The Brooks Launch is a lighter shoe in the neutral cushioned category, which makes it appropriate for up-tempo training and some runners may find it suitable for a bit more padding when racing. It’s a small step down from the Glycerin or Ghost (trainers), but a step up from the T6 or Green Silence (racers).
The forefoot sole rubber on the Launch is off the hook. The Launch has a good quarter inch or more of rubber to give in the front, though the heel has relatively little. Heel strikers are likely to wear through the rubber a bit quickly. Forefoot and midfoot runners have plenty of rubber to wear through, though balance may become an issue depending on the wear. The shoe is also a little on the soft side, which means the midsole compresses a bit easily. The heel is not very decoupled, though, and so it spreads the compression out.
The overlays, lacing, and mesh are unlikely to age the shoe prematurely, as they all hold up fine.
The Launch delivers a soft ride, but with a little bit of spring. The upper at the laces has a sort of frame around it that help hold the lacing area without putting pressure on the top of the foot. Even for a high-arched runner, the shoe can be tied comfortably loose and stay on the foot. Actually, it’s so good for a high-arched runner that it may not be great at all for a low-arched runner. User discretion is advised!
The inside of the heel collar is not made of any special material to reduce chafing. People with bony heels are likely to wear the inside of the shoe’s heel (or the outside of their own heel).
The shoe gives every indication that it is designed for a midfoot striker, as it has immense forefoot rubber and a flat area on the sole in the midfoot instead of a fancy bridge or shank. The shoe seems to transition heel striking pretty well, though, as the direction of the sole rubber indicates that the thinner midfoot rubber moves from a lateral heel strike to the midfoot as if the foot is rolling to the medial side. What then happens is the forefoot rubber extends out and slightly back to the lateral side where the ball of the foot would bend the toes in that direction. This provides an excellent transition for a neutral runner, as the foot can move both medially and laterally, but will likely follow a natural direction from impact through toe off.
The shoe performs well on flat surfaces where the side-to-side motion is kept to the gait of the runner. Cambered surfaces or grass may present a problem, as the shoe’s midsole softness and underfoot design lends itself to pronation and/or supination when the ground angles one way. Basically, the shoe is pretty flexible in all directions despite having no visible flex grooves of note—the midsole is simple enough to allow it.
The shoe claims to have a heel-to-toe offset of 22mm to 10mm. This makes it slightly lower of a profile than standard trainers. The shoe still seems to allow for plenty of heel striking, so don’t expect the shoe to change your gait for you. It does have a somewhat sprung toe out of the box, so it will promote the foot’s forward motion.
Truly neutral runners or supinators may benefit from the shoe’s side-to-side flexibility and the shape of the sole underneath. All runners should find it responsive to a quick transition, despite being a soft shoe.
“With an incredibly flexible outsole and seamless transition, this lightweight neutral trainer will get you from start to finish, whether for a tempo run or in a race. Add to that the lower-profile midsole and minimal upper, and it’s 3, 2, 1 . . . blast off! Weight: 9.3 oz.”
I bought this shoe thinking the reported 22/11 offset would help transition me away from the 24/12 world [interesting, I now see it listed on their site as 22/10, but I swear they had blog posts saying 22/11]. Out of the box, my immediate impression was that I might be heel striking more than ever in the Launch. I was sure this must be the case when at 50 miles on the shoes the “HPR” label on the sole rubber wore away to some other colored sole material. I was massively disappointed and felt as if the shoes were a failure.
I shelved the shoes for a month or so. I wore through a different pair of shoes, started doing more doubling in my daily training, and found myself needing to rotate shoes a bit more. I put the Launches back on, started running on the road one morning, and SLAM SLAM SLAM I was heel striking just as much as ever and I was pretty angry with this. It was the morning, though, and I was going probably over a 9 minute pace when my easy run pace should be closer to 8. I decided I would run faster to get myself off my heels. Best decision ever. The shoe thanked me.
I went on to put maybe 200 more miles on my pair of Launches while using them for tempos, steady states, and daily runs, but never for recovery running or really any running where I felt I might be going at a lazy pace. The flat midfoot sole and the sprung toe helped me move along well at faster speeds in the shoe. I can sort my running log according to what shoes I wear and doing so shows that my easy runs in the Launch were done about 20 seconds per mile faster than wearing the Glycerins (slightly heavier and more heel-strike friendly neutral Brooks shoe).
I often developed pain in the Launches for two different reasons. The primary reason was due to what seemed like either a pretty straight last or else just not much medial support in the shoe (which should be expected in a neutral shoe, to be fair). This was particularly bad when I ran on roads with a camber, as my big toe would turn in against the mesh of the shoe. It gave the feeling of my big toe not wanting to flex properly for toe-off. I at first thought this was just a problem caused by my big toe being inflexible on its own account (and many message board posters claim similar symptoms as a common running injury). This also happened to me in another shoe that pushed my big toe against the medial mesh and it happened when I ran the same routes of cambered roads, so I’ve restricted this to a surface/shoe issue since my wide foot and pronation will 9 times out of 10 not cause this problem. To make a long story short, the shoe is going to let your foot move where it’s trying to go, so keep that in mind. This meant occasional jamming of my toe against the medial mesh, which also caused some blistering between toes. I even thought the toe box was wide overall, but the absence of medial support let my foot turn in frequently (slight overpronator).
The other pain was some mild heel chafing on my calcaneus. The material inside the shoe just isn’t very forgiving. Wear comfortable socks if it might be a problem for you.
Do I recommend the shoe even after that pain? Yep! This is as neutral as a cushioned shoe comes. I just ordered another pair in the new colorway and plan to use them for up-tempo training on mostly balanced surfaces. I found it easy to lace up the shoes and hit the road at a decent pace. I don’t recommend the shoe for too much easy running or jogging if you heel strike, but I do recommend it for all midfoot runners, neutral runners, or other runners moving at speeds requiring a quick transition.