Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Predator Review: Brooks PureConnect

We have covered the new Brooks Pure series in the past with an overview of the trail shoe PureGrit. It looked like a great shoe, but I had just bought a pair of their popular Cascadia 6, which turned out to be amazing on the trail.  The Cascadia cushioning combined with what they call a "Ballistic Rock Shield" make these amazing shoes for running up and down mountain trails without a worry of feeling rocks under foot. Plus, they stick like glue, but that is a different review for another time and a new trail shoe was not in the works.

Brooke's PureConnect
The Brooks PureConnect is about as light weight as you can get without just wearing a second pair of socks or nothing at all. My standard street running shoe has been the Adrenaline covering their #8-12 models with multiples of the same style being purchased over time. The Adrenaline is a Support shoe, which really was not needed since I run on my forefoot and have a high arch, but being accustomed to their reliability straight out of the box, one fears to wander. Over time there was always a drive to run faster and take an advantage that is provided by minimalist shoes. 

Without getting into all the runner's mumbo jumbo like pronation, there was always a clear understanding that running barefoot seemed so much more natural. Not having your heel touch has its natural advantages to quicker returns to pavement and a reduction in pounding on the joints. Perhaps that whole part is in my head, but going injury free, aside from some B.S. ankle twists on curbs has given the confidence in moving on to improved minimalism. 

Pulling the Pure Connect out of the box made me see the light. The shoe practically weighed nothing. You can see in the photo above that a perforated foam upper combined with a clear mesh lining provides for a very breathable shoe. This was a surprise as my foot slipped in and I could see my sock through the holes. Other thin bindings are provided for structural support but this is about as thin as you can get. The shoe fits like a glove, which helps for that barefooted illusion. This combined with their IDEAL Heel, which does not touch the ground when standing flat footed  grew a a quick affinity for the new shoes. 

As you can see with the outsole it definitely has a different look than your typical shoe. Along the split from the big toe, down to the forefoot, you can see the ability for the foot to naturally flex. You can feel the difference as your big toe is easily differentiated when running and you get a great sense of your foots connection to the road. This is in great contrast to highly padded shoes that have a more clodding along sensation and a lost sense of the impact being put on the rest of your body. 
Brooks PureConnect Sole

Perhaps this increased feel for the ground is a negative for some as you have to adjust your running to give a lighter touch when pushing off, as the decreased cushioning is noticed. However, with increased awareness of impact on the foot you properly correct to lessen the pounding. Much like running barefooted, you actively lighten your step in response to any pain, but with this shoe you are not shaving away  flesh from asphalt. 

Another negative that is easily seen with this shoe is no resistance to water. Living in Phoenix, we don't have to run in rain very often, but these lightweight sprinters will be soaked in no time. With a quick pass under the faucet, water quickly poured in. If you live in Seattle, these are probably not for you. Of course, with very porous shoes, they probably dry much faster than your typical shoe sitting out. I haven't run in the daunting dry desert heat yet, but I imagine the venting on these will provide for some relief from getting a swampy foot. 

So, would we recommend these? Certainly, as long as you keep an open mind about how these need to be used, and adjustments made for a barefoot running style? Running is an amazing way to stay physically fit and shoes like these just make it more fun. 

Do they look goofy? Yes, however these may be acceptable within the Army compared to the Vibram Five Fingers, which have been given the boot with any other toe shoes for their funky aesthetic. As an added bonus the PureConnect is even cheaper than the tried and true Brooks Adrenalines. Less material must equal less cost. Unfortunately the 38% weight reduction only translates to an 18% price reduction, so other overhead must play into that final shelf price. At $90, they are definitely worth a shot if you want to improve on your running. 

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