If you’re new to running and looking for a simple yet reliable shoe that will see you through your first 5 and 10k races without breaking the bank, the Brooks Launch 8 could be the trainer for you.
First introduced in 2009 as a lightweight, neutral shoe that offered a firm ride without sacrificing on softness or durability, the Brooks Launch experienced a brief hiatus between 2012-2014 until popular demand from fans saw it reinstated in the form of the Launch 2 in 2015.
Since then, various iterations have hit the mark with runners who like to move fast and stay light on their feet, although there have been a few misses, including the Launch 7 which received criticism for being too firm.
So, is the Launch 8 definitely "new and improved"?
We think so. It might not make it onto our list of the best running shoes or even the best Brooks running shoes, but it’s a great shoe for beginners, slower runners and anyone looking to introduce a durable everyday trainer to their running shoe rotation for a reasonable price. Read on to find out why.
Brooks Launch 8 review: Price and availability
The Brooks Launch 8 is available now for a recommended retail price of £100 / $100 / AU$199.95. It is available in male- and female-specific fits and comes in a variety of colourways that differ across genders. The Brooks Launch 8 can be purchased directly from Brooks UK / Brooks US / Brooks Australia and selected third party retailers.
Brooks Launch 8 review: The tech
If you crave comfort over speed and have previously avoided the Brooks Launch shoe due to its firm ride, you should consider checking out the Launch 8. Unsurprisingly, given that the Launch 7 received criticism for being too firm, the Launch 8 sees the introduction of new, lighter cushioning in the midsole which is said to offer "a fast, fun ride without sacrificing softness or durability."
Most of the cushioning is provided by the single-density BioMoGo DNA midsole which is more environmentally friendly than other foams as it breaks down 50 times faster in landfills. What you see is what you get, and there are no hidden tricks or fancy inserts, but the softer midsole weighs 0.4oz less than the outgoing model, so it manages to further reduce the impact on your joints without weighing you down.
While the Launch 8 is much springier than the Launch 7, with a heel that’s 10mm taller than the forefoot (great for people who land with their feet first, like me), it still feels firm, especially when compared to some of the more technologically advanced, uber-bouncy running shoes now on the market, such as the Adidas 4DFWD.
But I quite liked that for a change, and I particularly enjoyed the level of good ground contact provided by the shoe which allowed for quick turnovers. This, along with the lightweight build, certainly helps to make the shoes feel fast during transitions, and they’re seriously flexible under your forefoot, making toe-off feel easy.
However, while the women’s Launch 8 weighs in at 224g and the men’s shoe comes in at 243.8g, it’s not Brook’s lightest or fastest shoe. If that’s what you’re looking for, and you’re serious about your race times, you should check out our review on the Brooks Hyperion Tempo instead. It might cost a whole £40 more than the Launch 8 but you do get what you pay for.
That said, the Launch 8 still has plenty to offer those looking for a comfy, pace-friendly trainer that won’t burn a hole in your pocket. The new upper is made from a softer, engineered spacer mesh which is described as ‘extra breathable’, and trust me, that’s an understatement. On windy days, you can literally feel a gale blowing through wide mesh holes over the toes. In hot, humid weather, I imagine this ‘built-in breeze’, as Brooks calls it, would feel amazing, but you do end up with particularly soggy feet on rainy days.
In fact, I wouldn’t recommend these shoes for rainy runs at all as the outsole isn’t great on slick surfaces. But the traction is perfectly good on dry days, and the reconfigured outsole geometry with air-injected rubber at the front grips the surface and helps propel you forwards while keeping landings light.
Brooks Launch 8 review: The ergonomics
For me, the fit of the Launch 8 is the star of the show, making it one of the comfiest running shoes I’ve worn in a long time - if I didn’t wear them for running, I’d certainly use them as my everyday shoe for running errands. Of course, everyone’s feet are different, but if I’m honest, I have struggled with the seemingly narrower fit of some of Brook’s different launches over the last year, and I certainly don’t have wide feet.
Keeping in mind that Brooks shoes seem to be getting tighter (in my opinion), this might explain why some runners have complained that the Launch 8 is roomier than other models while others say it’s super comfortable and their new favourite Brooks shoe. Of course, Brooks has a Run Happy Promise in place which allows you to test run your shoes for 90-days and return them if they don’t work for you, so you can take a punt on a new design without wasting a ton of money if they’re not the perfect fit.
I ordered a half size up as I always do with running shoes but soon started to wonder if I should have ordered a full-size up considering my recent Brooks shoe experiences. Thankfully, the Launch 8 gave me a thumb’s worth of space at the top of my toes and great wiggle room in the slightly flared toe box.
The mesh upper provides a snug, secure fit with a tiny bit of stretch for pliability and softness, and I found the updated shape of the padded heel to be a real stand out of the design: the tall elf collar keeps the heel firmly in place and feeling supported without any rubbing, and it also makes it really easy to slide your feet into the shoes.
Indeed, these shoes didn’t need the slightest bit of breaking in, which is always a bonus, and my only issue was with the tongue, which is a bit on the thin side and slid down the side of my foot from time to time.
I really enjoyed the support provided by the curved insole, and the cushioning felt good on my knees and hips. But those needing a bit of extra support would do well to check out the new Brooks Launch GTS 8 (GTS stands for Go To Support), which is a stability version of the same shoe for the same price with GuideRails added in to keep excess movement in check.
Brooks Launch 8 review: The aesthetics
According to Brooks, the Launch has been ‘famous – or infamous? – for bold colours and eye-catching styles’ over the years. In the current Launch 8 line-up, you will indeed find an interesting tie-dye design with a psychedelic flavour for both the lads and ladies and there are some bold neon colourways, too. But you’ll also find versions in more neutral colours and pretty pastels, so there really is something for everyone.
Other than that, there’s not much else to say. It won’t win you any style awards, but it’s not exactly a style crime either. It might not have any ‘wow’ factor, but I quite liked its simple, streamlined style, actually.
Brooks Launch 8 review: The verdict
The Brooks Launch 8 is a big improvement on its predecessor, providing much more cushioning for a softer ride while still retaining the firmness the Launch is known for. If you hated it before, you might just find you really like it now.
Lightweight, durable and reliable, it’s a simple yet versatile shoe with a quick, nimble feel that will help beginners and slower runners feel fast and comfortable during speed runs and on race day, but only up to a half-marathon distance.
Ultimately, it’s a good shoe at a good price. But more experienced runners will probably want to pay a bit more and look elsewhere.
Brooks Launch 8 review: Also consider
The Hoka One One Mach 4 running shoes have a luxurious feel with lots of padding and ventilation holes. The Profly midsole feels both soft and springy, so you get a double whammy of cushioning and a firm toe-off, making the Mach 4 one of the most adaptable shoes around.
Apart from looking pretty fly, running in the Nike React Infinity Run will also significantly reduce the possibility of injuring yourself. The all-new Flyknit upper funnels and holds your feet in the right position, while the extra foam under feet guarantees a comfortable and fast riding experience.