REVIEW: Brooks Launch 3
The original Brooks Launch was one of my very first pairs of Brooks shoes, and I loved it so much I went through 3 pairs of them, and even ran one of them to a podium position in the 2XU Megatri O2 Triathlon in 2013. Fast forward to 2016, and Brooks already revised the Launch once last year and again this year. I never got around to trying the Launch 2, but I recently got the opportunity to try out the Launch 3 and here are my thoughts. Before we begin, bear in mind that the Launch is meant to be a neutral uptempo trainer, rather than a daily trainer like the Ghost or Ravenna.
I’ll start by saying the Launch 3 feels like a different shoe entirely from the original Launch, at least to me. It's more plush and cushioned in feel. It has gained a few grams, primarily because more effort has been invested in the upper. The extra padding around the tongue and heel, as well as more eye-catching designs in the mesh all add up. The outsole also feels a tad more substantial compared to the original Launch. The advertised stack of the shoe is 27mm in the heel and 17mm in the forefoot, so the shoe still stays true to its roots as a no-nonsense traditional drop shoe.
Brooks claimed to use screen printing technology with synthetic overlays, combined with an air mesh in the upper. What all this means in the real world, is the upper feels very nice and snug without any rubbing seams or hot spots, and it also created a shoe with more room in the toe-box, both laterally and vertically. In fact the shoe is much roomier overall compared to the original Launch, which I’d classify as a relatively low volume shoe, in terms of top-down volume. The width of the new outsole appears unchanged from the original, so I suspect the greater space in the toe-box and arch are more a function of the new upper.
The mesh seems to be slightly more ventilated and elastic than the original Launch. Singapore is one of the most testing climates on the planet, combining high humidity with equatorial heat, and the shoes have not given me any sense of being warm and uncomfortable during any of my runs thus far, so the air mesh works just fine.
I'm also particularly impressed with the quality of the insole in the Launch 3. The insoles that came with the original Launch, and the Racer ST5 tended to be on the thinner side and had a prnounced arch to them. The new ones are much more natural in shape and feel extremely plush and padded.
The original Launch sported BioMoGo foam, while the new Launch 2 & 3 both incorporate BioMoGo DNA foam. The different is subtle but there is just that extra little bit of give in the shoe, and that is particularly noticeable in the forefoot. True Launch fans may find that loss of extra snappiness annoying but I have not noticed any significant differences once the shoes gets up to speed. The shoe comes with a traditional toespring and has a very predictable comfortable transition to it. It should be noted that as far as uptempo shoes go, this is definitely on the heavier side, when you compare it to other shoes in the same category: New Balance Vazee Pace/Rush, Adidas Boston Boost, Mizuno Wave Sayonara etc, but you get the added benefit of an uptempo shoe that will probably outlast all the above examples. My original Launch lasted ~1.5 years a pair on average, and this appears to be a consistent trend for Brooks’ traditional trainers.
The Launch 3 uses a generous amount of very soft blown rubber in the forefoot, and I suspect this contributes a lot to the soft forefoot feel. By contrast, heel coverage is composed of carbon-injected rubber for better durability. This contrast in outsole material creates for a relatively firm heel landing and softer forefoot.
The Launch 3 has a low arch structure and is overall, a medium to high volume shoe, but with the lacing and overlays, it is by no means a sloppy fit. In fact the fit is uniform from heel to forefoot and you can secure a very good lock-down of the arch and forefoot without having to tighten the laces too much. I think this shoe will fit the majority of Asian feet really well, as the footprint is very much middle of the road. I was able to get a very good fit without having to resort to using the last lacing hole to prevent heel slippage, something which I often have to do with many brands, and I attribute this to the generous and snug padding of the heel counter. In fact, the heel support is better even than the Transcend and Ravenna which I own, and do require the heel loop to prevent slippage.
The Launch is what I would call a predictable workhorse shoe. If you want a shoe that really wows you, then this is probably not it. If you want something that is reliable and predictable, in terms of how a shoe will respond to different terrain or paces, this shoe will work. It also has impeccable durability, not just in terms of outsole wear, but in terms of midsole performance as well. I have just about 200km on my pair over the last couple of weeks, and there is hardly any wear in the outsole, and the midsole feels exactly the same as it did fresh out of the box. Some shoes need bedding in, others tend to lose their spring a little after the first couple of runs, but in my experience the Launch is a shoe that holds its ride characteristics for a remarkably long time. That, to me is the true selling point of the Launch. The only drawback of this shoe is its weight. When I try to do fast strides with this shoe, I do tend to notice the chunkiness of the shoe a little and it takes a bit more time than a true lightweight trainer to get up to speed, but once you get rolling, the plush forefoot cushioning really comes into its own. Personally, I use this shoe now more as a daily trainer if I want to do some faster tempo work and want that extra cushioning to keep my legs fresh. I am also experimenting with going back to doing my long runs with this shoe. I did use the original Launch a lot for long runs, but moved on to softer shoes over the years as my mileage went up, but now I feel that I might need to condition my feet more to get used to the more solid sure-footed feel of a traditional trainer again, so that’s what my Launch 3 will be going through in the coming weeks and months.
The Launch 3 is now available in all Key Power International sores in Singapore for S$179.