Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Shoe review - Brooks Pure Connect 1

For those that know me well, this was the shoe that began the whole "bright shoes guy" phenomenon. I got so many comments about these shoes, which were super bright, neon orange, that it would have been excusable for me to have become self conscious about them. Seriously though, Brooks did a wonderful thing with the roll out of this minimalist set of shoes. In spring of 2011, Brooks introduced the Pure Project as a way to break into the super lightweight, barefoot feel, minimalist movement of shoes that were hitting the market. At the time, I was doing a lot of research on the barefoot movement and relative minimalist shoes that were available. I was running and racing in a pair Scott T2 Comps and loved them for how light they were (9 oz) and the 8mm drop, which was the least I had run in at the time. I was hoping to transition to a 4mm drop next.

Along came the Brooks and my initial thought upon trying a pair on was no way. While they felt a little like a tight fitting pair of slippers, they had way too much instability when simply standing, as if I would just roll an ankle. But the feel was amazing and based on the design features, I felt compelled to run in them.

First, here are some particulars:
The Pure Connect is the lightest of the 4 shoe options in the Pure Project line, weighing in at 7.2 oz.
4mm drop from front to back. 10 mm forefoot, 14 mm heel.
Narrow design for a tighter fit, incorporating something that Brooks calls a Nav Band, which is located under the laces and helps lock the foot in place.
Ideal Heel, which is designed to move your heel forward, improve your center of gravity and help you to be more of a midfoot to forefoot striker.

I was certainly leery about these shoes initially, especially given how narrow they felt. I have slightly wider than average feet, primarily at the balls of my feet, where a narrower shoe can be a real pain. The first few runs with these were concerning as I was afraid I had made a mistake in buying them. The fit was so secure that I was sure that I would develop some wicked blisters. Instead, the shoes never moved on my feet while running, providing an almost glove like experience. One of the most noticeable things is the weight, simply because at 7.2 oz, you are much freer in your stride because your muscles are working less to bring each foot forward.

At the time I got these, all my races were on road so most of my training was on road. By that fall I began to run a lot more trails and as a side note, I bought a pair of the trail shoes from this line called Pure Grit. I wore them 3 times and gave them away, they did not work for me. As I hunted for a good pair of trail shoes to wear, I began wearing my bright orange Connects on the dirt. While these shoes were certainly made well, they were not made for the trail and within just a month, they were toast. That first pair netted 560 miles, which isn't bad, but I needed to test a pair strictly on road to determine longevity.

I bought my second pair in the fall of that year and chose the electric blue color. I didn't do a lot of road running that winter and the shoes were just 100 miles in when spring rolled around. By summer I had more than 750 road only miles on them and was also doing a tremendous amount of trails. I decided to turn them into a backup pair for trails by that fall and today, they are still in my closet with about 1200 miles total of road and dirt. However, I still wondered how many miles I could get on a pair if I was good and just ran road in them.

So in March of this year I bought pair #3 and had to go with the bright orange ones. As I rehabbed a stress fracture, they collected a bit of dust until May but to date, they have about 870 miles on them and have strictly been on road only. Until recently, I would have thought this would be the only pair of road shoes I would ever want to wear again, but even with that discovery (see Merrell Bare Access 2 review), the Connects are a simply amazing shoe. I have turned several runners onto them over the past couple of years and highly recommend them to anyone looking to transition into a 4mm drop shoe, especially one that has amazing longevity as well as the fit and feel.

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