For those of you who ran in the Brooks Launch 2, the outsole of the 3 hasn’t really changed – but for the rest of us, here’s what we’ve got: First, the layout is full-contact and has an almost tire-like tread and covers almost all of the outsole of the shoe. This is in direct contrast with many of the shoes we’ve seen which look to shed weight by placing rubber strategically in mostly high-wear areas – though at 10.8 ounces in my men’s 11, this could use some weight loss. On the one hand, this means that the Launch 3 is rather durable while on the other, it does mean that there is mostly certainly and ounce or two that could be shaved by possibly ditching some rubber through the arch. Also, on close inspection the rubber in the forefoot is thicker than anywhere else on the shoe so durability for dedicated heel-strikers/landers should be taken into consideration.
While the outsole of the Brooks Launch 3 is relatively flat overall, I found plenty of traction going on. I’ve run in this shoe on dry pavement, wet pavement and even on packed snow. On wet and dry pavement the shoe handled perfectly and even on snow – while I was admittedly more careful and aware of where my feet were going – I felt perfectly secure (note: this was on snow NOT on ice). As far as durability goes, in my roughly 40 miles I see no unexpected wear and the wear that I do see makes me think that I could easily get 400-500 miles out of these shoes. Again though, if you’re really hammering on that heel, be aware that the wear of the shoe may be a bit uneven as the heel side rubber is thinner than in the forefoot.
From what I can tell from product description there is no significant difference in the midsole of the Brooks Launch from version 2 to version 3. For those of you who are uninitiated to either shoe, let me break it down. The midsole of this shoes uses Brooks’ BioMoGo DNA midsole material. This foam is meant to adapt to your size and speed and the impact force differences that these variables put out there. Apart from the foam itself, the Launch 3 has a segmented crash pad in the heel to provide those who make initial contact in that area a faster transition through the rest of the gait cycle.
To be honest I didn’t quite know what to expect in terms of cushioning from this shoe since many engineered foams are vastly different than their competitors. In the case of the DNA foam, I quite enjoyed how it felt underfoot with a happy medium of cushion and response. Not overly cushioned and certainly not super firm, the midsole of the Launch 3 sets itself up nicely for being a really consistent daily trainer. That said, I do think that this should could benefit in terms of ground feel and a bit more in the way of response by adjusting its geometry a little. Currently the stack heights are 27mm in the heel and 17mm in the forefoot for a net drop of 10mm – a bit high in today’s market in my opinion. I would love to see this shoe drop 5mm or so off the forefoot stack and 10 off the heel. This would allow the DNA foam to be more flexible while still responsive as well as increasing ground feel (the ground feel isn’t bad, it could just be better).
The upper of the Brooks Launch 3 has apparently been completely redesigned. The mesh of the body is a dual-layer setup with the outer layer keeping out finer debris and the inner having a larger, more open open design which flips the script on what many other shoes do. I found this mesh very breathable just about all the way back to the heel counter – which may make super cold runs a bit chilly for some. Some of the breathability in this shoe can be credited to the fact that they’ve gone with 3D printed overlays instead of heat bonded overlays which tend to be a bit more dense. In this case the overlays are used rather sparingly in a web-like design which begins at the rear of the shoe and forms almost a rand at the upper-midsole transition. The lacing reinforcement also connects the the rest of the support structure which makes the shoe come together nicely when tied. The only real stitches on the upper are on the sides of the toe cap and on the throat – neither of which is noticeable.
Something I’ll mention in the fit section of this review in just a second is the toe cap I just mentioned above. This little bit of material does a good job of defining the toe box but it’s just more narrow than I’d like to see. The tongue of the Launch 3 is perfectly padded and the stay-in-place lace loop is uniquely placed on the lateral side of the tongue near the top rather than its traditional place in the middle of the tongue – a nice idea which works very well in preventing tongue slip. Around the collar of the shoe the foam is spot on with not too much and not too little, just the way Goldilocks would like it (see what I did there?). Finally, the heel counter sits fairly low but sweeps down to meet a bit of midsole crossover material where it is rather rigid. This makes for a really well shaped and strong heel cup.
The fit of the Brooks Launch 3 is almost spot on for me. The heel fits very well with enough of a shallow heel counter to be fairly flexible with foot width. Moving into the midfoot I really enjoy the way this fits my foot in this area. Once again there is plenty of room to accommodate a variety of feet though those with narrower feet are going to have to cinch way down. Moving into the forefoot, there are several things going on. first, depending on how much you tighten the laces, there is a reasonable amount of room in the area across the metatarsals (ball of the foot). Moving into the actual toe box, the Launch 3 comes to something of a point and I don’t think that the toe bumper does any favors here. The vertical wiggle room is decent but there isn’t much room for toe splay. Now with that said, my very average foot doesn’t feel pinched, but there isn’t much extra room to spare.
Most of the fit of this shoe is truly good which is why it’s so puzzling when 90% is spot on and 10% is just a touch off.
The ride of the Brooks Launch 3 is really very nice. It’s firm enough to give people like me who look for firmness some love while at the same time, providing enough cushion to get those with more sensitive tastes through some long runs. As I mentioned above in the midsole section of this review, the material underfoot is nice and responsive but really could be even more so with some thought given to dropping the overall stack heights to bring it closer to the ground. I really think that the DNA material is resilient enough to make that completely practical.
The Launch 3 is the first shoe from Brooks that I’ve really given a full review of and I’m very pleased to have done so. This is a very solid daily driver that can easily take you from 5K to marathon distances with durability to be your trainer too (though if you’re training for a marathon you may want to get a couple of pairs). There is a reason the Launch has been popular with so many people and while the fit of this doesn’t do it for me, the rest of the shoe is really very strong with a quality build.
The Launch 3’s price point also quite nice for a high-mileage, durable shoe like this at a comfortable $100. I do hope the small improvements that we’ve gone over here are addressed in the next version of this shoe because if they are, it’ll be hard not to have this for any Brooks fan out there.