Our Analysis and Test Results
If you are starting to look into trail running but have been hesitant to put down the cash to buy a new pair, we'd recommend the Brooks Divide 3. This has great value while offering a comfortable entry point into the sport. Rigidity throughout the shoe should leave you feeling supported and comfortable on a wide variety of trails and conditions. While we wouldn't recommend this on super technical terrain, it's clear the Divide 3 blends light trail and road performance into a model that's both affordable and comfortable.
As a shoe marketed towards beginners, it's important there be adequate protection against hard items found on the trail. Rocks and roots are impossible to avoid, but the underfoot protection and toe cap on the Divide 3 can reduce impact from the inevitable kick and strike. Thanks to the dense cushioning found on this model, we experienced little in terms of foot discomfort while running. Due to the stiffness and lateral rigidity underfoot, the protection is substantial but, unfortunately, sacrifices some sensitivity.
We love to run technical trails, and this protection via stiffness reduces sensitivity which is needed to feel connected with the terrain. Unfortunately, like with all gear, there is a tradeoff to be had depending on your priorities. If you prefer protection over sensitivity, then this could be a great model for you. We'd suggest those who are starting to get into trail running find a model that feels best to them. If you are on easy to moderate terrain, we have no issues recommending the Divide thanks to its great protection qualities.
Given that this shoe is targeted towards beginners or more maintained trails, it makes sense that the traction is more minimal and flexible over a wide variety of terrain. In our opinion, traction is a crucial step in determining what is best for you. The Divide 3 excelled over various terrain but performed best at easy to moderate trails or road/gravel running.
The lugs on the Divide are more subdued and less aggressive, allowing for reduced road noise when running on less technical surfaces. While this allows the shoe to handle a wide range of terrain, it performs poorly on technical surfaces, especially when wet. This isn't to say that it's not possible, but it does require excellent form, technique, and body positioning. For the beginner or experienced runner, the traction will be best suited for more mellow terrain. Given the dense rubber compound, dry surfaces will provide the most confidence while running.
Sensitivity is most important when running technical terrain, something that we've already concluded isn't this model's strong suit. However, it's important to take this metric into consideration if you are looking to buy a new pair of trail running shoes. The Divide 3 is simply too stiff and rigid to provide connectedness in advanced terrain. The one downside of sensitivity is that it's fatiguing, as the feeling has to be absorbed by the muscles in your legs and feet.
Luckily this model isn't trying to be overly sensitive. The overarching feeling of the Divide is stability with hints of sensitivity — it's not soft, and it's not rock hard. Versatile and adaptable, the shoe strikes a balance that provides reliability on a wide range of terrain without requiring excellent technique or skill.
In our testing, the strongest metric of the Divide 3 is stability. Once you put this shoe on, you can feel the stiff, neutral platform that allows for confident running even if you suffer from issues related to stability. The stiffness can be felt in the ankle, knee, and hips. More advanced users may find this stiffness limiting to sensitivity, but for more moderate terrain, we felt well-supported and comfortable.
We experienced no degradation of the support throughout our testing — the shoe felt firm and supportive even after weeks of use. Through long runs and extended outings, this stability allowed us to relax a bit and let the shoe take some of the load. This kept us stable and in line with proper form, resulting in an efficient, less fatiguing experience. There is also moderate arch support that feels neither obvious nor flat.
The upper and fit on this model are neutral, but we found the shoe able to accommodate a wide range of foot types and pronation patterns, making it versatile for a wide range of users. Snugness throughout the upper made us feel confident during various paces and trail types. The breathable upper is seamless except for the connection of the tongue, which we assume is a spot where Brooks reduces costs.
While not as comfortable as a seamless knit upper, we give Brooks props for maintaining a priority of function and affordability while still providing performance. While we largely have no issues with the upper on the Divide 3, we wouldn't mind a slightly deeper heel cup to really lock you in — especially given the higher 8mm drop. In our testing, the shoe dried quickly, even after a full soaking in the snow. It may not be the most breathable in the summertime, but we suspect it will last longer due to the thicker fabric found throughout the upper.
We've always been impressed with Brooks ability to provide an affordable shoe with tons of great features without being overly heavy. While 20.8 ounces for a size 10 is far from ultralight, it's impressive how durable this shoe is.
The upper is well made, and we had no signs of wear after many miles of use. This shoe will feel familiar to most runners, and we found the stiffness more limiting than the weight. For all-around use, the weight class provides long-term durability without limiting the experience, and we are happy Brooks continues to improve on these designs.
Should You Buy the Brooks Divide 3?
If you are a beginner or looking for a durable, affordable trail running shoe, then this is the model for you. Some more advanced users may find the stiffness limiting on more technical terrain, but this is a great option for roads, gravel, and light trail without spending top dollar.
What Other Trail Running Shoes Should You Consider?
For a more lively feel without spending tons of cash, we'd recommend the Hoka Torrent 3. This shoe has similar stability and comfort but is more lively, especially when running on technical terrain.