plates built into the midsole that allow your hips, knees and joints to move along their unique motion path while you run – all without any traditional posts. What they do is to wrap around the edge of your foot in order to keep it aligned. The illustration below, from the Brooks website, might help clarify what they are.
A closer look at the Brooks running shoe lineup
Now that we shed some light on the most important Brooks technologies, let’s have a look at each one of the 4 main categories and which shoes belong to those.
Don’t let the name “Cushion” fool you into thinking these are Brooks neutral shoes. The Beast and the Adrenaline – two of Brooks most popular stability running shoes – sit in this category.
Cushion is about the feel the shoe has during the run. The emphasis is on delivering a soft landing of the foot to protect each step.
Here are the shoes that make up this category, and for clarity I am breaking them down in “Neutral” and “Support”.
Cushion – Neutral
Neutral shoes in the Cushion category are meant to deliver a plush, soft landing for extended comfort during long miles.
Brooks Defyance 9
$120 - Brooks describes the Defyance as the cushioning version of the Adrenaline. Offering a balanced cushioning on a flat footbed it can be well used as a high-mileage everyday trainer for runners with flat feet who do not overpronate.
$120 - The Ghost is another of Brooks best selling shoes, being a great balanced neutral trainer. What our testers liked the most about the Ghost is the balanced ride whatever the style of running. Soft landing under the heel for heel strikers and good heel-to-toe transition. The Ghost is a shoe we would easily recommend to many many runners, especially beginners.
Cushion – Support
These are the shoes that deliver great cushioning and soft landing, while still providing an ample level of support for the over-pronators.
$170 - The Transcend is quite an unique shoe that combines max cushioning with support without resorting to the standard stability solution of medial posts of harder foam. Instead, the Transcend achieves its stability through a very wide platform and the use of 'Guide Rails' around the foot. Cushioning is soft thanks to the use of SuperDNA, Brooks' latest cushioning tech.
Brooks Addiction 12
$120 - The Addiction sits between the Adrenaline and the Beast in terms of stability, even though its construction and ride is more similar to the Beast - the main difference being the use of DNA instead of SuperDNA. It works very well for custom orthotics so look into the Addiction if you have flat feet and you wear orthotics.
“Energize” shoes are characterized by a more responsive cushioning and higher energy return compared to the “cushion” shoes.
They place an emphasis on speed and fast foot turnaround and are generally more lightweight than their counterparts in the “cushion” category. They are meant for faster training or racing.
Running shoes in the “Connect” category are the lightest and most flexible shoes in the Brooks range.
Look into these shoes if you are looking for a natural feeling or to perfect your running technique.
$120 - The Pure line is a collection of lightweight, flexible and breathable running shoes and recommended for technique drills or for runners that are looking for a natural feeling during their run and direct contact with the ground. The PureCadence adds a touch of stability for mild overpronators to a shoe with 4mm drop.
As the name suggests, “Speed” are the racing shoes. Here are the options:
$130 - The Neuro is a shoe that might look odd at first. But trust us, it's no gimmick! Racing shoe, it has a series of (very visible) pods that propel you forward. These pods are made of BioMoGo DNA and - according to our own reviewer Jim - they seem to propel you faster the faster you run. In Jim's words again 'it is one of the most responsive shoes I have ever worn'.
Brooks Racer ST5
$90 - The ST5 is a road racing shoe for the over-pronator. With DNA in the heel and 12 mm drop it rides quite traditionally but the light weight. We recommend this shoe to over pronators who want a shoe for fast workouts, tempo runs and race day.
Brooks T7 Racer
$85 - The T7 Racer is another very light shoe for road races. Because of the small amount of cushioning it provides it is not recommended as a marathon racing shoe unless you are a very light, very efficient competitor.
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Don’t forget to have a look at the other brand guides we wrote this year: