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.


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…

Low-Pro for Yo’ Go-Go: New Balance MR00

On my run home on Friday, I stopped by Skinny Raven , and picked up a pair of New Balance MR00. Running Times has a review here, but it’s pretty brief. I tried on the MR00 a couple weeks after they hit the market, around the same time I bought those slices of blue and black sponge cake masquerading as running shoes (Brooks Pure Flow). They fit my feet pretty well, despite having a bit of an elf-boot last. So far, I’ve only got about 10 miles on the shoes – I raced in them on Saturday (3.1), and ran home in them yesterday (7.5), so the jury is still out of course, but here are my initial impressions.

New Balance calls them “zero-drop” but Running Times says they have 1.6mm if drop; I couldn’t care less whether it’s 0 or one-point-whatever. The fact is that these shoes are very minimal when it comes to heel-toe drop, and I feel it when I run in them. In fact, yesterday, for the the first couple of miles, I felt some initial lower leg fatigue similar to what I recall from running barefoot or in my Vibram FiveFingers. I’ve been running in the MR10 for over a year now, and even the transition from the 10 to the 00 is quite noticeable.

The ride? Well, that’s interesting. I expected more of a race-flat feel, but what I’m getting is an ultralight trainer (6.4 oz) feel instead. Odd, right? While I raced in them on Sat, they just didn’t feel like racing flats, like my Asics Piranhas. They feel a little more stiff, and little more dense underfoot. I’m telling you – I need to do some more research on what New Balance is doing with their midsoles vs. everyone else…I’ve been terribly impressed with their ability to create minimal shoes that don’t ride all sloppy. For a guy my size (5’11”, 184lbs), a solid midsole is critical to achieve good proprioreception.

The outsole is done smartly. Vibram rubber only where you need it, and nowhere else. It’s a good idea, nothing new really, just running the midsole as an outsole in certain places, but it keeps it light. The sacrifice, and there’s always a sacrifice, could  be anticipated in shoe service life. I bet these bad boys don’t last me 300 miles.

Anyway, that’s it for now. Gotta run. I’ll let you know what I think as I put in some more mileage.

If I took dozens of artsy photos of my new kick reviews, but never actually ran in them…I’m sure this blog would be, like, super popular.
Check out the outsole Vibram pattern. Ideal for a mid-forefoot strike.

Shoes, Training, and Stuff.

My legs are killing me right now. No kidding, I can barely walk down stairs. This breaks my heart because all I did was take a week off from running to go train here with Rigging for Rescue and the National Park Service Denali climbing rangers:

Moving up towards the Eklutna Glacier for a day of crevasse rescue technique training.

Great training, awesome location, but not a step of running.

With the craziness surrounding the last couple of weeks with Rider, I had to scale back my mileage goals, but up until last week, I was putting some good daily volume into my legs. 16-17 mile days with 10 mile runs as one of the daily doubles. I think I peaked out somewhere in the mid-50s for four to five days of running. I wasn’t sure how a week off would affect me, but I certainly didn’t think I’d be dealing with as much soreness as I am right now. But, it is what it is, and really, what’s a little DOMS between friends?

In other news, I tried out a local running group yesterday: Peak Performers Track Club. We did a pretty short workout: 11 x 200m hills. I hung with a UK expat named Mark and it was nice to run with some company for once, even if the workout wasn’t overly taxing. We started running the hill intervals at about a 6:10 pace but by the last few I pushed it down to 5:15 pace for funsies. Truth be told, it just felt good to stretch the legs a bit and work some turnover. Next week the group moves to a track only about a mile from the house, so I think Jen and I are going to hit it up and see if we both like the track workout scene. “Like” may be a strong word in Jen’s case, but as most of you know, I consider the track home. Hopefully it turns out to be worthwhile, as I think both of us could benefit from a group training environment.

Oh, remember those Brooks Pure Flow I talked a few weeks back? Yeah, starting to like them less and less. I’ve put in between 50-75 miles on them, and some longer runs of 10-12 miles. They are just too damn soft, to the point that I’ve had visions of running in sand. I have a feeling that they are going to end up as solely a pre-track warmup/post track cool down shoe, because anything over 2-3 miles in them is more work than it’s worth. I want to pick up a pair of the NB MR00, but I haven’t yet because I have a pro deal with NB and they aren’t available through the pro deal quite yet. So, I’m stuck with my trusty old MR10s for the time being.

Bubba and I strike poses

In other news, Rider is recovering well, peeing sideways, but not quite out of the woods yet. We’re hopeful for a full recovery over the next couple of months. Writing-wise, I’m still working on the last couple of Tsunami Debris installments, and I’m hoping to put out a Strength for Endurance series sometime in the next month. Stay tuned for that.

Well, I gotta run (literally, to work).