The Brooks Aurora-BL is a limited edition neutral running shoe that's all about the looks. It's certainly striking, with a split sole design, masses of squashy nitrogen-injected foam, and a translucent upper that lets the whole world see and judge the condition of your socks.
It's comfortable to wear too, with a generously sized toebox, and a good, secure grip at the heel. Just be sure not to fasten the laces too tight, or you risk putting pressure on the middle of your foot where the sole splits.
What's most surprising about the Aurora-BL though isn't its space-age looks (complete with nitrogen injection ports), but just how ordinary it feels to run in. The thick cushioning provides a measure of bounce, but the lack of a rigid midsole means it feels more stable and less springy than many similarly squishy shoes.
As a showcase for what's possible, it's definitely a success, and we're looking forward to seeing which elements Brooks chooses to bring to its mainstream lines in the future.
Price and availability
The Brooks Aurora-BL is a limited edition, with just 25,000 pairs being released. It was released in June 2021, priced at $200 / £180 (about AU$260) direct from Brooks, and from third-party retailers.
The Brooks Aurora-BL definitely won't be to everyone's taste. It was developed by the company's Blue Line Lab – essentially an experimental R&D department, which works on new materials and manufacturing techniques so they can arrive on your feet sooner.
Before the shoe launched, TechRadar spoke to Nikhil Jain, senior manager at Brooks Blue Line, who explained that its look was inspired by space suits, and would definitely be a 'love it or hate it' look.
We're leaning towards the former, for its sheer bold craziness. Its most striking features is the split sole, made from two thick pieces of DNA Loft foam. This is a new material for Brooks, consisting of EVA foam and rubber, injected with nitrogen rather than air (as the 'ports' on the heel inform you). There's precious little outsole between this foam and the road, so we definitely wouldn't recommend this shoe for wet conditions, or for piling in serious miles.
Its mesh upper is almost transparent around the toe, meaning your socks are clearly visible. The gusseted tongue is very thin, but the flat laces means they shouldn't press on the top of your foot unless fastened much too tight. Tight lacing will also cause pressure on the underside of your foot, due to the split in the sole, so take care.
In case you're not quite easy enough to spot, the heel features a large area of Proviz-style reflective material that's dazzling at night. This is a smart, practical feature that we wouldn't mind seeing employed on more Brooks shoes in the future.
Split soles aren't a totally new concept, though they're more commonly seen in dance shows, where freedom of movement is most important and you need to be able to pivot on the spot. Here, the intention is to allow your foot to move more freely. A couple of off-road shoes have employed a similar design before, allowing runners to pick their way through technical routes and sneak between tree roots, but it's pretty novel for a road shoe.
Despite its pretty outlandish looks, what struck us most about the Brooks Aurora-BL was just how ordinary it felt. You won't be able to feel the articulation in the sole while you're moving, and the width of it means the overall feeling is one of stability.
This isn't a shoe for speed sessions or race day. The foam is decidedly soft and squashy, but without the rigidity of shoes like the super-squishy Asics Novablast Tokyo, there's none of that shoe's springiness. That has pros and cons: it doesn't feel as responsive, but similarly it doesn't feel unstable at slower speeds.
We have our doubts about the laces' durability in the long run, as there's no stitching around the eyelets and they rasp as they're drawn through the plastic mesh. It's not the most pleasant sound in the world. Similarly, we don't anticipate the very minimal outsole lasting too long before you're running directly on the foam.
Ultimately, the Brooks Aurora-BL is a shoe for being seen in. It looks cool, and that's really the point. It should also serve to help Brooks refine its manufacturing techniques. We hope to see this specific type of super-light nitrogen-infused foam in future shoes, but perhaps in a more conventional form.
Buy it if
You're in the mood for fun
The Brooks Aurora-BL is going to get you noticed, and will be a great talking point with other runners.
You want a peek into the future
While this extreme design isn't intended to go mainstream, it does show off some technologies that Brooks is hoping to use in forthcoming shoes, which have been developed in its Blue Line Lab.
Don't buy it if
You're looking for longevity
There's not much between the road and the midsole, and the mesh upper scrapes against the laces, so we wouldn't want to pour too many miles into the Aurora-BL.
You have a need for speed
The split sole means your foot doesn't roll like it does in a shoe with a stiff midsole, which results in a less springy ride despite the sheer amount of foam.
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