By Tom Demerly.
Brooks Shoes: A Genuine Running Brand.
Brooks Sports was founded in 1914 but didn’t achieve main stream recognition until Warren Buffett’s involvement in 2006 through his Berkshire-Hathaway super-investment fund. Buffett’s vote of confidence and a funky little running shop from my home state of Michigan, Hanson’s, establish a level of legitimacy for Brooks missing from almost every other running brand. These influences are at opposite ends of the spectrum: Massive investment billionaire and corner store specialty retailer. The opposites meet in the middle to make Brooks the unique, credible running brand it is.
Brooks is valid running technology. They don’t make fashion shoes. They aren’t hustled by Kim Kardashian in Superbowl commercials. There are no springs, little “fluff” and a reasonable absence of marketing hyperbole except for their well intentioned “green” initiative.
Brooks uses solid design to make shoes fit better and feel faster. It’s a nice approach to running shoe design: It isn’t condescending. It also works.
For 2011 three unique shoes characterize the Brooks design ethos and showcase their approach to shoe design. These new Brooks shoes are tangibly unique and offer intrinsic performance features. Can a shoe make you run faster? It can. The new Brooks technologies for 2011 combined with basic lessons in running shoe design realize that goal.
3 Shoes: The Best for Last.
Green Silence: Shouting Sustainability.
Our first Core Value at TriSports.com is “sustainability”: Recycling. Water harvesting. Bicycle commuting. Our ecological footprint is as narrow as a snake’s trail in the Sonora Desert. The Brooks Green Silence is natural selection for us.
I am a cynic about the current trend of conspicuous environmentalism. The very first line in the Brooks Running website description of the Green Silence is, “Make an eco-statement with the Green Silence”. It irks me. “Hey, look at me, I just bought these shoes! I’m ‘green’!” To me a low environmental impact running shoe is one manufactured with responsibility to the social and natural environment that is durable enough to not have to be recycled in three months. The marketing pitch of the Green Silence made the eco-cynic hairs on the back of my neck go up.
Then I ran in them.
Green or not this shoe is a valid contender in the triathlon racing shoe category. The unique “wrap” tongue/upper construction facilitates fast donning when you install elastic speed laces such as Easy Laces or Xtenex. The shoe will drain well when dumping aid station cups over your body because the upper is so light and airy. The center of the upper is light mesh that ventilates and drains superbly. It is a cool shoe, feeling like a pair of socks with an outsole on the bottom.
The shoe runs beautifully with no socks due to the “wrap” upper and lining along with good placement of seams. The tongue is integrated into the upper and the lace eyelets are actually fabric loops with no plastic anchors. The result is delightfully tailored. I’d race a 70.3 with no socks in this shoe.
Brooks claims a weight of 6.9 ounces and my test pair was overweight at 7.5 ounces in a size 9.5. That is a weight discrepancy of about 8%. That was enough to make me re-tare my scale. It was accurate. The weight claims for the shoe are not accurate.
The midsole is made of BioMoGo, a biodegradable midsole material. BioMoGo is single density foam used throughout the entire midsole and much of the outsole of the Green Silence. It rides great, providing not only adequate shock absorption but also enough roll and motion control for my 175 pound girth. A fair portion of the midsole is exposed on the bottom of the shoe as the outsole. This wears quickly, so not only is the shoe recycled, it will be recycled relatively quickly. This light construction means the $100 price tag got my attention.
Despite the inaccuracy in claimed shoe weight- or perhaps because of it- this shoe is remarkably “run-able” for a lightweight shoe. Other than the Strobel-board construction it does not have, nor does it need, any motion control support in the insole for a large-ish neutral runner like me. I’ll take the higher than claimed weight in exchange for this surprising level of stability, comfort, fit and performance.
The shoe geometry features a claimed heel to toe drop of 8 mm with a 13 mm forefoot and a 21 mm heel. I’m not on board with the barefoot running trend and I don’t like low slung shoes but this shoe ran great for me. The upper is asymmetric, following the curvature of the foot which also accounts for the delightfully tailored fit.
With its light weight and exposed outsole the Brooks Green Silence is best suited as a race day and tempo run shoe. It isn’t an everyday shoe owing to its tendency to wear rapidly and its light design. Colors are garish and shout the enviro-conspicuous marketing shtick. While I like the shoe Brooks missed the opportunity to do a “natural” all light brown/tan/earth color version and call the color something grungy like “earth”, “native” or “hemp”. Maybe next year.
I doubt Brooks designed this shoe specifically for the triathlon user. Enviro-bling aside, this is a very strong triathlon specific running shoe. Perhaps the best environmental responsibility is good design that doesn’t need to be constantly replaced with new designs. Even though it wears quickly the Green Silence fulfills that agenda.
Brooks Racer ST5: Refined Function for Real World Speed.
The colors of this shoe are ugly. And I like it. The orange, blue and silver Brooks Racer ST5 has a retro, collegiate look to it. Like a grumbly old college track coach, it delivers on performance using old school themes.
The central feature of the Brooks Racer ST5 is the Diagonal Roll Bar or “DRB”, a blue wedge of high density midsole material stabilized by the “DRB Accel” plastic roll bar at the aft section of the arch, visible from under the shoe. These suspension components provide a hefty level of guidance for heavier, long distance runners who still want a performance shoe. This technology is both old and proven. It works.
Shock absorption up to marathon distance is achieved with another proven technology, the Brooks Hydroflow fluid pockets in the forefoot and heel. These are firm and effective in soaking up the hits. Based on my experience with older Brooks models using the same technology this technology also wears well.
The shoe rides slightly low to the lateral toe, an odd tendency that moderated as the pace picked up. The heel feels markedly concave and, like all Brooks shoes, the fit on my down-the-middle width, utterly average size 9.5 foot was tailored and accurate. Heel is 34 mm high with the forefoot at 17 mm high for a drop of 17 mm, pretty traditional running shoe geometry. Brooks claimed 8.6 ounces on this shoe; our sample was exactly 9 ounces.
The upper is meshy and open for ventilation and drainage. There is a minimalist saddle area on top with synthetic suede for lace retention and no plastic eyelets to keep the shoe light. The ST5 comes out of the box with unique ribbon-fabric laces that stayed tied better than I anticipated. These work fine but will likely be replaced with stretch speed laces for quick donning by triathletes.
For the average body type triathlete who is more than 8% body fat and taller than 5’7” this is a performance shoe worthy of race day that retains adequate motion control and cushion features. It is suitable for everyday use. It is well designed in material and execution with proven cushion and motion control themes. The ST5 proves a guidance shoe does not have to be festooned with plastic and heavy features. It’s an elegant design that contradicts the garish color scheme. At $90 this is also a strong value. It’s a racy sports car you can commute in and afford. I don’t find fault with this shoe- it uses proven design and refined technology to deliver great performance in all areas. There is no female specific version of this shoe and Brooks recommends women size down 1.5 sizes. I recommend any female user also check for width.
Brooks T7 Racer. Strap Yourself In, We’re Going Fast.
I’ve always wanted a cool looking, low slung sports car. Now I’ve got two, one on each foot.
Red racing livery and all, these are Ferraris for your feet. The Brooks T7 Racer is a grand prix racing shoe. It’s pure racing. Low slung, light weight, comfortable and just enough “cush” and control below a 7:30 mile. You have to “earn” these shoes with good fitness and moderate to light body weight- and they are a tangible reward for building or maintaining your fitness.
Chrissie Wellington wears the T7 Racer. And while athlete endorsements carry dubious cred, Chrissie and the shoes are the real deal.
T7 begins with the most authentic performance feature a race shoe can have: light weight. Brooks claims 6.4 ounces for the T7, ours weighed only 5.9 ounces in a size 9.5- the only Brooks shoe that came in lighter than its claimed weight. As such, the shoe feels spritely and brisk. Moderate suspension features and good sole shape keep the outsole light. A bantam-weight skeletal saddle area of grey suede-like synthetic uses stitched in eyelets to stop the scale and the clock early. The upper fabric is oddly robust micro mesh. The heel counter is minimal but adequate. These materials and designs keep the shoe delightfully light.
What makes these shoes feel fast is light weight. What makes the shoes work are beautiful, unusual lines and design features. Just like the oddly swooping lines of a Formula 1 car the curvaceous alignment of the T7’s upper demand a second look. The upper is asymmetrical, following the contour of the foot as the lacing system curves slightly outboard, wrapping your foot over its highest anatomical point. They fit like paint. The shiny heel strap provides enough alignment without excess baggage on race day. The guys you’re passing have too much shoe. This shoe is low-to-go, with a racy 25 mm heel swooping down to a race car 15 mm forefoot. That makes about 10 mm of drop from heel to toe. The shoe feels flat-ish at cruise speed, but when you hit the throttle and the shoe “comes up on plane” I tended to shift forward in foot strike where the shoe ran great and the minimal heel was less important. For such a light shoe it is straight and stable.
I did some searches on a university study that may quantify the effect of shoe weight on running speed and only came up with an internet rule-of-thumb that suggested 1 ounce of shoe weight is worth about 1 second per mile. Is it true? I have nothing to verify that. My anecdotal hunch is a lighter shoe is faster. I am certain it feels faster- I don’t need a study to tell me that.
No women’s specific shoe in the Brooks T7 Racer so Chrissie sizes down about 1.5 sizes as recommended on the Brooks website. I took my requisite size 9.5 for the described precise fit.
Got a race bike, race wheels, aero helmet? The Brooks T7 Racer is another performance enhancing technology that will provide a tangible benefit in lighter weight and potentially higher performance.