Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Brooks Divide Review: A do-it-all crowd-pleaser trail run shoe at a great price!

Article by Dom Layfield, Jeff and Allison Valliere

Brooks Running Divide ($100)

Dom: The Divide marks a new line of shoes from Brooks.  To my mind, its character is somewhat like the Caldera, in that it is a do-it-all, well-cushioned shoe that fits between the Pure Grit (light, flexible) and the Cascadia (more supportive, heavily-cushioned long-haul shoe).   The big difference, however, is that the Divide incorporates a rockplate in the forefoot.
Dom:  A do-it-all shoe that will please almost everyone.
Dom:  Solid rockplate implementation (if you like rock plates)
Dom:  Competitively priced
Dom:  Medium fit should fit a wide variety of foot shapes.
Jeff:  Value, cushion, fit, comfort, style, traction, versatility, accommodates various foot shapes/sizes, underfoot protection
Allison:  Comfort, cushion, style, traction, breathability, protection

Dom:  On the heavy side.
Dom:  Mud traction only ‘okay’ due to shallow lugs.
Dom:  On-road, the rockplate makes the shoe feel a little flat.
Jeff:  Foothold can be tough to achieve
Allison:  None

Tester Profiles
Dom 47, trains and competes mainly on trails in Southern California running about 3000 miles and 500k ft of vert per year.  In 2017 he was 14th at Western States 100 and in 2018 finished 50th at UTMB and 32nd at the 2018 Los Angeles marathon in a time of 2:46.  
Jeff  runs mostly on very steep technical terrain above Boulder often challenging well known local FKT's. 
Allison is a 5th generation Coloradan who is passionate about the outdoors and has been hiking, backpacking, skiing, snowshoeing and running in the mountains since she was a small child.  She has completed all but 5 of the Colorado 14ers (a dozen or so in Winter), has many hundreds of year round ascents of 14ers, 13ers and other peaks in Colorado and the West. Allison has also traveled the World and trekked to over 18,000 feet in the Himalayas, to high altitudes in Ecuador and has worked for the National Park Service mapping plants in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California for several years.  Her almost daily routine involves runs/power hikes in the foothills above Boulder, or 4-5 mile flatter runs at 8-10 minute mile pace if schedule necessitates. But what really keeps her on her toes is working as a labor and delivery nurse and taking care of her 9 year old twin daughters who are also growing to share her love for the outdoors. 

Official Weight: 10.3 oz. men, 9.2 oz. women   
  Samples: US M10: 311 g (10.9 oz) per shoe, US W9: 262 g (9.25 oz)
Stack Height: 25mm heel :17mm forefoot, 8mm drop
Releases January 2020.  $100

First Impressions and Fit:
Dom:  The shape and length of the Divide seems right on the money.   Brooks shoes typically accommodate a wide variety of foot shapes, and I had no issues at all.   The toe box is not as wide as Altra or Topo, but wider than Salomon. These will keep most feet happy.

Dom:  When hand-flexing the shoe, the edges of the rockplate are readily apparent: particularly at the rear end.  There is an obvious break-point where the shoe abruptly becomes less stiff.  
The location and limits of the rockplate are obvious when the shoe is flexed.

I was also immediately aware of the plate when first running right out of the house on pavement.  The shoe felt flat, and lacking progression in its flex. Once on the trail, I didn’t notice the rockplate nearly so much.  The shoe felt a little firmer than expected under the forefoot. Otherwise, everything felt very normal.
Jeff:  I was impressed right off the bat with the look of the Divide and even more impressed when trying them on as they felt roomy, stable and secure.  I was not quite as dialed into the rock plate and subsequent flex as Dom was, but immediately appreciated the protection on the rocky trails that I frequent above Boulder.

Fit is true to size and I agree that these will accommodate many different feet of varying shapes and volumes.  While my low volume foot is a bit on the slim side for this shoe, at least for high performance in technical terrain, I find them to fit very well for most use, though I do have to max out the laces to the point where the eyelets are very close across the tongue of the shoe.

Allison:  Upon seeing Jeff’s review pair, I knew I had to join in on this review.  Brooks has always been a favorite of mine, as they have always fit my foot well and offer the support and stability I prefer.  As soon as I slid my foot in them, I knew they would be a hit!

Dom:  The Divide has a very competent, woven, one-piece upper.  Its tongue is a fully-gussetted ‘bootie’ type, continuous with the heel liner.  I liked the fact that there is a well-executed rand or protective layer above the midsole on the lower part of the upper, particularly at the lateral metatarsal area, which is a location where my running shoes always seem to fail first if they are not reinforced.  The heel counter is a little stiff for my taste. I particularly enjoyed the feel of the laces, which are a good size, and slide smoothly through their eyelets. For the most part, this is an “everything just works” upper that makes the shoe comfortable, secure and looks like it should hold up to punishment.
Jeff:  I really like this woven upper as it is very classy looking, relatively secure, the laces snug up nicely and it is breathable.
The toe bumper and rand offer adequate protection and increased durability.
I appreciate the booty style gusseted tongue, which adds to step in ease, security and comfort, a nice surprise at this price point.  The tongue is moderately padded and protects well from any lace bite.

The heel counter is stiff as Dom states, but I don’t find it to be a problem and if anything find it to be secure and stable as a result.  Padding around the heel collar is moderate and comfortable.
Security is good, but I do find that it struggles a bit on steep technical terrain, especially when moving fast, but might be less of an issue if you have a higher volume foot than I, as I have to crank the laces down more than normal to compensate for the extra volume.  I will say that I don’t experience much movement inside the shoe most of the time, even when running fast on lower grade technical terrain or hiking slower on very steep technical terrain, but it when there is a combination of the two where I notice my foot moving some.

Allison:  The upper looks amazing with it’s woven mesh “knit” look, very subtle and understated, while providing excellent fit, comfort and support.  Fit is true to size in my women’s size 9 with the forefoot accommodating and is not the least bit constricting, I found it to be secure for all of my running, though I do not run as fast as Jeff and am more likely to hike on the steeper terrain that he runs.
Ventilation is moderate, warm enough on cooler to cold days. I don’t think it will be excessively warm in the summer either.
Midfoot and lacing are comfortable with no pressure points and I too appreciate the gusseted booty style tongue which is easy for entry and helps with security.

Dom:  Everything here hinges on the rockplate.  If you like rockplates, this is a competent execution.  It runs well on-trail, and provides plenty of protection right where you need it.  However, I don’t generally like rockplates: my feeling is that they make a shoe feel stiff, and add weight and construction complexity without much benefit.   In the case of the Brooks Divide, I would have liked the rear edge of the plate to be softer. (It feels like it is cut out of a sheet of uniform thickness. If instead it tapered off to provide a more progressive flex, I think that would improve the shoe.)   I also felt the shoe was a little too firm under the forefoot, and would have liked another millimeter or two or cushioning there.

Jeff:  I am one who appreciates a rock plate, given the majority of my running is on rocky terrain and am really only critical when it is done wrong, specifically being overly stiff, not allowing for contouring and inhibiting the performance of the shoe, but Brooks does indeed execute very well here, allowing for reasonable flex/contouring and excellent protection underfoot on sharp rock and rugged terrain.

Cushioning is excellent, not notably soft or firm, sitting in the middle sweet spot of comfort and support.

Allison:  I love this midsole and feel as though I can wear these shoes all day long without any foot fatigue.  I find them appropriately responsive for their intended use and weight and appreciate the rock plate, which does a great job protecting from hard hits on sharp rocks.

Dom:  The outsole of the Divide works well in dry conditions.  The rubber is nicely sticky, and the modest cutouts that expose midsole actually seem like they would improve traction.   The cutouts also allow a nice view of the rockplate. The lugs are fairly shallow, which means that mud grip is not great, but do allow the shoe to roll nicely on smooth ground.

Jeff:  I have found the TrailTack outsole of the Divide to perform well in a wide range of conditions, be it packed snow, hard ice (though low angle and covered with plenty of sand), dry cruiser trails, rocky trails, loose off trail, etc… though the lugs are low profile enough to roll along well on smooth ground and roads as Dom mentions above.  
Durability thus far is average to above average, with only a slight bit of wear where I toe off (mostly used on steep rocky trail and off trail).

Allison:  Traction for me has been very good on all of the surfaces I have run on, from hard pack dirt, loose dirt, rocky technical terrain and even some moderate snow and ice.

Dom:  As with seemingly everything about the Divide, the ride was decent but unremarkable.  As I observed in the introduction, the Divide felt a little flat and slappy on road. On trail, I didn’t notice the plate so much, except that the shoe was a little firm under the forefoot.  I would have preferred a little more ‘squish’, but YMMV.
Jeff:  I enjoy the ride of the Divide (hey, that kind of rhymes!) for its intended purpose, more casual running on a wide variety of terrain.  I find it to be smooth, reasonably responsive and pleasurable to cruise in.

Allison:  I find the Divide to be wonderfully smooth, stable and predictable.

Conclusions and Recommendations
Dom:  The Divide is a highly competent and well-executed shoe that does everything well, and at a great price.   Personally, I’m not a fan of rockplates, and prefer Brooks’s lighter, more flexible Caldera. If you do enjoy rockplates, the Divide will likely make you happy.  The only downside is that the shoe is a little heavy.
Dom’s score: 8.5/10   
Ride 8, Fit 8 , Value 10, Style 9, Traction 8, Rock protection 10, Weight 7

Jeff:  The Divide makes a great everyday training shoe for door to trail and more moderate paces on moderate terrain, though can easily handle higher speeds and rougher terrain (though struggle a bit when you combine faster speeds ON rougher terrain).  All along, I have been thinking in my mind about writing here: “The Divide is a great shoe for the $100 price point”, but the more I thought about it, I can confidently say that the Divide is a great shoe for any price, or at least in close comparison to shoes that are $30-40 more.  Fit, comfort, cushioning, breathability, protection, versatility, style, traction and overall performance are all excellent . I do not hesitate to grab the Divide when heading out the door for just about any training run and it is a top pick when I need a shoe that looks good with jeans or for a trip when I just can’t decide on a shoe. 
Jeff’s Score:  9.3/10

Ride 9 , Fit 9, Value 10, Style 10, Traction 9, Rock Protection 10, Weight 9

Allison:  The Divide is hands down one of my favorite shoes of all time, if not the best.  I am not fast or competitive, but instead look for comfort, cushion, support, protection, stability, and a tacky feel outsole. I am less concerned about response or counting grams.  The Divide is perfect for my daily runs/hikes on mountain trails, as well as more moderate door to trail use and also for just daily wear. Since I received these, I have not really wanted to wear any other shoes.
Allison’s Score: 9.9/10

Ride 9.5, Fit 10, Value 10, Style 10, Traction 10, Rock Protection 10, Weight 9.5

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Please list your  size for the comparison shoe and touch on relative fit for each,

Brooks Caldera 3  (RTR Review)
Dom:  If you’re not a lover of rockplates, the Caldera 3 is an obvious alternative to the Divide.  It has many of the same do-it-all, please-everyone qualities, but at a significantly lighter weight than the Divide.  (A full ounce per shoe in size US M10.) The foot retention is a little less good in the Caldera due to a stretchier upper, and stability is also not as good as the Divide due to the higher stack (28/24 mm vs 25/17).

Jeff:  I agree with Dom on the above.  It is worthy of note that the Caldera 3 costs $40 more (though could likely find on sale in advance of the upcoming Caldera 4, which we will be reviewing very soon).  I also find the tread to be more substantial on the Divide and even though the Divide weighs more, I still find it to feel very light on my foot.

Brooks Cascadia 14  (RTR Review)
Jeff:  The Cascadia 14 weighs ~10 grams more per shoe, has 1mm less stack (same 8mm drop) and costs $30 more, however I find the Cascadia 14 to be a higher performance shoe with better response, more secure foothold for pushing harder on technical terrain, better stability, overall more protection and superior traction.

Salomon Supercross  (RTR Review)
Jeff:  The Supercross is Salomon’s similarly priced budget shoe at $110, weighing 14g more and has more stack/drop (29mm heel / 19 mm forefoot, 10 mm drop).  The Supercross feels comparatively sluggish, less stable and less ventilated, but does have excellent protection, comfort, accommodating fit and great traction with deep chevron lugs.  Both are wonderfully comfortable shoes that work well on a wide variety of terrain and cross over to casual use (would pick either as a single shoe for an out of town trip).

Saucony Mad River TR  (RTR Review)
Jeff:  Yet another budget and size accommodating shoe, the Mad River TR does not have a rock plate, but still offers good protection and response.  The Mad River TR also weighs 4 grams more and has a 23/19 stack which is noticeable when comparing cushioning, but is also a little more stable.  I do find the Divide to be a bit more quick and nimble, but wet traction is not quite as good as the Mad River. Divide has much more muted and stylish upper that allows for casual wear off the trail.

Topo Terraventure 2  (RTR Review)
Dom:  The Terraventure 2 is Topo’s comparable rockplated offering.  Compared to the Brooks Divide, the Terraventure is lower drop (25/22 mm vs 25/17 mm), and offers a wider forefoot fit.  In the Topo, the feel of the rockplate is not quite as obvious. Weightwise, the Divide is slightly lighter, but there’s not much in it (~11g per pair, around 4% of total): it seems that the rockplate pushes both shoes into Clydesdale (>11 oz) territory.  If pushed, I’d give the nod to the Terraventure for slightly better grip in the mud.
Read reviewers' full run bios here
Brooks Divide releases January 2020
The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are the authors'.
Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

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Jeff Valliere said...


Anonymous said...

Any chance of a comparison to the nike peg 36 trail or saloman sense ride 2s?