Brooks PureConnect Review

I was first told about the Brooks PureProject in March this year when I was invited to join a webcast on 1 April which promised to introduce an evolution in running shoes. As you can imagine I was intrigued and the webcast simply served to whet my appetite further.

Fast forward 5 months and I was delighted when a sample of the PureProject range was delivered, hot off the press as it were, to my door.

I was treated to a pair of Brooks’ PureConnect – the lightest and most minimalist of the range, which incidentally is distinguished by its simplicity; there is a more cushioned shoe, the PureFlow, an off-road shoe, the PureGrit and a stability shoe, the PureCadence which make up a quartet available in men’s and women’s styles.

Click on the image above to download the full range

On taking the shoes out of the box my first thought was that they are really light shoes. The Brooks’ spec sheet says 204g but they might actually be a bit lighter than that. They also look pretty cool. The men’s PureConnect that I received are in a great green colour that is bright but not too acidic. Well, you can see that for yourself from the picture;

The construction of the shoe is interesting and I will deal with that in three parts, the upper, the sole and the ‘Nav-Band’ which connects the two.

The upper

The upper has so little stitching it is remarkable. I had a good poke around inside and around the toe-box there is really no stitching at all. So much so in fact that I have work the shoes a couple of times without socks, which I haven’t done since my short and inglorious triathlon career. The shoe has an upper made from a soft perforated material that is really nice against bare skin, which is then overlaid with a fine mesh. I have a pair of Saucony Fastwitch 3 which seem to be made of the same perforated material, which is super-light and fast drying. The mesh on the PureConnect will undoubtedly add strength to the upper.

The sole

The sole of the PureConnect is made from a material dubbed BioMoGo DNA in which Brooks have blended their eco-friendly BioMoGo foam with their top-of-the-range cushioning material, DNA. This is the stuff that incorporates a non-Newtonian material which provide dynamic cushioning and which Brooks claims this provides up to 10% more cushioning than standard running shoes, while remaining responsive. My tests so far seem to suggest that there is a fair amount of cushioning for a very low-profile sole and I am extremely keen on the ecological credentials of BioMoGo which you can read more about here. The form of the sole is a series of lozenge-shaped pads on an anatomically shaped last that follows the shape of the foot more closely than a traditional shaped last. And as we all know rounded shapes don’t tessellate so the lozenges are surrounded by gaps which give the sole great flexibility (and I am sure aid drainage if you were thinking of taking these to your next triathlon) along with a split in the front of the shoe which decouples the big toe from the rest of the toes.

The ‘Nav-Band’

The ‘Nav-Band’ is the bit of technology that brings the stripped-down upper and the low-profile flexible sole together. Essentially it appears to be elasticated bands that run from the sole on either side of the mid-foot, up to the lace opening. The idea is that when you tighten the laces the elasticated ‘Nav-Band‘ holds the shoe in place on the foot. Now I must say that when I put the shoe on the ‘Nav-Band‘ actually felt a bit tight and I worried that it would cut off the blood supply to my toes once I started running. However, whether because the band stretched after only a few minutes wear or my feet got used to the band, the constricting feeling passed very quickly, although the shoe did feel glued to my foot.

The only thing that didn’t pass was the feeling that the sole is very narrow. I almost felt like I was running on a ridge of material. I spent all the time I was running with a slight feeling of instability. However that, like the ‘Nav-Band‘ could just be something to get used to.

So, the Brooks PureConnect; I was impressed by how different it feels from all the other minimalist shoes I have tried. The shoe is definitely flexible and lightweight. It is undoubtedly low-profile. It is really well put together with very little stitching. And it has quite a few new ideas – from the ‘Nav-Band‘ and the lozenge on the sole to the tabs holding the tongue in place. All in all, I would say that it is a shoe that will appeal to people looking for a minimalist shoe with some cushioning but might not be a great choice for long distances for all but the lightest runner or those experienced in bare-foot/minimalist running. But I’ll definitely be taking mine out for shorter faster stuff, so well done Brooks!



Shoe review – Mizuno Wave Rider 14

When I started running back in 2005, I was told a dozen times that I should go and get a proper pair of running shoes as soon as possible. That was very good advice. I took myself off to my local Runners Need and was fitted out with a pair of Nike Pegasus. They were a workhorse type of shoe, with lots of cushioning and a really plush feel. They also squeaked.

My second pair of shoes were ASICS and I bought them specifically because the Nikes squeaked. But I never forgot the value of a comfortable pair of shoes and so it was that after six years of running I still do most of my running in terms of distance in nice, plush neutral shoes. The latest of which has been a pair of Mizuno Wave Rider 14s.

I actually decided to buy these shoes in part because I was struggling with the complexity of the ASICS range and what felt, to me, like an inexorable rise in prices – not just ASICS, but they did seem to have the steepest curve. The top of the range AISCS now are well in excess of £100 and for a runner like me, covering around 80 miles per week, that means quite a significant expense every 6 or 7 weeks, if you consider that a pair of shoes will last 500 miles or so.

So how did I come to Mizuno? Well, I was researching Andrew Lemoncello and he runs in Wave Riders. His comment, on a video that you can see here made me think that they were exactly what I was looking for – neutral, lightweight, well-cushioned and grippy (not sure if ‘grippy’ is a real word, but I’m sure you know what I mean). Andrew says, during what is, it must be said, a pretty cheesy film “… you just love to run as many miles as possible in them” and I agree on two counts – the Wave Rider 14s do inspire me to run further than I might if I was wearing a less cushioned pair of shoes and they are also the shoes that I reach for first when I am heading out the door for a run. Admittedly I will usually take much lighter shoes for hard, fast sessions, but when 6 of my 9 runs each week are recovery, easy or long runs, the Wave Rider 14s get plenty of outings.

Now it is time for a new pair of shoes – the current pair of Wave Riders have done at least 600 miles – and I am pretty sure I will go for another pair, they are that good. So if you are looking for a neutral, light-weight and comfortable shoes that will become your feet’s best friends, maybe you should check out the Mizuno Wave Rider. Oh and let me know how you get on, please.

Brooks Racer ST5 – the future’s bright, the future’s orange.

Through my association with Ransacker I was recently invited to a party (erm, well it was called a party, which was unlike any party I’ve ever been to) to view the new products being launched to the running community by Brooks.

It was a really interesting evening and the Brooks team in the UK are really lovely people – knowledgeable and enthusiastic. And Brooks produce a very wide range of products to cater for all types of runner. However the thing that caught my eye was the Racer ST5.

Having long been a fan of the ASICS Tarther, I don’t really feel the need to try to find an out-and-out racing shoe, but what I was lacking was a middle ground between my workhorse Mizuno WaveRiders which I use for everything and the Tarthers, which I reserve exclusively for racing. I hoped the Brooks ST5 would fill the void.

The shoes arrived from Brooks this morning. I immediately pulled them on (breaking the tag at the heel with the first tug, but they were free so I’ve little cause to complain!) and stomped round the flat for an hour. I appreciated the wide toe-box, snug heel, flat profile and light weight. These, I thought, could be interesting…

So tonight I ran home from work in them. 45 minutes easy is what Nick, my coach from runningwithus, has suggested and that seemed like the perfect opportunity to try these ‘racer-trainers’ out. The run home was lovely. The shoes are as comfortable as any I have tried. They provided great grip on the slimy wet pavements through central London and the things I had liked when I tried them at home all remained – roomy forefoot, snug heel, low profile and super light weight for a trainer with quite a bit of cushioning. So you can tell, I am pretty delighted with the ST5s.

And then the story gets better.

What I haven’t mentioned yet is that the Brooks ST5 incorporates a propriatory material in the sole called BioMoGo – the world’s first biodegradable midsole (unless you count the sandals worn by the likes of the Tarahumara of course – they’re pretty biodegradable). The fact that some of the technology from Brooks Green Silence is filtering through to their other shoes is a reason to jump for joy. The fact that I seem to have found a shoe that fits between my super-light racers and my heavy protective every day shoes, that happens to give a shit about the planet is a reason to run and jump for joy. So thanks, Brooks, you’ve made a really lovely shoe and I reckon I’ll be giving them an outing at the Great Bentley half marathon in 10 days. I’ll report on how me and my new orange movers get on.

Why I might buy ASICS’ entry level shoe

I read today that my favourite brand of running shoe, ASICS, plans to launch a $60 dollar shoe in the US in the near future, as part of its programme to double sales by 2015. This story, which seems to have made more of an impact in the business pages than the running forums, interested me because the price point they have chosen has been described as: the price they can sell entry level shoes at. The implication being that once someone has shelled out $60 for an entry level shoe, they will start to work their way up ASICS evolutionary scale until they are evenually rocking a pair of Kayanos, which retails for around $140.

However I think that ASICS might shoot themselves in the foot with this idea, especially if some of the comments I read are true. Toshiyuki Sano, an executive in charge of finance at ASICS, said that they are pitching the shoe at $60 because that allows certain aspects of the higher priced shoes to be retained, but others will have to go to save costs. And it is exactly this stripping back that ASICS might live to regret.

The barefoot running movement is really starting to gather momentum especially in the US and the UK – only last night a girl arrived at the Mornington Chasers in a pair of Vivo Barefoot shoes – and caused quite a stir with certain older members of the club… but that is another story. And whilst I don’t know many people who I think are likely to go the whole hog and ditch their shoes, amongst my friends and peers there does seem to be a trend towards more minimalist shoes – racing flats if you like. I run in ASICS Tarthers. Others I know favour the Adidas Adios range or the Saucony Fast Twitch. Now please don’t misunderstand me – I know these are not barefoot running shoes in any sense of the word, but I do think that one of the residual effects of the popularity of barefoot running is that the rest of us are increasingly looking for shoes with less built into them.

I would certainly look at a cheap ASICS shoe if one were produced and sold in this country. Most of the time I want a really basic, light shoe and I accept that at the level I run at I will need to replace my shoes every few months, so no big deal. I am not a heavy runner and I don’t have any biomechanical issues that mean I need stability built into my shoe. So from a business perspective this could be a problem for ASICS if they find that it is not just first-timers who buy their stripped-back $60 shoe, but experienced runners who think that less is more and who don’t want to pay for technology with dubious benefits. And I think I might be one of them!