Friday, January 17, 2020

Brooks Launch 7 Multi Tester Review

Article by Michael Ellenberger, Peter Stuart, and Sam Winebaum

Brooks Running Launch 7 ($100)

Pros:
Michael: Faster; upper is comfortable and well-constructed; durable (especially for its class).
Sam: A durable workhouse now with a superior upper.  A very good value at $100, with no corners cut in a world of ever pricier shoes.
Peter: Upper feels and looks good.

Cons:
Michael: Not particularly exciting, and lacking that “something else”; blister issues on achilles (take your salt, please).
Sam: Workmanlike ride that is increasingly dated in feel. The clearly improved upper appears to add about 0.4 oz to bring the Launch in at 9.8 oz, getting heavy for what it is. Something has to give as the underfoot platform doesn’t change.
Peter: NOT FUN.

Stats
Estimated Weight: men’s US9 9.8 oz / 278 g,   women’s (catalog) 8.1 oz / 230 g
(based on sample men’s US 8.5 at 9.55 oz /271 g) 
Prior version (Launch 6): 9.4 oz / 266 g men's US9
27mm heel 17mm forefoot, 10mm drop
Released Jan. 2020. Available now.

Tester Profiles
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. 
Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 62 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. Sam has been running for over 45 years and has a 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range training 30-40 miles per week mostly at moderate paces on the roads and trails of New Hampshire and Utah. He is 5'10" tall and weighs about 165 lbs.
Peter lives in Austin, Texas and has been a sub 3 hour marathoner as well as a 1:25 half marathoner in recent years

Introduction, First Impressions and Fit
Michael: First impressions of the Launch 7 are very good; the new single mesh upper composition is a noticeable improvement over last generation’s engineered mesh upper (that also, largely, covered the Ravenna, the Launch’s stability counterpart). 
While black and grey isn’t my favorite colorway, the gloomy looks does fit the winter mood, and held up well to 50+ miles in sleet and snow. In comparison to some newer (albeit more expensive) trainers, the Launch does feel more dull at first try-on, but - as with all shoes - you need some miles underfoot to get the full view. And hey, one-hundred bucks? Not bad.

Peter: The Brooks Launch (OG version) changed my life. No-for real- it set into motion a series of events that changed the trajectory of my life. 

Short version:
  1. John Schrup (then at Rogue Running in Austin) raves about the Launch, so much so that Brooks keeps the shoe alive.
  2. I go to Austin to do an Ironman, find Rogue running and buy a pair of Launch because it’s the only place I can find them
  3. I find the Rogue Running community and am intrigued
  4. I come back to town, run with Rogue--find an amazing and supportive running community. They start a podcast, I’m hooked.
  5. I move to Austin.
All to say that the original Launch was a great shoe. It was a relatively light daily trainer that could do anything. It was fun to run in, didn’t cost a ton and held up forever. The Launch 2 was pretty good, but it feels like it’s been a steady slide since the. I was very excited about a lighter, newer, more modern Launch. 

They look great, the upper feels great, they’re lighter and when I saw them in the box I was jazzed about getting a run in them. Step-in was good, they’re super comfortable. Fit is good, foot is locked down. So far so good. True-to-size for me.
Sam: A serious, conservative looking shoe. Worn side by side with the Launch 6, the upper is a clear improvement over the Launch 6 with a smooth seamless fit and none of the crinkly bagginess of the 6. I particularly felt a better mid foot hold to the platform at the arch. I also noted the “silhouette” seems a bit pointier leading to some pressure over the top of my dodgy big toe which the Launch 6 did not have on the same foot. A few runs improved the situation. The Launch 7 was true to size for me as was the Launch 6.

Upper
Michael: Brooks has done great work on this upper, with a single (and perhaps individualized) caveat. I try and run in dozens of shoes per year, and the Launch 7 is the first one in more than twelve months that has given me the rare double-blister, one on each achilles where the (very rigid) heel counter sits. 
I don’t want to make this a huge issue - both because it healed within 2 days, and because everyone’s foot is different - but it is worth nothing for its exceptionalism. The new one-piece mesh upper is an absolute strong point for this trainer. I wish it were, like, 10% tighter to sort of mimic that sock-like sensation you get from close knit material, but it’s comfortable and smooth and will undoubtedly become a fan favorite. 
Finally, Brooks has realized that overlays are often more harm than good. The upper is well supported by the laces, and the lace eyelets don’t extend too long, making for a comfortable ride. I found the 8.5 to fit true to size here.

Peter: Yup, the upper is the best part of this Launch. It’s a nice comfortable fabric, holds the foot well, the laces lace, it looks good. I didn’t have any fit or blister issues. It’s a study in elegant simplicity. 
Sam: Agree with the guys that the single layer mesh upper is a clear highlight of the Launch 7 and a distinct improvement over the crinkly a bit baggy fitting but “fancier” looking engineered mesh upper of the Launch 6. At $100, Brooks wisely chose simple over a second rate engineered mesh. The fit is smooth all over with very notable improved mid foot down low at the arch hold for me. I suspect that compared to the see through mesh of the Launch  6 it may be less breathable but as the mesh is relatively thin still should be just fine, 

Midsole
Michael: Brooks has once again packed in the BioMoGo DNA midsole cushioning for the Launch 7. A glance at their website will tell you they’re marketing this as a trainer/racer hybrid, and in that context, the choice is more forgivable, but I won’t pull punches: it’s not a very exciting midsole. I didn’t find it dull - in fact, I thought the overall ride was a little peppier than last year’s (which, I admit, I didn’t take for a full testing cycle) and certainly more fun than last year’s Ravenna, but just doesn’t hang in the days of ZoomX and Hyperburst. I just wish it was a little more...fun?

Peter: BioMoGo DNA is so 2010’s! The midsole is, um, unremarkable. It’s a perfectly decent material that isn’t too mushy, springy, firm, soft or fun. It’s okay. 

Sam: The BioMoGo midsoleis well and densely cushioned with a more responsive than bouncy or springy feel of more modern midsole foams. Nothing wrong with it, it should protect and last a long time but feels dated and a bit dull. This said this is a $100 shoe whose focus is longevity and durability at a great price,

During my A/B test with my lightly worn Launch 6 on the other foot I felt the 7 was slightly but noticeably softer maybe even bouncier and transitioned a touch easier.  Not sure if this is due to changes in the midsole or outsole and Brooks says no changes but there was a clear but subtle difference.  

Outsole
Michael: Longtime readers (or readers who really love the “Outsole” section, I guess) will know I tend to be pretty forgiving on outsoles. I run primarily (and sometimes exclusively) in urban settings, so as long as a shoe can hang in wet conditions, it’ll probably pass muster. There are exceptions - some shoes are disappointingly slick, or feel like they’re about to fall apart after a few miles - but most are right in the middle. The Launch is the exception that proves the rule - this outsole is awesome! It’s grippy, even on literal ice (disclaimer: please don’t try this at home!) and after more than 30 miles, truly looks like new. That’s not necessarily a reason to spring out and buy the Launch but hey, a shoe at $100 that’s also class-leadingly durable? I’ll take it!

Peter: I’m not sure I agree with Michael! I know a shoe is the sum of its parts and that the unexceptional ride is a combination of midsole and outsole, but man oh man do I feel like the Outsole ensures that this thing feels like a brick. There’s so little flex in this shoe. It feels heavier than it is, and I sound like a clydesdale coming down the road in it. Positive aspect of that is I don’t surprise anyone I’m passing as they definitely hear me coming. There’s a ton of rubber here. If you tend to wear shoes out quickly, this might be a great solution for you. 

Sam: Lots and lots of durable grippy rubber here. Again Brooks providing great value for what should be a very long lasting outsole. I would agree with Peter that the outsole likely contributes to a ride which is on the dull side and rethinking the outsole with less continuous rubber coverage up front in particular could reduce weight and noise and jazz up the ride.

Ride
Michael: This can be the key to the shoe, and unfortunately it is the Launch 7’s weakest point. I don’t mean to say the Launch 7 is bad trainer - it could be the top MSRP $100 shoe on the market - but it is lackluster in ways that competitive 2019/2020 trainers are not. The BioMoGo DNA material is good enough - I certainly wasn’t fatigued after 10+ miles, even when the pace got hot - but it’s just lacking any true excitement. To its credit, I ran in this trainer in 50 and 15 degree days, and in both cases found it similarly cushioned, which is not the case for all materials. Moreover, there’s no doubt that this is a shoe you can get-up-and-go in; it’s not a racer for me, but for a newer runner or someone who wants one shoe to do it, it's certainly not the worst you could do (and you could buy it nearly twice over for the price of a Pegasus Turbo!).

Peter: The ride of the Launch 7 is where it all doesn’t come together. It’s just not fun to run in. It’s fine, there’s nothing terrible about it--but it just doesn’t speak to me at all. I don’t want to put it on and go run in it. If you compare it to the Skechers GoRun 7+, well there’s no comparison. I think it might be time for Brooks to either retire the Launch or totally re-tool it with a new foam. I find the ride to be clunky and uninspiring. 

Sam: The ride is what it is. Workmanlike and old school, quite dense and somewhat boring but gets the job of putting miles. It stands in quite sharp contrast to the fantastic bouncier ride of Brooks’ other $100 shoe the Revel 3. The slightly softer easier to transition ride in the Revel is a clear improvement over the Launch 6 and gives me hope that with a new outsole design and maybe some of that bouncy Revel foam  the next Launch might be better yet. 

Conclusions and Recommendations
Michael: In reviewing the Launch 7, I’ve been thinking back to my review of the Nike Pegasus 36 from 2019, which, by all accounts, was a lackluster shoe. It had none of Nike’s flashy technology, and it looked largely like the previous model - but darn if it wasn’t reliable, and I took it for well over 200 miles without issue (when you’re reviewing new shoes every week, any pair that makes it past the requisite 25-50 is a winner!). I think Brooks has something similar here. 

The Launch 7 isn’t special, but it’s good. It’s solid. For $100, I think it will likely do extremely well for newer runners and high school/college runners who want a durable, high-mileage trainer that won’t break the bank. But I’m spoiled in reviewing some of the flashiest, zippiest, technological-laden shoes of the generation, and in comparison to those, the Brooks, well… it’s a failure to launch.
Michael's Score: 8.0/10

Peter: There are so many fun shoes on the market right now, some of them in the same price range, and it’s hard to see a reason to highly recommend the Launch. If Brooks shoes just work for you and you run in the Beast or Ravenna this could be a great tempo or race day shoe. There are other shoes that I’d go to first. The upper is great and the rest is fine, but uninspiring for me. 
Peter's Score: 7.5/10

Sam: The Launch 7 is what it is: a great value for a durable shoe which is reliable if not exactly modern or exciting to run. This said it was somewhat softer and easier to transition than the 6,  The new upper is top notch for a $100 shoe and a clear highlight. The weight gain of 0.4 oz to 9.8 oz likely results from the new upper which is not overbuilt but for sure more substantial than Launch 6’s. 
The density and weight of BioMoGo DNA in the midsole and all that outsole rubber is most why the Launch 7 comes in on the heavy side for shoes in its class between daily trainer and racer, A potential solution to the weight issue, and maybe even the dull ride, as Brooks pulled off with the Revel 3 update, is to make the Launch a 8mm drop shoe, give it a touch more bounce and reduce the outsole coverage somewhat.
Sam's Score: 8.5/10
Ride:8 (50%) Fit: 9 (30%) Value: 9(15%) Style: 8.5 (5%)
Watch Sam's Initial Video Review

COMPARISONS
Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Please list your  size for the comparison shoe and touch on relative fit for each,
Brooks Launch 6 (RTR Review)
Sam: The Launch 7 has a far superior upper, a slightly softer easier to transition ride, and a weight gain of 0.4 oz over the Launch 6. The additional weight is not really noticed and the improvements, albeit mostly subtle under foot should make it a successful update for Launch fans.

Brooks Revel 3 (RTR Review)
Michael: Size-wise, these shoes are similar and both TTS (I went 8.5 in both). Ride-wise, I think the Revel 3 is a downright more-fun shoe, with the only exception being that I think the upper on the Launch (heel counter notwithstanding) is a little more comfortable and more impressive, technically. But what can we say? The Revel 3 was a shockingly great $100 trainer and the Launch, while a respectable trainer, just isn’t there. Buy the Revel (if you can find it!).
Sam: Totally agree with Michael. The Revel 3 is way more fun to run: bouncier, more flexible, and lighter by an ounce. It's flat knit upper is fine but not quite the secure hold of the Launch 7's. If you are looking for one shoe to do all training and even some racing I would lean towards the Launch. If you want a fun faster days shoe pick the Revel.

Nike Zoom Pegasus 36 (RTR Review)
Michael: I compared these two in my review above - not for how the ride, necessarily, but what they represent to their respective brands. They’re both solidly solid (a less enthusiastic reviewer may say middlingly middle) trainers, and both feel like a stop-gap before next year’s massive overhaul (here’s hoping, right?). The Peg runs a little shorter in fit, but I found an 8.5 to be right in both. In a buyer’s world, I’m taking the Nike - even at the slight premium in price.
Peter: The Peg is more fun to run in and the parts come together more harmonically.Peg 36 by a length.

Nike Zoom Pegasus Turbo 2 (RTR Review)
Michael: This is my easiest of the comparisons here. The Pegasus Turbo 2 was my favorite trainer of 2019, and is a substantially more fun trainer than the Launch 7. The only advantage I can pull from the L7 is durability - that outsole really is substantial - but even then, I put several hundred miles on the Turbo 2 without issue. Go with Nike.
Peter: The Launch wins on a technicality here for me. For some reason the turbo 2 attacked my foot and gave me pain in every run (weird because the original Turbo was great for me). I’d take the Launch because it’s never tried to kill me.

Asics GlideRide (RTR Review)
Michael: The GlideRide was a shoe I enjoyed, forgot about, purchased a treadmill, and then enjoyed all over again. The midsole technology gives the GlideRide a definitely snappy - if slightly harsh - ride. There are some differences here - the Brooks, while firm, doesn’t feel quite as disconnected from the road, and is probably a better “lightweight trainer” within its category (meaning it’s a more competent racing flat, if you had to, than the ASICS). This is old (Brooks) verus new (ASICS) and while both are decent offerings, I think I’d ultimately take the ASICS.
Sam: Hands down the GlideRide in this match up despite a slightly heavier weight at 10.2 oz which gets you a far more cushioned and at the same time more dynamic ride from its pronounced rocker. The downside? You will pay $50 more for all that goodness.

Asics EvoRide (RTR Review)
Michael: I just reviewed the ASICS EvoRide, the lighter cousin (err, brother?) to the ASICS GlideRide, and I think it’s a darn solid offering from the Japanese brand, mixing some Nike, ASICS, and New Balance DNA into the mix. How does it stack up? The Brooks is a more forgiving (read: traditional) ride, compared to the rocker technology of the ASICS, but both are competent up-tempo offerings. With the EvoRide just outclassing the Brooks at $120, I’d take the ASICS unless you’re a Brooks devotee. 
Sam: I agree with Michael but would add that the Launch would be a better daily trainer option than the more up tempo and firmer Evo,

NB 1080v10 (RTR Review)
Peter: Even though the NB 1080 is a heavier, cushier trainer and is more of a recovery shoe, I find it way more pleasant to run in. It’s pretty fun for a recovery shoe. 

Reebok Forever Floatride Energy (RTR Review)
Peter: In the battle of the $100 trainers, the Reebok is BY FAR the better shoe. The upper isn’t as nice, but it’s a lot more enjoyable to run in. 

Skechers GoRun Ride 8 Hyper (RTR Review)
Peter: The GoRun Ride 8 is more fun than the launch and significantly softer. If you want firm and a little clunky--go Launch, if you want softer go Ride 8
Sam: Peter nails it. At the same weight as Launch 7 you get a considerably more cushioned, springier and livelier ride although a bit stiffer one in front flex due to its big cushion up front.

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The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are the authors'.
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3 comments:

Davey Gee said...

It's interesting to watch Brooks struggle. They were so dominant until this past year with their distribution issues and with the rapid progression of shoe tech they are falling off the back. I work in a shoe store, and used to wear the Launch about 4 generations ago as my everyday, stand around, retail shoe but you couldn't pay me to stand (and forget about running) in the latest iteration. The fact that the Revel is such a great shoe at the same price point it would seem that they are wasting money producing both of those shoes. I don't know if you guys have the Levitate 3 but the heel is a disaster. Very few people are going to be able to make that shoe work. It does seem like it's going to be great year for Saucony. I really appreciate your reviews! Thanks!

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Davey,
Thanks for writing and for your kind words about our reviews. One of the neatest things I saw at TRE was the Levitate 4 whose PU midsole drops 25% in weight putting the shoe just above 10 oz. The first generations were way to heavy to be truly enjoyed even though the DNA AMP feel is great. The upcoming racers also look very promising. Interestingly in trail with Divide, Caldera 4, and Cascadia 14-15 our team raves about all. I think maybe they have been a bit to hung on their grid of experiences in road and at the same time keeping key models very close to predecessors with more focus on step in feel, always tops, than evolving rides in dynamism and to lower weights. Interestingly ASICS with the Ride series and while not fundementally changing foams from what I can tell is providing unique and effective new run experiences through the rocker geometry.
Sam, Editor

Buffalo Street Harrier said...

I think it's interesting to read reviews about the Launch not being "fun." I get that reviewers are always looking for the latest and greatest, but seeing how the perception of the Launch has shifted over the years has been quite stunning to watch. It's gone from the darling of the reviewers to barely rating a C+...while keeping the formula almost exactly the same!

Some may complain about the lack of innovation, but I for one love the fact that the Launch has barely changed since the first generation. Leave the cutting edge technologies for the other shoes! With the Launch I know I'm getting a solid, durable, lightweight trainer with zero frills and zero fuss, resulting in me getting 500-600 miles out of shoes that can be used for anything from speedwork to long runs. I don't have to worry about superfoams losing their pop after 150 miles, $200 price tags, exposed foam outsoles slipping on wet pavement, etc.