Brooks or New Balance: Which is Better?
As Podiatrists, we are often asked for our recommendation on a good walking or athletic shoe. Although there are many brands to choose from, the 2 brands with a long history that consistently impress are New Balance and Brooks Shoes. So which is really better?
Since both brands have been around for a while, let us start with a history lesson…..
New Balance first began business in 1906 producing arch supports. The small arch support company slowly evolved into the company it is today. It goes without saying that New Balance has a vested interest in no frills, high quality and support. The company is still based in New England and in this day and age of outsourcing labor from abroad, New Balance continues to manufacture many of its shoes in the US. What also sets them apart is the wide range of shoe widths from A to E. The New Balance 990 is their hallmark shoe and was developed in 1982 for a balanced blend of stability, cushioning and flexibility. The 990 exemplifies the core philosophy of New Balance and continues to be a steadfast for the company.
Brooks started business in Philadelphia in 1914. Currently, they may be known as a running shoe company, but actually started as a manufacturer of all types of athletic shoes, from bathing shoes to ice skates. As the running market grew, so did Brooks and now the focus has turned to running shoes. In 1993, Brooks began manufacturing its iconic Brooks Beast, a shoe that promotes motion control with firm stability. The Beast is still the leader in the motion control shoe industry today. Although Brooks does not offer the wide range of shoe widths seen with New Balance, most of Brooks shoes are available in narrow, medium and wide widths.
Shoes are made up of 4 layers; the uppers, the insoles, midsoles, and outsoles. It is the midsole of a shoe that really defines the shoe.
Upper: Simply put, the upper is made of leather, naugahyde, or mesh and covers the top and sides of the foot. The toe box is a part of the upper that covers the toes and provides space for digital deformities such as bunions and hammertoes.
Outsole: This is the rubber on the bottom of the shoe that contacts the ground, providing protection and traction.
Insole: The insole is a piece of soft removable foam, which sits inside of the shoe and comes in direct contact with your foot. The insole provides internal cushioning and support. It is usually removable, if you wish to accommodate an upgraded insole or orthotic.
Midsole: The midsole is the layer of material sandwiched between the rubber outsole and the insole. This layer is traditionally made of ethyl vinyl acetate (EVA), a soft, foam rubber-like material for shock absorption. This is often what sets shoes apart. Although there are differences in the materials used, the shoe you choose usually comes down to personal preference.
Let us compare midsoles of the New Balance and Brooks shoes.
New Balance shoes use Absorb technology to provide bounce and stability. It was designed in conjunction with Dupont and lasts longer than EVA. New Balance uses its Rollbar technology to provide more stability to the heel of the midsole for people who excessively pronate.
Brooks uses BioMoGo DNA technology to provide adaptive cushioning and support through the whole sole of the shoe. This means that the insole adapts to your foot and running style. In addition, the BioMoGo DNA insole biodegrades 50 times faster in landfills than traditional EVA. Brooks uses its Progressive Rollbar, labeled PDRB for greater rearfoot control if you are an overpronator and spend long periods of time on your feet.
We categorized a few of our favorite athletic shoes below.
If you are someone who needs a structured walking shoe with a deep toebox to accommodate your bunion or hammertoes, the New Balance 928 is a shoe to try. Its firm sole and slight rocker also make it a great option for hallux rigidus. The 928 uses rollbar technology for stability, and has a deep toebox for digital deformities.
Shoes for walking and light running with support and accommodation:
These shoes are intended for people who enjoying walking, but suffer common orthopedic problems of the feet such as bunions, Morton’s Neuromas and arthritis.
New Balance 847 is a lightweight shoe with a built-in roll bar to provide stability through the midfoot. The 847’s style has a slightly wider forefoot with additional mesh to accommodate bunion deformities.
The Brooks Dyad 8 is a great shoe for stability and support. This shoe provides a wider toebox for accommodation of digital deformities, but has more mesh for better breathability.
Shoes for the athlete walker and that overpronates (FlatFoot):
If you are mid distance runner or long distance walker just looking for a shoe to support your overpronated foot type, you cannot go wrong with either the New Balance 1260 (mens) and 860 (womens) or Brooks Adrenaline GTS. Both are stability shoes that shine in their industry, providing the balanced blend of stability, durability and cushioning.
Shoes for those with supination (high arch):
We really like the Brooks Glycerin for people with a neutral to slightly high-arch foot type.
We like the New Balance 890 for the runners with neutral to high arches.
If you are looking for a shoe slightly lighter in weight with less support, then we recommend the Brooks Ghost.
Shoes for those with severe overpronation (Extremely flat feet):
This is a great shoe for patients with Posterior Tibial Tendon pathology.
This is where Brooks shines. Here, Brooks uses its full-length BioMoGo DNA insole with an extended progressive diagonal rollbar, and saddle construction for the utmost in stability.
We recommend Brooks Beast for men.
We recommend Brooks Ariel for women.
Your shoes are your foundation, and good cardiovascular health starts with comfortable feet. We find that Brooks and New Balance are both top in their industry. Both have spent time on research and development of their midsoles, but it comes down to personal preference and biomechanics. In this article, we attempted to provide you with a basic starting place when purchasing your next pair of shoes. We always recommend having a proper shoe fitting by a reputable store that has personnel on staff who understand foot biomechanics, such as Richey & Co. Shoes.
Pro Tip: We recommend that you purchase shoes after you have been on your feet for a few hours to ensure a proper fit. Now enjoy your new shoes and stay active!
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