Thursday, April 28, 2022

Brooks Running Divide 3 Multi Tester Review: No Compromises Road to Trails Fit & Performance for $100! 10 Comparisons

Article by Jeff Valliere and Mike Postaski

Brooks Running Divide 3 ($100)


Introduction


Jeff V:  The Divide 3 receives a complete makeover from the previous versions, with an all new outsole, Loft DNA v1 midsole and new upper.  Versions 1 and 2 were remarkably good shoes for the $100 price point, but the Divide 3 is a remarkably great shoe for any price point! Intended for door to trail, I would clarify that the Divide 3 would be better called a “door to just about any trail” shoe, for not only it’s excellent road manners, but also it’s all around capability even on technical terrain.


Pros:


Jeff V:  Cushion, comfort, accommodating but secure upper, versatility, price

Loft DNA V1 cushion is consistent and just right for a training shoe Mike P/Jeff V

Very roomy toebox, wide across the forefoot Mike P/Jeff V

Neutral, stable landing base without being overly wide Mike P/Jeff V

Quality seems much, much higher than price point Mike P/Jeff V


Cons:

Jeff V:  Hmmm….  I can’t really come up with a complaint for a $100 shoe

Ride can feel a bit flat (but I actually like this aspect in a trainer) Mike P


Stats

Approx. Weight: men's 10.05 oz  / 285g (US9)

  Samples: men’s 10.75oz  / 305g (US 10), 10.3 oz / 292g (US 9.5)

Stack Height: 30mm heel (measured) / 22 mm forefoot (8mm drop spec)

Available Sept. Still $100!


Tester Profiles


Jeff V.   runs mostly on very steep technical terrain above Boulder often challenging well known local FKT's. 


Mike Postaski currently focuses on long mountainous ultras - anywhere from 50K up to his favorite - 100M. 5'10", 138 lbs, midfoot/forefoot striker - he typically averages 70 mpw (mostly on trails), ramping up to nearly 100 mpw during race buildups. A 2:40 road marathoner, his easy running pace ranges from 7:30 - 9:00/mi. Mike shoe preferences lean towards firmer, dense cushioning, with plenty of forefoot space, and he strongly dislikes pointy toe boxes.


First Impressions and Fit

Jeff V:  I am really impressed with the looks of the Divide 3, very much resembling the new Caldera 6 (though not nearly as big) with hints of Cascadia 16, two of my favorite shoes.  Sliding my foot into the Divide 3 is pure comfort and joy, feeling well cushioned, well padded, exceptionally comfortable, with a roomy toe box, yet secure fit and optimal lacing.  The quality of the materials, construction and modern premium look is notably impressive for an entry level priced shoe.  Fit is true to size, with a generous toe box, secure feel in the midfoot, heel and forefoot.

Mike P:  This is my first time running in the Brooks Divide.  I recently tested the Caldera 6 and also have a pair of Catamounts.  Unfortunately I have not tried the new Cascadia.  The standout feature on first impression for the Divide is the upper.  It does resemble the new Caldera 6 quite a bit - but I find it just a touch more well-fitting, and also noticeably roomier and wider up front.  I typically find Brooks uppers to be hit-or-miss.  The Catamount is a perfect example - it’s a very good shoe that falls short of being great due to the upper being kind of insecure, kind of tapered, and the heel kind of rigid.  For my taste, the Divide suffers no such issues. 


Step-in feel and impression is also quite nice.  Having enough room upfront is always a good thing in my book, and they just feel solid and supportive underfoot.  I detect a slight curvature under the arch which I appreciate, without any unevenness or gaps underfoot as I felt with the Caldera.  Just a nice, no-nonsense overall fit and feel. 


Upper

Jeff V:  The new air mesh upper is impressively modern looking, flexible, well ventilated and secure.  The lacing is once and done secure, without any pressure points and provides a comfortably snug fit without have to wrestle with or over tighten.

The tongue is of medium thickness and is gusseted, adding to the comfort, ease of entry and premium feel.

The toe bumper is thin and flexible, yet substantially protective and integrates seamlessly with the air mesh and continues as a 360 rand for added protection from rocks and bumps.  There are even a few breaks in the rand in order to allow for some added flex in the forefoot as the shoe bends, which will also allow for a bit of drainage if you dip your feet.

The heel counter is very sturdy, stable and secure, though feels a touch chunky and overbuilt, but has no negative effect.  

Padding around the heel collar is just right for a door to trail trainer and the height is ideal for my preferences.

Mike P:  Jeff runs down the details on the upper above, so I’ll just highlight a couple of details that I like.  This is the widest and most roomy toebox of any Brooks shoe I have - a good thing for me.  The new Caldera 6 is very close, but it has just a slight taper up front (plus the rocker), where the Divide stays a touch wider towards the toes and is more rounded at the very front.  Shape is similar to another toebox I love - the VJ Spark.  

Even with the added volume, the upper is not sloppy at all - the lacing and the volume are just right where you can snug it up quickly and you get a nice fit without any squeezing from the sides.  This upper should be accommodating to many different foot shapes.


Left: Divide 3, Right: Caldera 6 


Caldera’s midsole makes it look bigger, but if you look closely you will notice more upper material in the area below the laces of the Divide.  You can also see the Divide maintains more width - especially on the pinky side, towards the very front]

On to the rear and another pet peeve of mine - the ankle/heel collar.  Brooks keeps it simple here and provides a normal, padded collar, which is just a bit thicker at the achilles.  There’s no rigidness and the padding provides a solid “cup” to hold the heel.  I’ve had so many shoes recently with odd, re-imagined designs of the collar and heel padding - I do think manufacturers can out-think themselves sometimes.  The Divide does it well here - simple is good, simple works.


Midsole

Jeff V:  The DNA Loft midsole is a huge improvement over the BioMoGo DNA. It has a more lively, lighter, more energetic feel to it.  While not a shoe that you put on and think you need to run fast in it, I have found that it has enough response and energy return to rise to the task and go fast if you are having a good day.  Dampening is very good on long downhills and paved miles, as my legs feel reasonably fresh after running in them.  I would classify cushioning as medium firm in the most positive way, where they feel well cushioned enough for a full day out, however is firm enough to feel supportive over long distances and predictable/protective when running rocky, technical trails.  Flexibility is appropriate and I find stability to be very good no matter the terrain.


Mike P:  I’m really enjoying the DNA Loft V1 midsole.  I think it works perfectly in a training shoe - it doesn’t feel bouncy or dynamic, but the feel is relatively consistent and as Jeff says, medium firm is a good description.  In my opinion, it’s a perfect level of density and responsiveness for a training shoe.  Previous versions did have a rock plate, but there is none here, and I think that was a good choice by Brooks.  Cascadia and Catamount both have rock plates, and the Caldera has a huge foam stack, so slotting the Divide to provide a bit more trail feel makes sense to me.



Protection I would say is adequate in moderate up to semi-technical terrain.  There’s not a ton of stack, so some sharper rock impacts will get through.  But mostly full coverage rubber helps in blunting the smaller stuff.  I think the tradeoff for more ground feel, especially in conjunction with the roomier upper, really works well here.  Again, Brooks provides 3 other models which all offer varying levels of increased protection, if you need it.



Outsole

Jeff V:  The TrailTak outsole strikes a perfect balance of all around road versatility to rough trail/off trail capability.  I have found traction to be very good through a wide variety of terrain and conditions and only experienced their limitations on the steepest, most loose off trail and occasionally on loose gravelly corners at higher speeds, however, all but the most aggressively lugged shoes may waver under the same circumstances.  


The grooves help with the flexibility of the shoe, with one bifurcating lengthwise with an anatomical curve, one crossing under midfoot and another running across the forefoot. 

Several other smaller flex grooves ring the perimeter of the outsole for added conformation.  Durability thus far is proving to be very good.


Mike P:  One of the features Brooks touts in its promo material is the “Segmented Crash Pad”.  This refers to the 4 different segments of the outsole - separated by flex grooves.  As you can see from the picture below, the grooves are oriented in more of a fluid manner, rather than being straight across or at regular intervals.  There are also minor grooves along the edge to aid flexibility - it makes sense to have a few more on the lateral side as that is generally the landing side.

[Segmented Crash pad of the left shoe]


I can’t say how much intentional design thought went into this, but I’m finding that it really works well.  Landings roll smoothly from my typical lateral forefoot landing area across to the medial side and then through the middle of the shoe.  It feels like the flex grooves prevent the shoe from feeling slappy and they do smooth out the ride.  I think the same effect will be felt by heel strikers landing on the lateral rear segment of the “crash pad”.   



Ride

Jeff V:  The ride of the Divide 3 is not particularly dynamic, energetic or exciting, but I would not expect, or even hope for as much, in a door to trail $100 daily trainer.  I do however find the ride to be pleasingly predictable, stable and responsive enough to provide enough performance if you are having a good day and want to bump up the pace.


Mike P:  Jeff describes the ride well and exactly as I would - predictable, stable, and responsive enough - and I would add - as a daily trainer.  Often we think of the term “daily trainer” more in terms of road shoes, but I think it should apply just as much to trail shoes.  Trail shoes tend to have a lot going on underfoot these days, from blended foams, inner soft/outer carrier foam mixes, supercritical bounciness, medial support mechanisms, rock plates, carbon plates, rocker geometry, etc.  Those are all well and good (especially on race day), but I’m of the persuasion that letting your feet and legs rather than your shoes do more of the work in training should be the objective.


[Predictable, stable, and responsive - puts you(!) in control of the ride]


The one “con” I listed for the Divide is that the ride can feel a bit “flat”.  By that I mean that there’s no feeling of bounce, levering, or rocker-effect in the ride.  But it’s all relative of course, and in a “daily trainer” I find it beneficial to let your legs do a bit more of the work.  An example of this is - I took the Divide out for a set of steep max hill sprints, at 8-10 seconds max.  I found that I was able to really push through the glutes and focus on fully pushing through my stride.  A shoe with more features will either bounce too quickly, the plate will lever your foot, or the rocker will aid in rolling forward.  I get the same feeling during my regular training runs in the Divide - it's a shoe that’s there to provide the support to let you do the work.


Conclusions and Recommendations

Jeff V:  Even though I really liked the Divide 1 and 2, I set them aside in favor of more premium, higher tiered shoes. The  Divide 3 is a big jump in technology and performance.  Brooks has taken no shortcuts with this shoe and am confident that the Divide 3 can hold its own against just about any door to trail daily trainer, or even trail shoes that cost $30-$50 more.  Road manners are very good, with a smooth feel, but once on the trail, they really shine.  I think the sweet spot for the Divide 3 is medium distance on smoother to more moderate trails at just about any pace, but can easily handle rough terrain, rocky technical trails and even off trail without much compromise.  While I set previous models of the Divide aside after testing, the Divide 3 has earned a spot in my rotation of favored shoes.


Jeff V’s Score:  9.4/10

Ride: 9.5 - The ride is smooth, predictable and stable

Fit: 9.5 - A nice roomy toe box with overall secure fit

Value: 10 - One could not possibly find a better shoe for $100 (and maybe not even for $120?)

Style: 9.5 - At least in the gray colorway with classy yellow Brooks logo, they are very sharp!

Traction: 8.5 - very good overall and versatile, only real limitations are on the toughest terrain/conditions

Rock Protection: 9.5 - very good and never feel any jabs or need to be tentative


Mike P:  You absolutely won’t find a better place to invest your 100 trail shoe dollars.  Don’t let the price point fool you - the Brooks Divide 3 benefits from the trickle down of more premium technology and design from other shoes in the Brooks quiver.  While there are faster, bouncier, more responsive, and more dynamic shoes out there, the Divide has absolutely earned a place in my trail shoe rotation as a daily trainer.  I would not consider them for racing, but I will absolutely utilize them to eat up training miles and prepare my legs for race day.   



Mike P’s Score:  9.45/10

Ride: 9.5 - Virtually perfect for a trainer, slightly more midfoot transition would make it a 10

Fit: 10 - Great volume, especially in the  toebox, neutral and supportive underfoot

Value: 10 - Incredible, really should get bonus points here

Style: 9.5 - Good looking trail shoe

Traction: 8.5 - Very good in intended terrain, not as much bite due to flattish lugs

Rock Protection: 8.5 - Very good in intended terrain


10 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE


Brooks Divide 2  (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Divide 3 has dropped a few grams, has a more generous toe box, yet has a far superior and secure upper.  The new midsole featuring Loft DNA is more lively and feels more compliant underfoot and traction, while not quite as aggressive as previous, is more versatile and better aligns with the intent of the shoe.


Brooks Caldera 6  (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  The Caldera 6 is a much bigger, more maximally cushioned shoe that features incredibly light, bouncy, fun, and responsive Loft DNA v3 that is an absolute joy to run in.  Traction/outsole, while similar in appearance, have Caldera 6’s lugs slightly deeper and a bit more effective.  The Caldera 6, while it has an accommodating forefoot, is perhaps just a smidge more narrow than the Divide 3.  Foothold and stability for both shoes are excellent.  Of course the Divide is $50 less.



Mike P (9.5):  Jeff covers the differences well.  I concur that the Caldera is just a smidge narrower up front, but should be fine for most.  I also notice more volume in the Caldera heel cup, but again this may or may not be noticeable depending on your heel shape and size.  Aside from the obvious difference in pure stack, the main difference for me is the extremely wide platform of the Caldera - I found it a bit awkward to get used to.  The Divide rides on a more streamlined, standard width platform, which I find more natural and suitable for training.  Due to that factor, the Divide would also be a better hiker.


[Caldera 6 - left, Divide 3 - right.  For $100 you get the same outsole compound and not much difference in lugs.  Caldera 6 has a MUCH wider platform]


Brooks Cascadia 16  (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  While the Divide 3 is secure and stable, the Cascadia 16 is even more so, with a more dialed in upper, more aggressive outsole, Loft DNA v2, the Cascadia 16 is heavier, but more responsive and performance oriented.  Another great value of a shoe at $130. 


Brooks Catamount  (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5):  Sizing is the same with the Catamount slightly more tapered at the front, which does cause me some irritation on the big toe side.  Also the Catamount heel is a bit vertical, with not as much of a “cup”.  Brooks should strap the Flash midsole + rock shield onto the Divide upper  and call it the Catamount 2!   The Catamount DNA Flash midsole + rock shield is much more responsive and fast, but I’ve never raced in it due to the upper.  I have a hard time finding usage for it, but if the fit works for you, it’s a great moderate terrain, long distance racer - I saw a bunch of them out at Canyons 100K last week.  I do prefer the Divide for daily training miles.


[The $100 Divide’s upper clearly beats out that of the $160 Catamount]


ASICS Fuji Lite 2 (RTR Review)

Mike P (10.0):  Big difference between the two is that the Asics is a lot softer and also feels a bit bouncy in fact.  The Divide rides more stable and feels more grounded underfoot.  The Asics has better traction (AsicsGrip is really good), and since it is so flexible - it also rides well on the road.  I prefer the Divide upper - it’s slightly wider up front, has more volume overall, but you can snug it up well with the lacing.  The Asics upper is a bit stretchier, tougher to lock down, so I find it less secure in uneven terrain.  Both are good picks - choosing would depend on whether you lean softer or firmer in your cushion preference, as well as upper security.


Topo MT4  (RTR Review) 

Jeff V:  Close in weight, fit and purpose, both shoes are a fine pick for more casual door to trail use.  I do find the Divide 3 to be a bit more trail capable with superior security, traction and are just more fun to run.  Plus you save $25.  


Topo MTN Racer 2  (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5):  The Topo on paper has more features, and is more (long) race oriented, but I’m including it here because, for me, it falls into the same category as the Divide.  I find the Topo a bit thin in the forefoot for true ultra distance territory, so I’ve been using it for easy miles, casual use and hiking.  Toebox space in the Divide is actually comparable to the Topo.  I find the Divide upper more comfortable as Topo’s thin tongue gives me some lace bite.  Both work well for moderate distance training miles, the Topo could go longer based on your personal fit and feel.


Salomon Sense Ride 4  (RTR Review)

Jeff V:  Another favorite of mine the SR4 is easy to slide on and off, snug down, has accommodating, yet secure fit, comparable traction with performance very similar.  I do find the Divide 3 to be a bit more runnable and have better protection underfoot.


Saucony Peregrine 12  (RTR Review)

Mike P (9.5):  The Peregrine is another highly versatile shoe and a top pick so far in 2022.  The Peregrine has a more snug and secure upper, and is more protective (woven rock plate), yet still flexible, and provides much better rough terrain traction.  The Peregrine is at home in more technical terrain and the Divide in more moderate stuff and road-to-trail.  The Peregrine can feel a bit firm in moderate terrain, and is definitely not a pick for road-to-trail.  Both shoes are currently active in my rotation, both shoes are great values.


Altra Timp 4  (RTR Review)

Mike P (10.0):  Timp features a slightly wider, looser toebox with space to truly splay. The  EGO Max midsole provides more cushion and is softer and more responsive than Loft V1.  I don’t think Timp’s traction is that great, it's probably comparable in performance to the Divide.  The Divide with its relatively more secure upper, is for me is a better pick when terrain skews more technical.  Timp is obviously zero drop, whereas the Divide is 8mm.  Timp costs $60 more, so unless you’re an Altra or zero drop fan, I’d favor the $100 Divide’s value..


Inov-8 Trailfly G 270 (RTR Review)

Mike P (10.0):  The Inov-8 (formerly known as Terraultra) is zero drop, and lower to the ground with a more responsive, bouncy even, midsole.  Traction is excellent in all conditions and highly durable.  The Terraultra was a top pick of the RTR team, but the comparison between it and the Divide is slightly off.  I find the Terraultra works best in shifty, twisty terrain as security and ground feel is very good.  But it can be harsh for most runners as a training shoe at zero drop with relatively less cushion.  I reserve mine for those certain types of terrain, whereas I would use the Divide for more of my regular daily runs.

Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links in this article. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'

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8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thoughts on this vs Speedgoat 4 and/or Speedgoat 5?

Will said...

Comp with Atreyu's upcoming trail shoe? I've heard from one reviewer that it can also handle the road, but sounds like a good, affordable trail trainer - I agree that "trainers" need more attention for trail, for those of us who do the majority of our runs off-road it is still important to do tons of easy miles - if with less traction.

Mike P said...

Anonymous- Speedgoats just have a lot "more" underfoot. I never liked actually running in them as they're just so big and bulky - I just think they are way too much shoe for daily running miles. I think you would get much better training stimulus doing daily runs in a shoe like the Divide and reserving the Speedgoats for when you really need them.

I will say that the Speedgoat 5 is much more streamlined (narrower platform), lighter, and also better rolling off the toe, so they feel much more runnable on a daily basis than V4. I just finally got a pair in my size so I may chip in to our review once I get some more miles in.

Sizing wise the SG5 is a lot narrower up front than the Divide, and much less volume overall in the upper. I find it more strapped down than V4. Traction also better for the SG on trails, of course. Hope that helps.

Mike P said...

Will-
I haven't run in a pair of the Atreyu trail, but I did try on Sam's pair which was too small for me. Based on that impression, it's probably in the same ballpark as the Divide. I believe the Atreyu foam may be a bit lighter and bouncier in comparison to Loft V1, but Loft V1 would likely be more durable. Traction based on sight alone looks like it would be comparable. But I do want to emphasize that I really like the crash pad segmentation of the new Divide - I think it really does smooth out the ride and also makes for stable landings. I can't say anything about fit and sizing differences between the two.

Anonymous said...

Awesome thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thank you!!!

Zak said...

These shoes sound pretty great for door to trail, though they sound like they might be too wide for my narrow foot. Could you compare to one of my current favorite road/trail shoes, the Saucony Mad River TR2? I bought a pair of those cheap and find myself running far more miles in them than in Peregrines or Xodus.

Mike P said...

Zak -

That's a good comp, but I'm surprised that you have a narrow foot and like the Mad River TR2. The Mad River TR2 has one of the widest toeboxes out there aside from Topo/Altra. It's definitely wider than the Peregrine and Xodus. If the MR TR2 works for you, you'll have no problem with the Divide. My TR2's weighted 11.1 oz, and the Divide is at 10.3. I fount the TR2 just felt heavy and the ride was very dull - Divide feels more agile in comparison and the ride is smoother and more responsive. Stacks are similar so I'd say protection is similar, as well as traction.