Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Brooks Transcend 7 Review - a Glycerin for the stability runner (and ONLY the stability runner!)

Article by Jeff Beck and Sam Winebaum

Brooks Transcend 7 ($160)
Introduction
Jeff: The Transcend 7 is the latest stability shoe from Brooks that sneaks its stability in. Unlike so many shoes before it that relied on a medial post ie a more dense material along the inner medial side of the shoe to control the foot, Brooks is all in on their GuideRails system with stabilizing at the top of the midsole instead of underfoot. The result? A very neutral-feeling shoe that doesn’t run blocky, as many traditional stability shoes do. Is that necessarily good? Well, it’s complicated.

Sam: The Transcend sits as the softly cushioned option in the Brooks support category all shoes including the lighter Ravenna and somewhat firmer Adrenaline now having Guide Rails, or raised medial and lateral side elements. The GuideRails 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 sides at the rear and mid foot wrapping from near the top of the midsole under foot then up the side of the upper.  

The metaphor used by Brooks is that Guide Rails are the bumpers in a bowling alley and the foot is the ball. According to Brooks, Guide Rails will come into play, as needed, for both support oriented and neutral runners (as their stride falls out of place). 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 while also better aligning the gait in a forward path. 

The Transcend 7 is the first GuideRails model i have tested with what I will call the second generation GuideRails. I tested the Ravenna 10 (RTR Review) and a bit the Adrenaline GTS 19. I found the GuideRail on the medial side in particular stiff and impeding transitions in both. Brooks seems to agree as all GuideRails going forward Transcend 7, Adrenaline GTS 20, and upcoming Ravenna 11 are reworked. The medial GuideRail is now co molded BioMoGO DNA instead of being glued in (glue layer contributing to the stiffness felt) with the lateral GuideRail a raised side wall of the same DNA Loft as the rest of the midsole.


Pros
Jeff: Upper breathes well and is comfortable without being overly bulky, midsole and outsole work together to create a smooth ride.
Sam: A wonderfully comfortable and supportive upper, GuideRails now less in the way for this typically neutral shoe runner

Cons
Jeff: Stability when not needed can cause issues, if it was more obvious subtle issues would be avoided, laces are overly soft.
Sam: While improved, the GuideRails still are overly present for me and overly supportive and directing,

Stats
  Official:    10.7 oz/ 303g men, 9.5 oz /269g  women
  Samples:     M8.5: 298 g / 10.51 oz
M10.5: 336 g / 11.88 oz
Stack Height: 27mm heel :17mm forefoot, 10mm drop
Release date: 2/1/2020  Price: $160


Tester Profiles
Jeff is the token slow runner of the RTR lineup as such his viewpoints on shoe and gear can differ from those who routinely finish marathons in three hours or less. Jeff runs 40 miles per week, both roads and desert trails in Phoenix, Arizona. He has a PR's of 4:07 marathon and 5K at 23:39. In December he raced his first 50 mile trail ultra. 
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.

First Impressions and Fit
Jeff: Every time I put this shoe on I kept hearing Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” as I was having Groundhog Day-esque flashbacks to the Brooks Glycerin 18. For nearly all intents and purposes, they are the same shoe. Very slight tweaks to the upper, no changes to the outsole, and subtle, but important shifts in the midsole set it apart from its slightly lighter brother. Just like the Glycerin 18, step in feel is outstanding, and fit is true-to-size with a very ample, if not massive, toebox.
Sam: No issues with fit. A wonderful step in feel. Spot on true to size for me and I really like the bright looks here.

Upper
Jeff: Brooks went with a double-jacquard mesh upper that holds the foot well, breathes just fine, and feels comfortable without being overly plush. The overlays are flexible and forgiving, while the heel collar is pretty stiff, with a built up external collar outside of the upper. My longest run in the Transcend was a meandering hilly self-directed half marathon through the streets of my neighborhood, and without any tinkering with the laces or tongue, the upper just worked. This is one of those shoes that isn’t flashy in how good it is, it is only when you realize you haven’t thought about an aspect of the shoe does it prove to be good. Much like a football team’s long snapper, if you don’t know his name, that means he’s doing a great job. The tongue straddles the line between overly soft and just thick enough, and I wouldn’t make a change - while the laces are softer than your average newborn kitten. They didn’t keep coming undone, but they felt like they were going to.
Sam: Can’t add much to what Jeff says about the upper. Beautifully crafted and comfortable it all works together just fine for me.

Midsole

Jeff: DNA Loft EVA from Brooks is one of the best EVA midsole materials on the market in my opinion, and it works well here. It isn’t overly soft, it wouldn’t be described by anyone as firm, but it isn’t mushy, and feels pretty good during 11 minutes miles or 8 minute miles. But then, there’s the Guiderails. Full disclosure, I am not a stability runner, in fact, I supinate which means I’m on the opposite end of the spectrum. That said, I believe I’ve reviewed the most trainers for Road Trail Run (outside of Sam), and the prevailing opinion was this shoe is a stability shoe for runners needing that extra help, while still feeling very neutral for runners like me. And all of that is mostly true. 
As a neutral runner, I didn’t feel any extra elements to the shoe compared to the Glycerin 18 for the majority of my runs - in the 4-6 mile range. It was only when I took the shoe longer I started having problems. By mile 8, I started having issues on the outside of my right knee, and by mile 10 my left knee was having the same issue. By the end of the 13 mile run, there was a lingering soreness, and that continued into the next day - along with substantial quad issues. In the last year I’ve run 10+ miles more than 60 times, so safe to say I know how my legs should feel during and after a longer run, and this was a unique and unpleasant experience. So the stability is there, and I couldn’t really feel it, but I could feel the side effects of it.

Sam: As with Jeff I typically don’t prefer stability/ support shoes but found the Ravenna 9’s firmer post and flexible forefoot great.  I have tested a number of “rails” type support shoes including, React Infinity, Solar Boost and Altra Paradigm as well as less overt raised midsole side wall type support shoes such as Nike Zoom Vomero 14. The more seamless the rail type support the better for me with, of the shoe mentioned above, both Nike the least overt and Solar Boost and Transcend 7 the most overt although here compared to Ravenna 10 and Adrenaline GTS 19 first generation GuideRails things are much improved in providing support without being as overt in feel.
Like Jeff I found the support not exactly pleasant and wondered if in fact my knees needed to move a bit more, so to speak. I am neither bow legged or knock kneed and fortunately have had no knee issues or pains over many years of running. While I had no pains resulting from running in the Transcend, I just wasn’t as comfortable in the support felt at the feet and knees, finding it a bit over controlling and over directed. Was this approach controlling me to much higher up the chain? Was the contrast between firmer and long BioMoGo DNA medial rail and softer main midsole DNA Loft to much? Probably all of the above.
The blue co-molded firmer BioMoGo DNA rail still extends far forward and while transitions are improved (compared to Ravenna 10 and Adrenaline GTS 19) I still think the main issue for me is the length of the rail here. To long. The foot needs to transition to toe off and here it is somewhat impeded by the rail for me even as below the rail the shoe is quite flexible, Why not just make all rails out of DNA Loft as the rest of the midsole with the DNA Loft a touch firmer overall to contrast with Glycerin which currently has the same midsole firmness minus rails? Those needing more support could opt for the Adrenaline with its firmer BioMoGo DNA midsole with DNA Loft heel insert. 
I have no particular issues with the raised lateral rails. 
Overall the midsole here provides as cush a ride as the Glyercin but with that noticeable support from the rails. I wish for a more seamless overall feel to the midsole and support from the rails that is less noticed and constraining. 

Outsole
Jeff: The outsole of the Transcend 7 is durable and grippy, and doesn’t limit the shoe’s flexibility. This is my first Transcend shoe I’ve run in or reviewed, but compared to the last few Glycerin outsoles, the rubber appears to be a little thinner, which helps the shoe still feel fairly svelte considering its size. As you can see from the comparison photos, it really is the same as the new Glycerin, which I tested in the wet with great success.
Sam: Jeff is right the outsole is ever so slightly thinner and will be on most 2020 Brooks models with a touch more added to cushion. 

Ride
Jeff: The overt ride of the Transcend is nice. Well cushioned but not mushy, it felt just as good at 8 minutes per mile as it did at cruising speeds. The geometry of the midsole works even as a midfoot striker, and I believe heel strikers will enjoy them even more. If it wasn’t for the over-correction and subsequent pain from it, I’d really like this shoe. My feet felt great after that long run, and runners looking for a big-day shoe that have some stability needs have a great option.
Sam: As with Jeff I found the ride well cushioned, stable, and pleasant but...the medial side GuideRail while improved impeded my transition to toe off due to, I think, its length more than anything else and also potentially its firmness. While below the rail the shoe was flexible where it needed to be to transition well for me, higher up along the rail things slowed down and created a feeling of a hitch in moving forward. I don’t mind some support but here it was to much, to high, to far forward on the medial side of the shoe,

Conclusions and Recommendations
Jeff: Subtle shifts from the consistently great Glycerin means the Transcend is an excellent stability shoe, but it is still a stability shoe. Neutral runners should stick with the Glycerin, saving $10 and a half ounce of weight (as well as potential mechanics issues). The upper is well designed, the outsole is fantastic, and the midsole works well - just be sure that you are in the demographic.
Jeff’s Score 7.8 out of 10
Ride: 7 (50%) Fit: 9 (30%) Value: 8 (15%) Style: 8 (5%)

Sam: A wonderfully comfortable and great fitting shoe with a soft ride. At least for me, the GuideRails are still “overdone” and to much of a contrast with the rest of the underfoot feel. I don’t mind support and some stability but I want to notice it less and not have it interfere with my stride quite so much. I really think making all the Rails out of the same midsole material as the rest of the shoe, and maybe DNA Loft foam a touch firmer than here would help the experience leaving the Adrenaline for those who really need heavier duty support. 
Sam’s Score: 8.2 out of 10
Ride: 7.5 (50%) Fit: 9 (30%) Value: 8.5 (15%) Style: 9 (5%)

Comparisons Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Brooks Glycerin 18  (RTR Review soon, Glycerin 17 RTR Review)
Jeff: Both shoes fit true-to-size. Two most similar shoes as they share a DNA Loft midsole and similar fit, the Glycerin is purely neutral, while the Transcend brings stability to the table. It also costs $10 more, and weighs more than a half ounce more - but more importantly, it impacts you stride even if you aren’t an over-pronator. If you need minimal support, I’d still recommend the inherently stable Glycerin, but if you have major needs, the Transcend is for you.

Brooks Ravenna 10  (RTR Review
Sam: The lighter Ravenna 10 with its 1st generation Rails was a step back from the lively posted Ravenna 9. The Ravenna 11 with its modified GuideRails should offer improvements for those seeking a more uptempo support shoe. It can be thought of as paired to the neutral Launch whereas Transcend is paired to Glycerin and Adrenaline to Ghost.

Nike React Infinity  (RTR Review )
Sam:This brand new Nike also has rails a plastic clip extending equally on both sides way forward and also apparently seeks to stabilize the knee as with the Transcend. It has a very broad heel and forefoot platform so is plenty stable inherently underfoot. Lighter, easier to transition, I think due to its narrow mid foot waist under foot, with the rails present but less noticed it is closer to a neutral feel than Transcend yet still with plenty of support. It is an easy pick over the Transcend in the light support category. True to size with a somewhat roomier more minimal heel hold which may challenge narrower feet at the rear of the shoe.

Hoka One One Arahi 4  (RTR Light Stability Comparison Review)
Sam: The Arhai 4 takes a different approach to support with a very broad platform and a slightly firmer J Frame EVA on the medial side. It is a lighter, somewhat firmer but super cushioned shoe with a more inherent seamless feel of stability but one more focused on pronation control than stabilizing the knee from what I can tell,

Saucony Guide 13  (RTR Review)
Sam:The Guide has a plastic medial side wall at midfoot which wraps under foot. More traditional in seeking pronation control it has a more responsive faster feeling EVA/TPU blend midsole and is a better choice for more uptempo training, while the Transcend shines with its softer feel for more mellow paces. True to size for both with very similar fits.

Topo Athletic UltraFly 2  (RTR Review)
Jeff: Both shoes fit true-to-size. The only shoe I’ve run in with stability tendencies, the UltraFly 2 might as well be a neutral shoe for neutral runners with zero impact on form and mechanics. It also costs $40 less, has a much bigger toebox, and weighs nearly a full ounce lighter. It’s upper is not as premium as the Transcend’s upper, but everything else tips too deeply into the Topo’s favor to not go that route.

Mizuno Wave Sky Waveknit 3  (RTR Review)
Jeff: Both shoes fit true-to-size. The Mizuno is a neutral shoe, but it has a very stable platform. And while it is probably the plushest shoe Mizuno has made, it is still a Mizuno and should be considered by runners looking for a little extra help. Same cost, but the Mizuno is the better shoe.
Sam: Totally agree with Jeff. Plenty of stability for a neutral shoe and a much smoother and seamless transition to a lively toe off for such a big shoe.

The Transcend 7 Releases Feb. 1, 2020

ROAD TRAIL RUN'S TEAM: BEST OF 2019 ARTICLES HERE
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The product reviewed was provided at no cost. The opinions herein are the authors'.
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3 comments:

Jeff said...

Following

Matt said...

Hey Sam,Love the work. I think you keep forgetting that it is now 2020, though - and I'm starting to get confused about which of your reviews are new and which ones are a year old. Can you fix that and switch the 19 to a 20 for this month's reviews? Your site is by far my favorite shoe review site.

Sam Winebaum said...

Hi Matt, Thanks for kind words and the heads up! Not sure why I am stuck on 2019! it was a great year for run gear but 2020 shaping up to be even better!
Sam, Editor