Brooks Transcend 2 Review

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The Brooks Transcend 2 is another attempt to capture the Maximalist market that is dominated by Hoka. It's thickly and softly cushioned, with a relatively low drop. In fact the overall sense of the shoe is one of softness and comfort, including the upper. However, the problem with the Transcend 2 is its weight; it's far too heavy for the cushioning it provides. It's one of the heaviest shoes I've tried recently, and nearly as heavy as the early Hoka Mafate (the latest versions are lighter.) The Transcend 2 looks a lot more like a traditional running shoe, which may make it more acceptable than shoes like the Hoka that can appear a little comical. Other than the weight, the Transcend is a nice shoe to run in, and for runs where you're happy to have a little extra training stress, it's a good option. (I use The Science of Running Shoes as the basis of how I test running shoes and what you should look for in a running shoe.)

Brooks Transcend 2 top
Brooks Transcend 2 bottom
Brooks Transcend 2 inside
Brooks Transcend 2 outside

1 Characteristics

  • Why you’d buy it. The Transcend 2 is comfortable and looks like a traditional running shoe, but you'll have to be prepared to accept its heavy weight.
  • Cushioning . The foam midsole in the Transcend 2 is thick and soft, but it can't compete with the Hokas. In fact, it's closer to the cushioning of a Brooks PureCadence or Altra Instinct.
  • Drop. The Transcend 2 has 6mm of drop when unloaded or unloaded, which is more than I'd like, and on the upper end of what I find acceptable.
  • Structure. The Transcend 2 midsole is mostly a single density of foam, but it has firmer foam build up around the top edges. This is intended to act as "guide rails" that keep your foot more upright. If you think of the way an egg sits in an egg box you'll get the idea. This seems similar to the way many Maximalist shoes cradle the heel of the foot, and it does produce some stability. (Stability in this context meaning "don't roll your ankle" rather than "modify your Pronation.) The rear edge of the heel does not have as much of a rocker as you typically see in a shoe this thick, even though Brooks emphasizes this feature. The Hoka Clifton for instance has far more of a heel rocker, so maybe Brooks should try out their competitors shoes to see how it's done. The forefoot tapers gently and nicely from the ball of the foot to the front of the shoe, without the abrupt taper that sometimes feels on in the Hoka Bondi.
  • Flexibility. The Transcend 2 has the stiffness you'd expect from a shoe this thick. The cutouts in the outsole help a little bit so it could be a lot worse.
  • Outsole. The Transcend 2 has patches of hard rubber that cover most of the lower part of the shoe, and all the contact surfaces. There is harder rubber on the forefoot and heel (black in my pictures), and slightly less hard rubber under the midfoot (read in my pictures). The outsole rubber is relatively thick, and has a pattern that reminds me of the mild tread found in some of the Hoka trail shoes (other than the Hoka Mafate.) This thick outsole is probably a big contributor to the shoes excessive weight. None of runners who will buy this shoe for general use will wear it until the outsole is gone, and expect that to take quite some time. For runners, a shoe is generally worn out when the foam midsole wears out, which is long before the outsole.
  • Shape. The Transcend 2 is the classic shoe shape that does not match the human foot, and narrows excessively in the toe box. I'd recommend cutting open the toe box open to prevent toe problems. (I recommend cutting open the toe box of virtually all running shoes, with the exception of a few shoes like some Altra shoes. When you have some worn out shoes, you should try cutting open the toe box. I've found that it's a big improvement, allowing my toes to move naturally and engage for toe off, as well as reducing the possibility of blisters.)
  • Upper. The upper is inflexible and seamless other than the transition from the unpadded forefoot to the padded rear foot, but that's hard to detect even when you're looking for it. The ankle opening is nicely padded, and other than the poor shape on the forefoot the Transcend 2 is a remarkably comfortable shoe. The Transcend has four straps on each side that go from the midsole to the Eyelets for the laces. This seems rather strange, as I would expect the material used in the upper to be quite strong enough without this reinforcement.
  • Tongue. The Transcend 2 has a traditional tongue that is has a tab to attach it to the laces. The tongue is remarkably well padded and soft, which enhances the overall comfort of the shoe.
  • Lacing. The round laces in the Transcend 2 seem to have been carefully designed so that they won't stay tied. One of my pet peeves with running shoes is the way manufacturers refuse to use simple flat laces work
  • Heel Counter. The heel counter is awfully solid, but thankfully it's an exoskeleton design that puts the heel counter on the outside of the shoe so there's lots of padding between it and your foot. Of course, this approach also makes it even more unlikely that the heel counter will have any effect.

2 Comparisons

Here are some direct comparisons with its potential competition.

2.1 Brooks Transcend 2 and Hoka Clifton

Comparing the Brooks Transcend 2 and the Hoka Clifton, the Clifton is a clear winner for its lightness and cushioning. Like the New Balance 980, I feel like the Clifton is the shoe that Brooks were trying to make when they created the Transcend 2.

  • Similarities
    • Shape. Neither has a good toe box.
    • Flexibility. Neither has much flexibility.
    • Drop. Neither is zero-drop, but the Clifton has slightly less of a drop than the Transcend 2.
  • Advantage Brooks Transcend 2
    • Grip. The Transcend 2 has slightly more grip, and is similar to most of the Hoka Trail shoes (except the Mafate.
    • Availability. The Transcend 2 is more widely stocked.
    • Longevity. The extra outsole on the Transcend 2 improves longevity.
  • Advantage Hoka Clifton
    • Price. The Transcend 2 is expensive.
    • Cushioning . The Clifton is more cushioned even though it has a slightly thinner sole. This is partly because the Transcend 2 has a thicker outsole, and partly because the Clifton has such great foam.
    • Weight. The Clifton is much lighter; it's only 65% the weight of the Transcend 2.
Brooks Transcend 2 top
Brooks Transcend 2 bottom
Brooks Transcend 2 inside
Brooks Transcend 2 outside
Hoka OneOne Clifton top
Hoka OneOne Clifton bottom
Hoka OneOne Clifton inside
Hoka OneOne Clifton outside

2.2 Brooks Transcend 2 and Asics Gel Hyper Speed

The Brooks Transcend 2 and the Asics Gel Hyper Speed are radically different shoes. The Hyper Speed is a light weight, stripped down shoe. However, while the Hyper Speed weights less than half the Transcend 2, it offers nearly the same level of cushioning.

  • Similarities
    • Shape. Neither has a good toe box.
    • Cushioning . The cushioning is quite similar between the shoes, though the way they achieve the cushioning is quite different. The Transcend 2 has a thick but firmer midsole, where the Hyper Speed is much thinner but softer. When running with the Transcend 2 on one foot and the Hyper Speed on the other, the cushioning is far close than you might expect.
    • Drop. Neither is zero-drop, with about 6mm of drop.
  • Advantage Brooks Transcend 2
    • Longevity. The extra outsole on the Transcend 2 improves longevity.
  • Advantage Asics Gel Hyper Speed
    • Weight. The Hyper Speed is much, much lighter. At less than half the weight, this means the Hyper Speed is a lot faster.
    • Price. The Hyper Speed is a lot cheaper.
    • Flexibility. The Hyper Speed has a lot more flexibility.
Brooks Transcend 2 top
Brooks Transcend 2 bottom
Brooks Transcend 2 inside
Brooks Transcend 2 outside
Hoka OneOne Clifton top
Hoka OneOne Clifton bottom
Hoka OneOne Clifton inside
Hoka OneOne Clifton outside

2.3 Brooks Transcend 2 and Saucony Kinvara

Comparing the Transcend 2 and the Saucony Kinvara, I would choose the Kinvara for its lightness. The cushioning and comfort are similar.

  • Similarities
    • Shape. Neither has a good toe box.
    • Cushioning . The cushioning of the two shoes is similar, with the transcend having a slight edge.
    • Drop. Neither is zero-drop, with about 6mm of drop.
  • Advantage Brooks Transcend 2
    • Grip. The Transcend 2 has more grip.
  • Advantage Saucony Kinvara
    • Flexibility. The Kinvara is more flexible.
    • Weight. The Kinvara is lighter.
Brooks Transcend 2 top
Brooks Transcend 2 bottom
Brooks Transcend 2 inside
Brooks Transcend 2 outside

2.4 Brooks Transcend 2 and Asics GT 2000

I like to compare shoes against the Asics GT 2000 as it represents the traditional running shoe. The GT 2000 is over engineered and includes many things I dislike in traditional running shoes. These excessive features go against The Science of Running Shoes and are more likely to cause problems than solve them. While the Transcend is a little more over-engineered than I'd like, it's better than the GT 2000.

  • Similarities
    • Shape. Neither has a good toe box.
    • Drop. Both have far too much drop.
    • Flexibility. Neither have much flexibility, though the GT 2000 feels more like a clog than the Transcend.
  • Advantage Brooks Transcend 2
    • Cushioning . Neither is well cushioned for its weight, but the Transcend 2 does not have the anti-Pronation features that can cause problems.
  • Advantage Asics GT 2000
    • Weight. The Transcend 2 is even heavier than the GT 2000.
    • Availability. The GT 2000 is a common shoe, available pretty much anywhere that sells running shoes.
Brooks Transcend 2 top
Brooks Transcend 2 bottom
Brooks Transcend 2 inside
Brooks Transcend 2 outside
Asics GT2000 top
Asics GT2000 bottom
Asics GT2000 inside
Asics GT2000 outside

3 Cushioning and Shoes

It's intuitively obvious that the cushioning in a shoe will reduce the impact on your body when running. However, The Science of Running Shoes indicates that the reality is rather more complex. While slight cushioning may reduce the effort needed to run by improving your Running Economy, most scientific research indicates that more cushioning does further improve Running Economy. In addition, cushioning does not generally reduce impact and may actually increase it. This is counterintuitive, but is likely to be due to the way a runners mind and body adapts to softer cushioning. Unfortunately, the scientific evidence is far from complete and it's hard to give clear recommendations. I believe that some runners will prefer more cushioning, while others prefer less, and typically those running further have a fondness for greater cushioning. I also believe that a shoe should be as light as possible, and a shoe should justify its weight with the cushioning it provides. My advice is to decide what level of cushioning you're looking for, and then find the lightest shoes that also fit well and are comfortable.

4 Visualizing the Attributes of the Brooks Transcend

How Brooks Transcend compares showing rearfoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How Brooks Transcend compares showing forefoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How Brooks Transcend compares showing the price against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.
How Brooks Transcend compares showing the loaded drop against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.

5 A Comparison with other Recommended Shoes


If you're looking for "the best of the best" running shoe, here are my top picks. Of course, the answer will depend a little on what you're looking for, so I have recommendations for various categories.

  • Best All Round Shoe. The Altra Escalante is my current all-round favorite. It has plenty of cushioning for its weight, it has a very springy midsole, it lasts well, and it has a shape that's closer to the shape of a human foot than most shoes. It's a great shoe for any runner, including those Starting to run. It's also a fairly easy shoe to find due to its popularity.
  • Best Maximalist Shoe: If you want something massively cushioned, then I'd recommend the Saucony Kinvara 8. It's remarkably light and remarkably cushioned, beating Hoka at their own game.
  • Best Optimal Shoe: For those looking to trade cushioning for speed, the Nike Zoom Streak LT is my top pick. There are lots of great optimal running shoes, which provide just enough cushioning with light weight and minimal frills. The Streak LT doesn't have the best cushioning-to-weight ratio, but it has a shape that's closer to the human foot than most running shoes and it's one of the longest lasting shoes I've found. It's not as comfy as the Escalante above, but it's faster.
  • Fastest Shoe: If you really want speed, then check out the Nike Vaporfly 4%. It's light, massively cushioned, and has a carbon fiber plate. Nothing comes close, not even the now defunct New Balance RC5000‏‎ or New Balance RC5000v2‏‎. There are a number of caveats; it's really expensive, it's really hard to find, and there's a significant injury risk.
  • Best Minimalist Shoe: Merrell Trail Glove. I recommend the trail glove for road running in spite of the 'trail' moniker. It's not a fast shoe by any means, but it's comfortable and will last well.
  • All Terrain Shoe. I don't generally review trail running shoes, but check out the Hoka Mafate if you're after a shoe with remarkable abilities on a wide range of surfaces. If you want a Hiking Boot, then I love the Hoka Tor Ultra.
  • Honorable Mention: It's not really a running shoe, but the Vivobarefoot Ra is comfortable, minimalist and can more or less pass as a dress shoe. I've worn mine to weddings with a suit and they've not looked out of place. You can run in the Ra, but the leather means it doesn't breathe well.

For a more detailed on running shoes see the Recommendations for Best Running Shoes. This table lists the key attributes of What to Look for in Running Shoes. For more detailed information, on the shoes see detailed shoe comparison.

Full Review

Brand Name Rating Recommended
Benefit Weight
Loaded Drop
Cushioning Flexibility
Saucony Type A6 Review Saucony A6 Highly Recommended $100 8.2 6.1 9.5 17 21 4 5.0 7
Adidas Adios Boost 2 Review Adidas Adios Worth considering $140 4.7 8.6 13.4 17 27 11 4.0 6
Hoka Bondi 5 Review Hoka Bondi Recommended $150 6.1 11.6 18.1 38 42 5 7.1 2
Hoka Clayton 2 Review Hoka Clayton2 Highly Recommended $150 9.1 8.3 12.9 23 28 1 7.5 5
Hoka Clifton 4 Review Hoka Clifton4 Worth considering $130 7.7 9.3 14.5 30 35 10 7.2 3
On Cloudracer Review On Cloud Cloudracer Worth considering $130 5.7 8.2 12.8 19 27 5 4.7 7
Mizuno Wave Cruise Review Mizuno Cruise Worth considering $120 6.6 5.9 12.5 17 20 7 3.9 6
Newton Distance IV Review Newton Distance Worth considering $155 7.5 9.1 14.2 26 31 3 6.8 5
Asics Gel DS Racer 10 Review Asics DS Racer Worth considering $110 8.2 7.0 10.9 21 26 6 5.8 5
Mizuno Wave Ekiden 8 Review Mizuno Ekiden Worth considering $115 5.7 5.7 14.6 13 18 6 3.2 8
Saucony Endorphin 2 Review Saucony Endorphin 2 Worth considering $115 8.0 5.1 9.6 15 13 -1 4.1 8
Adidas Energy Boost Review Adidas Energy Worth considering $160 7.2 10.0 15.6 20 30 7 7.2 5
Altra Escalante Review Altra Escalante Best of the Best $130 9.1 8.7 13.5 28 25 -1 7.9 6
Saucony Fastwitch Review Saucony Fastwitch Highly Recommended $90 9.5 7.1 11.1 20 22 4 6.8 7
Topo Fli-Lyte 2 Review Topo Fli-Lyte2 Highly Recommended $100 6.7 9.1 14.2 24 26 3 6.1 5
Saucony Freedom Review Saucony Freedom Recommended $160 5.4 10.7 16.6 25 29 3 5.8 6
Skechers GORun 4 Review Skechers GORun Not recommended $100 6.1 7.5 11.7 15 23 3 4.5 7
Skechers GOrun Ultra 2 Review Skechers GRU Worth considering $90 7.5 10.0 15.6 28 34 8 7.5 4
Asics GT 2000 Review Asics GT 2000 Not recommended $120 4.8 11.2 17.4 28 35 5 5.4 2
New Balance Hanzo S Review New Balance Hanzo Worth considering $110 7.6 6.9 10.7 21 19 2 5.2 5
Hoka Hupana Review Hoka Hupana Recommended $115 6.1 8.9 13.9 31 36 7 5.4 4
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 7 Review Asics Hyper Speed Highly Recommended $75 10.9 6.3 9.8 22 26 5 6.8 6
Altra Instinct 4.0 Review Altra Instinct 4.0 Worth considering $120 6.0 9.8 15.3 29 25 -1 5.9 5
Asics Tarther Kainos 3 Review Asics Kainos Worth considering $130 10.0 6.9 10.7 17 27 9 6.8 6
Saucony Kinvara 8 Review Saucony Kinvara 8 Best of the Best $110 9.3 8.6 13.4 26 31 3 8.0 5
Nike LunarSpider R5 Review Nike LunarSpider Recommended $125 6.9 6.7 10.4 17 21 3 4.6 6
Hoka Mafate Speed Review Hoka Mafate Best of the Best $170 7.6 11.9 18.5 39 40 4 9.0 1
Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 v2 Review Pearl N0 Highly Recommended $100 7.9 6.5 10.1 14 20 4 5.2 8
Saucony Nomad Review Saucony Nomad Worth considering $110 4.3 10.5 17.2 25 27 2 4.5 4
Hoka Odyssey Review Hoka Odyssey Highly Recommended $130 8.5 9.4 14.6 37 45 5 8.0 3
Altra One 3.0 Review Altra One Recommended $100 6.1 8.8 13.7 23 23 0 5.4 6
Asics Piranha SP 5 Review Asics Piranha Recommended $100 10.1 4.2 6.5 11 15 3 4.2 9
Brooks PureFlow 5 Review Brooks PureFlow Worth considering $110 6.0 9.7 15.1 26 29 5 5.8 8
Salming Race Review Salming Race Worth considering $130 6.9 6.5 10.1 16 19 4 4.5 6
New Balance RC1600 v2 Review New Balance RC1600 Highly Recommended $110 8.8 5.6 8.7 15 21 5 4.9 8
New Balance RC5000v2 Review New Balance RC5000v2 Best of the Best $125 14.2 4.0 6.2 13 21 6 5.7 7
Skechers GoRun Ride 3 Review Skechers Ride Worth considering $85 5.9 8.5 13.2 18 28 6 5.0 8
Nike RN Distance 2 Nike RNDist2 Review Pending $120 8.0 9.2 14.3 25 28 4 7.4 7
Inov-8 RoadXTreme 220 Review Inov-8 RXT-220 Worth considering $120 5.2 8.0 18.2 14 17 3 4.2 8
Topo ST-2 Review Topo ST-2 Highly Recommended $90 8.2 7.3 11.4 20 18 0 6.0 7
Hoka Stinson Lite Review Hoka Stinson Highly Recommended $160 7.3 11.6 18.1 35 40 6 8.5 0
Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 Review Nike Streak LT Best of the Best $80 8.8 5.4 8.4 16 21 4 4.8 5
Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Review Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Highly Recommended $160 7.7 6.6 10.2 17 21 4 5.1 5
Altra Torin 2.0 Review Altra Torin Worth considering $125 5.8 9.6 14.9 28 25 -1 5.5 4
Hoka Tracer Review Hoka Tracer Recommended $130 7.2 7.4 11.5 21 24 2 5.3 5
Merrell Trail Glove 4 Review Merrell Trail Glove 4 Best of the Best $100 3.4 8.4 23.8 13 13 0 2.8 10
Topo Tribute Review Topo Tribute Recommended $100 5.9 7.3 11.4 20 18 -1 4.3 6
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 Review Mizuno Universe Highly Recommended $125 10.7 3.1 10.6 9 12 1 3.3 9
Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Review Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Highly Recommended $85 2.1 6.1 27.6 6 5 0 1.3 10
Nike Vaporfly 4% Review Nike Vaporfly Best of the Best $250 10.4 7.2 11.2 25 37 8 7.5 2
New Balance Vazee Pace Review New Balance Vazee Pace Worth considering $110 6.0 8.6 13.4 18 24 6 5.2 5
Asics TartherZeal 3 Review Asics Zeal Worth considering $140 10.9 6.3 9.8 17 27 9 6.8 6
Saucony Zealot 3 Review Saucony Zealot3 Recommended $130 8.9 9.5 14.8 29 32 4 8.5 6
Nike Zoom Fly Review Nike Zoom Fly Worth considering $150 8.3 8.7 13.5 29 36 8 7.2 3

It's not a running shoe, but I love the Hoka Tor Ultra hiking boot and I've tested the Altra Lone Peak Boot, the Hoka Tor Speed 2, and the Inov-8 Roclite 325 hiking boots
Older shoe reviews: Saucony Hattori Review, Mizuno Cursoris Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, Hoka Clifton Review, Saucony Virrata 2 Review, Brooks PureCadence 3 Review, Brooks PureConnect 3 Review, Brooks PureFlow 3 Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, New Balance 980 Review, Brooks Transcend 2 Review, Hoka Huaka Review, Patagonia EVERlong Review, Asics 33-DFA Review, Hoka Conquest Review, Saucony Cortana Review, Puma Faas 100 R Review, Saucony Fastwitch Review, Nike Free Review, Asics Gel Lyte 33 Review, Skechers GOmeb Speed Review, Skechers GOrun Ultra Road Review, Nike LunaRacer Review, Altra Paradigm Review.