Running should feel natural

Running should feel natural

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Brooks Transcend: New Shoe Review

Brooks Transcend

Brooks recently released a highly anticipated new shoe, the Transcend (or at least highly anticipated by me).

While its easy to write this off as a Hoka rip-off, it has some key differences.  Okay - first off - lets be clear, this is a pretty obvious response to the success of the huge soled Hoka OneOne shoes, and yet another sign that the "minimalist" movement was only a passing trend.  Sorry to everyone who became a victim of minimalist marketing and got injured as a result!  I loved what Hokas were doing for everyone but they just weren't doing it for me.  People also have a psychological tendancy to latch on to an alternative solution, hold it high on a podium, and "swear by it".  I on the other hand, maintain a decidedly skeptical viewpoint on just about anything.  This outlook can be both a gift and a curse

A little background:  when everyone was going ga-ga over the minimalist movement, a mostly marketing generated strategy to mimic the "natural" running experience, along came Hoka OneOne.  Hokas were anything but minimal with a huge sole and yet a fairly simple upper.  Though they let you run naturally it was more about letting you float over the roads and trails.  Instead of your knees and hips absorbing that impact the maximal cushioned sole was doing the work.  They were embraced by the UltraRunning community, as a cool, "different" alternative that just works.

I wanted to love Hokas, and I have worn them with varying success along the way, but I found that the running roads in them just doesn't work for me.  They are too "squishy" and offer little (if no) lateral support.  They could be the miracle shoe for some runners, those light on their feet with that perfectly neutral foot strike, but I wasn't able to shed my road runners injuries with them just yet.  I needed some stability, and something closer to a regular road running shoe.  Enter, the Transcend.

So far, the Transcend has been awesome for me!!  Its just the road shoe I was looking for, lots of features without being bulky, plenty of cushioning, and a little stability (on all sides) when you need it.  Brooks was having a promo launch event so I was able to snag some extra goodies too!

Transcends with extra freebies: A visor, shoe bag, and dry ice-cream!

As told by Brooks - The Transcend features five key technologies that work together to provide its unique ride: 
  1. Super DNA – this advanced cushioning material provides the ultimate smooth ride that smartly adapts to your every stride. 
  2. Guide Rails – specialized plates built into the midsole revolutionize traditional stability by allowing your hips, knees and joints to move along their unique motion path while you run – all without any traditional posts. 
  3. Ideal Pressure Zones – transform the traditional idea of comfort by minimizing localized pressure evenly in the heel, midfoot and forefoot. 
  4. Rounded Heel – aligns your stride naturally and easily. 
  5. Plush upper – a combination of premium materials conforms to your foot for a custom, plush fit. 
It doesn't force the support on you like an Adrenaline or Trance, its just kind of there when you need it.  As the pictures show, the bottom part is all the same type of foam, and the support comes in the form of "guide rails" that promise you a touch of support in whatever direction you may roll.  It has lots of cushioning, but not so much that you forget what you are doing.

They aren't a super lightweight shoe, but they felt just fine with me.  I think the sample size is listed at 11.2 oz (roughly the same as a pair of hokas).  While this is a far cry from the insanely light Saucony Guides I also enjoy running in (at under 9 oz), the Transcends felt anything but heavy.  I'm not sure how a heavy heal striker would fare in these.  They have a slightly rounded heal to encourage a mid-foot strike, or at least transition each heal-strike more naturally into the next step.  For me, they were a great compliment to how I already run:  a mid-foot strike with a slight roll-in that I just can't seem to shake.

I'm really excited to take these off-road and see how they perform on trails.  I hope Brooks comes out with a trail version eventually, but they already feel solid in the little trail running I have done in them so the road model might be adequate.  The only thing I'm worried about is their lasting appeal with buyers.  I don't think they had the kind of blockbuster debut Brooks was hoping for, and if people stay weary of a "different" looking shoe these might only be temporary.  I plan on wearing these in my upcoming 50k, so I should be able to evaluate their trail worthiness after that!  Until then, I'll continue to tear up the pavement in these babies!

Update as of April 1st (and that's no joke...)

While the Transcends felt great on my feet, after about a month of running I started to develop knee pain in my left knee.  Its hard to tell what is the root cause, it could be overtraining, general fatigue, and the ultras I have been doing.  After scaling back my mileage, stretching and yoga routines, strength training, and cutting out speed work the knee pain has started to go away.  The biggest difference though is that I went back to wearing my normal shoes, that is:  Saucony Guide and Brooks PureCadence on the roads, and Hoka OneOne Rapa Nui (with SuperFeet Orange insoles) on the trails.  Maybe the transcends had too much stability and structure all around?  I got probably around 150 miles in on the Transcends before the knee pain required me to rethink everything.  I've done about 100 miles since then and the pain is all but gone.

As the primary root cause of my knee pain I can't really recommend the Transcends.


  1. How is the wear on the outsole? It seemed to me, as I looked at them in the shop, that the outsole was rather soft and thin. Curious on your thoughts regarding outsole durability. I too, have been stoked for the coming of this shoe. Thanks for your thoughts.

  2. They seem pretty durable so far! I've probably got close to 150 miles on them by now, some of that on trails even, and no signs of breaking down. I think the "Guide Rails" really help hold your foot in place on the trails as well. I hope Brooks comes out with a trail version of these!!

  3. Read my update - they felt great, but I started getting knee pain about a month later. I went back to my old shoes (along with some other injury prevention techniques) and the pain has subsided.

    really can't recommend them at this point.

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