In the borderline maximalist Glycerin 17, Brooks has once again topped our expectations with a masterfully crafted running shoe. Their extra-thick DNA LOFT midsole substantially reduces road percussion while their pillowy upper perfectly hugs the foot to eliminate chafe and hot spots. We tested them across all sorts of terrain and in many different conditions to see where they did their best. We found that they're just generally great shoes for putting in the miles, irrespective of the particular pursuit, but they excel on longer distances in cooler early- or late-season weather.
Brooks Glycerin 17 Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Stable, super comfortable upper, breathable, stylish
Cons: Clunky, may wear down quickly, pricey
Compare to Similar Products
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Glycerin 17 is, hands-down, one of the best landers out there. It's extremely popular with mid to long-distance runners for just this reason. Whether you're putting in 1 mile or 10, it's a steady performer. The same goes for upper comfort too — it is virtually unmatched in other shoes.
The Glycerin 17 uses DNA LOFT, which is a proprietary mix of EVA foam, rubber, and air. This mix makes for an excellent cushion with lots of energy return, and it feels great underfoot. On top of that, the midsole features IDEAL Pressure Zones to make it plush-but-snappy by helping to reduce percussion and disperse energy that would otherwise be absorbed by your joints and bones.
Meanwhile, the upper uses an internal stretch bootie and engineered mesh with 3D Fit Print tech for a tighter, more adherent fit. That's something we really appreciated because sometimes these bigger comfort shoes can be a bit clunky or feel like running in boxes lined with pillows. You don't get that with the Glycerin. They fit to your foot, and your foot is snug inside. They are stable, supportive, and responsive, but also incredibly comfortable. If structured and comfy is your style, these are for you.
The Glycerin 17 became one of our favorites partially based on the excellent underfoot feet of the DNA LOFT cushioning. It blends Brooks proprietary EVA with rubber and air to come up with a unique material that's super soft and cushy while improving durability over standard EVA. Its Ideal Pressure Zones and Omni Flex grooves also work to reduce the impact of each step while fostering a more natural gait. The Ideal Pressure Zones seem to do their job, but we're not too sure we can substantiate the Omni Flex grooves. Running in these was something like running on clouds stuffed in slippers on a marshmallow road — remix that any way you see fit, the point is, they're cushy and feel great underfoot.
Because of their uber plush heel cushioning, these are especially great for runners who are heavy landers or heel planters, whether they're marathoners or just guys who are trying to get down to the end of the block and back. They're also ideal for runners who need a little more stability, but don't want to feel or fight with the stability structures when they run.
Surprisingly, these only come in at 23.2 ounces per pair of men's 11. Husky comfort shoes are almost always heavier. It's especially surprising given their thick slab of DNA LOFT foam cushioning across the midsole. They also use lots of pillowy padding in the upper, which adds a bit of weight and that's covered by a supple sockliner and double jacquard mesh. It's a little surprising that they weigh as little as they do. That's not to say that you don't feel their heaviness — you do. But you'll get a heavy shoe with any stability or comfort model. If you want a lighter shoe, you should expect to reduce one or both of those qualities in proportion to the weight reduction.
We didn't have any serious concerns over durability with this model, but there are some areas where it can improve. We like that their DNA LOFT blends in rubber to improve its longevity. A handful of other companies have started mixing in rubber and other materials into their base (typically EVA) to improve longevity, and it's extending the performance and useful life of midsoles. Still, EVA foam tends to wear down over time. That seems to be the case with this model, though it doesn't tend to happen before about 200 miles, which is a season or two for most of us.
It's also worth noting that the rubber outsole tends to wear down a little faster than we'd like. The tradeoff in these is pretty clear. In return for remarkable comfort and stability, you might not have a shoe that will last three or four years.
This is really where the Glycerin 17 shines. Remember when we said they feel like they're slippers stuffed with clouds? Supple just doesn't do the upper justice. Brooks has a way of creating the perfect little pillows to line the entire inside of the heel, collar, and tongue to achieve optimum comfort. They feel nice enough to wear to bed. Really.
Covering the padding is a soft Ortholite sockliner that's not unlike satin sheets if we're going to keep this bedtime theme going. Helping to keep the foot snug and held in place is an internal stretch bootie, which works with the engineered mesh upper to allow your foot to move more naturally within the shoe. That makes a huge difference out on the road, especially if you have elevation or speed changes, because it means your foot is allowed to drift around the shoe without it bunching up in the front or running over the front edge of the midsole.
As you might expect, this heavy comfort model isn't the most breathable shoe in our review. The felt-like Ortholite sockliner does a lot to reduce friction and hug the foot, but it also insulates and holds in moisture. Multiple layers of thick mesh and padding throughout the upper also insulate and retain moisture, though they drastically improve comfort.
But don't be discouraged — the Glycerin is still reasonably breathable, especially compared to average shoes. They're just not as breathable as shoes with zero padding and a thinner, less supportive upper. Just wear a thinner sock or spend more time training at cooler times of the day or parts of the year, and you should be fine.
These are reasonably priced. They have a good deal of diversity, so they can comfortably be used on all sorts of terrain, climate, and pursuits. And they're crazy comfortable, so you can stay out there longer and go harder. The one caveat here is that their laser-focus on comfort and plushness has a bit of a tradeoff with durability, so compression and wear might reduce the comfort and performance after a few seasons.
The Glycerin 17 is among the highest scorers in our lineup. They're one of the more diverse running shoes we tested, lending themselves equally to short and long, road and trails, speedwork and slow jogs. But where they stand out most is in their comfort. The thick DNA LOFT midsole makes landing cloudlike and quiet while their supple, richly padded upper removes the chafe of previous versions. But they're not all puppies and rainbows. They're necessarily heavy and clunky. Plus, all that padding translates into spongy insulation, so they're a little warmer than is ideal, and once you start sweating, you're going to have to make peace with wet feet. The one saving grace is that the ventilation over the toes does a good job of keeping them aerated.
This really comes down to stylistic preference. As tough as runners are, not everyone wants to run in some austere sandal designed in ancient Sparta or Copper Canyon in Mexico's Chihuahua state. It can be pretty nice to roll in comfort — and it could help you push the mileage and be your own kind of tough. Whether you're out trying to improve endurance or just get out and do a little work, the Glycerin 17 has the cushion and padding to have you comfortably on your way.
— Ryan Baham