Running shoes can be a controversial subject. Ask ten runners, and you’re likely to get twenty opinions on what constitutes a good shoe. I’ve gravitated towards very minimal shoes the last few years, so I was unsure how running in the Brooks Glycerin 13 shoes would feel by comparison. Surprisingly, the shoe itself proved less controversial than the colors!
We’ll cover the colors first. These are part of the Brooks “Aurora” line, where they’re looking to showcase the colors of the Northern Lights and Aurora Borealis. Each shoe model has a different set of three colors blending together, and the Glycerin definitely gets some of the more shocking shades. It starts with a deep purple-ish color at the heel, then becomes neon pink before fading into a light blue. I love the blue and the purple, and am not a huge fan of pink, but I’ve found two advantages to the colors. One, the colors are so shocking I notice them when I’m looking too low and staring at my feet while I run, so it’s a good visual clue to lift my head a bit more. Second, I never miss these in my pile of shoes, and I have no doubt I will never misplace them! My wife Sarah was a bit less impressed with the shoes, noting the following zingers upon seeing them unboxed:
- It looks like you ran through spray paint.
- They look like clown shoes.
- It’s like Easter exploded on your shoes.
On the other hand, Gear Diary’s Fearless Leader Judie thought they looked bright but cute, and so far no one has fainted in horror as I ran by, so I think your reaction to the colors may vary. The one unfortunate thing is that our jogging stroller is orange, so the shoes do clash slightly. All jokes about colors aside, I will give Brooks this-the colors are vivid, they blend well together, and the design does a great job of tying three disparate shades together. Little things like the shoelaces matching the fade of the upper show that there was a great deal of planning that went into these designs, and not just a gimmick (the midpoint of the shoelaces is blue, so it matches the edges of blue as it meets the pink when you lace up the shoes). Likewise, the soles have a mix of bright colors, and the whole thing just looks better than it should on paper, so bravo to the design team. Even if you don’t like the colors, there’s at least a quality to the design itself.
So we’ve established the shoes look pretty, but more important than that is how they feel when you run. And here’s where I have to admit to being stubborn for no reason. As I said above, I gravitated for a long time towards more minimal shoes, and the Glycerins are definitely not anyone’s definition of minimal. My choices were practical rather than ideological — I’ve had a few knee surgeries, and shoes that were too built up can sometimes make my knee bug out. On the other hand, my all time favorite pair of shoes, Brooks Green Silence, is not one that you could call minimal per se, but I refuse to give them up because they’ve been discontinued. Even though they’ve almost outlived their useful life as running shoes, I will wear them until the soles are gone, because I love them so much. So when it came time to run in the Glycerins, I reminded myself that a) a pair of Brooks shoes once carried me to two personal bests in both 5k and 4 mile distances, and b) the Glycerins are neutral shoes, and thus unlikely to bother my knee.
I ran a few miles in the Glycerins. Then I ran a few more. Then last weekend, my car needed an oil change, so I dropped her off at the mechanic and then ran home in the Glycerins. I’d only intended to run from the shop to my house, about 1.25 miles, but about a half mile in it hit me — I was having more fun running in the Glycerins than I’d had since I bought my Green Silence years ago. So I added another mile or so onto my “errands run”, because I just didn’t want to stop. I’ve had a spotty few years when it came to running regularly; about three years ago we moved twice, then our son was born, then I had knee surgery last fall and sinus surgery this past spring. It’s been tough to keep up my running mojo as life has gotten busier and more stressful, so for me to look forward to running and actively squeeze in extra time, even a little bit, was huge. Brooks likes to use the motto “Run Happy” and for the first time in months I finally was!
So what makes the shoes so great that they’re de-couch potato-ing me? Well, here’s what Brooks says they put in the shoes:
- Super DNA midsole provides the ultimate adaptive cushioning
- Rounded heel offers better alignment, minimizing stress on joints
- Ideal Pressure Zones disperse impact for an effortless ride
- Conformable saddle construction gives your foot a snug fit
- 3-D Fit Print overlays on the upper add flexibility and structure
All that sounds quite fancy, but what it really comes down to is this: these shoes are cushioned without being squishy, and your foot has plenty of room to breathe but can’t slide around loosely. I am a forefoot striker, meaning that when I run I tend to hit the ground with the ball of my foot before my heel comes down, and I haven’t had any issues with my form, despite the cushion and the larger heel. I also have very narrow feet and size up a half-size in running shoes to give my toes room to work, and my feet stayed put quite nicely around the midfoot. The tongue of the shoe has stretchy panels sewing it into the upper about 3/4 of the way, so there’s some room to maneuver the tongue but it won’t slide around or bunch up funny while you run. Also, and it’s a super minor point, the shoelaces are great at staying tied. I hate when shoes come with slippery shoelaces that inevitably come loose from the constant motion and pounding, but the Glycerins stayed perfect from the moment I tied them. There’s a small amount of arch support, but nothing too intrusive, and after a while the shoes just sort of melt into the background, which is exactly what a good running shoe should do.
Glycerins are not cheap at $160, but they’re also just a genuinely great shoe. They are well-built without feeling over-engineered, and the ride really is smooth and comfortable. But here’s the biggest endorsement of all: I can’t wait to get home tonight, because I am going for a run in the Glycerins, and it will be the highlight of my day!
Source: Manufacturer provided review sample
What I Like: Incredibly comfortable soles; upper fits nicely around midfoot; shoe laces stay tied; tongue stays in place and fits well across top of foot; feels surprisingly light for a full size shoe
What Needs Improvement: The pink is a bit blinding depending on your taste in colors