UPDATED 12/19/12 - Brooks has decided to SAVE THE LAUNCH! The power of the internet and desperate cries for help were heard and my favorite shoe has been resurrected. Thank the sweet lord baby everything-running, #runhappy has risen!
This story has been a long time coming – I apologize for keeping it from you so long. I know a lot of you are or have been in similar shoes*, so I wanted to share.
Relationships fizzle, fade, and sometimes fall straight off the edge of a damn cliff. It’s hard and you don’t know if or how you’ll move on, but you learn to just keep putting one foot in front of the other until you’re moving in the right direction again.
Life is hard, and surely trying at times.
This is one of those times.
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Back once upon a time as a green little newbie runner I went into a running store - the Second Sole in Boardman Ohio – ready to buy my first pair of “real” running shoes. To say I was uncomfortable amidst the mens shorty shorts and displays of things I wasn’t sure were meant to be eaten or smeared on your body would be an understatement.
I ended up leaving that day with a pair of Mizunos Wave Rider 9s (they’re on 16 now - it’s like trying to keep track of the “NOW!” albums…) and unknowingly started down the tumultous quest of finding that “perfect” shoe.
After some brand-exploring and model-hopping, I spent a significant amount of time in the Brooks Ghost 3s. I finally stopped losing toenails and getting blisters in them, and loved I could just pull a new pair out of the box without having to break them in.
Instant Team Brooks convert.
went through 3 pairs of the green and 2 of the orange. loved that shoe bad
When the Ghost 4 came out I got shoe upgrade cold feet. If I was being forced out of “my” shoe I guessed it’d be a good time to see what else was out there. I stumbled upon the Launch which appeared to be a lighter, simpler, less-expensive version of the Ghost.
And after a bad run and some random shopping-under-the-influence retail therapy, I wound up with a pair.
(Like all things backgrounded with bubbly, it turned out to be a GREAT decision.)
Earlier this summer, well into my third pair of my new found shoe baby love child, Brooks announced they were discontinuing the Launch. I maturely freaked the F out like the world was ending, stockpiled inventory, and cried mourning tears into everything Run Happy.
Eventually I realized that I was going to have to move on. They weren’t coming back and I’d have to get over my scorned love and find something new. Kicking and screaming or not.
So I started my Launc Replacement search. Even though I had 2.5 fresh pairs waiting in the wings, I didn’t want to be left scrambling and knew I needed time to slowly transition in test pairs.
Contender #1 : Brooks Pure Flow
modesty patch to keep attention on the shoes and some dignity intact
Brooks has done a great job marketing their Pure line. They got a fast following of loyal followers and great reviews. The minimalist movement has become really popular and there are lots of studies showing the benefits that running in “less” can have on correcting form and preventing injuries. The Pure line is supposed to offer those minimalist benefits without sacrificing on cushioning or support.
Every shoe rep I talked to urged me to try the Pure Flows. They promised a smooth ride and easy transition from the Launch. The adamant recommendations were hard to ignore and eventually I decided to give them a shot.
They didn’t disappoint – they felt GREAT on. They were light and springy, yet I felt… protected? supported? despite their lightweight build. The platform is wider than standard shoes (IMO) and definitely thicker than other minimalists, so they feel very sturdy on impact. They have that “rolling” transition Brooks are known for making an easy move from landing to push off. The wide toe box and midfoot “nav band” give a secured but not constricting fit, and they have those new bumpy laces that are supposed to keep them from untying.
Unfortunately the 4mm heel drop (meaning there’s 4mm difference between the heel height and toe height) just does not agree with me. I’ve had calf/achilles/shin issues in the past due to low-profile shoes, and sadly I found the same tightness when trying to ramp up mileage in the Flows.
They will stay in rotation for easy and recovery runs, but because my form/gait/body just can’t handle the low heel drop right now, the Flows sadly won’t be my Launch replacement.
On to the next…
Contender #2 : Brooks ST 5
disclaimer : these are “unisex” shoes – don’t let it scare you. ladies just order 1.5 sizes down. and don’t expect them in pink or tiffany blue
The ST5s didn’t come as heavily recommended, presumably because they’re a “racer” instead of a ”trainer”, and are a less marketed model. But with the similar profile (~1oz heavier, 12mm vs Launch 10mm) I had to give them a shot.
I have to say, I major dig these shoes. I did all my tempos, speedwork, and hill runs in the ST5s and really like how I can feel the ground under me. They have a stiffer platform, so you don’t get that cushy/pillow feel but there was still a good amount of shock absorption it felt like? I feel like you could put 1000 miles on these shoes and they’d look and feel exactly like they did out of the box. Just a durable, reliable, no-fuss shoe. Like the Chevy Cavaliers every other kid in high school had.
(does that reference even make sense? it’s late…)
Unlike minimalist shoes I’ve run in I didn’t feel myself trying to change my form or stride in the ST5s - I was just more aware of what was going on down below. And surprisingly, the decreased cushion didn’t bother me.
Plus, they make me feel really fast.
These will definitely be kept in rotation, and I can see them potentially as a half marathon shoe, but I’m unsure how they’ll transition to marathons. I’m a bigger girl (5’9″ 145) and think I need that extra cushion for the long-long runs. But who knows, maybe they’ll continue growing on me.
(or I’ll stop growing. or fix my form. or something.)
So that’s where the shoe saga stands. I haven’t found my perfect Launch replacement yet, but I have found two great shoes to add to my weekday rotation. I’m taking comfort in the lasting inventory at brooksrunning.com and that there’s room in the closet for more Launch stockpiling if I take over Brian’s side.
(speaking of Brian, I feel compelled after the slightly misleading intro to say we’re happy and unless I keep spending our life savings on shoes it should stay that way)
((…and also I have some big news regarding him coming next week))
Have you broken up with a shoe? Was it ugly or amicable? Does the age-old ‘easiest way to get over an ex is to get under a new one’ apply here? Any Launch wearers find an acceptable substitute??
Brooks provided me with the shoes in return for my honest feedback and review – I was not otherwise compensated for this post