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.
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 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 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’ 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!