Guest post: Brooks & Moving Comfort Autumn/Winter Product Launch

When I was away in France recently, I was sadly unavailable for the Brooks and Moving Comfort press party. These are great events, where Brooks’ knowledgeable and passionate team talk through all the innovations and plans for the forth-coming season. But my great friend and awesome runner Dionne Allen came to the rescue and offered to cover the even for me. Here is her report…

 

I was very lucky and honored to be invited as a representative for Simon to the Brooks’ and their sister company Moving Comfort’s Autumn/Winter product launch. Even more so I was one of the lucky few to have the privilege of going to Brooks’ brand headquarters where the event was held.

A barn-like building in Steyning, West Sussex looking over the South Downs on a hot sunny day, it could not have been more idyllic: a small intimate location it really carried that Brooks ethos of giving the personal family touch and the ‘Run Happy’ spirit, which was flowing throughout the day!

We were taken through both the footwear and apparel ranges for Autumn/Winter and I could be here all day writing about the exciting new ranges they have on offer. Instead I have decided to review a couple of products at the premium end of their range to see if they are worth the higher price tag.

Brooks Glycerin 11

imageFirst off we start with the Brooks Glycerin 11, the most luxurious and pinnacle trainer within the Brooks footwear range. This is the key shoe Brooks are pushing as a brand, focusing all their advertising and social media campaigns on marketing the Glycerin 11, increasing consumer awareness of the shoe and more importantly getting it on people’s feet. After testing the product there is reason to see why Brooks have spent ‘BIG’ money on the marketing of this shoe.

Think of that feeling of lying on a comfy sofa or bed after a long hard Sunday run or getting into a nice cozy bed after a long hard slog at work: that is exactly the same feeling you get with the Glycerin 11. They immediately put your feet at ease and get you out the door. The comfort is second to none and the ride is like floating on clouds. This latest edition of the Glycerin introduces a number of new improvements to improve both its fit and feel for the better. Brooks have introduced screen printing technology so there is no stitching on the shoe and this gives it a nice smooth fit with no worries of rubbing or blistering. It also has a nice rounded collar which hugs the foot giving the shoe a nice plush custom feel. Brooks have also taken away any unnecessary foam that was in the previous Glycerin models which does not just have the bonus of making the shoe lighter but also enables you to feel the ground more allowing for a more efficient and smoother transition off the ground for better energy return and performance.

Although the shoe is stacked with cushioning it surprisingly has great flexibility, allowing the foot to move more naturally, due to its enhances Omega Flex-grooves on the sole of the shoe, which are shaped like a smiley face to add that Brooks personal ‘Run Happy’ touch.

Overall I am a huge fan of what Brooks have brought to the table with this latest Glycerin edition. Not only does the shoe have a nice sleek look, the ride certainly has that nice plush premium touch and I would say its worth every penny of its £120 price tag… an everyday trainer that caters for your every wants and needs! (If you want to be part of an exclusive Glycerin 11 club Alton Sports are stocking an exclusive color way only available at their store).

Brooks Silver Bullet jacket

image-1Next we have one for the ladies; the Brooks Silver Bullet jacket as impressive as its name sounds. This jacket is very ‘run practical’, designed with aluminum fibers which are woven into the inner liner membrane of the jacket to reflect your body heat back to you, to keep you warm on those cold winter runs. The jacket is also windproof and water resistant but beware because as the jacket is not seamless it is not fully water tight so you may still get a tad wet in a downpour. However this does allow for breathability to stop you getting too hot when running and to allow the sweat to evaporate away from the skin. There is another key selling point, which is flip mitts meaning if the hands get cold and you have made the mistake of forgetting your gloves you can flip the inner cuffs over with added thumb holes to cover the fingers… simply genius!!

The Silver Bullet Jacket has a great look, not only is it smart enough to wear to a job interview (guilty) this fashion based jacket is sure to gain a few admiring stares when out on your run. Plus you don’t have to worry about not being able to show it off at night as the jacket has 360 degree of retro reflectivity so you are sure to be seen. The runners amongst us that are not so fashion conscious it does come in a more discrete black.

Moving Comfort

Finally as Brooks sisters company I thought I would give Moving Comfort a mention. I personally am a huge fan and the products I have from Moving Comfort includes my number one sports bra of choice. They certainly have the active female needs at heart and you can read more in my product review here.

A brand inspired by women, their new Autumn/Winter range certainly aspires to their brand goals ‘to enrich femininity with inner strength’  they continue to make the most functionally and beautiful active wear to inspire and motivate the active female.

Thanks massively to Dionne for a great review. If you wear Brooks or Moving Comfort, we (that is Dionne and I) would love to know what you wear and what you think of it – the comments section is open for you now!

Brooks Ravenna 3 – a trainer to rave about?

I was recently offered the opportunity to try out a pair of Brooks’ new Ravennas – the third incarnation. I took the opportunity to ask a friend and training partner if he’d like to try them out and this is what he had to say…

Once in a while you find a shoe you really get on with, a happy match of features, fit, and performance.  For me, the original Brooks Ravenna was just that: an everyday trainer with enough cushioning to absorb plenty of miles, a touch of support to protect against mild over-pronation, yet a responsive, fast feel.

And then the manufacturer updates it.  Sometimes the new version is an improvement.  Sometimes it’s…different.  I didn’t like the Ravenna 2.  No doubt it was a good shoe, with plenty of glowing reviews and magazine awards – but extra cushioning and new materials, while adding little weight, made it feel too much shoe for my tastes.

The ‘new’ Ravennas

So I was looking forward to trying out the Ravenna 3.  Would Brooks have come up with another great do-it-all shoe?
Brooks pitches the Ravenna as a ‘guidance’ trainer.  It’s the sort of shoe to look at if you can’t quite get away with training in neutral or more minimalist offerings (for me, miles plus neutral shoes equals shinsplints), but don’t need a full-on support or motion control shoe.  The guidance comes from a modest medial post (denser material on the inner side of the midsole), and Brooks’ “Diagonal Roll Bar”, a piece of plastic that adds rigidity to the arch and midfoot of the shoe.  Cushioning comes from Brooks’ BioMogo midsole, and their new “DNA” gel material.  According to Brooks, the way DNA responds to the different forces applied by different runners’ size and stride provides “soft comfort when you want it, firm support when you need it”.

First impressions count

You can't say he didn't really test them!

First impressions were… a pair of running shoes.  They look good, if unspectacular, and have a quality feel about them.  They felt comfortable from the off, and the fit should suit a lot of people: fairly supportive through the midfoot, and generous in the toebox.  (It is a slightly different fit from earlier Ravennas, which had a slightly curved last and a snug wrap around the midfoot).
So far, so good: these look and feel a decent pair of trainers.  My concern was that they seem bulkier than the original Ravennas.  There is nothing in it for weight (10.9oz vs 10.8oz according to Brooks – par for a light-to-moderate trainer).  However, the new shoe has a thicker midsole in both the heel and forefoot (keeping for a 9-10mm heel-toe drop).  This is not bad per se – the Ravennas are still at the lighter end of the market for a shoe with a bit of support – there just feels a bit more shoe here than the original I’d got on so well with.

First run, and – to be blunt – I wasn’t overly impressed.

They felt on the bulky side underfoot, especially in the heel.  The DNA cushioning also had an odd feel to it: footstrike felt a bit like landing on a rubber ball, with a bit of give to it but quite an aggressive return.

Fortunately, I wore the Ravenna 3s for more than one run.  And I came to quite like them.

Second impressions count more!

Perhaps it was all imagination to start off with; by the third time out in them the bounciness had calmed down, and the cushioning felt really good, without feeling unduly mushy.  I’ve now worn them a lot as a day-to-day trainer for easy and steady runs.  They are comfortable, and the touch of guidance does its job.  They are also wearing well, with little wear on the outsole after a couple of hundred miles (past personal experience is that the MoGo midsole stands up to 5-600 miles before it starts to feel tired).

They don’t immediately feel a fast shoe – so I was pleasantly surprised that picking up the pace wasn’t an issue, and they proved up to the task of some tempo blocks in longer runs without feeling too clunky.  Perhaps that is the DNA living up to the promise of being more responsive when needed?  That said, they wouldn’t be my first choice for tempo running or sessions – I just prefer something less bulky.  By comparison, I felt the Ravenna 1s had nailed a sweetspot here.

Final thoughts

And that, for me, is the only issue with these shoes: they aren’t quite the same as the original.  Not many shoes fall in between an out-and-out performance trainer (something like the Asics DS Trainer) and more run-of-the-mill training shoes – for me at least, Brooks were onto something with the original shoe in this line, which the later versions haven’t quite carried forward.

Still, the Ravenna 3s are very good day-to-day trainers.  If you’re looking for a touch of pronation control in a shoe that isn’t unduly heavy, they’re well worth checking out.

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!

 

 

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.