By Brian Metzler
Is it possible for a shoe with a $110 price tag to be a legitimate training shoe at a time when most competitors are in the $150-$180 range and modern racing shoes typically cost $250? Yes, it is, if we’re talking about the Brooks Launch 9. This humble but effective model will do everything you ask of it, including training you up for your next marathon. Does it compare with premium training shoes with higher price tags? Of course not, but it’s more versatile than a lot of those pricier shoes. The key to appreciating this shoe is understanding what it offers compared to other low-priced shoes. From that perspective, it’s really great. With a bit more foam in the midsole, a new outsole rubber and the same utilitarian qualities and affordable price tag any runner could love, the Launch remains a good choice for budget-minded runners or anyone interested in adding another versatile shoe to their quiver. (There’s also a stability version of this shoe called the Brooks Launch 9 GTS that offers a lot of the same versatility for runners who want a little more support.)
What’s New: There’s more BioMoGo DNA foam in the midsole (2mm higher stack height) than previous editions that provides a softer and slightly cushier ride. There’s a new outsole rubber made with silica, which isn’t a huge feature but it makes it slightly better from a sustainability point of view. Version 9 also gets a thin creel mesh upper, which gives it a more snug and connective fit than previous editions of this shoe.
Why It’s Great: We like the Launch because it does so much for such an affordable price. It’s cushy enough for long runs but it’s got enough energetic pop to tackle tempo runs, long intervals and fartlek workouts. In other words, it’s great because it’s versatile enough to be an everyday trainer. It’s a bit of a throwback because it has a higher heel-toe offset and it doesn’t have a modern, hyper-energetic foam or a super cozy interior, but for what it is, it’s pretty darn good.
Fit-Feel-Ride: The Launch continues to have a snug, true-to-size athletic fit that feels locked-down in the heel and midfoot with a touch of extra room in the toe box. (It is available in two widths for men and women.) The step-in feel is soft, comfortable and accommodating, but not luxuriously plush. When you lace it up and start running in it, you get the idea that your foot is anchored to a lightweight shoe ready for quick-cadence running. The ride gives off an energetic and exciting aura, with a sensation that is slightly softer and accommodating in the heel and slightly more rigid in the forefoot.
Why You’ll Love It: OK, aside from price (which is one reason to love it), it’s just a really good shoe. It fits well, it runs well and it’s got no major shortcomings. No, it’s not going to match up to a premium shoe with more bells and whistles (i.e., better materials), but it can hold its own as a no-frills workhorse. And perhaps the best feature is that it’s so light. While a lot of everyday training shoes have been trending upward in size and weight, the Launch 9 remains light and agile.
Brooks Launch 9
Weights: 7.1 oz. women’s 8; 8.2 oz. men’s 9
Heel-Toe Offset: 10mm (36mm in the heel, 26mm in the forefoot)
Pro: BioMoGo DNA foam cushioning offers a nice mix of shock-absorbing cush and a bit of lively responsiveness. It’s not nearly as resilient as some other modern foams, but the additional thickness makes it feel a little softer and bouncier than the previous two editions. The foam is designed to adapt to your unique gait patterns, weight, and stride to deflect impact away from your body.
Con: The midweight tongue isn’t ideal because it’s not gusseted and tends to bunch up in the laces. Compared to a lot of other shoes, the Launch 9 will seem pretty basic. But, again, when compared to other shoes in its price range, a lot of the minor drawbacks will disappear.
You can shop the Brooks Launch 9 here.