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Brooks Adrenaline 21 Review

Footwear Reviews / November 16, 2020

Your Go-To Shoe

The Brooks Adrenaline 21 has arrived at The Running Well Store! The freshly updated classic shoe features an extended DNA Loft unit which mirrors the updates seen in the new Ghost 13. The Loftiness now stretches all the way from the back of the heel to the tip of the lateral side of the shoe instead of stopping halfway, allowing this shoe to be even more flexible and buttery smooth than before. The GuideRail system also returns in this update, allowing this stability shoe to blend in with the neutral crowd on-foot or accommodate asymmetrical degrees of pronation without sweating. While the 3D-Air Mesh upper received some slight tweaks, the fit, finish, and ride of this shoe is undeniably Brooks. Long-time lovers of the Adrenaline GTS series will be right at home in the shoe that is now officially old enough to drink in the United States.

  • Price: $129.95
  • Weight: 10.4 oz M / 9.1 oz W
  • Offset: 12 mm
  • Use: Daily Training
  • Category: Stability
  • Surface: Road
  • Versatile like a Swiss Army Knife
  • Lighter weight than last year without sacrificing long-term durability or cushioning
  • Hard to teach an old dog new tricks, but it’s hard not to love an old dog

The Baseline

The Brooks Adrenaline has been the go-to shoe for the stability-seeking runner for as long as I’ve been alive (21 years). In its current form, the Adrenaline GTS and the Ghost are sister shoes that share many of the same components, with the GTS featuring added GuideRails that allow the shoe to stabilize overpronation in an adaptive way. The GuideRails act like bumpers in a bowling alley, only kicking in and correcting motion if necessary. The short of my experience in the GTS 21 is that it’s an incredibly versatile shoe with technologies to compensate for many different gaits, and a blend of cushioning that allows this shoe to support the runner through all types of workouts.

The Facts

Before I get to talking about any of the subjective thoughts I have about this shoe, we need to look at the objective information about the new Adrenaline. I received a men’s size 12.5 for this review, and weighed my own shoe in at 11.5 oz. While not incredibly lightweight, it did shave almost 2 whole ounces off of an Asics Kayano 27 in the same size and 0.3 oz off of its predecessor, which is impressive. Brooks officially reports that this shoe weighs 10.4 oz for men and 9.1 oz for women, making it one of the lighter shoes in the stability world. New updates to this shoe include a reworked mesh upper and an extension to the DNA Loft unit that now stretches all the way down the lateral side of the shoe from heel to toe. These technologies working together really help the shoe to disappear on-foot. While the update to the GuideRail system is more of a visual update than one you can feel, the lateral GuideRail is now also integrated into the midsole instead of being a separate block of foam inserted into the midsole, and it helps the shoe look pretty sleek. The integrated GuideRail did not make a notable difference in the feel of this shoe when compared to prior versions. 

Living in The GTS 21

My first impressions with the Adrenaline 21 were positive. The BioMoGo sockliner provided great step-in comfort when combined with the incredibly well cushioned tongue, heel counter, and soft laces. Seriously, this shoe fit my foot like a glove, giving me room for adequate toe splay (a big statement coming from an Altra fanboy) while also making it easy to dial in a great fit from the midfoot back for confidence-inspiring lockdown. I really have nothing but praise for how this shoe fits, and it fits true to size. The cushioning is just about as middle-of-the-road as it could be, offering forgiving DNA Loft in high impact areas and responsive BioMoGo throughout the rest of the shoe. This helped the shoe to feel very balanced and prepared for just about any run I could throw at it. The only negative I found with this shoe from the first wear was that the toe cap liked to crease when I put weight on the front of the shoe, which wasn’t always noticeable but it sometimes did cave in enough that it touched the ends of my toes, but I’ll touch on this more later. It didn’t affect the pair on the run in a significant way.

From the first run, I was impressed with this shoe. It was nicely responsive and still protected. I used it for both pavement and treadmill runs, and it held up exceedingly well to both. I was originally worried when I was given this shoe to review, as stability shoes and my supination generally don’t play nice together. Generally anything with a medial post is no-bueno for me to kick around in, but I was relieved when I didn’t have issues with this shoe overcorrecting my gait. It was just the GuideRail system doing its job correctly, but this might as well have been a neutral shoe to my feet. What little visible wear the outsole is showing by this point in our relationship is pretty much right where it should be, telling me that this shoe and I got along like two peas in a pod. The 12mm offset felt very different from the zero-drop shoes I’m accustomed to, the GTS didn’t get in the way of my stride. The shoe encourages a full-foot strike to the forefoot striker, and is strategically built to accommodate heel striking and smooth out transitions from heel to forefoot. It felt like no matter how oddly I forced myself to run, I couldn’t really get it to feel ‘bad’. Speaking of smoothness, the new extended DNA Loft unit made the transitions in this shoe effortless. I easily slipped into the trance of ‘left, right, left, right’ and so on without much of my attention being drawn to what the shoe was even doing. All I had to do was think about going forward and remember to move my feet, and the shoe took care of the rest for me. It was effortless to settle into a comfortable rhythm while kickin’ these kicks.

Living with this shoe was equally great. I can’t think of a single situation that required me to be on my feet that I wouldn’t like wearing this shoe while doing. It performed very well at the gym as well as walking and casual wear. I took the new Adrenaline out for a variety of runs, from uptempo dashes to slow and loafy jogs. The shoe felt as though it responded to each pace differently, and I’d bet that it responds similarly well to a myriad of different runners. Some of the most impressive aspects of this shoe to me were the crazy-comfortable upper and the grippy outsole rubber that was confidence-inspiring on wet concrete. The mesh upper is padded just enough to give luxuriously snug lockdown around the heel collar and tongue while remaining lightweight and airy in the toebox. The quality of the fit of this shoe helped the weight disappear once on-foot, and I firmly believe that the fit is a big part of why this shoe adapts so well. The generous helping of outsole rubber has flex-grooves in all the right places, which help this shoe eat up pavement and give excellent grip in most any road condition. The Adrenaline GTS 21 is engineered to soak up mile after mile of smooth stability.worried when I was given this shoe to review, as stability shoes and my supination generally don’t play nice together. Generally anything with a medial post is no-bueno for me to kick around in, but I was relieved when I didn’t have issues with this shoe overcorrecting my gait. It was just the GuideRail system doing its job correctly, but this might as well have been a neutral shoe to my feet. What little visible wear the outsole is showing by this point in our relationship is pretty much right where it should be, telling me that this shoe and I got along like two peas in a pod. The 12mm offset felt very different from the zero-drop shoes I’m accustomed to, the GTS didn’t get in the way of my stride. The shoe encourages a full-foot strike to the forefoot striker, and is strategically built to accommodate heel striking and smooth out transitions from heel to forefoot. It felt like no matter how oddly I forced myself to run, I couldn’t really get it to feel ‘bad’. Speaking of smoothness, the new extended DNA Loft unit made the transitions in this shoe effortless. I easily slipped into the trance of ‘left, right, left, right’ and so on without much of my attention being drawn to what the shoe was even doing. All I had to do was think about going forward and remember to move my feet, and the shoe took care of the rest for me. It was effortless to settle into a comfortable rhythm while kickin’ these kicks.

The “Not-So-Hot”
(But Still Kinda Spicy)

The only things that I didn’t care for about the shoe were nitpicky, aside from the toe cap issue that is being fixed in a stealth update by Brooks. Putting pressure on the front of this shoe can cause the toe cap to fold into the middle of the shoe, sometimes touching the ends of my toes. I had to send the first pair I was sent back because the creasing was very noticeable when wearing the shoe, and while the second pair still creased, it did not do so in a way that bugs my foot. Later production units won’t have to worry about this problem as the toe cap is being beefed up, but early units and specifically larger sizes should be double checked before you walk out of the store.

Other than the soon-to-be-gone crinkly toe cap, I had trouble finding things of significance to dislike about it, and that may ultimately be the downfall of the shoe in my book. To reiterate, I strongly enjoyed my time running in this shoe, but it didn’t offer me anything fresh or exciting like many other popular models might. However, I am not really the intended audience for this shoe. While I am looking for a fresh experience and a unique quality from every pair of shoes that I own, the Adrenaline blends in and doesn’t fuss around on foot, it’s a stealth fighter by design. It’s a really big stretch to even call this a downside, as this shoe is essentially universally popular because of these traits, not in spite of these traits. This year’s update doesn’t stray from the no-frills formula, and Brooks delivered another extremely solid workhorse of a shoe.

The Bottom Line

My final thoughts after living in this shoe for a few weeks are all positive. This is a shoe that prioritizes versatility and function, with every detail of the shoe working together to deliver a smooth ride that has been setting the standard for stability runners since 1999. I can whole-heartedly recommend this shoe as a fantastic choice for runners, walkers, and workers of all abilities that are seeking a moderate stability shoe that will help you crush all of your weekly miles, gym workouts, and trips to the local grocery store. To me, this is one of the ideal shoes to own if you’re only restricted to one pair to get absolutely everything done. The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 21 sets itself apart from the crowd not by being the loudest in the room, but by being the quiet best friend that you can always count on. No matter how you run, this shoe has something for you.