Sunday, March 10, 2013

Report: Brooks Pure Flow 2

Over a year ago, I began running in Brooks' new line of minimalist shoes dubbed "Pure Project." The original line which just gave birth to their second incarnation around the first of the year hit the ground running and with great success. Four versions were offered: Pure Grit (trail), Pure Cadence (stability), Pure Flow (neutral) and the Pure Connect. The Connect offered no real support, was the lightest of the group, and offered very little between the actual foot and surface below. The Pure line of shoes have a multitude of unique features over and above their light weight. Most noticeable is the sorta split toe called "Toe Flex" designed to enhance forefoot flexibility and empower the toes to function independently for better balance. The heel, called the "Ideal Heel" is slimmed down and encourages a more natural, mid-foot landing therefore aligning the runner over the center of gravity, the most efficient way to run. Overall, the original Pure line was very lightweight, and held the foot snug, but still had the traditional tongue, lacing, etc. For the past year, I ran in the Connect. When I mentioned this to a local speciality store owner, he was surprised given my size, thinking I'd tear right through the shoe. I did not and in fact, the biggest feature for me was the Ideal Heel. That designed literally changed my gait and mechanics of running. I began landing mid foot, became faster, and the biggest deal to me was a nagging injury that just wouldn't go away from my third 100-miler in 2009. It finally dissipated into nothing. I am still amazed that a shoe was able to do what it did for me. In fact, that's the body's natural inclination. Some time, run barefoot down the road and run again in your  normal cushioned shoes and have someone record you and give you feedback. Immediately upon going barefoot, you will start running as you were designed to do...landing mid-foot. Your arch is your built-in spring and there for a reason...NOT to land on your heel.

So about me: I'm 39++++++ years old (not yet 40 but darn close), 6'2", about 205lbs, have longer legs than normal and therefore a shorter upper body and do NOT look like a natural runner. I have my own "unique" form and most will say they can see me coming a mile away because of my "uniqueness." As for the kind of shoe I'm coming out of, it's always been a neutral shoe vs. a stability shoe. I've also always leaned on the heavy, top-of-the-line shoe because heck, I'm a heavy runner, right?! That's what I thought and was advised that I should wear to get the maximum life out of them. So after a year of going from the Brooks Glycerin, their $135 high-end cushioned shoe, I cold-turkeyed into the Pure Connect 1 and you know the rest of the story there. When I heard the 2nd rendition of the Pure Project line was set for release around Christmas 2012, I thought it was time for the Flow which was less minimal, offered a little bit of cushion, and is for the neutral runner. One of the biggest changes in the 2nd line is the tongue is incorporated into the upper. The upper literally "becomes" the tongue, creating a seamless transition. The lacing was also made very non-traditional and along with an elastic band, encourages a very natural fit...almost sock-like.

So I just retired my first pair of Pure Flow 2's at 350 miles. For me, I know when a shoe has reached end-of-life by my knees. Long mileage, marathons, 50Ks, etc. don't really bother my knees so when they ache like they did yesterday and a few days prior, I knew it was time. Let me introduce you to the bottom of my Pure Flow 2's after 350 miles (right) and my new Pure Flow 2's (left) with zero miles on them:

Remember, I'm a 205lb guy...not small. Check out this wear pattern. When you look super close, you can tell I give more attention to the outside rear section but not much more. If I did, I'd destroy these shoes. There just isn't much to speak of back there. But then, from bottom to top, the wear is incredibly even! I certainly toe off to the outside, too...just barely. I was actually sitting at a local running store Thursday night and the guy commented about my brand new Pure Flows and wanted to know what I thought. "They actually have almost 350 miles on them," I said. I know, I know...they have been amazing and held up so super well.

Overall, I have been super happy with the Pure Flows. In full disclosure, I am in my 4th year with Brooks as part of their Brooks ID (Inspire Daily) program. So, I wear nothing but their products from head to toe, 365 days a year. But, I cannot get past the huge difference they have made to me as a runner and an injury-free one at that. They completely changed my gait, my form, how I take off with each step and how I rejoin the earth. That let me finally heal completely and strengthen the injured area while becoming more efficient and fast in the process. The fit is phenomenal, too. The way the shoe wraps has resulted in zero blisters, no movement, no hot spots, or anything. Structurally, zero wear and tear on the upper. No frays, loose threads, slight tears or anything. I simply gave them the occasional spraydown in the deep sink and never put them in the wash. That's it. As for surfaces they've run on, it's been exclusively asphalt. I'm not a dreadmill....I mean treadmill runner and I ran all winter long. So sometimes slush, sometimes snow, but always asphalt beneath.

So what more can I really say about Brooks Pure Flow 2s? I will say that I believe that most shoe writers, reviewers, and columnists would not recommend the Pure Project line for a "big guy" like myself. However, I have proven the opposite. They are THE perfect shoe for me and I continue to preach about it to close friends and those looking for advice. If you run in a neutral shoe, I recommend the Flow. If a stability shoe is your flavor, then go for the Cadence. Want less shoe and more connection with the earth, hit up the Connect. Want practically nothing between you and the earth? Try out the new Pure Drift. For you trail junkies out there (I'm one of them), the Pure Grit is for you. (I have two pairs!) Regardless of the shoe on your foot, the brand of clothing on your back, or the path you choose to follow, Run Happy...always. Accept nothing but that and fight back all resistance to do so!

Run Happy, friends!
350 miles (LEFT) and my new Pure Flow 2s with 0 miles. (RIGHT)

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