Gear Reviews That Don’t Suck: Brooks Pure Flow

Well, after putting in a few hundred miles, I feel safe saying I can fully review the shoes. I’ve run everything from a couple of miles to 10+, and some long threshold work as well. I’ve run just about every type of surface you could encounter with these shoes, and every type of speedwork short of dead sprints.

This is going to be necessarily short, because I don’t have a ton of positives to relate, but I guess we can start with those:

1) Comfort. I’ve got a wide foot, low arch, and I’d call it a mid-volume foot. The shoe fits glove-like and well. No slop on a fairly straight last. I’m sure you could go sockless with them, although I never really tried it. They are an extremely comfortable shoe to be sure. The cushioning is plush, and I’ll get to the drawback that relates in a bit. But as far as how comfy it is, I found it to be a very comfortable shoe. No obvious features in the shoe that I’d call design flaws, like seams that rub too much or funky sole features that cause serious discomfort.

2) Weight. The shoe strikes a great balance between weight and comfort. When it comes to minimal shoes, I believe the industry recognizes that there is no such thing as “One Shoe to Rule Them All.” It’s clear this was apparent to Brooks with the entire Pure line, which runs the gamut from chunky to lean, based on what you’re capable of handling. These shoes do a great job balancing weight with comfort. If, as a designer, you go too light in the name of minimalism, you take away from the cushion of the shoe. Go too heavy, and it won’t be minimal enough. It’s really a fine line, and I firmly believe it all comes down to midsole material. The Pure Flow balance the two fairly well.

Negative:

1) The shoes are just too damn squishy. Maybe it’s my weight/height (180lbs/5’11”), but I feel like every stride, I’m looking for the ground. If minimalism is about getting your body in touch with the ground, the Pure Flow run too much interference in the midsole. Yeah, cushioning is great, but the midsole is too cush. I can’t feel the ground. If I can’t feel the ground, I can’t get my body in touch with it. It’s like running on blue sponge cake, if you ask me.

2) How the shoe fits my foot. Having a wide foot with little toes that are hammered down and out from years of tight-fitting shoes means the fit in the toe box is critical. While the toe box is plenty wide for my type of foot, I consistently get hot spots on the knuckles of my little toes. This is a deal breaker for me – I simply refuse to deal with shoes that give blisters.

So in the end, it’s just not the right type of shoe for me, which doesn’t mean it won’t work for you. I’d recommend this shoe for someone fairly new to minimalism AND someone who’s lighter weight. The midsole is just far too squishy for the amount of kilonewtons I happen to generate during the foot strike. I’d be curious to know if the industry conducts any kind of force plate testing with shoes to see how runners of different styles (heel strikers vs. mid-forefoot strikers) and weight interact with the shoe. It stands to reason that if the midsole doesn’t change between a heavy runner vs. a light runner, then all that changes is the amount of force the ground sees during the respective runners’ footstrikes.

But for me, I’ve stopped even running in my Pure Flows. I tried giving them a go for the days when I’m just commuting in/out of work (6.5M each way). But I got tired of fighting the shoe for feel. I’d finish a day and feel like I put in 13M of beach running. That may sound like a lark for the uninitiated, but it can put a lot of fatigue into the stabilization muscles of the lower leg, and that’s not what I’m looking for when I’m putting in 70-80M a week and running a couple of hard workouts a week.

Brooks, let me know when you work on your midsole design. Until then, I won’t be running in your shoes…

One response

  1. Interesting how the same characteristics can be viewed differently.

    I agree, there’s a lot of midsole cushioning and it’s hard to feel the ground. When I compare these to the Nike Free 3.0’s that I was using before (and, for one short run, my pair of Saucony Hattoris), I found myself welcoming the extra cushioning. I was also happy that the Flows don’t have much of a heel to get in the way of the midfoot strike that I’ve developed lately.

    I think that the Flow is “minimalist” in just two ways — no exaggerated heel, and very little drop. It’s hard to tag it as a minimalist shoe if the user is expecting anything like a Five Fingers or Minimus. If they are, then they’ll be disappointed.

    Like

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