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The best Brooks running shoes for every type of runner

We put Brooks most popular men’s and women’s road and trail shoes to the test

brooks running shoes

Although it began as a manufacturer of thin bathing shoes and ballet slippers back in 1914, Brooks is now one of the world’s most popular producers of men’s and women’s running shoes.

It was only when running boomed in the seventies that Brooks entered the running shoe market: launching the perennially popular Villanova. Next came the Vantage, which proved so popular even the then President Jimmy Carter was said to have ordered a pair. It was the first running shoe to use EVA, replacing the slow-rebounding rubber in the midsoles of old, and put Brooks in a league with the other big names in running of the time.

Fast forward to today and Brooks remains at the forefront of performance running shoe innovation. In 2017, it joined the race for the best super shoe with the Hyperion Elite. Combining their DNA Flash nitrogen-injected midsole foam with a carbon plate propelled Des Linden to win the 2018 Boston Marathon. Developing a super track shoe followed, with British Olympian Josh Kerr securing a new Scottish, British and European indoor mile record in the prototype spike, Wire 8, this year.

So, what are Brooks men’s and women’s road and trail shoes like to run in? Do they match up to the hype?

Our editors – along with a trusted team of wear testers – have been testing out Brooks' latest and greatest models, putting them through their paces during different types of sessions, and even during a few races. Here's what we thought...


Brooks Road Running Shoes


Best for every day training: Ghost 14

Ghost 14
Brooks sportsshoes.com
£130.00

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  • Weight: 280.7g (men's), 255.1g (women's)
  • Drop: 12mm
  • Type: Road/neutral

    The Ghost has been one of Brooks’ bestselling shoes since its launch in 2008, and our testers could see why. Our neutral runners said, if they had to choose just one running shoe to wear for all of their training and racing requirements, then the Ghost would be it. It ticks the boxes for enough comfort and cushioning for long training runs, but is still light and responsive enough for racing. 'It is such a versatile shoe,' said one tester. 'I’ve raced 5km through to marathons in it, and have done all of my marathon training in them. Another tester agreed saying: 'These are definitely my favourite all-rounder. I tried these on both gravel (wet and dry), road and dry trails, and the shoes performed well in all conditions.'

    In the 14th version – which is Brooks’ first carbon neutral shoe – the midsole is now 100 percent DNA LOFT cushioning. This is a combination of EVA foam, rubber and air, and our testers loved the soft and light feel it provided. The shoes were found to be true to size and had plenty of room in the toe box. Women in particular praised the fit, and the fact they're available to buy in wide, medium or narrow fittings.

    A few testers even commented that they believe the Ghost has helped them deal with recurrent injuries. One said an Achilles niggle they felt when running in other shoes was not an issue when running in the Ghost, and another said they helped fix problems they were having with their ankles.


    Best stability shoe: Adrenaline GTS 22

    Adrenaline GTS 22
    Brooks runnersneed.com
    £130.00

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    Weight: 289.2g (men's), 255.1g (women's)
    Drop: 12mm
    Type: Road/stability

    The Adrenaline has been popular as an every day training shoe for overpronators for years, and is now in its 22nd iteration. The latest version features Brooks' DNA Loft midsole foam from heel to toe, and offers a soft, cushioned ride. In the latest models (the Adrenaline 21 and Adrenaline GTS 22), the medial post which was used in the past to correct overpronation has been replaced by Brooks’ innovative GuideRails. These are two firm pieces of foam on either side of the heel which reduce the rolling of the foot inward. Brooks says the technology also helps correct alignment of the knee and ankle.

    The consensus from RW testers is that it remains 'the same excellent shoe that it’s always been', while it also impressed testers who were running in the Adrenaline for the very first time. One female tester commented that it felt 'cushioned and supportive but surprisingly light' and she discovered that the GuideRails were doing their job well when she had her running gait analysed on a treadmill. 'I didn’t notice the GuideRails but slow motion footage of my feet running in the Adrenaline compared to a different shoe revealed they were correcting my overpronation.'

    Another tester, however, didn’t get on too well with the heel drop, which at 12mm, is much higher than many other stability shoes on the market, such as the Saucony Guide 15's 8mm and Hoka Arahi’s 5mm. A few testers also felt they were a little too heavy for running at faster pacers, so wouldn’t work so well for speedwork or racing.

    For support and cushioning over long, slow miles, though, these are a safe bet.


    Best for long runs: Glycerin 20

    Glycerin 20
    Brooks runnersneed.com
    £155.00

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    Weight: 286.3g (men's), 258g (women's)
    Drop: 10mm
    Type: Road/neutral

    The Glycerin has always been Brooks’ 'super soft' shoe, and with the 20th version, the brand now boast that its softness is 'supreme'. This is because the chunky midsole from heel to toe is made up of its new nitrogen-infused DNA Loft V3 foam. The nitrogen infusion changes the cell structure of the foam, creating cushioning which is lighter but also has more energy return. Our testers loved this soft – 'but not too soft' – cushioning and many described the shoe as 'comfortable', thanks to both the foam, as well as the gently hugging heel cup.

    They were found to be true to size with plenty of room in the toebox, and the long, traditional lacing was noted for helping keep the foot securely in place and for locking in the ankle. The outsole was also described as providing 'excellent grip on wet pavements and light trail paths'.

    As with the Adrenaline, testers commented that these shoes can begin to feel a little 'clunky' as you pick up the pace, and would benefit from being a little lighter. Another also felt the upper material was too thick, resulting in feet feeling too hot during tougher sessions and in warm weather. However, another disagreed, saying these shoes offered optimum comfort. 'When I was running, I wasn’t thinking about my feet which I think is a good measure of a shoe. If you are thinking too much about them, it is probably because they are annoying you rather than doing their job.'

    Overall, the consensus was the Glycerin is a workhorse shoe – ideal for high-mileage runners and for long, slow jaunts.


    Best for speedwork/tempo runs: Hyperion Tempo

    Hyperion Tempo
    Brooks amazon.co.uk
    £152.41

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        • Weight: 207g (men's), 189.9g (women's)
        • Drop: 8mm
        • Type: Road/neutral

          According to our testers, the Hyperion Tempo lives up to its name, with multiple testers reporting that it was 'perfect' for tempo runs. These are a lightweight shoe but offer some cushioning, thanks to the thin layer of nitrogen-infused DNA Flash foam. This foam differs from the nitrogen-infused DNA LOFT v3 technology found in the latest Glycerin 20, as it has a smaller cell structure to make it lighter and better for speedwork. The breathable upper contributes to the featherweight feel, while also keeping feet cool at top speed.

          Our testers tried these on the road, track and on light trails and were impressed with how they performed during faster sessions. 'They are super light,' said one tester, 'I almost feel like I am not even wearing them.' Another tested added: 'These shoes feel reassuringly supportive underfoot, and are at home on tarmac where they are very responsive.'

          All of our wear testers found the shoes to be comfortable, with minimal wear after multiple miles of use, making them better value for money compared to some lightweight running flats. However, the absence of a carbon plate disappointed some, with one tester commenting that 'they don't have quite the same top-end speed or energy recovery as other dedicated racing shoes.'


          Best for road racing: Hyperion Elite 2

          Unisex Hyperion Elite 2
          Brooks runnersneed.com
          £140.00

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          Weight: 215.5g (unisex)
          Drop: 8mm
          Type: Road/neutral

          The Hyperion Elite 2 improves on the first iteration of Brooks’ carbon-plated racing shoe by adding a midsole made with nitrogen-infused DNA Flash foam. The result, according to RW test editor Amanda Furrer, is a 'bouncier, plusher platform with even more rebound'. The shoes also offer more propulsion thanks to the carbon plate and Brooks’ Rapid Roll Technology, which rocks the foot forward.

          This shoe 'makes you want to run faster' said one tester. Another, who said they improved their parkrun and 10km times during the test period, added that 'the shoes were so cushioned and responsive, I felt I had more left in the tank, even after gaining a new PB in them!'

          When compared to a shoe such as Nike’s Vaporfly Next%, multiple testers said it was more stable and comfortable, thanks to the wider fit, particularly at the heel. However, some female testers said the fit was a little loose but that could be overcome by tightening the laces – which were also found to be a boon. One tester said she 'loved their length, stretch and slightly corrugated material which meant they didn’t slip or untie during use.'


          Brooks trail running shoes


          Best for fell runs: Cascadia

          Cascadia 16 GTX
          Brooks amazon.co.uk
          £135.00

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          Shop now - women's

          • Weight: 294g (men's), 266g (women's)
          • Drop: 8mm
          • Type: Trail/neutral

            The Cascadia is Brooks' best-known trail shoe, largely thanks to legendary ultra-runner Scott Jurek being such a big fan. And you really need to be channelling your inner Scott Jurek to get the most out of these shoes, as they’re built for long runs on mountainous terrain. In the 16th version, there’s an extra 2mm of cushioning, and the midsole is now made up of Brooks’ DNA LOFT v2 foam, making it 10 percent softer and 20 percent lighter than the Cascadia 15.

            These feature a Ballistic Rock Shield in the forefoot, which our testers welcomed when running over rocky terrain and tree roots, thanks to the excellent protection it provided, however, some felt this made the shoe a little 'rigid' and inflexible. Despite being lighter than its predecessor, some of our male wear testers also found the shoe a little too heavy.

            The GTX upper material was found to be mildly water repellent, but in the event of getting drenched in a giant puddle, heavy rainfall or a water crossing, was able to drain water well, thanks to ports on the side of the shoes. However, when traversing boggy, muddy ground, our testers found the lugs and sticky TrailTack rubber outsole didn't offer enough grip. On slippy rocks and mild mud, though, our testers were pleased with the traction.

            One tester wearing Cascadia for the first time concluded: 'I’d recommend these shoes to fell runners and mountain racers. They really come into their own on long runs on rocky terrain but are less suitable for grass and cross country races.'


            Best for trail racing: Catamount

            Catamount
            Brooks sportsshoes.com
            £140.00

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                Shop now - women's

                • Weight: 263.7g (men's), 249.5g (women's)
                • Drop: 6mm
                • Type: Trail/neutral

                  The Catamount is Brooks' offering for those who want to push the pace in trail training and racing. The trail version of the Hyperion Tempo, it uses the same nitrogen-infused DNA Flash foam for cushioning and responsiveness and was highly praised by our test team, who felt it answered the current gap in the market for a trail shoe which is light and speedy for racing.

                  'This shoe’s excellence is in its just-right DNA Flash midsole: not too soft to feel sluggish and not too firm to destroy my ankles or knees if I go more than a few miles,' said one tester.

                  From the side, the Catamount could be mistaken for the Hyperion Tempo but it differs in the details to make it an off-roader. There is an added Ballistic Rock Shield in the midsole to protect feet from rocks and tree roots, and a full length TrailTack rubber outsole for extra grip on wet and uneven surfaces. The heel drop is slightly lower, too, at 6mm. We found the TrailTack to grip well on wet grass, rocky paths and light mud, but found the lugs too shallow to cope with thick, slippery mud or steep declines.


                  Best for long trail runs: Caldera 5

                  Caldera 5
                  Brooks sportsshoes.com
                  £120.00

                  Shop now - women's

                  Shop now - men's

                      Shop now - women's

                      • Weight: 300.5g (men's), 266.5g (women's)
                      • Drop: 4mm
                      • Type: Trail/neutral

                        The Caldera 5 rivals Hoka’s maximalist cushioned trail shoes with a large midsole wedge of BioMoGo DNA foam. The low drop of 4mm means it looks like your foot is on a shelf of cushioning, which offers a stable platform, but won’t suit trail runners who want to feel closer to the ground. Our testers who love a cushioned shoe were particularly impressed with the soft feel. 'The cushioning feels like a cloud,' said one. 'No matter what the surface, I felt confident in each step. I went over rocks, roots, wet leaves, creeks and gravel; my traction was great and I didn’t feel a rock or root underfoot.'

                        The outsole uses Brooks’ TrailTack rubber in a raised geometric pattern, which testers found offered excellent grip on slick surfaces. The fit was true to size with a roomy toe box and the mono-loop lacing helped to lock the foot in place.

                        Weighing in at 300.5g in the men’s version and 266.5g in the women’s, they're on the heavier side and so aren't suited for racing or traversing trails at speed. However, our testers agreed they are great for long, slow and steady trail runs and are comfortable enough to keep your feet happy for miles.



                        Best for road to trail: Divide 2

                        Divide 2
                        Brooks amazon.co.uk
                        £106.10

                            Shop now - men's

                            Shop now - women's

                            • Weight: 292g (men's), 260.8g (women's)
                            • Drop: 8mm
                            • Type: Trail/neutral

                              Similar to Invo-8’s Parkclaw, Brooks Divide 2 has been developed for those who want to mix up the surfaces of their running routes. They are ideal for those who want to hit the trails but don’t have them on their doorstep, so might need to take in some pavement first. To handle the road sections, there’s more cushioning in the midsole than you would expect in a trail shoe. This is made up of Brooks’ BioMoGo DNA foam. It isn’t their softest or lightest foam but is comfortable enough for a few miles on the road before hitting the trail.

                              The raised tread pattern uses Brooks’ grippy TrailTack rubber but the lugs aren’t as deep as on its other trail shoes, to ensure they don’t get worn down too quickly when pounding the pavements. We founded they provided good grip on light trails and grass, and the inclusion of a rock plate provided extra protection from gravel and roots. However, we found they weren't grippy enough for muddy or technical terrain.

                              As is the case with some Brooks models, our testers felt these came up small (it's worth going up by half or a full size), but once they found the right fit, were pleased with the lockdown they provided. The lacing system was praised for being secure and stable and one tester commented that 'each step felt secure and very little slippage occurred'.

                              Multiple testers said that these would work well as an entry-level trail shoe. 'I would consider the Divide a great transition shoe from the road to beginner trail runner. I think this is a great shoe for tow paths, cinder trails, rails to trail paths. Perfect for the runner who runs an equal mix of roads, and gravel/cinder.'


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