Brooks Neuro 2 Shoe Review
The Neuro is yet another performance shoe by Brooks trying to squeeze into the ever-crowded room full of lightweight neutral footwear.
Once a category reserved mainly for athletes and avid runners, the ‘lightweight neutral’ movement has exploded in the wave of the barefoot craze. Every brand was out to capitalise on the notion of ‘less is more’; all vying to nail the Goldilocks runner that is straightforward and functional, yet unique and innovative.
The Brooks Neuro 2 is no exception. Built around the ideal movement path mantra: it aims to provide the best running experience without interfering with the runner’s natural running gait.
No posting or rigid plastic arches here! Rather, it has a unique arrangement of flex grooves on the sole that is deliberately offset to allow maximum flexibility along ideal paths, called the Gearing Mechanism.
By maximum flexibility, I mean bend in half like a waffle-maker kind of flexibility.
To add to the shoe’s responsiveness, Brooks has added thin spring plates across the heel and forefoot, so bending along those lines occur faster, giving it a more rapid feel off of those areas. In essence, it’s the complete opposite of a traditional supportive shoe!
The Neuro also features a 6mm heel drop – just sitting on the proverbial fence of conventional vs. minimalist flatness. Altogether, the Neuro was designed to be a peppy-yet-flexible that provided a responsive ride, given its speed designation by Brooks.
Needless to say, I was very curious to try it. There’s a special place in my heart for fast feeling shoes.
The first impression with the upper was how soft it felt on the inside. The inner lining is completely seamless and feels more like a sock than a shoe; good news for the sockless runners out there.
The bright green ribbons laced through the sides provide a pinch-free cinch, even when tightening the shoes quite a lot. I have a narrow foot, and the neuro feels a touch on the wider side in the instep. With these ribbons though, I was able to go from sloppy to snug without any discomfort; this did leave quite a bit of extra lace, but I’m sure someone with a wider foot than me wouldn’t have this issue.
My first few steps in the shoe were pretty impressive. Because of the plates built into the sole, the shoe had a firmer feel than I expected. For such a flexible shoe, it felt a lot more like an everyday neutral trainer! Taking it out for a light jog was comfortable, but one thing stood out immediately: the Neuro, despite its flexibility, certainly has a preference towards heel-toe running.
How is this possible? If the runner was to land with a mid-foot strike, which I typically do, the plates crossing the sole cause the whole shoe to snap inward abruptly, giving it quite a clumsy ride.
As soon as you land heel first, the stable, semi-firm cushioning gives the Neuro a stable feel on contact, almost to the degree of a mild stability shoe! A smooth transition from midfoot to toe followed (Gearing Mechanism in action)! It was quite striking how different the shoe felt between the two landing methods, almost night and day regarding ride comfort.
Is a lightweight, ultra-bendable, heel striking trainer a bad thing? Absolutely not.
Given the relatively high degree of heel stability, cushioning, and reasonable heel drop, the Neuro would be a great intermediate shoe between general and minimal footwear categories. It doesn’t feel like such a departure from your fully-cushioned neutral trainers to fear the risk of injury. And yet, it still offers the foot strengthening and gait-altering benefits of minimalist shoes.
When I picked up the pace, the shoe felt very consistent with the heel-toe feel, and even felt better the harder the heel landing. Unfortunately, all this heel pounding was beginning to feel strange, so I returned to my regular (consequently, awkward) midfoot landing for the rest of the run. Feeling disappointed, I slowed down to a casual pace, where the shoe suddenly started to behave again.
The Neuro is a stable shoe, but not for the reasons advertised. Rather than optimal for faster running, it felt best at relaxed, heel-toe paces.
It is ideal as a shoe for those looking to transition to lighter options from their heavier counterparts safely. Even the hardest heel-striker will feel at home in this shoe!
Given how stable the shoe feels, it would even serve as a versatile gym shoe for those wanting a very runnable cross-trainer! The “Speed” indicator should not be a deterrent to trying this shoe, as its racy appearance can be a bit deceiving. I’d say “pleasant” would’ve been a more suitable indicator, but it should be something for you to discover for yourself!