Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Brooks Asteria Initial Review

    I loved the Brooks Racer ST 5 (REVIEW).  I set my still standing half marathon PR of 1:11:11 during my first foray into that event in the ST 5 (and had a nice first 5k split of 15:50.  Not great pacing).  Despite being 8.6 ounces and boosting a 12-14mm drop, that shoe had the amazing combination of keeping your legs protected but being able to go fast.  Prior to using those as distance racers, I had been training full time in lighter shoes.  Yet there was something slightly magic about them.  The fit was just right and the sole begged to go fast.  I ran my pair into the ground, retired them and excitedly waited for the Racer ST 6.  And I waited... and waited.  All along I hoped that the updates would involve lower that weight just a bit (to compete with similar weights of the Adios, Fastwitch, Streak and other marathon racers), lower the drop just a little (not too much) and smooth out the upper.  FINALLY word arrived of the update, a new shoe named the Brooks Asteria.  I honestly was a little put off by the name change but my love for the ST 5 finally got the better of me and I got my hands on a pair.  Are they everything I hoped?  Yes and more.  Why?  Let's talk about it.    


Stats (per Running Warehouse)
Weight: 8.1oz (men's size 9)
Stack Height: 27mm (heel), 17mm (forefoot)
Drop: 10mm
Support Level: Light/Mild Stability
Classification: Stability Racer


Sole/Ride

   Brooks has finally updated both soles of the Asteria and Hyperion (previously ST 5 and T7 Racers) to BioMoGo DNA.  This means that thanks to the Non-Newtonian integrated midsole material, when you place less force into the sole, it softens up and when you run fast and put a great deal of force through it, the midsole firms up.  This was extremely evident the second I stepped into the shoe.  I was initially nervous that the firm ST 5 ride was gone.  Then I did a fast stride and that worry completely disappeared.  Due to the great combination of cushioning at slow speeds and responsiveness at higher speeds, the Asteria is a great shoe if you are looking for a marathon racer, workout shoe or lightweight trainer.  I would be comfortable warming up, cooling down and doing workouts in this shoe comfortably.  The forefoot and heel have similar cushioning levels, which makes the ride extremely consistent through the gait cycle.
   The ride is definitely smoother thanks to a now 10mm drop (although it feels slightly lower due to the nice beveled heel) and the full ground contact outsole.  Both these aspects add to the nice stable feel, along with the new interesting placement of duel density foam.  Unlike the majority of US stability shoes that have posting or firmer midsole material on the medial (inner) side of the shoe to "stop" pronation (hahahaha.  Seriously though what posting supposed to do is slow down the rate of pronation.  More on this later), the Brooks Asteria has second density foam that wraps around the heel with a larger section on the medial side but some on the lateral side.  This is interesting enough that I am dedicating my "Thoughts as a DPT" section to it, so check that out.

    Similar to the Hyperion, the Asteria also has so-called "Propulsion Pods" in the forefoot.  Do they work?  I have to say that the forefoot area of both shoes feel more lively than previous versions (T7 Racer and Racer ST5).  I notice more that the anterior (front) portion of the foot feels both slightly more forgiving and more responsive upon toe-off.  So for now I have to say yes.  I just hope they are set up to propel you forwards and not upwards.  That however will depend on your mechanics, which if appropriate, should have enough hip extension and ankle dorsiflexion in terminal stance to set up for your calves to propel you forward.  If you do not have enough of either, that's whether that excessive vertical oscillation comes from (also know as bouncing).  Those two are related too.   If you lack range of motion in either hip extension (tight or restricted psoas/hip flexors) or ankle dorsiflexion (tight calves/talocrural joint) it will effect the other and you will not get that leg driving backwards.  


Upper/Fit

   The upper has improved an incredible amount.  Gone is the slightly scratchy upper with the slight taper at the toes.  Now the Asteria has one of the most comfortable uppers I have experienced.  I would even try running sockless in these as the inner aspect of the upper in the heel feels amazing against the skin.  The midfoot forward does have a mesh that is not quite as soft as the posterior section, but with socks molds very nicely to the foot.  The fit is not super wide, more average to a slight racing fit.  So those with slighty wide, medium and slightly narrow feet should feel fairly comfortable using this as an uptempo, workout or racing shoe.  The toebox is much more square than previous and fits very well.  Again it is not a sloppy fit, rather one that fits very nicely to the fit.  I attribute this to the new 3D printing and would describe it as a performance fit but not a snug racing flat fit.  

   Now back to the amazing heel portion of the upper.  Brooks has put BioMoGo DNA in the upper!  Yes.  The same great cushioning material is now in the upper.  Never have I had such a great secure fit on the heel and have it be so incredibly comfortable.  If nothing else, try these just to experience that luxurious upper. 


Thoughts as a DPT

   This is the perfect time to talk about that interesting posting.  The majority of stability running shoes have posting, support or secondary foam (usually the same things but not always) on the medial side of the sole in an attempt to slow down pronation.  Pronation being the inward role of the foot upon initial contact or landing.  99% of people I have seen pronate to some degree because that's a normal method of shock absorption.  If you have very good strength of the intrinsic foot muscles, posterior tibialis, anterior tibialis, peroneus longus and more, you can control that motion and appropriately absorb loading forces.  During terminal stance or toe-off, that is when supination is supposed to occur because that motion helps stabilize the foot (via locking the joints) so the calf muscles can push off against a stable base.  Those are optimal mechanics.  Supination at initial contact is not a good thing.  That would be rolling your foot outward UPON LANDING.  If the sole of your foot points inward BEFORE you land, that's normal (that's more inversion than supination).  That sets you up with more real estate to pronate.  Supination at initial contact, or rolling outward, means your foot stiffens up thanks to that joint locking mechanism, and thus you cannot shock absorb at the foot during loading response or landing.  So you will take those forces up somewhere else... more than likely at your knee joint.  Additionally, the lateral ligaments of your ankle are not nearly as broad and strong as the medial ligaments (hence why lateral ankle sprains are so much more common).  The Deltoid ligament on the inside of your foot is extremely broad, tough and is meant to handle loading via pronation (although excessive pronation can slowly stretch that out.  To sprain that thing though takes a TON of force, so don't worry too much).   So you better hope you don't supinate upon initial contact as that is definitely NOT a badge of honor.  These motions all happen at specific times for specific reasons.  



   Back to the Asteria.  The fact that it has both medial and lateral posting at the heel means this will be one of the few shoes that can handle both mild pronation and if you are one of the rare unfortunate individuals who have this, mild supination.  I have only ever seen this design on some racing flats in Japan that I drooled over looking through Rakuten (Japanese Amazon).  I would assume that the medial and lateral posting is Brook's attempt to really stabilize the heel in general upon landing.  For those that land farther forward you most likely won't feel this while running, but when running slowly or walking it is an interesting sensation.  Again with any amount of stability, the idea is to SLOW down pronation or accessory foot motions, not stop it.  To stop those motions you would either have to cast the foot or the posting would have to be completely rigid and non-pliable.  I can tell you that would not be ideal for running and my pediatric patients with rigid orthoses (not orthotics) find them very uncomfortable initially because they attempt to completely stop motion.  And when you stop motion at one joint, it gets taken up somewhere else (which may overuse that other joint without proper preparation and strengthening).  The second density foam is firmer than the rest of the material in the shoe, with the attempt of guiding the foot's motions forward, rather than forcing them.  When you try to force the foot to do things during high impact and highly repetitive activities where really weakness is the only issue, that becomes a problem.  This is the reason I LOVE mild stability shoes and wish there were more of them.  Really most of us just need some slight guidance and to continue working on our foot strength and stability.  Very few individuals need something like the Brooks Beast... yet I see that shoe frequently on people of all ages.
    This type of stability definitely makes the Asteria an even more unique shoe.  I must again state that the support is mild and not overbearing.  So even those that have neutral mechanics may want to try this shoe if you find you fatigue late during workouts, long runs or long races.  


Conclusion

    The Brooks Asteria is a great all around shoe.  Although it is supposed to be in a similar class to the Asics DS Racer and Saucony Fastwitch, it is more similar and a great competitor to the Adios Boost 3 and New Balance 1400v4 with the addition of mild heel posting that increases the stability a little along with a full ground contact outsole.  This is a shoe I would not hesitate to use for races up to the marathon, almost any workout and would even consider using it as a lightweight trainer.  The upper is EXTREMELY comfortable, particularly in the heel region with BioMoGo there.  The upgraded sole with BioMoGo and forefoot propulsion pods increases both cushioning and responsiveness, making this shoe even more versatile than the Racer ST 5.  If you are in need of mild stability and are looking for a lightweight trainer or long distance racer, I cannot recommend this shoe enough.  Or if you are one of the rare people that supinate upon initial contact and land heel first, check these out.  I am incredibly impressed with the work Brooks put into this update and look forward to being continually impressed with future generations.  

Thanks for reading and don't forget to Tack On!

-Dr. Matthew Klein, DPT

Disclaimer: These shoes were a personal purchase from Running Warehouse.  I did run briefly on the road to test the shoes out but no more than what I would do testing shoes at a local running retail store.  Due to financial reasons I will likely have to return these to Running Warehouse until I am able to start my job as a physical therapy licensed applicant in September of 2016 (I am taking my boards in October of 2016).  If I do win a race that has free shoes as first prize, these will definitely be on the top of my list to purchase.
   As always, the views presented on this blog belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts.  My blog should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking professional medical care.  If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your local running physical therapist or medical professional.

11 comments:

  1. Great post, good explanations of a lot of things. Since you (correctly) pointed out that pronation is good and necessary and that stability shoes and orthotics try to slow down the rate of pronation and not stop it, you have, IMHO, moved instantly to the top 10% of running shoe writers out there. I will therefore save you in my "favorites" list and follow your posts with the same optimism I had when I put on my first pair of Tiger Excaliber GT's. Well done, Matt!

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    1. Thank you for reading! Glad you enjoyed the review. Your username is definitely my all time favorite from what I have seen thus far. There will be many more posts along this line in the future explaining how and what pronation is, especially how great it is when controlled and how it can actually be an issue when you have none.

      -Matt Klein, DPT

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  2. You say the pronation control is only mild. Can you feel its effect when running compared to, say the Adios Boost? I like feel and balance of the Boost in the Adios (and the Tempo Boost) at faster paces. How would you say the Asteria compares to those shoes? Thank you.

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    1. Asteria has more pronounced stability in the heel. I can distinctly feel the firmer, second density foam/material surrounding that area. The Adios Boost feels more consistent throughout the entire length of the shoe, whereas the stability in the tempo can be felt throughout the shoe. I'd say the asteria is a stable shoe overall more like the adios, which the extra addition of suppport/stability only in the heel. The midfoot and forward feels like a normal shoe.

      Hope that helps and thanks for reading.

      -Matt Klein, DPT

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    2. Thank you, very helpful. I will give the Asteria a go. By the way, I saw from your runs that you are sometimes using the Vazee Prism. Any plans to review the Prism? Michael

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    3. Thanks for the post, lots of useful information.

      On the stability of the shoe, is it comparable in amount to the ST5?

      I always liked that the ST5 was quite a bit more stable than the DS racer - to me anyway.

      My pair of ST5 are nearly gone and I'm running in the Mizuno Catalyst which I'm loving for everyday but not sure if I should go with the Asteria for races and speedwork or try and transition to the Catalyst

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  3. Hello to both of you.

    Michael - Yes I plan to review the Vazee Prism when I finish boards in two weeks. It's a good shoe. 6mm drop (supposed to be 8mm) with mild posting and firm. Almost too firm, but works great if you like firm shoes and want an incredibly durable light stability shoe. A good partner to the 1500v1 or v2. It also responds very well to speed.

    Second Anonymous - The Asteria is the successor to the ST5 and the stability is comparable. To me it just feels like it's in a slightly different place. While the ST5 had posting at the medial (inner) part of the heel and arch, the Asteria feels like there is more support around the general heel area. It keeps the foot stable regardless and is definitely on that mild stability spectrum. And the Asteria is a little less firm but more responsive than the ST5.

    Hope that helps.

    -Dr. Matt Klein, DPT, PTLA

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  4. Matt, thanks for your reply. I look forward to reading your review. I quite like the Prism. I find them much more forgiving than the 1500. I do find however that the grooves in the sole pick up a lot of grit and small stones.

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  5. Hi Matt, just wanted to get your advice on sizing for the Asteria. I wear size 9 in most Nike trainers, like the Lunarglides for example. I have bunions and have to go up half a size in adidas shoes like the Adios Boost and Adidas Tempo. Would you recommend also going up half a size for the Asterias? I'd mainly be using them as a lightweight trainer for tempo runs, workouts on the road, and uptempo long runs. Thanks

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    1. Hey str3aker.

      I probably would not go up a half size in the Asteria. I have not evaluated your feet, but found the Asteria to have plenty of room for an uptempo trainer. Brooks typically fits pretty true to size, whereas Adidas can fit short.

      Hope that helps!

      -Dr. Matthew Klein, PT, DPT

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