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March 1, 2010

Brooks Green Silence Running Shoe Review

Since I probably won’t be able to avoid them later on, let’s just go ahead and get all of the wise cracks about the Green Silence out of the way first:

* Part of the name is “Green”, even though the color scheme is red and yellow.

* The other part of the name is “Silence”, even though the bright colors kind of scream at you like an ambulance siren.

* It’s an eco-friendly shoe that looks like it rolled off the assembly line at McDonalds.

* It rewards your social responsibility by making you look like a circus clown.

Brooks Green Silence

There are more out there, I’m sure … but I’ll leave any further smarty-pants comments alone, because I’m really a big fan of the Green Silence. Brooks has produced something truly ground-breaking and admirable: an outstanding performance shoe constructed with one of the smallest carbon footprints possible. Its design will appeal to a wide spectrum of runners, and its production sets new standards in environmental stewardship.

Some of the eco-friendly features here aren’t exactly new – for example, Brooks has been using biodegradable midsoles for a few years now – but others are truly innovative, and the finished product represents a huge leap forward for major shoe manufacturers who strive to reconcile mass production with environmental responsibility. Fully 75% of this shoe is made from post-consumer recycled materials, and the 25% that isn’t already recycled is almost entirely biodegradable. Best of all, it holds up to the high quality standards of all Brooks footwear, giving you the perfect opportunity to run hard while treading lightly.

High post-consumer content upper

A good deal of the Green Silence’s upper contains post-consumer material in the form of polyethylene terephthalate, better known as PET, better known as all those plastic drink bottles you’re not supposed to be using anymore. The shoelaces, “gillies” (eyelets), and tongue webbing are made of 100% recycled PET, while the ankle collar reinforcement is 80% recycled PET. This post-consumer material also makes up 30% of the sockliner and bright mesh uppers.

Mirror-image color schemes

Other details on the upper display Brooks’s commitment to eco-friendly construction. Those bright yellow and red hues – which, incidentally, display opposite color schemes on each shoe – are created with non-toxic inks and dyes, and all adhesives used on the shoe are water-based. The logos and other decorative accents are embroidered into the upper instead of being welded with glue. Overall, the Green Silence uses almost 40% less adhesive material than standard running shoes.

Mesh upper with embroidered logo

Another way to decrease reliance on adhesives is to have fewer interconnecting pieces, and that strategy is evident with the Green Silence, which Brooks claims has half as many components as a normal running shoe. For example, the shoe’s tongue isn’t a separate piece, but is a continuous extension of one side of the upper. I found the tongue a bit short for my liking, as the crossed laces tend to slip over the top of them if you are pulling at an angle – but with a small adjustment, that never became a comfort problem.

Finally, one more cool aspect of the upper is the heel counter, which is made from 50% recycled compact discs. If I had known what Brooks was up to with this, I could have unloaded a lot of my old Night Ranger and Twisted Sister CDs from the 1980s to a worthy cause instead of just throwing them in an unmarked dumpster a few years ago. Kind of a missed opportunity there.

The Green Silence’s midsole features the same BioMoGo material that Brooks uses in nearly all its performance shoes, which decomposes in landfills 50 times faster than traditional EVA material. (Click here for a cool little video that explains how BioMoGo works.) It also has a very low, flat platform, which will delight those who like to be closer to the ground or who use a midfoot strike pattern. Midsole heights are 18mm in the heel and 10mm in the forefoot, which gives a delta (heel to toe drop) of a mere 8mm, compared to most trainers that drop 12mm or more.

Such a flat platform, combined with very low overall weight, make the Green Silence a great choice for racing or fast training days. Each shoe weighs a mere 6.9oz, so you’re treading lightly in every sense of the word. This is definitely the lightest “traditional” or non-minimalist shoe I’ve worn, and I’ve found it ideal for tempo runs on the road or mile interval workouts at the track. I’ve also used them on fire roads and gentle trails, although the outsole (see below) technically puts it in the category of a dedicated road runner.

The outsole of the Green Silence is made of 30% recycled rubber, and features some familiar Brooks technologies such as HPR Green - a sand-based compound that provides excellent wet/dry traction - and a flexible Hyper-Pod configuration of midsole and outsole components engineered to keep the foot in a balanced, maximally efficient position from heel strike to toe-off. However, despite the HPR material (which is the same stuff used in Brooks’s wildly popular Cascadia trail runners), the outsole tread is fairly smooth and shallow, so I’d have some reservations about using these on technical trails.

There’s enough cushioning in the shoe to appeal to those who want a nice, smooth ride, and the upper feels very comfortable whether jogging leisurely or while hammering a 6-minute pace. After about 150 miles, the Green Silence seems just as durable as any other everyday trainer I’ve tried, and I could even see it used as a lightweight marathon shoe. It’s clear that Brooks hasn’t sacrificed any quality or performance aspects while redefining the limits of sustainable manufacturing.

So yeah, the shoes are a little bit funny looking … but maybe that’s not such a bad thing in this case. Maybe it’s a great idea for other companies to notice what Brooks has done with this model, and use it as a revised blueprint for balancing high sustainability with high performance. In that regard, the Green Silence is a shoe with bright colors and a noisy design that is justifiably screaming to get noticed.

The Green Silence retails for $100 from the Brooks website, or is available with free overnight shipping from Endless.com, as well as other online vendors.

*Product provided by Brooks
*See other product reviews on sidebar at right. If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at info@runningandrambling.com


Ewa 3/2/10, 6:17 AM  

A few miles on the trails I've been running and they will start looking OK.
Good to hear some companies are beginning to listen to environmental concerns.

Michael Shane Helton 3/2/10, 7:36 AM  

I am very excited in what these shoes represent from a manufacturing and philosophical perspective. On these points alone I will probably try these.

Couple questions though:

1) Any problems with the ink bleeding (the Brooks website talks about this)?

2) One of the issues with biodegrable products is that they (by ytheir nature) do not last as long. Any idea how many miles these shoes will last?

3) Does it have a removable insert?

4) How narrow/wide is the forefoot area?


Donald 3/2/10, 9:13 AM  

Hi Michael - Thanks for your interest. Answers below ...

1) I haven't noticed any problems with ink bleeding, but it may be worth noting that most of my running socks are black or dark gray :)

2) For most people (i.e. not minimalist runners), the life span is determined by the duration of midsole support, and I'd say this shoe is equivalent to most traditional road trainers or racing shoes. The cushioning will probably break down long before any components start unraveling or coming unglued.

3) the insert isn't "officially" removable, but it's held in place by one or two small dollops of adhesive, so they're very easy to remove if desired.

4) I find Brooks to be pretty middle of the road when it comes to forefoot width, and the GS is similar to the Cascadia or other Brooks shoes - not super wide or narrow either way.

Trail Runner 3/6/10, 7:19 PM  

Sweet blog! Glad I found it...thanks for sharing.

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