A Brooks Pure Flow review by John Schrup
Last week, or at some time in recent history, I wrote about the new Brooks Pure Connect, the lightweight, go-fast shoe from the Pure Project line. In essence, it is a really nice shoe, let’s say with great potential and surrounded by a silly marketing presentation. Now that I’ve been running in the shoe for more than a month, my feeling is that it is a nice shoe, but that they are placing focus on the wrong shoe. The Connect is the shoe you see in all the ads, yet it will work for the smallest range of people along the footwear spectrum. For one, it is far too narrow for the average foot (though it fits me just fine) and it because the platform is so narrow that there is an inherent instability that many will find a little unnerving.
The shoe that Brooks ought to highlight is the Pure Flow. It is the everyday, neutral model in the Pure Project line. And, in my opinion, it is the one that most people could wear. Brooks would be wise to take note from the Mizuno texts when they introduced the Wave Rider back in the late 90’s. Mizuno identified the Wave Rider as the cornerstone of the line, and built other models around it. In the Pure Project line, the Flow is that shoe.
The Pure Flow is “minimal” in the same way that the Saucony Kinvara is “minimal.” Each has a differential of 4mm; 18mm in the heel, 14mm in the forefoot, and is at once cushioned like a trainer and as light as a racer. This is the new breed of shoe, and it was a long time coming. They feel unlike anything you’ve worn, yet are as familiar as your favorite trainer. Brooks has created a shoe that is biomechanically appropriate for almost the entire spectrum of runners, and it is on this shoe that they should put their money.
The fit is noticeably higher volume than the Connect. Thankfully. On my foot is is aaaalmost a bit too roomy, but for most of you, the fit will be right on. There was a visible buckle in the excess fabric on the top of my foot, but after running in it I can say that it caused no worries. The materials are soft enough that there was no blistering or irritation whatsoever. And I was surprised that the roomier fit did not detract from the overall feel of the shoe. Often, if the shoe tends to be higher volume, we of the narrower feet will have the sense that the shoe feels bulkier and less connected to the foot. Not so here, thankfully. The Nav Band, that silly little elastic strap designed to help hold the foot in the shoe, would flop around unnecessarily if it weren’t anchored down by the laces–it is entirely negligible as a component of the shoe. But when laced it feels to me like it not-quite disappears on the foot, which is what you’re looking for in the fit and feel in any running shoe.
The feel is similar to the Connect’s, only a big more sugary sweet and nearly as responsive. A little more marshmallow, though it is still bouncier than most in recent memory. Because of the lower offset, you’ll feel faster than you would in, say, the Ghost, but it retains that familiar padding that so many people are used to. It is protective, moderately flexible and quick. To be entirely honest, when first we received the Pure Project line, I felt like the hype let me down. But as I spend more time in them, my thoughts congeal and I’m liking them more and more.
And now I’m going to get snarky up in here: Brooks needs to pay more attention to design, to aesthetics. Normally, I really could not care less about the look of the shoe, and often raise an eyebrow to those who do, but really, there is work to be done. Running shoe design has gone largely unchanged for the last decade and a half or more. There is an obvious shift in that, but creativity here is less of a concern to the shoe companies than “technologies”–the Nav Band, a technology?–which are little more than branded components. Of the four in the Pure line, the Grit (for you trailheads) is the only one that really reflects a contemporary design aesthetic. The Green Silence? Good. The Ghost? Not good. And the Pure Flow, a shoe that uses contemporary biomechanical ideals in the foundation, looks as if it was created in the late 1990’s or early 2000’s, save for the fashionably green paint scheme. It’s like combining a Prius with a late 80’s Camry body. Ok, disregard that. Form follows function. Which is exactly why I’m thankful for the Pure line, and others like it.
I’ve had only positive feedback with this shoe, save for our initial (and snarky) thoughts. But our customers have been unanimously approving. This morning I ran with my good friend Trey Bob. He wore his Pure Flow for the first time as he, our fearless leader Jessica and I blasted through Hyde Park before sunrise, alternately jogging and trying to see who would throw up first. Says Trey Bob: “I like ’em.” Yep.