Saturday, November 24, 2018

Brooks Running Launch 6 Initial Review: A tempo run worthy upper and more forefoot cushion!

Article by Sam Winebaum

Brooks Running Launch 6 ($100)
Introduction
The Launch is the Brooks up tempo and longer race shoe. It slots into the Energize collection. My Launch 6 sample checks in at exactly the same weight as the Launch 5 (RTR review) in my size US men's 8.5: 9.17 oz / 260 g, so about 9.4 oz in a size 9.  It has a 10mm drop shoe. It comes in a very reasonable $100 and is available now. RoadTrailRun will have a multi tester review soon.

Fit

The Launch 6 fits me true to size with a performance type fit while the Launch 5 had a looser fit overall as its mesh was fabric like very soft, overly pliable and not very supportive at faster paces.  I barely had enough lace to double knot and the laces are noticeably wider over the foot than in the Launch 5 although actual volume feels about the same, a touch less loose and easy in the Launch 6 as the upper is clearly more substantial in its support.
The Launch 6 may fit a touch shorter or lower at the big toe than Launch 5 due to the denser mesh weave in that area but overall there is sufficient toe box room for me and an improved hold.
My troublesome left foot bunion sees no pressure, always a good test. Those with wider higher volume feet may find this more structured upper snugger as there is less give overall to the upper. I'm "run happy" here as in the Launch 5 I found the upper support marginal.

Upper
With version 6 Brooks outfitted the Launch with a new somewhat more substantial one piece engineered mesh upper which in my one on each foot 5 mile test run solves the loose rear of mid foot hold that two of our three testers, including me, experienced with the Launch 5. The new upper also better secures the forefoot,
Instead of a printed/painted logo providing of the L5 the Brooks logo in the L6 is a pliable overlay, and likely a functional one providing some support and structure. The mesh is soft but with more vertical texture than the fabric like Launch 5's.
The tongue is no longer puffy thick but is amply padded. The ankle and achilles padding is also slimmed down and snugged up but still quite reasonably plentiful.

Midsole


The midsole remains BioMoGo DNA and my sense in running a Launch 6 on one foot and Launch 5 on the other that the combination of midsole and outsole changes makes the Launch 6 a touch softer at the heel and more obviously so at the forefoot.

To further stabilize the mid foot the very narrow waist of the midsole is slightly filled in below the outsole to widen the platform with the Midfoot Transition Zone "X" now seeing more flex openings through the outsole .
There is no question, and Brooks calls it out in their spec sheet, that the forefoot is more cushioned. They say "..updated midsole with additional foam under the forefoot offers a longer lasting energizing run experience."  How much more foam we will find out when we get stack height stats. The more flexible forefoot Launch 5 is somewhat fatiguing at the forefoot, firm, thin and not as stable with its unstructured upper also contributing. No longer with Launch 6 as the cushion is noticeably improved as is forefoot stability although the response and toe off agility could be considered to be a touch tuned down.

Outsole
The rear outsole now has a much wider heel landing decoupling groove. I could feel somewhat softer easier landings and transitions off the heel as a result. This said the Launch overall is on the firmer side matching its uptempo purpose.  The front outsole now has four shallower but slightly wider flex grooves instead of five. The last V shaped one near the mid foot as well as the slots cut out of the Transition piece had me feeling a more continuous, smoother transition. There is plenty of durable rubber here which should give many miles but which also likely add to weight.

Ride
So far I have taken the Launch 6 for a 7 mile progression run to 9 minute pace average and a slow recovery run the next day with my wife. The faster run was delightful. I particularly appreciated the new forefoot cushion and stability as well as smoothness of transition but wished for a touch more flexibility at faster paces. I had none of the forefoot fatigue of the Launch 5 on either run and even at 5 very slow miles in my side by side the Launch 5 was starting to ache my toes. The run feel was of well if firmly cushioned with a touch of bounce (a bit more than L5) and no leg fatigue in run. The next day, as with Launch 5 runs, my legs were sorer than I might have expected, They were OK at slower paces but there are better recovery slower days shoes out there such as Brooks own Ghost 11 (RTR review), Levitate 2 (RTR review), or Glycerin 16 (RTR review).

Conclusions
As I ran my faster progression and pondered the Launch 6, I thought "marathon shoe", for hillier courses and for those in the 3:15 to 4:15 range due to its good forefoot cushion and decent stability for the later miles.  I would try it for such purposes, something I would not have attempted with the thin forefoot cushion and less than secure upper and mid foot stability of the Launch 5. At about 9.4 oz the Launch 6 is closer to trainer than even marathon racer weights and as such with its expected durable and copious rubber as well as very decent cushion can make it a great faster days choice or daily trainer. I am thrilled Brooks seems to have gotten back on track with the Launch 6.  I do wish that they could better join the party with some lighter foam and more judicious outsole coverage to lighten such a faster purpose shoe.

Our full multi tester review with comparisons will follow soon!

Sam Winebaum is the Editor and Founder of RoadTrailRun. He has been running and shoe geeking for 45 years. As he turned 60 in 2017 he was thrilled to clock a 1:35.24 half and as he turned 61 a 3:40 marathon to qualify one more time for Boston. Sam runs his roads and trails in coastal New Hampshire and Park City, Utah.
The product reviewed in this article were provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.
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5 comments:

Ben said...

Hi,

I speed walk and would like to buy new shoes. I'm neutral, and have slightly wide feet. What shoes for this purpose are best in your opinion; top 5. Thank you.

Ben said...

I got the NB fresh foam Beacon. Hope I did ok.

Wes Arnold said...

Mach 2 or Launch 6 to get my sub 4 marathon and sub 1’45 half next year? Both seem suitable candidates.

sam winebaum said...

Hi Wes,
I might say Mach 2 for the half and Launch 6 for the full. Or a shoe with yet a bit more cushion for the full, Ghost 11 Saucony Ride ISO, new Vomero 14 or GRR 7 if it is stable enough for you,
Sam

Wes Arnold said...

Thanks Sam. Got the Glycerin 16 and Paradigm 4.0 for daily and long runs. Just got the Beacon for faster days - suppose I could consider that too for racing. Just retired my GRR7 and yes it would be too unstable for racing. Definitely keen to try out the Launch though.