Thursday, February 25, 2021

Brooks Running Trace Multi Tester Review: Sometimes really good can be great!

Article by Joost De Raeymaeker, Peter Stuart, Michael Ellenberger  and Sam Winebaum

Brooks Trace ($100)


Joost: The Trace is the new kid on the Brooks running shoe block. The brand has been reorganizing its categories and models and the Trace 1 is the bottom entry of the cushion lineup consisting of the Glycerin 19 and its support sibling the Glycerin GTS 19 as the most cushioned model and the Ghost 13 and that model’s support counterpart, the Adrenaline GTS 21 as cushion middle ground.

As per Brooks’ own words the Trace is a “soft, smooth first step into the world of performance running shoes”. It has adaptive cushioning midsole, with BioMoGo DNA, which the brand says “adapts to your speed, stride and weight to deflect impact away from your body”. BioMoGo DNA is an EVA foam with added air. The Bio moniker comes from a non-toxic additive Brooks adds to the EVA foam to make it up to 50x more biodegradable. 

Coupled with a breathable upper and an outsole with segmented crash pad cushions to help heel to toe transition, a more traditional 12mm heel to toe drop and a great price of $100, it seems squarely aimed at people looking for a (first) traditional performance running shoe without breaking the bank, while still having a modern(ish) foam, but without most of the bells and whistles of the the latest and greatest.

Sam: is a very fairly priced ($100) light, flexible performance trainer. It has a similar softer and bouncier (than say the Launch) BioMoGo DNA midsole and a 12mm drop, an engineered mesh upper and a copious durable rubber outsole.  At 9.2 oz in a US9 the weight does reflect the price and choice of materials as Brooks sticks with a thicker more conventional engineered mesh, all that rubber, and not particularly light but quite resilient BioMoGo DNA. The similar 8mm drop Revel ($100) continues in the line

Michael: It feels like the Revel just joined Brooks’s lineup. We now get the new Trace alongside it at the $100 price point. While I don’t think it would have been a stretch to call this the Revel 4 (low price, relatively light, high mileage trainer), the Trace is a welcome addition to the Brooks lineup . Unspectacular as it may be, the Trace is a shoe that should work for a lot of runners - novices and mileage hogs alike.


  • Great value at $100 Sam/Joost/Peter/Michael
  • More traditional 12mm drop for those who like that Michael/Joost
  • Simple and comfortable shoe at a great price Michael/Peter:
  • Stable heel, smooth transitions with a flexible easy forefoot Sam
  • Fun shorter run class shoe that can daily train Sam
  • Runs lighter than its weight Sam
  • Wide toe box and stable platform. Comfortable Joost:


  • Tongue a little too puffy at the top Joost/ Peter/Michael
  • A bit thin and soft at the forefoot for heavier duty daily training uses Sam/Michael
  • Laces are puff, puff, puffy! Peter
  • Somewhat heavy for a shoe in its class at 9.2 oz, dated (but effective) materials Sam
  • Upper fit is imperfect and often difficult MIchael 
  • Slightly mushy in the rear third Michael


Approx. Weight:: men's 9.2 oz / 261g (US9)  /  women's / (US8)

  Samples: men’s  8.96 oz / 254g (US8.5), Left: 263g (9.3oz), Right 270g (9.5oz)

Stack Height (not including sock liner, board, etc..): 24mm heel / 12 mm forefoot, 12mm drop

Available March 2021. $100

First Impressions and Fit

Joost: The Trace is a more traditional shoe. It’s nice looking in a modest way. I would describe it as “unassuming” and I can see two potential types of runners who would be well served with a shoe like the Trace: those taking their “first steps” as a runner as Brooks says, or those squarely looking for a no frills type running shoe with a traditional drop, but with a foam that’s less harsh than some of the plain EVA midsole models of yesteryear.

The blue, white and orange colorway I received for review looks great, and it’s easy to get into. The midsole has some “give”, but doesn’t feel mushy at all. The Trace feels very comfortable on the foot, fits true to size and is wide enough for my Shrek feet. Let’s see what it’s made of and how it behaves. Read on!

Peter: I used to love the Brooks Launch. The Launch changed my life in some weird ways. Go ahead and google John Schrup and the Launch. I’ll wait. Are you back? Okay, good. The Launch was great, but seemed to be only a ghost of its former self (sorry for the brooks pun) in later iterations. The Launch started smooth and light and got less smooth  and clunkier as time went on. When the Trace showed up I was pretty excited that Brooks might have a good, simple cheap shoe that would take me back to the early joy of the Launch. So? Well, it looks good, it’s simple and it’s affordable. So far so good. 

Sam: Nothing fancy here at least by today’s standards of super foams and exotic mono mesh uppers. A classy, simple package with an upper that not more than 2 or 3 years ago would have been on a shoe in the $130 and up class.  The upper is not the super light stuff we see these days and even in comparably priced options such as the 6.5 oz Puma Liberate Nitro ($110) which has a current state of the art mono mesh very breathable light upper.  

The fit is true to size. Very soft and comfortable and more than adequately secure. 

Michael: While the Trace looks a little cheap, even for its price tag, it slides on well and is undoubtedly comfortable (owing largely to a smooth, overlay-free upper design). What Sam notes is spot on - I wouldn’t be surprised to have seen this shoe upstream at the $120-130 range just a few years ago, but as entry-level shoes get better and better, the utility of a $100 trainer is clear. First impressions are good - time to run!


Joost: The upper is an engineered mesh in a double layer in the forefoot is reasonably breathable, although the Trace got quite warm on the run here in the tropics. It is not very stretchable, but has enough room even for wide feet and the midfoot holds the foot down well. 

The Brooks logos on the sides help to give more structure and stability to that area. Laces are of the slightly flattened tubular kind and the eyelets are some sort of rubbery plastic that’s secure and flexible. The tongue is standard and non-gusseted with lots of cushion. 

I find the top part of it a bit too puffy, but it doesn’t get in the way of anything, so that’s mostly an aesthetic niggle, although it also contributes to the shoe feeling slightly warm. It should be great for northern hemisphere's late winter and spring running.  

A relatively firm toe bumper gives some structure to the forefoot and an external molded heel counter overlay with some reflective elements adds structure and stability in the back. 

Heel hold is great with a plushly padded achilles’ and ankle area.

The external little pillows on the medial and lateral side at the back of the shoe don’t extend to the interior of the shoe and don’t seem to have a function for foot hold , but probably provide some more stability in the area.

All this to say the upper in the Trace is a very good traditional upper. Like the rest of the shoe, there are no extra bells and whistles, no knitted fancy name space age material, but a good fitting upper that does everything right.

Peter: Joost hit all the details, so I’ll just say that the Brooks Trace has a great, traditional feeling mesh upper. It fits really well and has a nice plush step-in feel. The tongue is a little thick and the laces are puffy--but neither of those things gets in the way of a great fit. 

Sam: Echoing the others, a fine upper. It’s more traditional somewhat thicker construction likely adds some weight. 

Michael: The benefits to the Trace’s upper are easy - it’s comfortable, streamlined, breathable, and nearly chafe-free, without any protruding overlays or stiff elements. It’s unspectacular, but it’s polished.

Unfortunately, I had issues was the lacing and lockdown of the Trace - the laces were tricky to keep locked down against the super-thick tongue, which had me either yanking the laces overly taut in an effort to keep the tongue in place, or trying to maximize comfort with a too-loose fit. Eventually, I found a relative medium - but for what is ostensibly an entry-level performance trainer, I wish the Trace had a more streamlined and race-like fit.


Joost: BioMoGo DNA. Unlike the upper, the midsole has a fancy name. Let’s break it down. In 2006, Brooks launched MoGo, a new take on standard EVA, with a new polymer made to last longer. At the time, they even offered a 90 day money back guarantee. MoGo was said to provide more cushioning, more rebound and a decrease in fatigue. The Bio part is where Brooks claim they “added a non-toxic, natural additive to the MoGo compound that encourages anaerobic microbes to munch away once it hits an active enclosed landfill. Traditional Ethylene Vinyl Acetate™ (EVA) midsoles can last up to 1,000 years in a landfill. BioMoGo’s microbial munch rate is 50 times faster, biodegrading nutrients into reusable byproducts.”

It gets fancier. DNA stands for the use of a” proprietary, non-Newtonian polymer that delivers a dynamic response to the impact forces that running creates at a molecular level. The response provides cushioning that is unique to every step - accounting for a runner's unique stride, weight, and speed.”

That’s a ton of terminology for a non-2021 nitrogen or otherwise injected, TPU or PEBAX based superfoam. It’s good old EVA, but admittedly with a modern twist. How does it feel, though, and is there enough or too much of it?

Well, this flavor of BioMoGo is relatively soft,and is easily compressed when poked with a finger. While you stand and walk in the Trace, you can feel some give, but you never get the impression that your foot sinks in too much. When running, there’s no feeling that the foam is going to bottom out and there is a little bounce to it as well. Stack height is unmentioned, but generous in the heel, while there’s still enough foam in the forefoot to offer a nice cushioned ride, in spite of the 12mm drop.

Peter: The midsole is soft without being mushy. It provides a nice cushioned ride but is firm enough to provide a smooth transition to the toe off. While this midsole material is hardly one of the new super foams, it is a great traditional foam and feels terrific. 

Sam: The BioMoGo DNA here is on the softer side and similar to what the Revel 3 had. It is clearly softer than the Brooks Launch 8. We have plenty of soft cushion and rebound but this is a lower stack shoe with a 12mm drop so the forefoot can feel a bit thin at longer distances. As Joost says not so soft and thin that one bottoms out. All in all a lively midsole, unlike the more serious and dense Launch’s flavor which provides somewhat more overall cushion but less fun. 

I wonder what this shoe would feel like moving 2mm of heel stack to the forefoot? I guess maybe more like a Launch but with a softer bouncier ride.

Michael: Peter noted that the midsole was “soft without being mushy” - I’d dispute that slightly. The BioMoGo DNA here (at least in the heel), is soft and, to my foot, slightly mushy. Up front, the cushioning comes across a little overly flat and lacking, creating sort of an odd balance. It’s not such a major issue on the ride, because I genuinely think the ample cushioning in the near third helps avoid that “bottoming out” effect, but it’s not perfect.


Joost: The outsole offers very good traction and shows very little signs of wear so far. The embossed shapes help with traction and should be enough to take the Trace out on dirt roads and light trails. 

A J-shaped longitudinal groove in the heel creates a segmented crash pad and offers decoupling for heel strikers. The forefoot has a number of perpendicular grooves that offer great flexibility.

Peter: Plenty of rubber that should last forever. The outsole flexes in all of the right places and allows the shoe feel nice and limber. 

Sam: Yup a great outsole which should last a long time. All that rubber in a traditional full cover array likely comes at a price in weight and may be overdone for purpose. This said the 12mm drop and thinner forefoot may require it for stability up front.

Michael: We’ve had this shoe in for several months, meaning I was able to take it on dry roads, wet leaves, winter snow and ice, and some indoor treadmill work. Across all of those surfaces and conditions, I found the Trace to be amply grippy and stable, and the durability to be good. It’s not Puma Deviate Nitro-level outsole tacky, but it ain’t shabby for $100.


Joost: The ride is well cushioned and relatively soft with a little bounce, but is not very responsive. I wouldn’t use the Trace for any uptempo stuff or very long runs. It is a workhorse easy day kind of shoe.

Thanks to the geometry and the outsole grooves, it transitions well and the 12mm drop is very noticeable. My achilles’ thanked me for it, but I could really feel the heel’s presence. This has probably more to do with the fact that a 12mm drop shoe is rare these days and that I’m no longer used to it. I’m not in the low drop or high drop camp, as I think that for most people the difference between an 8mm or a 12mm drop is irrelevant to their injury risk, PB or overall running enjoyment.

Peter: The ride of the Brooks Trace is like a nice, mid-size sedan. It’s totally pleasant, even enjoyable, but doesn’t reinvent the running shoe. It’s best for going out for easy miles, or easy and long miles. It’s not quite cushy enough to count as a recovery shoe for me, but it’s a solid, easy and enjoyable ride. 

Sam: For $100 a mighty fine and fun ride indeed. Not a long run shoe for me but a fine moderate distance daily training ride and due to the 12mm drop, softer somewhat bouncy cushion and decent flexibility also a good option for me for slower easier runs.

Michael: I’ll take the unpopular opinion that a 12mm drop, on a trainer like this, is a good thing - it’s easy on the achilles and facilitates a smooth transition from easier to more moderate paces.  As Sam noted, it’s not necessarily an ideal long run shoe (though I think those picking this as a first-time running shoe won’t have issues in that regard), but it’s plenty bouncy for runs anywhere from easy to medium. I actually preferred it for easy and recovery runs in comparison to tempo, because the well-cushioned heel and midfoot provided a comfortable and accessible ride, whereas the forefoot was a bit thin for faster running, especially over longer efforts. At $100, I think it’s got the right amount of range - but it’s no FuelCell TC, for example (which can handle pretty much anything!).

Conclusions and Recommendations

Joost: The Trace does a lot of things right and more importantly, it does nothing wrong. Brooks aims the shoe at people buying their first real pair of running shoes or runners looking for a performance running shoe without the bells and whistles. It’s not the kind of shoe that will have you feel like you’ve never run faster, easier or more effortless, but it’s a very good shoe that - especially at $100 - will not disappoint you and will keep you running those miles day after day.

Joost’s score: 9.05/10

Ride: 8.5 (50%), Fit 9.5 (30%), Value 10 (15%), Style 9 (5%)

Peter: The Trace is a really good shoe for pretty much anyone. It’s enjoyable to run in, is relatively inexpensive and looks good. Is it the most exciting shoe, no? It’s a super solid daily trainer though and has enough good things about it that it reminds me of the OG Launch. 

Peter’s score 9/10

Sam: I guess we have said it multiple times but the Trace at $100 is a great value. No performance or comfort compromises in terms of outsole rubber, midsole foam, and a very fine upper that I can see impacting its durability for many miles of training. 

It has a fun friendly ride that never had me saying why did I chose this shoe for today’s run, something the similarly priced firmer, denser and duller Launch had me often doing in testing. Of course it depends on preferences but it sits just below in cushion what I would choose as a single all around daily trainer due to its relatively low stack particularly at the forefoot. 

Its weight is up there for a shoe in its class at 9.2 oz. and its only real weakness although that weight and the materials should contribute to strong durability. While the choice of materials from upper to midsole to outsole are fine they are heavy and somewhat dated even at this price point.

I think the Trace is a great option for high school runners as an all around trainer, for those seeking a durable daily trainer for relatively low mileage, and as a fun lively shoe in a rotation for shorter mileage runs at any pace except intervals.   

Sam’s Score: 9//10

Ride: 9(50%) Fit: 9(30%) Value: 9(15%) Style: 9(5%)

Michael: It’s unfortunate for the Trace that we’ve had some really interesting (and often genuinely terrific) trainers up for review in the past few months, because - despite the Trace being a commendable and interesting $100 options - it’s clear that the gap between truly high-end trainers and entry-level options isn’t that close. Yes, the Trace is a simple, durable, and quality trainer. The midsole is acceptable - even fun, for everyday miles - and the upper, while a little bloated, won’t hurt anyone. It’s a shame that Brooks hasn’t quite rekindled the magic of its Revel 3 or earlier Ghost and Launch models here - but the Trace is hardly a disappointment, either. Just keep your expectations in check, and you’ll find a trainer that’s ready for nearly any run you can throw at it.

Michael’s Score: 8.7/10

12 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

Brooks Revel 3 (RTR Review)

Michael: I think we’re past the window of the Revel 3 being a purchasable trainer (it was released back in the summer of 2019), but in comparison to the Trace, I think the R3 is a considerably more fun and dynamic option. It blended durability and performance, with a springy and performance-focused ride in a $100 package. The Trace isn’t quite as exciting, but it gets the job done for most of what you’ll need.

Brooks Revel 4 RTR Review

The Revel 4 is 0.3 oz lighter and has 4mm less foam at the heel with the same forefoot stack resulting is an 8mm drop vs. 12mm for the Trace and it has a different outsole material (Green Rubber) and configuration 

Brooks Launch 7 and 8 (RTR Review)

Joost: M9.5 in both. I received both the Trace and the Launch 8 at the same time for review. The Trace rides a lot softer than the Launch, which is better suited for faster work. The upper of both is great, with ample forefoot room. I would choose the Launch for tempo days and the Trace for easy days.

Sam: A bit more than 0.5 oz ounce lighter with a somewhat higher stack height, the Launch 8 is priced the same as Trace. And there is a reason (beyond potentially a lighter upper for the lower weight. It has 2mm less heel stack height and 2mm less forefoot stack. It is firmer, stiffer, and somewhat more stable. Launch is more protective at the forefoot but has a denser firmer and stiffer overall ride. No question while the Launch may lean slightly more towards daily training than Trace despite its lower stack height, hands down Trace is more fun and useful. 

Reebok Symmetros (RTR Review)

Joost: M9.5 in both. The Symmetros has a great vibration dampening midsole, but is a little “untuned” in the upper. The Trace is a lot more traditional feeling, with a very well fitting upper. My vote goes to the Trace.

Sam: I concur with Joost. I found the Symmetros toe box not very secure and the forefoot feel wobbly as it was unstructured with a spongy sockliner in the mix. The heel cushion, vibration dampening and rear stability of the Symmetros is superior but on balance with the front's shortcomings. I prefer the Trace.

Salomon Sonic 3 Accelerate (RTR Review)

Joost: M9.5 in both. It’s been a while since I’ve run in the Accelerate, but I remember it’s great dampened ride, especially downhill. The Trace has a better upper, but overall I prefer the Accelerate for its ride.

Sam: The Accelerate is more cushioned and vibration dampening and an ounce lighter in weight. Both play in the same class of light performance trainer. While I prefer the Traceupper the Accelerate is a more versatile shoe and is lighter. I would more likely pick Accelerate as a daily trainer over the Trace. 

Puma Liberate Nitro (RTR Initial Review)

Sam: The Liberate is what the Trace could be. For $10 more you get a 6.5 oz /184g super light trainer/ racer that’s 2.7 oz lighter than Trace with equivalent cushion, a livelier and equally as soft nitrogen infused EVA midsole and a thin yet supportive mono mesh upper that is not as plush as Trace’s but more than adequate. No contest Liberate.  

Puma Deviate Nitro (RTR Review)

Michael: The Puma Deviate Nitro is a plated, energetic, and fun trainer. While I had some issues with the fit, the Puma is a devilishly fun trainer, and a huge surprise from a brand I wasn’t expecting much from. Take the Nitro but be aware it is $160.

Brooks Glycerin 19 (RTR Review)

Michael: The Glycerin 19, like the Trace, is an unspectacular looking or feeling trainer - both have a bit of that blue collar, “it just works” vibe to them. Where the Glycerin surpasses the Trace, I think, is in the ride - the balance of the midsole on the $150 Glycerin makes it feel more dynamic and bouncy, and an overall more engaging ride at all paces. Coupled with a slightly more refined upper (and, frankly, a cleaner and more modern style), I think runners who can afford the $50 bump should do so.

adidas SL20 (RTR Review)

Sam: Over an ounce lighter the SL20 is considerably firmer shoe with tons of response and not much bounce or softness as Trace has. It can double as a shorter distance race shoe. For sure not as pleasant a ride or upper as Trace or as versatile it is a fast snappy shoe whereas the Trace is bouncier,more mellow and more versatile if a light trainer is what you are looking for and not a near racer.

Adidas Boston 8 (RTR Review)

Joost: M9.5 in both. I really like the Boston. It’s a very well crafted shoe that will last forever. It is also harsh riding, very responsive and tough on your feet and legs . I would go with the Boston for fast days and for days when I want to give my feet a decent workout. If I only had the Boston and the Trace, I would use the latter as my recovery shoe.

Peter: 11 in both. I loved the Boston 7, but the Boston 8 got a bit stiff for me. Just wasn’t fun to run in. I prefer the Trace. 

Skechers Go Run Razor + (RTR Review)

Joost: M9.5 in both. Ah, the Razor and sweet sweet Hyperburst. I love the foam so much that I forgive Skechers for the bad sizing and uppers. Having said that, the + was definitely an improvement in that department. The ride is very different, with the Razor being snappy, responsive and a lot of fun to push the pace in. The Trace definitely is the more comfortable of the two shoes, but my heart beats Hyperburst.

Peter: The upper on the Brooks Trace fits me better, and the shoe works better as a whole for me than the Razor +. That said, see the Razor Excess comp below

Skechers Razor Excess (RTR Review)

Peter: The Razor Excess is lighter, faster and a bit firmer, but still has enough cushion to get through long miles. The Trace upper fits my foot a bit better, but the Razor Excess is a more fun shoe overall.

Sam: Agree with Peter but would add that the Trace may be a safer bet for daily training miles for most as the stiff rocker of the Excess should be paired with a more flexible shoe… such as the Trace if you like light and non super cushioned. 

Saucony Ride 14 (RTR Review)

Peter: The Brooks Trace is what I thought the Ride 14 should be. It’s smooth, will last forever and is a joy to run in. I find the Ride 14 to be a little too thin in the forefoot and ultimately I don’t feel like going on a run in them. Brooks Trace all the way.

Joost: M9.5 in both. The Ride 14 didn’t do it for me. I felt the ride was a little “square” or clunky. My vote goes to the Trace. 

Sam: While I prefer the liviler ride of the Trace, the heavier Ride 14 is a more versatile daily trainer choice for me. 

Tester Profiles

Joost is a Belgian in his 50s living in Luanda, Angola, Africa, where he faces the heat, humidity and general chaos to run anything between 60-100 miles per week. He’s on a mission to win in his age group in the 6 marathon majors and has completed half of his project, with a 2:26:10 PB in Berlin in 2019 at 51. He ran in primary school, but then thought it would be a lot cooler to be a guitar player in a hard rock band, only picking up running again in 2012, gradually improving his results. His Strava is here:

Peter lives in Austin, Texas and has been a sub 3 hour marathoner as well as a 1:25 half marathoner in recent years

Michael is a 2019 graduate of Northwestern University Law School in Chicago, with an interest in patent and intellectual property law. Prior to law school, he competed collegiately at Washington University in St. Louis (10,000m PR of 30:21). He recently finished 2nd at the Chicago Half-Marathon in a PR of 67:43, and was the top Illinois finisher in the 2017 Boston Marathon (2:33:03, 82nd overall). He recently secured a 2:31 marathon PR at the Austin Marathon. 

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 63 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. Sam has been running for over 48 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 5’9” tall and weighs about 164 lbs.

The Brooks Trace releases March 2021

Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. No other compensation was received by RTR or the author for this review from Brooks . The opinions herein are entirely the authors'
Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

RoadTrailRun receives a commission on purchases at the stores below.
Your purchases help support RoadTrailRun. Thanks!

USA  Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
FREE 2 Day Shipping EASY No Sweat Returns
EUROPE Men's & Women's SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
Join VIP Family, Get Free Shipping and 15% in VIP Benefits on every order, Details here

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE
FREE Shipping on most orders over $40

Men's & Women's  SHOP HERE

Men's & Women's SHOP HERE


Please Like and Follow RoadTrailRun
Facebook:  Instagram: @roadtrailrun
Twitter: @RoadTrailRun You Tube: @RoadTrailRun

1 comment:

albertosenia said...

Very interesting shoe. I think the same than Michael about the mushy feeling in heel, but in any case it's a very good shoe for the price.
My concern is about the midsole materials: if simple DNA can be softened at this level It's really difficult for me justify and distinguish between DNA, SuperDNA, DNA loft, lot of flavors that could have same behaviour with some finetune from the brand.