Our verdict

The Brooks Trace 2 shines as a budget-friendly yet high-performing daily trainer, especially for heel strikers. It boasts a competent midsole, cosy mesh upper, and impressive durability. Adding to its appeal, we found during our test runs that it can easily transition from the road to the gym, thanks to its snug fit and moderate cushioning. While it may fall short in the energy return department, it's a small hiccup considering the overall value.

Pros

  • Outstanding value for just £110
  • Comfortable BioMoGo DNA midsole
  • Superior breathability
  • Ideal for heel strikers
  • Incredibly light
  • Remarkably durable
  • Performs well in all seasons
  • Versatile enough for gym or walking use

Cons

  • Inadequate cushioning for forefoot strikers
  • Limited energy return

Audience verdict

88
Great!

Who should buy

We think that the Brooks Trace 2 is an excellent choice for:

  • New runners looking for a reliable but affordable shoe to start their journey
  • Brooks enthusiasts who desire a budget-friendly option for their daily runs
  • Heel strikers seeking the best back for their buck in a running shoe

Brooks Trace 2

Who should NOT buy

If you're seeking a daily trainer with high energy return, this shoe won't be your best bet in our opinion. While it's a solid option, it does lack that extra bounce. For that, you'd need to look into options above £110, such as the ASICS Novablast 3 or the Brooks Ghost 15.

Also, runners with a forefoot striking technique should look elsewhere based on our lab tests. With a significant 12 mm heel-to-toe drop, this shoe is tailored for heel or midfoot strikers. Consider the Adidas Adizero SL as an interesting alternative.

Brooks Trace 2 parts

Breathability

Brooks is known for making breathable shoes, and the Trace 2 is no exception, even though it's a budget-friendly option. We were pleasantly surprised when this shoe earned a perfect 5/5 score for breathability.

In the video above, you can see how easily smoke escapes from multiple parts of the shoe. This is impressive because many shoes only offer good breathability in one part of the upper. But the Trace 2 excels all around.

Now, why is the breathability so good? We discovered that when we shined a powerful light on the upper, all the ventilation holes became visible in full glory.

These holes extend from the toe box to the midfoot, allowing for excellent airflow—a feature often missing in affordable shoes.

Brooks Trace 2 microscope

We also took a closer look under the microscope, as we often do in our lab.

Brooks Trace 2 close microscope

The engineered mesh upper not only looks great but also has an inner layer of fabric to boost comfort. This is probably why Brooks added more ventilation holes in comparison to shoes like the Hyperion Max that lack this layer, so they could still achieve perfect ventilation.

Test results
Trace 2 5
Average 3.8
Compared to 205 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Durability

Toebox durability

With a generous number of ventilation holes, we expected the upper to perform poorly in our dremel test.

But, to our pleasant surprise, that wasn't the case at all! The 3D Fit Print engineered mesh stood up incredibly well against our testing tool. In fact, it outshone nearly every other running shoe on the market, earning a solid 3/5 score!

Brooks Trace 2 Toebox durability
Test results
Trace 2 3
Average 2.4
Compared to 139 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Heel padding durability

We were also genuinely impressed with the durability in the heel padding area.

It surpassed all our expectations at a 3/5 score. There's no worry about wear and tear in this area; it's built to last.

Brooks Trace 2 Heel padding durability
Test results
Trace 2 3
Average 3.1
Compared to 135 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel padding durability
5

Outsole hardness

Next, we turned our attention to the outsole in our lab to further investigate the shoe's durability. We found that the type of rubber Brooks uses isn't overly hard at 79.8 HC.

Brooks Trace 2 outsole

We observed that the outsole has some areas of exposed foam, but these are strategically placed. This suggests that they aim to strike a nice balance between providing solid grip, weight savings and enough durability.

Brooks Trace 2 Outsole hardness
Test results
Trace 2 79.8 HC
Average 80.3 HC
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 256 running shoes
Number of shoes
55.5 HC
Outsole hardness
92.8 HC

Outsole durability

After putting the outsole to the final test with our Dremel, we discovered a mere 0.4 mm indentation. This is a standout result that points to fantastic durability for the shoe.

Brooks Trace 2 Outsole durability
Test results
Trace 2 0.4 mm
Average 0.9 mm
Compared to 117 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole wear
2.0 mm

Outsole thickness

The outsole's thickness came in at 3.3 mm, which is pretty standard. This seems like a good compromise between weight and durability.

However, given how tough the rubber is in this shoe, we believe Brooks could have reduced the thickness even more to save even more weight!

Brooks Trace 2 Outsole thickness
Test results
Trace 2 3.3 mm
Average 3.2 mm
Compared to 276 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole thickness
6.6 mm

Weight

Brooks is really working hard to make their shoes light, and they're using that to help sell them.

We found that this shoe is no exception. Tipping the scales at just 8.8 oz or 249g, it's incredibly light!

Brooks Trace 2 Weight
Test results
Trace 2 8.78 oz (249g)
Average 9.38 oz (266g)
Compared to 277 running shoes
Number of shoes
5.26 oz (149g)
Weight
12.56 oz (356g)

Cushioning

Heel stack

We measured the shoe's heel stack and found it to be a solid 34.2 mm. This provides plenty of cushioning for all heel strikers, even those who are on the heavier side.

Brooks Trace 2 Heel stack
Test results
Trace 2 34.2 mm
Average 33.6 mm
Compared to 276 running shoes
Number of shoes
7.6 mm
Heel stack
42.7 mm

Forefoot stack

We then measured the thickness of the forefoot and found it to be just 21.9 mm. This is really thin, letting you feel the ground well.

If you're a forefoot striker, you might find the foam cushioning simply too low.

Brooks Trace 2 Forefoot stack
Test results
Trace 2 21.9 mm
Average 24.9 mm
Compared to 276 running shoes
Number of shoes
7.6 mm
Forefoot stack
35.8 mm

Drop

We discovered a gigantic heel-to-toe drop of 12.1 mm in this shoe. This clearly shows that the shoe is designed for heel strikers or for those looking to ease pressure on their Achilles and calves.

If you're a forefoot striker or have issues with your knees or hips, this shoe might not be the best fit for you.

Brooks Trace 2 Drop
Test results
Trace 2 12.3 mm
Average 8.7 mm
Compared to 276 running shoes
Number of shoes
-0.8 mm
Drop
16.1 mm

Insole thickness

We measured the insole at 4.3 mm, which is pretty standard. There's nothing special to report about it. It's made of comfy foam, and should give you no issues at all.

Brooks Trace 2 Insole thickness
Test results
Trace 2 4.3 mm
Average 4.4 mm
Compared to 272 running shoes
Number of shoes
1.5 mm
Insole thickness
7.3 mm

Midsole softness

Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.

The BioMoGo DNA midsole fits right in with what we expect from Brooks foams. It offers a snappy, responsive feel rather than a cloud-like cushion. However, it lacks energy return.

The durometer delivered a 22.1 HA reading. So, it's definitely not for those who are looking for pillow-soft running shoes, better check the New Balance FuelCell Rebel v3 instead.

Brooks Trace 2 Midsole softness
Test results
Trace 2 22.1 HA
Average 21.4 HA
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 203 running shoes
Number of shoes
9.5 HA
Midsole softness (soft to firm)
41.5 HA

Midsole softness in cold

Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.
Brooks Trace 2 Midsole softness in cold

Difference in midsole softness in cold

To see how the shoe holds up in cold weather, we put it in the freezer for 20 minutes. After letting it rest, we measured the softness again. We found that there was a small increase, going up to 27.4 HA.

With just a 23.8% change, you might think it's just an okay performance for a running shoe. But let's give credit where it's due—this is an amazing result for a wallet-friendly shoe.

Most budget shoes use EVA foam, which tends to get really hard in the cold. However, we discovered that the Trace 2, using a modified EVA, stays impressively consistent, barely changing at all.

Brooks Trace 2 Midsole softness in cold
Test results
Trace 2 23.8%
Average 25.7%
Compared to 202 running shoes
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in midsole softness in cold
100%

Stability

Lateral stability test

The Brooks Trace 2 is designed to be a neutral daily trainer. But we found that it also offers a good amount of stability. So, if you're a mild pronator, we think this shoe may work for you.

Torsional rigidity

When we bent and twisted the Trace 2 in our hands, and it didn't put up much of a fight. So, we gave it a 3 out of 5 on our scale for how stiff or bendy it is. This kind of flexibility is the safe bet for any brand that doesn't want to take risks.

Test results
Trace 2 3
Average 3.2
Compared to 254 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

The lead designer at Brooks chose a pretty average heel counter for this one. It's not too soft and not too stiff. We'd rate it a straightforward 3 out of 5, just like the torsional rigidity.

Test results
Trace 2 3
Average 2.8
Compared to 238 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

Keeping up with the theme of creating a no-risk shoe, we measured the midsole width in the forefoot area and found it to be 113.6 mm. Again, no big shocker here, but that's not a bad thing at all!

Brooks Trace 2 Midsole width in the forefoot
Test results
Trace 2 113.6 mm
Average 113.5 mm
Compared to 277 running shoes
Number of shoes
100.5 mm
Midsole width in the forefoot
126.5 mm

Midsole width in the heel

The heel is wider than we anticipated, measuring in at 92.3 mm. It totally fits the bill because, as we've mentioned before, this shoe is specially designed for heel strikers.

So, a wider heel really adds that extra layer of stability in this key area.

Brooks Trace 2 Midsole width in the heel
Test results
Trace 2 92.3 mm
Average 90.3 mm
Compared to 277 running shoes
Number of shoes
74.9 mm
Midsole width in the heel
106.6 mm

Flexibility

Stiffness

Most runners looking for a budget-friendly shoe want it to be good for running but also versatile enough for gym workouts or casual walks. With pricier shoes, the focus is usually just on running.

At £110, the Trace 2 proved to be great for various activities in our lab. We found that part of its versatility comes from its flexibility. It took us just only 20.7N of force to bend the shoe 90 degrees, which is a really low measurement.

Test results
Trace 2 20.7N
Average 29.3N
We use an average of four tests. The video shows one of those tests.
Compared to 259 running shoes
Number of shoes
2.2N
Stiffness
94.4N

Difference in stiffness in cold

After spending another 20 minutes in the lab, we ran the same test again. This time, we measured a slightly higher force—just 23.3N. Interestingly, that's still way less than half the average force usually measured in this test.

We found that the difference is just 12.7%, which is actually closer to what you'd expect from high-end shoes rather than a budget-friendly pair. And it's less than three times the average result, which is seriously amazing.

Test results
Trace 2 12.7%
Average 36.6%
Compared to 259 running shoes
Number of shoes
-100%
Difference in stiffness in cold
148%

Size and fit

Internal length

We checked the internal length of the Trace 2 in the lab and found it to be 270.2 mm. This is pretty spot-on, considering Brooks' size chart lists the shoe at 270 mm.

A tiny 0.2 mm difference like this is super rare, proving that the shoe is true-to-size and showing off some top-notch build quality from Brooks.

Brooks Trace 2 Internal length
Test results
Trace 2 270.2 mm

Toebox width at the widest part

We analyzed the toebox in the lab and found it to be 96.3 mm, which is pretty average but leans a bit on the snug side. However, it's not a big deal.

Brooks Trace 2 upper

If you have wide feet, you might think about getting a wider size. Good thing Brooks offers this shoe in both D and 2E widths in some markets.

Brooks Trace 2 Toebox width at the widest part
Test results
Trace 2 96.3 mm
Average 98.3 mm
Compared to 277 running shoes
Number of shoes
89.5 mm
Toebox width at the widest part
109.1 mm

Toebox width at the big toe

The big toe area is a bit narrower at 76.0 mm compared to a regular daily trainer. But there's no need to worry for most runners, mainly because the engineered mesh is really flexible.

Brooks Trace 2 Toebox width at the big toe
Test results
Trace 2 76.0 mm
Average 78.1 mm
Compared to 150 running shoes
Number of shoes
67.6 mm
Toebox width at the big toe
91.1 mm

Tongue: gusset type

We discovered in this lab review that this shoe offers many features you'd usually find in more expensive models. However, the tongue isn't one of them.

It has a non-gusseted tongue, which is understandable. Still, it's nice to dream about having it all, isn't it?

Brooks Trace 2 Tongue: gusset type
Test results
Trace 2 None

Comfort

Tongue padding

We measured the tongue and found that Brooks really nailed it with this design. The tongue is a just-right 5.3 mm thick, which is enough.

It's so easy for companies to pack in extra padding and talk it up, but too much foam inside the tongue only makes the shoe heavy and bulky!

Brooks Trace 2 Tongue padding
Test results
Trace 2 5.3 mm
Average 5.6 mm
Compared to 274 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.5 mm
Tongue padding
14.2 mm

Heel tab

We observed that the Trace 2 doesn't have a heel tab, but this isn't because it's an entry-level shoe. Is just the way Brooks is designing their latest shoes.

Brooks Trace 2 Heel tab
Test results
Trace 2 None

Removable insole

We found that the insole is removable, which is really convenient. This means you can easily swap it out for custom orthotics or even your favorite insole from another pair of shoes. So, you're not locked into just the default option.

Brooks Trace 2 Removable insole
Test results
Trace 2 Yes

Misc

Reflective elements

Sadly, we found that the Trace 2 doesn't have any reflective pieces for better visibility at night.

Brooks Trace 2 Reflective elements
Test results
Trace 2 No