Sunday, January 27, 2019

Brooks Running Ravenna 10 Multi Tester Review: Posts Replaced by Guide Rails. Our Verdict!

Article by Sam Winebaum, Hope Wilkes, Michael Ellenberger and Dave Ames

Brooks Running Ravenna 10  ($110)
Introduction
The 9.4 oz /268 g Ravenna 10 is the light “support/guidance" sibling of the Launch 6, sharing a similar upper and same 10 mm offset/ The differences are mainly in its support features with Brooks launching Guide Rails above the midsole instead of the firmer medial post in the Ravenna 9.
TOP:  Brooks Ravenna 9   BOTTOM: Brooks Ravenna 10
With version 10, Brooks eliminates the pronation controlling post of firmer foam (black above) on the medial side of prior versions, substituting Guide Rail, which are essentially side wall pieces rising above the midsole.  Instead of “controlling” pronation Guide Rails seek to guide the knee in the path of travel, knee instability being the cause many running injuries.


The concept is to not "outsmart" the foot at the arch and underfoot but to guide motion at the calcaneal bone using Guide Rails on both wrapping from near the top of the midsole under foot then up the side of the upper.  The metaphor used is that Guide Rails are the bumpers in a bowling alley and the foot is the ball. The Guide Rails will come into play, as needed, for both support oriented and neutral runners (as their stride falls out of place).
A  medial Guide Rail will stabilize calcaneal eversion on the medial inner side.
And as the foot rolls outward, a smaller rail or wall on the lateral side will limit excess calcaneal shifting which will reduce tibial rotation which can affect the knees.


As knees are seen as key, the idea is to limit excess heel and shin rotation to keep your natural knee motion within a safe range thus hopefully allowing less pain and discomfort and also better aligning the gait in a forward path.
Sam: While none of the testers are habitual users of “pronation” support/control shoes with their firm medial posts this new approach, mirroring similar such approaches in in the adidas Solar line, the Nike Vomero 14, and Altra Paradigm, all shoes I have enjoyed, is promising to provide some guidance.  So we put the Ravenna to the test.
Tester Profiles
Hope is in her 20’s and after several ultras is now more on the road. She has a marathon PR of 3:47. She trains about 50 miles per week with many of her runs in the (broad) 8:00-10:00/mile range. She is happy to hit 7:30 miles on tempo days.
Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 61 with a recent 3:40 Boston qualifier. He runs halves in the 1:35-1:41 range and trains 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces in the 9 minute range.
Michael is his 20’s and is a 1:07 half marathoner. He runs 50-60 miles per week, generally in lightweight trainers or racing flats at around 6:00-6:30 minutes/mile.
Dave Ames is 37 and keeps in sub 3 shape in Southern California while transitioning to Ultras. He is a professional running coach and trains a mix of at least one quality workout and one long run per week along with aerobic miles on both roads and trails.


Pros:   
Hope: very comfortable upper, unobtrusive stability feature, improved outsole durability
Michael: comfortable upper and improved design; durability, especially with Guide Rails
Dave:  Smooth upper, a “workhorse” and transitions well for a “Guidance” shoe.
Cons:  
Hope: heel height, could be a bit lighter
Sam: medial Guide Rail seem to long and stiff, impeding transition at slower paces; firm midsole feel
Michael: unresponsive, somewhat sloppy feel; not particularly light or pretty
Dave: Not as enjoyable as Ravenna 9, lack of forefoot “pop” compared to the R9 with unstable mid foot platform similar to Launch 5.

Stats
Sample US M9: 9.4oz/268g with liner - - 8.9oz/252g without sock liner
Sample US M8.5: 9.35 oz / 265 g
Ravenna 9 Sample: US M9:  9.5oz/269g with liner - - 8.8oz/251g without sock liner
10mm offset
$110. Available now.

First Impressions and Fit
Sam: The Ravenna 10 has a great upper: thin and yet supportive due to its bootie construction. Unlike the fairly loose especially for a support oriented shoe Ravenna 9, the fit here is more secure with less lateral slip, a smoother fit as there are no overlays if with a bit less toe overhead room. The Launch 6 fit, with a very similar upper, is slightly more relaxed with a shorter bootie and a bit less up front density.  I was true to size in both Ravenna 10 and Launch 6 with no issues.
The look is simple in gray and stark in its contrast and sharp with the Guide Rails highlighted by tight diagonal lines with wider opposing direction diagonals on the upper.
Hope: I did a double take when I opened the box. The Ravenna 10 looks a lot like the Launch 6, but with the addition of stabilizing rails in the heel. The fit was what I expect from a daily trainer: secure, but not fine-tuned like a racer. I like the heel hold, but the heel padding seems like a bit more than is needed. I’d like to see this reduced to shave a bit more off the R10’s weight.


Michael: The aesthetic here is carried over from the new Launch 6, down to the ‘racing stripe’ motif on the medial and lateral sides. The added Guide Rail technology is aesthetically fine, though a bit odd in its stiffness compared to the comfortable upper material. Like Sam, I found the 8.5 to be true-to-size, though the shoe is cut a bit wider than I would prefer overall.  The $110 price point is also commendable, and a carryover from the Ravenna 9.

Dave:  Out of the gate, I was excited to try the Ravenna 10, as the R9 was one of my most highly used trainers of 2018!  I pounded out over 500 miles in the R9, as a completely neutral runner. It was smooth, it popped off of the forefoot and made mile after mile feel effortless, even if a bit of a chunkier shoe.  R10 comes into the game with a smoother upper, I’ll give it that. I struggled in the R9 having to continually stop and re-lace it around my narrow foot for the first 50 or so miles on until it began to mold better to my foot.  Ravenna 10 fits better, that’s for sure.  

However, I immediately begin to notice that the forefoot platform underfoot feels a bit more narrow. A bit less stable, you might say. Comparing them side to side and you wouldn’t even see a difference, but as a guy who had extensive running in R9, I can feel the difference.  The shoe also feels too thin in the midsole platform underfoot (they will also look the same to the eye), in similar fashion to the Launch 5 when I tested early last year. Sizing is better in R10 and was spot on in my US size 9. The R9 definitely ran a tad short.

Upper
Sam: The Ravenna 10 has a soft thin engineered upper with, unlike the Ravenna 9, a bootie construction to really lock down the mid foot. It is a clear improvement over what I found were overly unstructured and soft uppers in the Ravenna 9 and Launch 5 which in each case did not really “match” the underfoot platform-Launch 5 narrow mid foot on the ground neutral focus and Ravenna 9-light support shoe.
TOP:  Brooks Ravenna 9   BOTTOM: Brooks Ravenna 10
The achilles collar of the Ravenna 10 is slightly more swept forward and higher. I noticed a more secure heel hold as a result.
Hope: I immediately appreciated the soft dual-layer upper. When I have enough room to flex my toes I’m happy. The upper is one of the simplest I’ve seen from Brooks. I’m unsure as to whether to call it a mesh or a woven, but it’s clear that there are higher-density sections that provide increased support and durability at the toe and where the midsole is adhered to the upper. This isn’t the snazziest shoe around, but my gray and blue pair goes well with most of my running gear. The hit of neon on the tongue is a nice touch.
Michael: The biggest improvement here for my foot is the padded heel collar, which, in tandem with the bootie-construction of the upper, does provide a high degree of comfort. 
I don’t necessarily feel as “locked-in” as I do in something like the New Balance Zante Pursuit or Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It simply creates the sensation of a more relaxed trainer as opposed to something race-ready. Like Hope, I wasn’t a massive fan of the look here - blue and grey feels like it’s run its course in the running shoe world - but it’s not an unattractive shoe. The mesh is quite comfortable and, while I had no problem with the upper of the Ravenna 9, is technically an improvement.

Dave:  Midfoot lock is much much better than the 9.  That was my biggest issue and really the only flaw in the R9 is that it really never wanted to find a home on my foot, structurally.  But it was so smooth and peppy underfoot, that’s it kept me coming back. Hope nailed it well here, it’s just a basic upper. Nothing fancy, maybe mesh, maybe woven.  But it works. And that’s has me sold.

Midsole
Sam: The BioMoGo midsole is fine if somewhat dull and firm compared to newer foams such as Fresh Foam, HOVR, Boost, Floatride Foam and Hyper Burst.  I found that the system combining midsole and the new Guide Rails not so much overly stiff upfront to flex but with a definite sensation that the medial Guide Rail was present with as consequence of a shorter overall flex when compared to Ravenna 9. I just found it harder to transition that I would like. Is the medial rail too long, to firm or as it is glued to midsole and upper just to stiff? We already know (RTR preview) the similar construction Adrenaline GTS 20 will “co-mold” the medial Rail into the midsole to eliminate the glue layer. I have been testing the Adrenaline GTS 19 with a glued medial Rails and it to feels difficult to transition with the same overly long and stiff medial Rail feel. As far as the absence of a post, and while not a post fan and not missing it, I did like the stable rear feel combined with longer easier flexing feel of the Ravenna 9.
Hope: BioMoGo is allowed to be the star here because the Guide Rails don’t try to grab any of the spotlight. I generally steer clear of stability and motion control shoes because I don’t like blocky midsole posting and I don’t have much need for extra support -- I’m close to a true-neutral runner. Given my high-ish arches I’m most likely to underpronate. Guide Rails offer support that fades into the background during a run. They’re there if needed, but they aren’t in the way ruining the feel of each step. Because Brooks opted to not use a post in this shoe, the uninterrupted slab of BioMoGo feels smooth and responsive. There’s perhaps a bit too much midsole overall, especially in the heel, but I loved how the R10 popped off the pavement.


Michael: BioMoGo, as I’ve noted before, is quite uninspiring to my feet. It’s not unpleasant, by any means, but it’s out-matched by a new wave of technologies from other manufacturers. You won’t be disappointed, necessarily, but don’t expect to be wow’d, either. I don’t necessarily run in stability shoes, but I do light appreciate some light posting for easy days, and I didn’t notice significantly more or less soreness as a result of the new Guide Rail mechanic, though I don’t know that it needs to stretch so far past the midfoot. Overall, though I have found BioMoGo to have superior longevity and, in combination with the new outsole and Guide Rails on the Ravenna 10, should promote a durable and consistent ride for many, many miles.

Dave:  BioMogo DNA is what sold me on the Ravenna 9!  It was my first taste of this new DNA compound and it blew me away in very early 2018.  Unfortunately, everything going forward with this new compound from Spring 18 and beyond I have tested from Brooks has been a dud. The Ravenna 9 was a workhorse and 500 miles later it was still alive.  While Ravenna 10 is still smooth, by combining it with the new guide rails, compared to a light posting in the R9, I think it’s confusing the shoe as to what it really wants to be. I don’t believe in “categories” of neutral vs. stability.  I truly feel a runner can run in whatever he or she feels like, as long as it works with their stride.  

And if the Guide Rails were the fix to make Ravenna a more “neutral” shoe, I think they are working against that goal. As Sam stated above, the posting in the R9 gave the shoe a tad more heel and a tad more “plant” at the heel which really allowed me to “activate” the gait process in a much smoother fashion.  The post provided a strong push into the mid foot mid load position and then on to a powerful toe off. In fact, I even did longer Tempo’s just fine in R9 because it had that much snap. The R10 gets confused in the heel early, I think due to Sam’s statement of the rail being too “long,” and then via the lack of substance underfoot in the mid foot platform, with it being too narrow. It takes forever to get to the toe off, which then lacks serious pop compared to the R9.  It’s like BioMogo DNA completely went to sleep here and that’s unfortunate.

My conclusion is that the Guide Rail is too long.  It’s also pushed too far up above the midsole.  Sam is right. This is a serious contributing factor as to why this won’t transition as well compared to the R9 for me.  That combined with BioMogo DNA not feeling the same as it was in R9, or frankly the same in anything from Brooks as of late.  

Outsole
Hope: The outsole tooling looks a lot like the Launch tooling from previous years.
Having never had the Ravenna before, I don’t know if this is normal. It is a stability version of the Launch, so I’m not surprised to see striking similarities between the models. The Launch has copied itself from year to year since the L2, so it stands to reason that its companion model would do the same thing. The R10’s outsole had great grip and flexes well in the forefoot thanks to a number of deep grooves and channels. Happily, the rubber seems more durable -- many Brooks shoes I’ve run before have started to shred badly during the first run, so I think they’ve made a conscious effort at improvement in this area.


Sam: Echoing Hope the Ravenna 9, Ravenna 10, and Launch 6  (left to right below) all have similar outsoles. I do note some differences between the Ravenna 9 and 10 at mid foot which in addition to my issue with the Rail length and stiffness on the medial side and may explain the difficulties in transitioning and rear firmness I experience in the Ravenna 10.
LEFT:  Brooks Ravenna 9   MIDDLE: Brooks Ravenna 10 RIGHT: Brooks Launch 6
The Ravenna 9 has a lateral groovet in front of the heel and two smaller ones yet further forward along with narrower rubber just in front of the “X” shape as well as a notch there, along with more deeply profiled if shorter notches towards the heel. All of these differences I think contribute to an easier transition for me in Ravenna 9. While the Ravenna 10 has more outsole cut out at the “X” I am not sure they do more than reduce weight a touch. All of these changes, put together with the Rails may explain my issues with a labored transition and dull feel at midfoot of the 10.


Michael: Nice for a manufacturer not to skimp on durable rubber for a go-to trainer like the Ravenna, even if it does cost a little weight. I had no problems with the R10 throughout several icy winter runs, which was my biggest concern.
Dave:  Outsole grip is standard and shouldn’t be a problem for a runner or any strike pattern.

Ride
Hope: I really like the ride of the R10. The BioMoGo midsole has enough rebound to allow for fast leg turnover. I’d like to see the shoe be a little lighter, but I guess that’s what the Launch is for. My main gripe is that there’s a lot of heel. I’m almost always a midfoot or forefoot striker, but I found myself back on the heel a lot more than I’d like. This is a “traditional” running shoe in that it has a fairly high heel to toe offset (often referred to as the “drop”), so going from lower drop shoes to the R10 was a bit of an adjustment.
Sam: I see the heel height as less of an issue than the role of the outsole and long medial rail. The ride here was quite labored and not particularly pleasant at any pace. Yes, I appreciated the guidance provided by the Rails without a post but the rear of the shoe to mid foot was dull and not very snappy, while transition to toe off seemed to be impeded by something.. Rail length? Outsole? Or some combination?  And this despite the relative front flexibility of the shoe.


Michael: I came away largely unimpressed by the ride of the Ravenna 10, much to my disappointment. The BioMoGo midsole is, as on other Brooks shoes, passable and comfortable, but uninspiring. Like Hope, I felt there was too much heel on the shoe, which led to a sloppy ride and felt as if it got in my way at anything other than the easiest of paces. The Rails are a neat feature - I appreciate stability that gets out of your way - but they aren’t enough to really take the R10 to the next level.

Dave:  Eh, it’s not the Ravenna 9.  BioMogo DNA with the new Guide Rail in the mix went to sleep here. The shoe struggles to transition and provide a pleasurable running experience like the R9 did for me.

Conclusions and Recommendations
Sam: Brooks has taken the brave step of eliminating the long time stability staple of the firm post in favor of Rails to help protect and better align the leg and especially to try to protect the knee. 

The Ravenna 10 is commendable for its lightweight, great upper, solid price. This said I found them uninspiring.  I for sure prefer neutral shoes as well as those with some very light rear stability from sidewalls (in a similar approach to the Ravenna Guide Rails) or those with higher substantial heel counters and a flexible forefoot. Recent examples include: the adidas Solar Boost (terrible upper aside) Reebok Sweet Road 2 and Nike Zoom Vomero 14.  All of these shoes manage to provide a lively, easy to transition decently stable experience which the Ravenna 10 struggles to achieve for me. I think the Guide Rails are too long and too stiff as they are glued between upper and midsole instead of being of a piece, softer and molded into the midsole. All of these negatives aside, if you have knee issues (which I don’t)  Brooks new approach to guidance seems very sound and worth a solid try.
Sam’s Score 9/10
-0.5 for difficulty to get past the midfoot to toe off.
-0.5 for dull ride that is on the firmer side.

Dave:  Eh, not the Ravenna 9 by any means.  Better upper, sure. But uppers don’t pound the roads.  Needs some work.
Dave’s Score:  7.5/10
-1 for BioMogo DNA not feeling at all as “peppy” as in the R9
-1 for ruining a shoe that was already very successful.  Guide rails didn’t sell me.
-.5 for too narrow on the midfoot platform underfoot/forefoot compared to the R9.

Hope: I really like these. Since the stability feature is so subtle, the R10 might be a good Goldilocks pick for most runners. It’s still very light for a daily trainer (I’ve lately been spoiled by some incredibly light models) and the forefoot is wonderfully flexible. If you like the Launch and need a bit more shoe for longer efforts (I know my stride breaks down a bit when I’m really tired), you’ll probably do well in the R10. This isn’t a flashy shoe or a shoe that’s chock full of the latest and greatest tech, but it earned its high marks from me for being a solid performer.
Hope’s Score: 9.4/10
-.5 for heel that gets in the way a bit
-.1 for weight that seems like it could be reduced a bit more


Michael: A bit of a miss here, in my eyes. The R10 is certainly comfortable, and the Rail-based stability will fit a wide variety of footstrikes. Both are strong points, and the Ravenna, as noted, should be as durable a trainer as you can find. But a nearly ten ounce “lightweight” trainer and a clunky ride detract from it enough that I can’t wholeheartedly recommend it. Is it a good shoe? Yes, certainly. But a great shoe? I don’t think so - here’s hoping the Ravenna 11 will take what works in the 10 and bring it back to where it belongs: the top of the lightweight-stability podium.
Michael’s Score: 8.8/10
- 0.5 for a clunky, heel-driven strike
- 0.4 for BioMoGo’s dull ride
- 0.2 for dated aesthetics and a just-too-long Guide Rail


Comparisons


Brooks Ravenna 9 (RTR review)
Sam: While the Ravenna 10 upper is a significant and appropriate (for a support shoe) step forward, the Ravenna 10, despite no post, just doesn’t move along as lively or as pleasurably as the Ravenna 9 for me. Ravenna 9 was one of the first posted shoes where I for sure noticed the firm post but due to the flexible forefoot found the combination of stable heel and flexible forefoot was an advantage. It had a nice stable early part of the landing and transition, then an easy toe off which Ravenna 10 lacks for me.
Michael: The Ravenna 9 felt like its tagline, “Live life a little lighter, at the corner of spring and support” - a true lightweight stability trainer. The Ravenna 10, despite having much of the same DNA, muddles that a little. It doesn’t feel as snappy at toe-off or (at first-pass) quite as stable as the R9, nor does it feel as lightweight (despite the R9 and R10 being comparable. Whereas the R9 felt like a daily trainer with some zip, the R10 just comes across as toned down - stepping into Adrenaline territory, rather than Launch territory.
Dave: The R9 is a better shoe for me, plain and simple.  It was just far more pleasurable to run in.  It popped and it even came to life a bit more yet when picking up the pace.  The R10 misses this. A ton was already stated above. No need to beat a dead horse here.  It’s not the 9.

Brooks Launch 6 (RTR review)
Sam: Run side by side one on each foot I found Launch  6 had a slightly more relaxed with a shorter bootie and a bit less dense toe box so a touch roomier.  There was more forefoot cushion in the Launch due to its higher forefoot stack, it transitioned more smoothly but had a touch less pop and response, if an easier pop to actually find.


Brooks Adrenaline GTS 19 (RTR review coming soon)
Hope: The Ravenna 10 is much more spry -- lighter, nimbler, and more flexible, it’s easily the more enjoyable shoe for me. The support feature is more pronounced on the Adrenaline GTS 19, so if that meets your needs, it merits a look.
Sam: The Adrenaline 19 is basically a yet more pronounced version of the Ravenna 10. Everything I feel about the Ravenna 10 is “amplified” in the heavier more substantial Adrenaline. As the guided version of the Ghost I did appreciate the softer DNA Loft heel insert it shares with the Ghost but that is about it.


adidas Solar Boost   (RTR review)
Sam: The Solar Boost has Propulsion Rails, sound familiar? Overall I found Propulsion less obtrusive and the shoe easier to transition and Solar Boost is for sure less dull with its Boost midsole than the Ravenna 10. But all was not great with the Solar Boost. The upper has a very dense and even sharp up front engineered mesh saddle combined with a non stretch softshell like front of the upper. Bunion sufferers, and I have a small one which occasionally acts up, will find its fit far more challenging than Ravenna 10's


Nike Zoom Vomero 14 (RTR review)
Sam: The Zoom Vomero manages some light guided support by raising the side walls of the main midsole React foam, instead of gluing on pieces and using a firmer material  as Ravenna 10 does. The support is noticed but more seamless and not in the way. The Vomero has a distinct snappy flex point just where it should be with no higher sidewalls in the way as they are further back on the shoe.


Read our reviewers full run bios here
The product reviewed in this article provided at no cost. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.
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