Thursday, February 16, 2012

Brooks Pure Project Series: First Encounters

Brooks Running has become one of the recent major shoe manufacturers to launch a line of ‘Minimalist’ shoes – The Pure Project series in late 2011.  When it came into Singapore just very recently, I found the opportunity to take a pair of the lightest and most minimalist version, The Pure Connect for some trial runs.  As I was new to the new technologies from Brooks, I went in quickly into youtube and found some good information of the philosophy and key features of this new line.

I put on the Flow and Connect to do an initial test, and found the Connect gave me a more snug fit (since I have not too wide feet).  The Flow would have more cushion, weigh slightly heavier and provide a nicer fit for the runner who needs width,  My first few strides with the Connect was quite a pleasure as I loved the ample mid-foot cushion with good responsiveness to boot.  

At 8.7ounces, the shoes felt light yet provided a cushy feeling with very snug feel.  It also gave me a slight forward lean which could be due to the ‘rounded-off’ design of the shoe, including a slight upward tilt at the front (which is good for me as I keep my feet rather close to the ground).  That makes it more propelling and makes me go a tad faster than what I could be comfortable at first, but it will definitely make for some very fast running – just great for racing up to 21km distances.

This shoe comes with 5 key features, integrated quite seamlessly to give that overall feeling of snugness, responsiveness and propulsion.

Heel Wrap
The heel is made to wrap the heel better to prevent the feet from wobbling about, an issue faced by many Asian runners who experience ‘heel slippage’ with conventional shoes.  

Toe Split
The split on the underside of the shoes between the big toe and the rest of the 4 other toes provide that nice touch, which might have given the feeling of better grip and road-holding even on uneven surfaces, as was experienced in my trial run through some trail terrain.

Go Green
The “green” midsole technology incorporates less layers to give a better feel for the road and a responsive ride. The 4mm heel-toe differential (drop) was very comfortable for me as they tax my calves a lot less than zero-drop shoes, and in some ways, help to give than forward tilt and lean.

Elastic Band
The elastic band on the top of the mid-foot helps to wrap the sides of the feet in to give the snug feel.  Because of that, I have had to go ½ size up to US10 for a more comfortable fit.  Asian runners with wider feet might find it a bit too snug for comfort, and that's when they can take a look at the Flow version.

Natural Last
The PureProject line prides itself as having a natural last that follows the shape of the feet. 

Philosophy behind the Brooks Pure Project Line

To the Minimalist or Barefoot purist, the Pure Project line would definitely not qualify to be one.  However, I feel it is sufficiently minimal without sacrificing the mid-foot cushioning, responsiveness and ground holding, which is more similar to racers.  Definitely a good shoe for runners who are new to minimalist running, and are seeking a safer option to train for and transition progressively towards minimalist running.

I would also take the Pure Connect for speedwork, tempo runs and even LSDs for up to 30km.  I have run it in for distances of 10-25km rather comfortably thus far, along road and x-terrain.

I am suitably impressed with the Brooks Pure Project line, especially with the Connect.  A few of my friends have also provided very positive feedback on the Flow and Cadence (structured cushioning) range that they have trialed.  I see the Pure Project line can be a good contender in the Minimalist Running & racing market, and look forward to taking them for even longer runs and more trials.

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