The updated Brooks Glycerin 16s are some of the most comfortable neutral kicks on the market today. They use a fat, firm pillow for a crash pad to deliver good responsiveness and throw more pillow into the collar and tongue in the upper for an unmatchable ride. Brooks has long dominated the comfort segment with its Glycerin line, but the updated 16s seem to be more geared toward hard work, with more responsiveness coming out of the new DNA Loft cushioning and a sleeker upper. We enjoyed taking these out and think the comfort-minded runner will too. Read on to see how they stacked up against the others.
Brooks Glycerin 16 Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Stable, super comfortable upper, breathable, stylish
Cons: Clunky, may wear down quickly, pricey
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Our Analysis and Test Results
We poked, prodded, picked apart, and generally tested the heck out of the new Glycerin 16s. All in all, they remain an extremely strong shoe with great upper comfort and good landing comfort, helping to give them a solid score within our group. They were a wee bit heavy and might not last forever, but those looking for cushion and comfort will be well served by these running shoes. Read on to see how they compare across categories and styles.
The Glycerin 16 offered up decent performance in the responsiveness category.
Their new DNA Loft midsole combines EVA foam, runner, and air to improve cushioning and durability while reducing weight. It does a great job of achieving those goals, but compared to the other top shoes, it comes up just short of the best models in this measure.
Many of the offerings in our lineup had excellent responsiveness because of the advanced materials and design used in most midsoles now, like the On Cloud X, which won the Editor's Choice Award. The HOKA ONE ONE Elevon excels in this category; thanks to its midsole and internal stability features, it's the winner of our Top Pick for Stability.
Earlier versions of the Glycerin had problems with feeling uneven and heel-toe padding disparities. The 16s feature some changes that address those issues and others. Earlier versions used Super DNA in the midsole, while the new version uses DNA Loft cushioning, which increases responsiveness and cushioning. It also reduces the feeling that the heel is super plush while the toes are firm, giving it a steadier, uniform feel.
They still use IDEAL Pressure Zones, which are designed into the sole to evenly distribute force across the foot and away from the body, but it's debatable as to the efficacy. The design seems to be useful. The segmented caterpillar crash pad continues to do its job of absorbing and dispersing shock. As in earlier versions, these were great on impact. Complete with 19mm of toe cushioning, we do want to note that the heel is at 29mm, which means you'll essentially be pressed into a heel-plant. If you typically land farther back on your foot, you should find these shoes to be an excellent option.
Within our group, they rank around the median, next to the comparably padded New Balance 1080 V8 and speedy racing flat Altra Escalante 1.5. The most comfortable landers tended to be racing flats, like the Editor's Choice On Cloud X and Brooks PureFlow 7, which picked up the Lightweight Racing Flat Award.
The Brooks Glycerin 16 is on the heavier side of this lineup with a pair of men's size 11 coming in at 24.1 ounces, about 4 ounces heavier than the Brooks PureFlow 7 and 6 ounces more than the On Cloud X. The tradeoff is that those other models don't have either the stability or padding of the Glycerin 16. If weight is what drives you, we suggest the On Cloud X, but keep in mind the Glycerin 16 maintains the traditional design with a 10mm heel-to-toe discrepancy while the On Cloud X only has 4mm of drop.
As with other models on the heavy side, the Brooks Glycerin 16 uses heavier, sturdier materials to make a longer-lasting shoe that makes up in longevity what it lacks in elegance. Often with these heavier shoes, stronger, higher quality materials like the DNA Loft midsole and HPR rubber outsole are used to make a sturdier shoe. We felt that this was a very durable shoe that should give its owner a lot of miles without excessive degradation.
We'd expect this model to last a few full seasons for the majority of runners. If you tend to put in the miles, you'll see some wear, though nothing too out of the ordinary. We appreciate the rubber outsole, which helps protect the shoe, in particular, the vulnerable EVA, from showing wear as quickly as it might without. We did notice that during testing, and after a few runs, the microfit upper was showing signs of wear and tear, like torn and broken threads.
The Minimus is the best racing flat comparison here and it scores high thanks to its layers of reinforcement. We do find that models with exposed mesh and EVA soles will offer comparable levels of durability, such as the case with our fleet. Often, stability shoes are built like a tank, outlasting many models. Simple designs like the Under Armour Charged Bandit 3 also did quite well here.
The Glycerin 16s' best asset is far and away its plush upper. It feels like putting your foot into a foam pillow made of silk. It is an extremely comfortable upper that makes up for many of the other comparatively lackluster qualities of this shoe. The upper is lined with a snug, seamless, 3D printed mesh that is secured by a TPU saddle, but allows for extra room in the heel and toe box. If comfort is your motivation, this shoe will more than meet your expectation.
If comfort is your top concern, stop looking because you've reached the zenith with these. You will be hard-pressed to find a nicer sockliner covering better padding, and if you do, it'll probably be in another pair of Brooks. If you want exceptional comfort, but want a more natural fit with less padding, we suggest taking a look at the On Cloud X.
One of the drawbacks of having such a comfortable, padded shoe is that it lacks breathability. The Glycerin 16 is equipped with a moisture-managing Element Mesh upper and lining, but we did not find it to be a very breathable shoe. It seemed to hold in moisture, but on the upside, this is a warm, insulated shoe for chilly days. That means on hot days you'll have soaked feet if you're a heavy sweater and there's no hope of them drying out on rainy days.
A more breathable option with similar padding is the PureFlow 7, but its collar padding might experience similar moisture retention once it's there. The On Cloud X has no such padding and will do better once it's wet.
As with other bulky comfort shoes, the Glycerin 16s tend to do better on hard surfaces and they tend to help those doing the ol' reluctant Turkey Trot more than the guy setting the year's local 10K record.
At $150 a pair, we feel that there are other alternatives that might be better buys for cushioned shoes, but those looking for unmatched comfort will definitely appreciate them, especially if they can be found at a major discount.
Brooks works hard to make the most comfortable shoes on the market and that effort shines through with the Glycerin 16s. Their pillowy upper hits you with clouds of padding covered in a smooth velvety sock liner to keep the skin free from chafe while their new DNA Loft midsole gives a plush ride that cushions your landing and propels you into the next step. There's a lot to love with these and those in non-negotiable need of maximum comfort on their run will find their answer in these. It's not all flowers and rainbows though. They did come up a bit short in durability, and of course, if you aren't a fan of lots of padding or 10mm heel-to-toe drops, there might be other considerations out there.
— Ryan Baham