Thursday, December 15, 2022

Brandblack Kaiju Multi Tester Review with 8 Comparisons

Article by Sam Winebaum, Derek Li  and Sally Reiley

Brandblack Kaiju ($265)


Sam: Brandblack is a fascinating brand with its founders having deep experience in performance running, soccer, basketball and most visibly Los Angeles sneaker culture. 

Their Kaiju is a substantial, very light and stable all around super cushioned road trainer. With a 34mm heel / 30 mm forefoot stack it is in the max cushion category but not in the emerging and sometimes awkward supermax category with heels at 40mm or more inhabited by shoes such as the Prime X, Superblast, and SC Trainer. 

At 7.8 oz / 221g in my US8.5 sample it is very light for its stack and broad platform. The light weight is in large part due to its use of CO2 infused EVA Jetlon foam, reminiscent in process of Skechers Hyperburst and there is a good reason for that. And the camouflage look inspired not by cars but by a different kind of historical and effective camouflage. Please read on to find out more!

The Kaiju, while it does not have a carbon or plastic plate, it does have a rigid rocker type geometry and does not flex. Instead of a traditional plate embedded in the midsole, the Kaiju has a strip of Kelvar aramid fabric running down the center of the forefoot between the outsole and midsole layers. The glue bonding the outsole and midsole stiffens the fabric creating a propulsive surface at the ground which is clearly if subtly felt,


We previously reviewed their Tarantula shown below (RTR Review), a door to trail running and around town and trails shoe with an earlier (and heavier) version of their Jetlon supercritical foam midsole. 

The founders at Brandblack were on the original Skechers team which delivered the now iconic Skechers Razor with its Hyperburst supercritical foam midsole and here they follow a similar process of expanding a supercritical EVA form.

In parallel, I am tested their Sansin (RTR Review), a hybrid hiker which got us through 3 days on concrete at The Running Event without the usual foot pain and its stealth black looks elicited lots of questions without offending the “big” brands! 


Smooth, springy, broad and stable toe off without plate hard edges, Kevlar center forefoot mini “plate” is genius: Sam/Sally/Derek

About as stable a super type shoe as you can find and one without gimmicks.  Sam/Sally/Derek

Very versatile: good for everything training and racing except intervals and all out shorter racing distances (10K or less) Sam/Derek

Light on foot and on the run. Not ponderous despite the high stack and rocker profile. Sam/Sally

About the first super shoe that is any pace friendly and totally walkable. Sam/Sally/Derek

Comfortable, secure higher volume upper Sam


Low drop and quite firm foam at the heel is noticed. As a heel striker at slow paces wish for more drop with softer landings (fixed with a small extra sockliner wedge) Sam/Sally

Pricing at $265: although on balance for its all around utility and style a decent value and small brands for sure don’t have the volume buying power of the big :  Sam/Sally/Derek

Wide base, especially at the rear of the shoe, provides for great stability but also got in the way of my stride (I literally was kicking myself occasionally on the inside of the calf). Sally

Challenges locking down the heel hold - no extra lace hole to play with  but could also be my low volume foot). Sally


Approximate Weight: men’s 8 oz / US9  


men’s 7.8 oz  /  221g US8.5        8.2oz / 232g US9.5

women’s 7.1 oz / 202g US W8

Stack Height: men’s mm 34 heel / 30 mm forefoot, 4mm drop

Available now. $265

First Impressions, Fit and Upper

Sam: Distinctive in a classy subtle with an ever so slightly off white and black geometric pattern and a light sand white midsole the Kaiju stands out but does not shout in my color with plenty of colorful flash available in Sally and Derek’s colorways. You will for sure notice this unusual almost antique prints color look with sharper highlights of white and black a look of some mystery even confusion rather than bright flash. Well there's a story behind the look that is for sure!

Photo Credit :

The design is inspired by World War I British "razzle dazzle" camouflage Created by an artist the idea was not to hide ships, that didn't work, but to confuse German submarines as to the size, shape, direction and speed of the dazzle ships. How cool is that!

The upper is made of a non-stretch sailcloth like ripstop mono mesh. All the supporting underlays including the heel counter, mid foot saddle and toe bumper  are internal and of the same material with round holes and a suede like feel on the foot side. They blend in with the overall design by showing through in a muted fashion.

There is generous toe box room here both width and height whose only structure comes from quite pliable mono mesh and a very gentle soft but present toe bumper. 

The tongue is a very slightly padded mesh like fabric with no gusset. The laces are quite broad and ridged. 

Lace up is effective and secure but I do find I often have to re-lace and tighten about a half mile into runs but after that I am good. Midfoot hold is excellent with volume on the generous side so narrow low volume feet may struggle more than higher volume ones.

The heel counter is comfortable and lightly padded. 

All of the heel counter structure comes from the internal white overlays and the webbing strap which loops to a pull at the rear. 

The loop is really not needed to pull them on but appreciated as it is big enough for an actual finger. The rear hold is adequate but on the more relaxed side so fine for running but also for more casual wear, a fine balance pulled off here.

The fit is true to size for my narrow to medium foot with higher arches. This is a generous and effective fit for me equally suitable for any run and unlike other super shoes all day wear as well. I would not call it a “high” performance race fit but versatility is what the Kaiju is aiming for and succeeds at here. I could well imagine this upper being superb for a road ultra marathon due to its secure roomy fit and airy breathable and drainable nature. 

Derek: I received the Light Orange colorway for the Kaiju. While the orange is a little too bright for me as a casual shoe, it looks great as a running shoe. The speckled design of the midsole really contrasts with the clean appearance of the ripstop upper here. Step in feel is very comfortable, and I think this is one of the best executions of a ripstop based upper I have worn in a long time. 

The shoe fits true to size for me, for a trainer. I might consider going down a half size if I were planning to use it for racing in thin socks. I think it was particularly important to give the heel a bit more structure for a ripstop upper and they did a good job here with the choice of padding around the heel. Heel hold for me is good with a variety of different socks. Overall volume is a little on the higher side, especially at the toebox. It should fit most feet well. The upper, not unexpectedly, breathes very well in warm conditions. 

Sally: I was not familiar with the brand Brandblack, and so I was eager to try out a new shoe. My pair arrived in a larger-than-traditional-shoebox white box, so right off the bat I knew this shoe was going to be a little different. And the colorway - wow, you have to look at the photo of the muted multicolor pink/green/yellow/mauve translucent ripstop upper to appreciate its unique beauty. With a sizable clean white midsole, it makes a striking package. 

The step in feel is super comfortable and the fit is true to size but leaning toward the generous side of things. 

The toe box is spacious in both width and height, more pronounced by my narrow feet.

This is a fit that should accommodate many foot shapes and definitely a higher volume foot. I resorted to thicker socks to create a snugger fit, and also to keep my feet warmer on these recent cold New England morning runs. Yes, this upper is very breathable! Hence the cold feet and thick socks. Heel hold was an issue at first for me, but after trial and error, thicker socks, and tightening up the laces mid-run a few times, I got it nailed in and my foot was satisfactorily secure.


Sam: The midsole is a supercritical CO2 expanded form EVA called Jetlon and it is 20% lighter than Brandblack prior CO2 supercritical EVAfoam. It is created by the same general process as Skechers Hyperburst although here the feel is silkier and a bit more consistent than Hyper. It is not an expanded pellet process such as Saucony PWRRUN PB (PEBA), Xtep and Craft (TPE). 

The foam is at 50 C hardness. In comparison Skechers Hyperburst in shoes such as SpeedExcess and Razor are 48C but here we have a slightly different process which makes the foam lighter and less dense in feel. 

The midsole feels quite similar to ASICS new Superblast with its deeper stack FF Turbo supercritical foam (also in the plated Metaspeeds) main midsole but here in a lower stack with the small plate in the mix, the ASICS having none. The Jetlon foam is snappier, a bit firmer and faster in feel than the Superblast foam, the different geometry of course contributing.  

FuelCell from New Balance in shoes such as SC and RC Elite and SC Trainer, all with full carbon plates is at about 42C so considerably softer than the Kaiju so here we are dealing with a firmer foam and with the low 4mm drop that is a good thing for heel strikers such as me. I find all those New Balance FuelCell with the exception of the SC Trainer with its higher drop and Energy Arc plate harder to move past their soft heels through their front plating. 

While I found the forefoot midsole just about perfect in cushion with nice response and the midfoot stable, yet allowing a smooth transition, the heel at 50C feels a bit firm. At a 4mm drop with a rigid rocker profile, Blandblack told us they had to decide if softer or firmer in foam firmness and tested both alternatives ending up with the firmer 50C. 

Much softer I think would have made the heel low and hard to get past at slower paces, as for example NB Fuel Cell Elite v2 or Saucony’s Endorphin Pro 3 can feel with their foams down in the lower 40’s but a touch softer might have worked and well.

Firmer foam, as here now, for sure has one moving forward quickly with no bottoming out but feels a bit too firm for me and low at slower paces when I heel strike more. I experimented with a 1-2” long wedge of about 5 mm dense sockliner from another shoe placed at the heel under the supplied soft sockliner. It made a difference at slower paces 10 min mile or slower but I ended up preferring as is as I got to 9 minute miles or faster. An alternative for Brandblack might be to more deeply groove “canyon the rear to midfoot midsole to provide a bit more displacement and crash pad on landing and to decouple the heel. This might soften the feel, speed the transition off the heel  more without compromising stability too much as there is plenty here. 

The Kaiju has a Kevlar aramid fabric strip down the center of the shoe at the forefoot. It is located between the outsole and midsole as illustrated below and based on what Brandblack shared with me as to location and size.


My sense is that the glue bonding the outsole and midsole together stiffens the fabric creating a mild, thin, non harsh and effective propulsion plate at the ground.  Pressing one can clearly feel the center section is considerably firmer than the rest of the forefoot at the ground. 

There is no sense of a big carbon or plastic plate here or any slappiness as bottom loaded carbon plates can have (Vaporfly for example) yet there is a mildly snappy spring effect right above the outsole clearly felt. The feel is similar to what one experiences in a trail shoe with a film type plate, some stabilizing up front and propulsion but here more subtle and all of a piece with midsole.  It is a really elegant solution to giving a big forefoot stack (30 mm) broad platform rigid rocker shoe some snap and is highly effective. 

Overall the Kaiju midsole threads the needle between plenty of cushion, lots of all of a piece response, and mild front propulsion very well. It delivers an all around and energetic midsole feel that while on the firmer side is suitable for any pace and distance with the feel for heel strikers and slower paces needing a touch of tuning at the rear either with more drop or a slightly softer foam. 

Derek: The midsole feels as good as it looks. The foam is a little on the firmer side but by no means is it harsh underfoot. It is one of those shoes where the forefoot compresses more than the heel and I put this down to the embedded plate. The rocker is relatively long and starts fairly early, allowing for a smooth and easy transition from landing to toe off. Although advertised at 4mm heel-toe drop, the shoe rides very traditionally for me and really works more like a regular 6-8mm drop shoe. I think this geometry should work well for both heel strikers and midfoot strikers. The plate works in quite a subtle way here, and the shoe as a whole is not overly rigid and does have a bit of flex which allows it to perform well over a variety of paces. It does not feel awkward at slower paces at all.

Sally: I agree with Sam and Derek that the midsole feels a bit on the firm side but by no means feels harsh. The rocker is subtly felt rolling your foot forward from landing to toe-off, and there is definitely lots of give under the forefoot. It is not a bouncy feel like a Vaporfly, but smooth. I often wished for a higher heel to toe drop  as I ran, but I should qualify that by admitting I am rehabbing a hamstring injury at present and therefore not pushing the pace; a faster pace might make this midsole shine as it was intended. But note it works just as well for those long dog walks I have been taking during rehab! 


Sam: While Brandblack often partners with Vibram the outsole is not branded beyond “Brandblack” upfront. The rubber appears to be of all the same density and is in all the right places if on the thin side. I am seeing very very minor wear at about 30 miles. Grip has been excellent.

While we are underneath I would comment that the platform is broad and thus very inherently stable. I measure it a few millimeters broader than the Alphafly 2 at the forefoot, considerably broader at midfoot and about the same at the heel. It is 5mm broader up front than the much more highly stacked Prime X Strung, 10mm broader at mid foot and a whopping 15mm broader at the heel where the Prime X towers 15mm higher in stack and for sure wobbles if you try to run it slow and on the heels whereas Kaiju is super stable there.

Derek: As Sam says, the outsole is holding up fine for me so far with decent grip. It’s not very thick, but I don’t expect it to wear out prematurely. As Sam says, the shoe is fairly stable, and I think this comes down to good outsole coverage, a relatively firmer midsole foam, and the wide platform of the shoe. I like that they managed to achieve this without having to go overboard with any special stability elements, which can sometimes make transitioning awkward in the shoe. 

Sally: The outsole performed incredibly well for me on a recent slick wet morning with spots of ice, so I can say with certainty that the rubber provides good traction. It is also a fairly quiet shoe, always a big plus in my book. And did they mention the wide platform? So wide! Reminiscent of a Hoka or Nike Invincible… and very stable. I do find I have to get used to wider platform shoes, as I start out literally kicking myself in the inner calf until my brain/gait adjusts.

And just in case you don’t know my pair were designed for women’s feet (note the XX):


Sam: The ride is very light in feel, stable, highly cushioned and responsive. This is not a mushy, soft and ponderous ride as say the New Balance More v4 or even to a certain extent the Endorphin Shift 3 (but not 1 and 2) deliver for me. The ride is quite similar in feel to ASICS new Superblast with the lower stack and Kevlar plate delivering more kick/response and more connection to the road. The ride is not as dramatic as New Balance SC Trainer’s with its soft deep canyoned heel, high drop and plated impulse but it is smoother and more elegantly all of a piece. 

While a bit firm at slower paces out back, once the pace picks up it all smooth energetic roll here with a very consistent feel and wonderful inherent stability.  The Kaiju does not have a “bouncy” ride as softer supercritical foams have, it's more purposeful and directed in feel. The Kevlar front plate is definitely noticed as providing spring right at the ground and matches well (and better than a stiff carbon plate would) with the forward roll and for sure is not harsh or in the way at slower paces.

And as said above, it is a wonderful walking shoe as well which I don’t think can be said for many super shoes that could race a marathon.

Bottom line: Kaiju’s ride is multi-purpose. Daily training, long runs, racing and even walking. Its approximate 8 oz weight puts it squarely in the weight range of lower stack height marathon super shoes so if you are seeking a non plated stable option with plenty of cushion and get up and go it is a good option for the marathon and road ultras.

Derek: The ride of the shoe is smooth, rockered and fairly well-cushioned. I like that the rocker starts quite early with this shoe, and combined with a plate that is not too rigid, allows for the shoe to retain a similar easy transition at both faster paces and slower paces. I think it could work very well as a do-it-all type of daily trainer / racer . At slower paces, the shoe mainly feels well cushioned with good vibration dampening, but the ride is not particularly bouncy. At faster paces, the shoe really comes to life and you get a confident spring off the forefoot. The weight is low enough that you could easily use it for a wide variety of workouts and even longer races. I see it being used best as a moderate-uptempo long run cruiser for me, with the ability to jump a few gears in the back pocket. 

Sally: I have thoroughly enjoyed my runs at moderate paces in this shoe, but really can’t wait to get my hamstring healthy so I can see it shine at tempo paces! The ride is smooth, decently cushioned, and natural feeling, without too much “bounce” but definitely with soft and responsive springiness . The toe off is impressively lively, which makes the uphills more fun and seemingly more effortless. As Sam and Derek have said, this is a versatile do-it-all-at-all-paces type of shoe, rare in this day and age. And yes, a comfortable and good-looking street shoe!

Conclusions and Recommendations

Sam: Deep in cutting edge “sneaker culture” Brandblack, is without a doubt, also a strong player in performance running. A small company doesn't have the buying power of the giants, that is for sure, so Kaiju is priced up there at $265. I wish it was closer to $200. Even so it ends up a decent value due to its versatility.

With Kaiju we get something you don't see in most of the highly specialized aggressive racers or extreme trainers, a more versatile and more stable option with, as with the other super shoes, a state of the art midsole and upper and a highly competitive weight of about 8 oz / 227g, way down there given the broad platform and stack. Train, race, walk, and even show off around town “sneaker”, it handles everything with very few if any compromises. We often talk about one shoe quivers (do it all running shoes) and here we get very very close for me, only lagging a bit in plush high enough (wish it was 8mm drop) rear feel during slower paced runs

Sam’s Score: 9.32 /10

Ride: 9.4: very light weight for stack and broad platform, responsive, consistent feeling, stable and smooth if a bit heel low and firm at slower paces

Fit: 9.4: a roomy race weight upper that also that works for multiple uses beyond the run

Value: 8.8  If it wasn’t for the versatility and utility this score would be lower. Wish it was $200

Style: 9.6 love the striking looks that don’t shout and the integration of underlays into the overall visual design

😊😊😊😊 (close to a 3.5 but the light weight, looks, smooth ride and versatility take me to four)

Derek: This is a very good execution of a plated running shoe, from a brand that really only has two running shoes in its entire line-up, especially since the Tarantula is more of an off-road type of shoe. I think it ticks all the major boxes for a solid all-rounded daily trainer / part-time racer. The price point is on the higher side. There’s no getting around that. They are a more exclusive type of brand, even selling in Saks Fifth Avenue where their shoes sit alongside premium Italian fashion brands, rather than the major household running brands. If you are not the type of runner with a lot of shoes in your rotation, the Kaiju is a serious contender for that do-it-all type of shoe.

Derek’s Score: 8.94 / 10

Ride 9.4 (50%) A nice, smooth rockered ride reminiscent of one of my all-time favourite Nike Zoom Fly Flyknit , with a much better upper and none of the bottom-heaviness. A little on the firmer side, but gives you plenty of return for your effort when you drop the hammer. 

Fit 9.3 (30%) The shoe generally fits very well. I would prefer a little bit lower volume for the toebox to give it a bit more of a performance fit, but as a trainer, the fit is fine. 

Value 8 (15%) It is very expensive for the ride that it gives. I am not quite sure the pricing is justified purely from a runner’s perspective, and comparing it to other shoes on the market that do a similar job. 

Style 9 (5%) The shoe has all the trappings of a premium shoe and the aesthetics are generally very nice. My orange colorway works great as a running shoe, but I'm not so sure about using it as an athleisure shoe. 

Smiles Score: 😊😊😊😊

Sally: (First, let’s say I need to get to Saks Fifth Avenue for some future shoe shopping so I can have a more worldly (shoe) fashion appreciation like our friend Derek.)

My first experience with Brandblack has been very positive, and I think they have a winner in the  Kaiju. It is a lightweight high tech premium plated performance shoe that is attractive, comfortable, fun to run in, and versatile. Given my narrow feet I would prefer a snugger fit for racing, but some may find this their ideal marathon shoe. I found it a great daily training and sometimes walking shoe (even without knowing the brand’s status in sneaker culture.) Expensive at $265? Yes, if you have a full stable of running shoes each serving a certain purpose, but no, not if this is your one do-it-all shoe, which it honestly can be. The Kaiju checks all the boxes!

Sally’s score: 9.31 /10

Ride: 9.5  (50%)  Smooth, responsive, steady ride but a tad bit firm and lower in drop than preferred

Fit: 9.3 (30%) Uber comfortable yet a bit overly generous in toe box width and height, slight heel hold issues 

Value: 8.5 (15%) Expensive, yet versatile

Style: 9.8 (5%) Classy and colorful

😊😊😊.😊 I need a bouncy in-flight sensation to grant 5 smiles. Somewhere between 3 and 4, probably because my hamstring injury detracts from the fun right now.

8 Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE

adidas Prime X Strung vs. Brandblack Kaiju (RTR Review)

Sam: The radically high Prime X with 16mm more heel height at 50 mm has in contrast to Kaiju a very narrow heel landing platform. It weighs a few tenths of an ounce more than Kaiju even with its giant stack of similar riding ( a touch softer) Lightstrike Pro supercritical foam and its dual layers of front plates for front propulsion. It is far less stable unless run fast, off the heels (for this slower paces heel striker unlike Derek below), on the flats and straight ahead. This said Prime X has the most dynamic toe off of any running shoe I have ever run. As Sally said in our review, the most energetic and dramatic sense of flight of any running shoe , and ever and for both of us. 

Its Strung upper is not as secure at the heel and overall the upper is similar in being high volume and broad. 

At $300 retail it is priced $35 beyond the Kaiju. It is far more exciting but far less versatile outside of its straight line ahead fast niche while the Kaiju is steadier and responsive with that effective Kevlar plate but could use a touch more of the Prime X front rocket effect. Unless cost is no object and you can afford multiple pairs of super shoes for specific long fast runs, daily training, plus even walking shoes the Kaiju is a better all around option as on balance it handles all of the preceding very well if not as explosively.  

Derek: I wear US9.0 for the Prime X Strung and US9.5 for the Kaiju. The Prime X is noticeably more lively but also much less stable of a ride. The Kaiju is a more versatile shoe for me in that it works better for a wider range of paces, and also over a wider range of road conditions. If the course is technical, the Kaiju is undeniably the smarter choice. If you are looking at doing race pace stuff, the Kaiju will feel faster with its more confident, smooth ride. The Prime X Strung is still best as an easy run shoe for me, where i need to get in a 10 miler on dead legs, and the Prime X is there to get me through the day. If you can only have one shoe, i would go with Kaiju. 

Sally: (US W8 in Kaiju; Unisex 7 in Prime X was too large) Kaiju is clearly more stable and consistent and smooth and versatile, Prime X Strung the wild child: unstable but FAST and fun. I did indeed write that running in the Prime X Strung provides the closest approximation to the sensation of flying that I have ever experienced, and I loved it. But the Kaiju is a safer bet for a wider range of uses.

ASICS Superblast vs. Brandblack Kaiju (RTR Review)

Sam: The Superblast is yet more highly stacked 45.5 mm heel / 37.5 mm  and while its foam feels similar in firmness is as a result more cushioned, especially at the heel with its 8mm drop vs 5mm here really helping. It is a touch more stable as it has a more substantial heel counter.  

At 242g / 8.55 oz in my US8.5 it is 0.7 oz heavier than the Kaiju (not noticed) and $45 lighter on the wallet. The Kaiju has more effective front geometry and a faster, more easy to roll feel, the lower stack and Kevlar plate assisting. If you are looking for the ultimate ultra light weight high stack trainer cushion for generally moderate paces go Superblast. If you want a more versatile and even race ready trainer and all around shoe Kaiju.

Sally: (US W8 in both). I was one of the few who did not feel the magic of the Superblast, found it a bit flat for my running style and overpriced for the enjoyment (or lack thereof) I got out of it.Huge stack or not, it didn’t work for me. The Kaiju is more expensive but definitely a more responsive, versatile and enjoyable ride.

New Balance FuelCell SC Trainer vs. Brandblack Kaiju (RTR Review)

Sam: The SC Trainer has a softer foam, more pronounced drop and a full length plate.  Its heel is clearly softer given the foam and Energy Arc canyon at the rear. While the Kaiju is firmer and lower stack it is more heel stable at slower paces and more consistent in overall feel and flow but is not as dynamic. If you are looking for an uptempo oriented longer run trainer for sure SC Trainer. If you are looking for a more all around near max max trainer and a bit more overall stability and consistency no matter the pace Kaiju.

Derek: I am true to size in both shoes at US9.5. The Kaiju is less cushioned with more ground feel than the SC Trainer. The rocker of the Kaiju is also a little less aggressive than the SC Trainer. That said, the Kaiju is a much more nimble shoe, and works much better over a wider variety of paces, whereas I find that the SC Trainer really struggles to go fast because it is just a little on the heavy side. I generally enjoy the ride of the Kaiju more. 

Sally: (US W8 in both) The NB SC Trainer is perhaps my favorite shoe of the year, so this is a tough comparison. Can I like both? The SC Trainer is definitely peppier and bouncier with a more extreme rocker geometry,and for me a faster ride, but the Kaiju is a more steady and stable and versatile shoe. I prefer the SC Trainer ride simply because I like bounce, but the Kaiju is smoother.

Nike ZoomX Alphafly 2 vs. Brandblack Kaiju (RTR Review)

Sam: Weighing about the same as Kaiju, with 6mm more stack height at the heel and a couple millimeters more at front, the world record setting marathon shoe is highly complex compared to the Kaiju with a carbon plate, dual Air Pods and of course supercritical ZoomX. 

Both are among if not the most stable of super shoes. The Alphafly 2 combines a forward rolling rocker with the vertical impulse from the air units while the Kaiju is almost entirely rocker based with a more gentle “spring” from its Kevlar strip located about where the Alphafly’s air units are. 

For long racing and your faster training there is not much doubt the Alphafly is the way to go if you are “fast enough” for it  but if you want something less radical and more versatile for a variety of runs and even beyond to everyday uses Kaiju. In terms of fit the Kaiju is more relaxed overall with notably more midfoot platform width than the Alphafly, so less chance of arch bite which flat footed runners have experienced but with my higher arches I have not.

Derek: I wear US9.0 in the AF2, and US9.5 in the Kaiju. I think the AF2 is the more efficient and cushioned shoe, though the upper is less comfortable than the Kaiju. As a pure racer, the AF2 is better with a nicer energy return, but if you are comparing them over a larger range of use cases, then I think the differences become smaller. The AF2 is still a little more special, though I don't see myself using the AF2 regularly as a daily trainer simply because the upper is not as comfortable as the Kaiju’s. 

Skechers Max Road 5 vs. Brandblack Kaiju (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. I prefer the Kaiju here across all the parameters, except maybe the easy runs. The Kaiju transitions better with better cushioning and vibration dampening, and actually is just as springy in ride at moderate-fast paces. At slower paces, the Hyperburst of the MaxRoad 5 feels springier. The Kaiju is definitely the more stable option for me. 

Sam: Agree with Derek here. 

Xtep 160X Pro vs. Brandblack Kaiju 

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. Both shoes are very slightly on the longer end of the true-to-size spectrum. The Xtep has a firmer heel but softer and bouncier forefoot courtesy of a very rigid midsole carbon plate. Its main drawback is the narrow platform, making it not the most stable of shoes around a corner. The Kaiju is one of the most stable carbon plated shoes around, with a more effective and comfortable upper. For less technical roads, I prefer the Xtep 160x Pro, while the Kaiju would be better on more technical courses. On pure ride enjoyment, the Xtep has the more fun and energetic ride. 

Xtep 160X 3.0 Pro vs. Brandblack Kaiju (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The Xtep has the softer and more dynamic ride, but is also  less stable than the Kaiju. The Kaiju actually feels faster for short intervals and speed work, but the Xtep really shines at marathon pace work. I prefer the Xtep for being the more fun shoe to run in. It is more stable and softer than the Xtep 160x Pro as well. 

Saucony Endorphin Speed 3 vs. Brandblack Kaiju (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. These two shoes are the closest competitors for me. Both fit great, are stable, and give nice assisted rides with plates that are not too stiff, and work very well as do-it-all shoes. It really boils down to this: If you are more of a midfoot-forefoot striker, i think the rocker and spring of the forefoot is easier to engage in the Kaiju and you should go with that. I think the Kaiju has a smoother, longer rocker that had better mechanical assistance than the Endorphin Speed 3. If you are a heel striker, the Endorphin Speed 3 has a more forgiving heel, but ultimately, a less springy forefoot than Kaiju. Personally, I find the Kaiju to be a better overall shoe. 

Sam: Ah this is interesting. I  heel strike more than Derek and in this matchup prefer the Speed 3 which is likely my overall run shoe of 2022. It is good for me for any run from slower, easier to racing with plenty of cushion. I find the Speed 3’s PB foam springier and softer and more forgiving at the heel if not quite as responsive as Kaiju’s firmer snappier redbound. I prefer the Speed 3’s 8mm drop. I appreciate the flexibility of its forefoot as I roll through compared to the rigid rocker of the Kaiju. In terms of uppers, the Kaiju’s while yet lighter and as roomy, has superior hold. Speed 3’s  upper while super comfortable is almost at the limit as far as faster paced hold.  Both are true to size for me and on the roomier side for a performance shoe. The upper picture changes with the RunShield upper version which is far more performance fitting if a bit snugger upfront as its mesh has less stretch. 

The Kaiju is available from Brandblack HERE

Tester Profiles

Derek is in his 40’s and trains 70-80 miles per week at 7 to 8 minute pace in mostly tropical conditions in Singapore. He has a 2:39 marathon PR from the 2022 Zurich Marathon.

Sally is a lifelong runner and mother of five who agreed against her better judgment to run her first marathon at age 54; she has since run the past nine Boston Marathons, two NYC Marathons, and one Chicago, with the WMM Six Star Medal now in her sights. With a Boston PR of 3:25:55 in 2022 (9th place in AG) and two consecutive 2nd place in Age Group awards in NYC, she is about to run in the Abbott World Marathon Majors Age Group World Championships at the London Marathon on October 2, 2022 (W60-64). She also competes in USATF races with the team Greater Lowell Road Runners (5K, 10K, 5 Mile, 10 Mile, Half Marathon, etc). To add meaning to her Boston Marathon races she runs with Team Eye and Ear and has raised over $260,000 for Massachusetts Eye and Ear Hospital. Sally is a compact (petite) runner at 5’2’’ and 105 pounds and lives in Marblehead, MA, training outdoors year round. 

Sam is the Editor and Founder of Road Trail Run. He is 65 with a 2018 3:40 Boston qualifier. 2022 will be Sam’s 50th year of running. He has a decades old 2:28 marathon PR. These days he runs halves in the just sub 1:40 range if he is very lucky, 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, if he is not enjoying too many fine New England IPA’s.

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