Color: Electric Brooks Blue/Lime punch
Brooks's marketing pitch: Our most cushioned style with great support.
Surfaces tested on: Road, ambient temperature of 10° C/50° F and 22° C/72° F. Tested in two different locations.
Upper: See thru net mesh, molded synthetic leather, full inner sleeve, plastic heel counter.
Midsole: Dual density compression co-molded EVA (SuperDNA) midsole; primary midsole with firmer 'Guide rail' rim on top. 8 mm heel to toe offset.
Outsole: Carbon rubber under heel, softer blown rubber under fore and midfoot.
Weight: 342 gms/ 12.06 Oz for a half pair of Men's US 11/UK 10/EUR 45/CM 29
Widths available: Single - regular (reviewed)
US MSRP: $170
Funny how things change.
A few years ago, when the original Transcend made its debut, it was an idea and product ahead of its time. Brooks decided to stray from the tried and tested practice of slapping a firmer medial post on the midsole, and instead created a brand new concept which infused neutral cushioning with a supportive ride.
This confused most of the runners who were expecting a Brooks Trance update, because the Transcend was anything but.
And yet, we loved the Transcend.
It had a full bodied midsole with an unique design. It had an extremely wide footprint, including a midfoot section which literally bulged out on the medial side. The outsole was this flat profiled, grouped sheets of soft rubber which not only gripped well, but also produced excellent transitions. The upper might have been narrow and pointy in the front, but the plush material package was consolation enough.
It spent a couple of lonely years being the only shoe of its kind; a ‘support’ shoe which did not rely on a medial post. And now, it seems to have company. So a couple of boo’s for Brooks for not explaining well enough what the Transcend 1 was; at the same time, kudos for creating a brand new footwear category – one which seems more relevant today than it was three years ago.
We’ve been growing increasingly skeptical of the notion that medial posts are required to ‘correct over-pronation’. We were believers a few years ago, but after more than 100 reviews and over 10,000 reader comments and feedback, we aren’t so sure anymore.
There’s no denying that a lot of runners love the firmer feel of the medial post, and some support or stability model will end up feeling more reassuring than softer neutral shoes. We must also point out that there is no conclusive evidence or research which backs the conventional wisdom that flat footed or over-pronating runners actually benefit from stability shoes. On a related side-note, we spent some time talking about the backstory of medial posts in running shoe midsoles.
About a month ago, solereview was speaking to a runner who wore a Brooks Beast with orthoses because he was told that he had excessive pronation. Guess what, he switched to a Nike Flyknit Lunar and he loves it – minus any issues. Besides, no two stability shoes and individual are the same, which ensures an infinite range of footwear-runner relationships.
Brooks led the trend in establishing this new category, with a supportive neutral shoe which was the Transcend. More recently, adidas released the Ultra Boost ST, which is founded on the same line of thought. And though we have not had a chance to review the upcoming New Balance Fresh Foam Vongo yet, we think that it’s going to be the third model to give Transcend company.
All that said, here comes the downer – the Brooks Transcend 3 is our least favorite of all Transcend models so far.
The original T-1 was by far the best. The first in the series usually is, being a labor of love. Brooks cut no corners on product and marketing execution; the upper material was plush, the sockliner was made of their flagship SuperDNA foam with a luxe top cloth, and even the midsole had a sheen to it.
They sent out promotional samples packed in a rocket-ship shaped box, no kidding. It wasn’t perfect, with its ultra pointy toe-box and slightly pokey Guide Rail, but the excellent ride quality made up for whatever little flaws the Transcend came with.
The following year, the Transcend 2 arrived with a firmer midsole, a plasticky kind of upper and an insole which used a lower quality top-cloth and BioMogo foam instead of the smoother SuperDNA base. There were upgrades, like a better fitting toe-box, while the overall fit and feel stayed the same (except for the firmness), so no harm done.
A lot has changed on the Transcend 3. The upper is much more spacious, and we suspect that Brooks has used a different last than of the T1 and T2. Besides the evidently more relaxed upper fit, the reverse side of the insole has a different marking. It now says BP-104 instead of the BP-106 of the T1 and T2 insoles. We could be wrong, but usually these are numbers identifying the last (fit profile) of the shoe.
The upper fit of the T3 isn’t a deal-breaker; upper fit changes all the time, and the T3’s upper isn’t uncomfortable in any way, only different compared to previous models. What’s puzzling is the drastic change in the midsole and outsole design, which makes the Transcend 3 lose a lot of its ‘Transcend-ness’ as we know it.
Let’s get the upper updates done and over with. What has changed on the Transcend 3’s upper?
The Transcend 3 has a much cleaner profile than the T2. Sure, it retains the synthetic look with its net-like mesh, but lets go of the midfoot side straps completely.
Instead, there’s a lattice like layer beneath the see-thru net mesh. Brooks claims that this is laser-cut, and there’s no reason to doubt that. The edges of the diamond shaped windows have a fused texture to them, a signature typical of thermal cutting.
Removing the midfoot straps affects the lacing design, which now switches to using conventional eyelets instead of loops. The laces are also now flat stretchy, instead of the static round ones on the T1 and T2.
We’ve found the elastic laces on most Saucony shoes rather nice to work with, and it’s a welcome sight on Brooks product as well. If there’s any downside, it’s that the laces are a bit long (which was an issue in some early Saucony models too).
So you’ll need to fall back on tying a larger loop on the Transcend 3 till Brooks realizes that the lace length needs reduction. You can’t simply replace a non-stretch lace with an elastic one of the same length – the material will grow longer over time.
The Transcend 3 uses a tongue and collar lining which feels less plush than what was on the T1 and T2. Though the fabric is a little coarser, the padded interiors still feels comfortable.
There’s the largish plastic heel counter wrapping the back, which now has a couple of design updates. One, it extends a bit further towards the midfoot medially (there’s a reason why), and the huge reflective windows have been replaced with molded synthetic.
In essence, the reflective bits are massively downsized this year, with only three small bits on the heel, midfoot and toe somewhat getting the job done.
Th toe-box profile get a refresh, with the area being no longer as pointy as it used to be. And while the updated toe-bumper molding is the obvious reason, the likely change in last could also be a factor in contributing to the increase in room.
The forefoot area is visually cleaned up quite a bit, and there are no supportive structures propping the upper from beneath. It is also worth noting that the lacing position is moved rearwards by around 5 mm compared to T2.
So with the midfoot strap being removed, the toe-bumper being wide molded, and the lacing moving backwards, it doesn’t take much to guess what happens to the Transcend 3’s fit.
The toe-box has a lot more room than both the Transcend 1 and 2, the forefoot gets more relaxed, and the midfoot loses its snug wrap around the foot.
The added space around the medial (inner) side of the big toe is immediately noticeable when coming from the Transcend 2, and so is the relaxed forefoot width.
As far as the midfoot fit is concerned, the changes are huge. Transcend regulars will miss the secure lock-down provided by the strap based lacing; the Transcend 3’s midfoot feels so relaxed in comparison. Even the pressure on top is reduced drastically, and that happens due to three reasons.
There are no more straps, so the eye-stay panel no longer pins down on the foot. The T3 now relies on eyelets punched into a molded synthetic panel like most shoes. Secondly, the laces change to a thin flat type instead of the thick round ones used on T2. This helps the laces lie flatter, or flush with the tongue relative to the round ones.
The third factor isn’t easily apparent, but it significantly reduces the top-down pressure right around the last two rows of eyelets. The Transcend 3 has a firmer tongue flap than the T2 – the tongue-top loop moves towards the rearfoot by a couple of lacing rows.
This loop is part of a molded synthetic which also has foam padding packed inside. This insulates the lacing pressure which was otherwise felt under the last two rows on the T2.
Heel fit is unchanged, mostly. The medial (arch) side feels a little more supportive because of the elongated heel counter, and the Achilles dip is slightly softer – that’s all there is to it.
We don’t hold an upper fit change (as long as it doesn’t lead to discomfort) against a shoe, because it ends up being a pro or con based on personal needs of each runner.
Since the Transcend (still) does not offer an optional sizing width, a spacious upper might actually be a good thing. This is a reason for wide-footed runners to be happy about. On the flip side, Transcend loyalists who loved its ultra snug and supportive upper will find the T3 wanting in that aspect.
The real story here is not the Transcend 3’s upper, but its revised midsole design. For Brooks Transcend first-timers who aren’t up to speed on what the shoe is about, a quick recap is in order.
Unlike most traditional support shoes which depend on a dual density midsole design, the original Transcend aimed to deliver a supportive ride by means of an ultra wide midsole topped off with ‘Guide Rails’. This was the name of a firmer EVA rim which sat over the midsole periphery.
The Guide rails cups the rearfoot and flares out under the midfoot as supportive structure, and hence the name – guiding the foot through transitions. The midsole is the Brooks SuperDNA midsole foam compound – incidentally the 2014 Transcend was the first to feature it. It looks and feels like an EVA variant with some other compound blended in.
The visually distinctive Transcend 1 had a generously flared midsole under the arch area. This when paired with the Guide rails and the wide footprint, helped the Transcend 1 produce a very supportive ride character. Under the midsole, the flat profile of the outsole made for super smooth transitions.
The Transcend 2 was a bit firmer, yet did not stray from the path which the T1 was on. Though the midsole and outsole design was brand new, it still retained the fundamental characteristics which made the Transcend 1 the shoe it was.
Talk about the Transcend 3’s sole, and a lot has changed. You still see the firmer Guide rail rim stacked over the midsole, but there is one critical difference. The raised curve of the firmer rim has been pushed forward (towards the foot arch) compared to the Transcend 2.
This is the reason why the plastic heel counter has been extended too on the inner side – to keep up with the shift in the Guide Rail’s position.
Hence on the Transcend 3, you get the sensation that the Guide Rail is right under the arch, as opposed to the subtler feel of the Transcend 1 and 2’s rearfoot biased Guide rail.
We don’t particularly like this new feel of under-arch reinforcement. We’ve put over 40 miles on the Transcend 3, which included a single 15 miler. During that run, we felt that the pronounced under-arch support was too much of a good thing.
Because unlike the Ultra Boost ST’s exaggerated under-arch support which was soft foam, the T3’s support relies on a combination of a plastic heel counter and firm EVA. So it is more resistant to deforming under the foot, and after 10 miles it gets slightly uncomfortable. This wasn’t the experience on the Transcend 1 and 2, as the Guide Rail curve was placed further towards the heel.
Cushioning quality is softer than the Transcend 2 due to the change in midsole and insole foam density. The insole is Brooks Biomogo, the landfill friendly EVA variety used on many other models.
This is the same insole design used on the T2; however on the T1 the insole was made of Brooks SuperDNA, which did feel more responsive and plush than the Biomogo insole used on T2 and T3.
The midsole cushioning softness is similar to the Transcend 1. The ride is tinged with a bit of a firmness; so if you had to compare the Transcend 3 with the Glycerin 13, then you should know that the G-13 is a more cushioned shoe.
Brooks claims the Transcend to be their most cushioned shoe, but it is not. If you need soft foam padding, then the Glycerin 13 is a better shoe to step into.
Forefoot cushioning on the T3 is softer due to the reworked outsole. The rubber lugs are thicker, and are split into a larger number of units. As a result, there’s a ‘piston’ effect compared to the flat profile of the T1 and T2’s outsole. That’s the only positive we see in the new outsole design, otherwise the new layout negatively impacts the transition quality and durability levels.
Transition was super smooth on the Transcend 1 and 2. A flat outsole made of thin rubber felt reassuring seamless when it came to transitions. The midfoot area had flat rubber slabs to ease out the heel-to-toe loading or the other way around, and the relatively thin+flat forefoot outsole helped efficient push offs.
In comparison, the Transcend 3 feels very lumpy. Brooks has replaced the flat midfoot outsole design with raised lugs, and ditto for the forefoot. And this is partly why we said that the shoe loses its ‘Transcend-ness’. The hallmark of the T1 and T2 was its smooth ride, and Brooks has messed with that this year for no good reason.
We noticed more outsole wear on the T3 occurs after 40 miles versus the previous two models. This is proof that durability depends on the geometry as much as it does on rubber thickness and the compound used. The flatter outsole (T1, T2) made of larger rubber pieces distributed pressure evenly, and hence reduced excessive wear in one place.
The T3’s outsole rubber might be thicker, but they are raised lugs separated by deep channels. This leads to the lug edges wearing off quickly under the forefoot. Brooks outsole rubber is notorious for relatively rapid shredding, and the new outsole design does the shoe no favors.
Traction is acceptable on the Transcend 3 as it is for most Brooks running shoes, though in our opinion the previous Transcends fared better.
A supportive ride is what the Transcend is supposed to deliver. It does have one, but then again, everything has to be measured on a relative scale. The T3 gets bested by the Transcend 1 and 2, both of which came with a wider outsole print and greater midsole volume.
The midsole fill has become progressively slimmer with each Transcend version, and the T3 is decidedly a slim waisted shoe – a far cry from what the T1 was. Combine this with the outsole change, and it tones down the planted ride experience of the V1 and V2.
Sure, this action has reduced the weight of the T3 by a whopping ounce or 26 gms, but please know that there is a trade-off to this arrangement.
What the Transcend 3 has also done is to increase the heel bevel at the edge. On the lateral (outer) heel edge, it curves up more than the Transcend 2.
Brooks might argue that is how it’s supposed to be (to ‘minimize stress on joints’, they say) but to us it felt like the under heel area is missing a chunk of foam. The Transcend 1 and 2’s heel was curved enough; the Transcend 3 is overdoing it.
These design changes do not make the Transcend a bad shoe by any yardstick; the point is that we’re missing what made the original Transcend so attractive in the first place.
There is something to be said about conviction. Brooks built on the Transcend based on an idea that a highly cushioned shoe could be both supportive and smooth riding without relying on a medial post. They should have seen this through, instead of changing their minds midway and making the Transcend a Glycerin 13 cousin.
Which is an irony given the timing, because the rest of the world is catching up with what Brooks Transcend started. There is still hope, for the Transcend 4 follows later this year.
(Disclaimer: For this review, Solereview bought the shoe at full US retail price.)
Looking to upgrade your older Brooks Transcend 2 to the latest version, but not sure how the 2016 model compares? We can help here. The following infographic is a ready-reckoner for what changes you might expect in the new model vs. old. To make this more fun, we’ve put in a system of percentage match, which calculates a weighted average for a set of attributes.
A higher or lower match percentage is neither good or bad. The % number just tells you how similar or distanced the new shoe is from the previous version. Total match % is a result of weighted averages.