Brooks Glycerin 21 review

8 expert score
0 user's score
As editorial policy, we do not accept free samples. We purchased this pair at Running Warehouse with our own money.
Review written on 15th January by Brandon Law Marathon Runner and Shoe Expert
157 other reviews

Brooks Glycerin 21 Verdict

The Brooks Glycerin 21 is a good max-cushioned trainer with a supportive, deeply cushioned ride that's best suited to slow running. It doesn't have a very lively ride but it feels luxurious and has plush landings. The improved version 21 has a more comfortable but warmer knitted upper with a wider toe box. It has a softer, more cushioned ride than its predecessor due to 2 mm extra stack height.

The pros

  • 2 mm extra stack height results in a plusher ride
  • Wider and more comfortable toe box
  • Smooth, stable transitions
  • Durable construction
  • Weight decrease

The cons

  • Not as energetic as other max-cushioned competitors
  • Laces feel cheap and fray easily
  • Very warm upper


Rating breakdown

Comfort
10
Build quality
9.0
Upper
9.0
Sole unit
7.0
Landing
7.0
Transition
7.0
Toe-off
7.0
Traction
7.0
Durability
9.0
Value / Price
8.0

Facts / Specs

Brand
Model
Glycerin 21
Family
Previous model
Weight
10 oz (283 g)
MSRP
$160.00

Heel
38 mm.
Toe
28 mm.
Heel drop
10 mm.
Carbon plate
No plate

Size/Fit

Sizing
True to size
Heel fit
Normal
Midfoot fit
Tight
Toebox fit
Normal

Cushioning & ride

Type of cushioning
Balanced
Amount of cushioning
Highly cushioned
Stability
Very stable
Flexibility
Flexible

Usage

Racing
Speedwork
Daily training  
Long distance racing
Ultra distance racing

Who should buy the Brooks Glycerin 21 ?

If you’re a heavy runner (above 90 kilograms) or you prefer your max cushioned trainers to be stable and not super soft, the Glycerin 21 is a great option.

Who should not buy the Brooks Glycerin 21 ?

If you want a cloud-like ride similar to the Nimbus and Invincible Run, the Glycerin 21 is not the shoe for you.

Brooks Glycerin 21 Introduction

Picture of Brooks Glycerin 21

Super soft cushioning for supreme comfort”, that’s the product description of the Glycerin 21 on the official Brooks website.

My very first Glycerin was the 16th version, many years ago. It wasn’t a super soft trainer back then and now, 5 versions later, neither is the Glycerin 21. I agree with brooks that it is supremely comfortable though. The Glycerins are some of the most comfortable trainers I’ve ever worn.

The Glycerin is Brooks’ max-cushioned trainer and while it is the softest Brooks trainer, compared to other max-cushioned trainers from other brands, like the Invincible Run, the More and the Nimbus, the Glycerin has a much firmer ride. This makes it a sturdy, stable shoe suitable for heavier runners.

Last year’s Glycerin 20 was one of the biggest Glycerin updates because it switched from a regular EVA midsole to a supercritical, Nitrogen infused midsole. This made the ride softer when walking but firmer when running because the new-age foam decompressed much faster after each foot strike.

This year’s version retains its DNA Loft v3 midsole but it has a different geometry. It also has a new upper and outsole.

The Glycerin 21 weighs 278 g (9.8 oz) which is 8 g (0.3 oz) less than the Glycerin 20- impressive considering the 21 has 2 mm extra stack height in the heel and forefoot. It still has a 10 mm drop and costs $160.

Brooks Glycerin 21 First Impressions

Picture of Brooks Glycerin 21

My first run was the second run of the day, a very slow 8 km recovery run on tired legs. During the first 3 kilometres, I could feel the raised side walls in the forefoot and midfoot which was annoying.

This was surprising because this is the regular Glycerin and not the GTS version. Luckily this sensation disappeared after the first 3 kilometres.

The shoe provided plenty of protection and my legs felt really happy during that run. The ride didn’t feel super soft but it felt very balanced- more like a daily trainer than a max-cushioned trainer. The upper fit me like a glove and it was really comfortable and conforming.

It reminded me a little bit of the Aurora-BL, also from Brooks but the Glycerin 21 didn’t feel as soft, energetic or unique. The Aurora was the first trainer to feature DNA Loft v3.

Brooks Glycerin 21 Upper

Picture of Brooks Glycerin 21

The upper of the Glycerin 21 is luxuriously padded with smooth lining on the inside, a textbook max-cushioned upper. I have no issues with hot spots or heel slippage but I do find it extremely warm.

It has a new knitted upper which is softer to the touch but has lower breathability. It stretches more and conforms to your feet better than the traditional mesh upper of the Glycerin 20 and it’s noticeably thicker.

Picture of Brooks Glycerin 21

The padded tongue is not gusseted but there isn’t excessive tongue slide because there is a loop on the tongue for the laces to go through. The laces have been changed to soft, thin oval laces which fray easily. I prefer the flat laces on the previous version because they feel more premium.

The Glycerin 21 has a narrow fit but it’s also available in a wide version. I find it true to size but a little bit shorter than the average running shoe. Its toe box is wider than the Glycerin 20.

Brooks Glycerin 21 Sole Unit

Picture of Brooks Glycerin 21

The biggest and most notable update to the sole unit is that the Glycerin 21 has lateral side rails in the forefoot and midfoot to help keep your feet centred, similar to the Glycerin GTS version. This is designed to increase stability, but I didn’t notice a big difference.

I’m a heel striker so perhaps it works better for forefoot or midfoot strikers. I don’t think the Glycerin 21 needs the side rails because the GTS version has these for runners needing extra stability and the regular version was already a very stable neutral shoe without them.

The Glycerin is the same type of max cushioned trainer as the Hoka Bondi. They both have firm but cushioned rides which suit runners who want a stable platform without much squish.

The Glycerin 21 is a brilliant long run shoe because it has deep cushioning and it’s easy on the ankles due to its midsole which isn’t overly soft. I did a 35 kilometre long, slow run in it and I really enjoyed how comfortable and sturdy it felt. Version 21 is slightly wider than version 20 to account for the increase in stack height so it’s even more stable.

Picture of Brooks Glycerin 21

Although the Glycerin 21 has thousands of tiny nitrogen bubbles in its DNA Loft v3 midsole which make it supercritical, it doesn’t feel as bouncy as you’d expect. It feels very padded and absorbs shock well but it doesn’t make me want to run fast. Only slow, relaxed runs are in the Glycerin 21’s wheelhouse. My easy and recovery runs are what I use it for.

There’s a lack of a prominent forefoot rocker in the Glycerin 21 so it feels flat compared to the new Brooks Ghost Max which has faster transitions and a stiffer forefoot. Version 21 is also more flexible than version 20 so it feels less snappy.

The outsole design is quite different to its predecessor and the Glycerin 21 has less rubber on the midfoot which saves some weight. The 21 outsole is more segmented in the forefoot which makes it more flexible. The rubber lugs are thick and hard-wearing so you won’t have any durability issues.

The exposed midsole foam is also really tough and won’t show many scuffs or abrasions. After 80 kilometres in my pair, it’s barely showing any outsole wear.

I wore the Glycerin 21 in the rain numerous times and I didn’t slip but traction is average on wet surfaces- the rubber lugs are not very aggressive.

Brooks Glycerin 21 Conclusions

Picture of Brooks Glycerin 21

The Glycerin 21 still doesn’t have that super soft cushioning that Brooks advertises, but that’s not a deal breaker. Not everyone wants a soft max-cushioned trainer.

The Hoka Bondi is an example of a firm max-cushioned trainer that sells by the boatload. It was the 2nd best selling running shoe at Running Warehouse this year and last.

I personally prefer my max-cushioned trainers to be lighter and more bouncy but I’m a light runner (60 kilograms) so I don’t think I’m benefiting from the Glycerin’s tank-like build.

The Glycerin 21 stands out from the crowd of max-cushioned trainers because it can withstand a beating. It has a thick, hard-wearing outsole and a midsole foam which doesn’t compress much over time.

Version 21 is an improvement over version 20 because it provides a softer, plusher ride due to the increase in stack height and it has a more comfortable upper with a wider toe box.

I think the Glycerin could be improved by having an even taller midsole and a more prominent rocker to ease transitions. Hopefully the Glycerin Max will have these features when it eventually comes out.

How does the Glycerin 21 compare?

Saucony Triumph 21
Brooks Glycerin 21
Brooks Ghost Max
Expert score
9
8
8
User score
Retail price
US$159.95
US$160
US$150
Weight
10 oz
10 oz
10 oz
Heel Drop
10 mm
10 mm
6 mm
Recommended for
Daily training
Daily training
Daily training
Cushioning type
balanced/plush
balanced
balanced
Cushioning amount
Highly cushioned
Highly cushioned
Highly cushioned
Flexibility
medium
flexible
medium
Stability
not particularly stable
very stable
very stable
Sizing
true to size
true to size
true to size

Why you can trust us

As editorial policy, we do not accept free samples from companies.
We purchased this pair of Brooks at Running Warehouse  with our own money.

This page contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. Read more about our policy.

Reviewed by Brandon

This review was written by Brandon Law on 15th January.
Brandon is a South African who lives and trains in Malaysia. He is a marathon runner who eats, sleeps and dreams running shoes. While most people wear shoes to run, he runs to wear shoes.

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