Brooks Pure Drift – Review

I’ve finally got round to having some spare time to write up my thoughts on the Pure Drift shoes I had received the last time I blogged. It’s been a hectic few weeks with a lot of travel for work, mixed with a lovely weekend away in the countryside and a couple of personal situations which have required a fair chunk of time.

I managed to rack up over 30 miles in the Pure Drifts in the week that I had them, not a bad effort considering I’ve been averaging somewhere in the mid 20’s.

  • 8 mile steady run at target Marathon Pace (9:00min/mile)
  • 1.5mile jog with my wife (she’s started running, hoorah!)
  • 13.8miles long slow run over to Gary’s house followed by an awesome roast dinner (9:22min/mile)
  • Another 1.5miler with Becca (she’s getting keen)
  • 6.5miles with Hill Repeats

I also wore the shoes quite a bit around the house and walking out and about, they’re incredibly comfortable and have a slipper-like quality to them when indoors, I nearly forgot I was wearing shoes rather than actual slippers.

Rather than have me list out the blurb and specifications on the shoes, I’ll link to the Brooks Site and make this blog about my own opinions, what worked for me and what didn’t.

Pure Drift vs Road-X 233

Pure Drift vs Road-X 233

What I liked

  • This is a light shoe and putting it on made me feel fast. As you can see in the above picture it weighs a good 53g less than my regular Inov Bare-x 233’s. That’s a nearly 25% reduction in weight.
  • The cushioning, minimal thought it may be, is effective. I’d been having some pain on the bottom of my left foot behind my toes, I think caused my the move to a more midfoot/forefoot landing in less cushioned shoes. It was only when I was on my final run in these, that I’d realised I hadn’t experienced any of that pain at all whilst wearing them. Incidentally I haven’t had any more pain since, so the issue with my foot has either worked it’s way away naturally, or the shoes helped. Either way, the second I put these on, I didn’t have any pain, even after 14miles, and the soles of my feet felt good.
  • No blisters (with one exception, see below). Other shoes have caused hotspots and rubbing on various parts of my feet. I didn’t have any issues at all with them in these shoes. I even ran with existing blisters and they weren’t irritated at all.
  • 4mm heel-toe drop. Even though my Inov8’s are 6mm, I could tell the difference. It became much easier to land on my forefoot and I was able to retain my form a lot more naturally. It didn’t require much thought to correct things if I felt my foot land a little heavy at times.
  • The lacing – I wasn’t sure about the asymmetrical lacing system, but I found once my shoes were tied they stayed tied (this is a good thing as it’s not always the case with me). I also didn’t need to stop or adjust the laces tighter or looser at any point, once they were on my feet and tied, I forgot about them.
  • Flexibility, the modular ‘podded’ sole allows for superb flexibility in all areas of the foot and in all directions. This combined with a flexibly and breathable upper makes for a running shoe you forget you’re wearing
Very nice fit, felt a bit tight on my left foot.

Very nice fit, felt a bit tight on my left foot.

What I didn’t like

  • The anatomical last of the shoe is meant to mirror the shape of the foot, and as such it curves more than most traditional running shoes. What I found and mentioned before was that it felt a bit tight on my left foot and my toes were near the end of the shoe. Whilst it didn’t bother me on my first run, after my long run I found I had blisters across the tip of my second toe. I’m ‘lucky’ enough to be in the 10% of the population to have the condition known as Morton’s Toe, where the second toe is longer than the big toe, and I suspect that the natural shape of the shoe is more inclined to accommodate a foot with a longer big toe as that fits the natural curve better. If I were going to get a pair of these for myself, I’d have to go at least a half size bigger to avoid this happening, which may throw out the perfect fit of the rest of the shoe.
  • The pods on the bottom of the shoe that allow for flexibility did become noticeable towards the end of my longer runs and as I wore the shoe more. I’m not sure if this is a settling down period, but I was able to tell exactly where the pods were located by the feel of my foot landing. This didn’t cause any issues, but was the only thing that stopped me being able to absolutely forget I had the shoes on.
  • I also managed to get a pea-sized stone stuck between 2 of the pods that managed to start working it’s way up into the soft EVA and started digging into my foot.
  • The ‘burrito-style’ upper, where one side of the upper actually becomes the tongue was quite a neat design, but due to the way my feet are shaped, when the laces were tightened it really became bunched up just above the toes (you can see this on the above picture). This didn’t seem to cause any issues whilst running, but would make me concerned for long term usage.
  • EVA soles – There is a lot of exposed EVA on the bottom of the shoes, some of it in areas that I land on regularly, and after a week I could already see it wearing down notably, although the black rubber still looked good.

Final Thoughts

I really did like these shoes and could see them becoming a part of my shoe collection and filling in a role as a low-mileage training shoe or even for short distance races (5k etc.). Whilst I didn’t have issues with them on my longer runs, I do have some concerns about the durability of the EVA areas if I were to put high mileage on them, especially with the relatively high price point of £90+. With my plans to do both my first Marathon and first Ultra-Marathon this year, these won’t be the next shoe I buy. I’m more inclined at present to go for a low-drop higher-cushioned shoe like the new Hokas or the Altra Instinct 1.5, simply due to the high mileage I’m going to need to put in, I feel like I’d get much better value for money.

On the plus side, due to how much I did like the shoe we’re considering using the £25 voucher from Brooks and getting a pair from the Pure range for Becca, she wants to do a half-marathon with my sister later in the year and her current running footwear options are horrendous.

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Brooks Pure Project – Free Shoes for a week!

Yesterday I went and picked up the Brooks Pure Drift Shoes I’d signed up to test back in January. I’ve got them for one week before I have to return them and give my feedback on them to a Brooks representative. At which time, I’ll get a voucher for £25 off the price of a new pair of Brooks shoes if I so wish (which is unlikely, I just wanted to try them out and rest the Inov8’s for a week).

Brooks Pure Drift

Brooks Pure Drift

Out of the box I was impressed with how light and flexible they are. My Inov8’s are not heavy shoes at all, but these are notably lighter, a lot of this weight saving I think comes from them only putting rubber on the most used areas of the sole (the black sections in the picture), and leaving the white exposed EVA elsewhere.

Very nice fit, felt a bit tight on my left foot.

Very nice fit, felt a bit tight on my left foot.

Once I’d put them on, I was impressed with the fit, although a little nervous that the toes on my left foot were very close to the end of the shoe. The Pure Drift has an anatomical (curvy) shape that looks unusual off the foot, but feels very good when on, and doesn’t look at all weird. After one steady 8 mile run at target marathon pace I’m impressed, the main thing I liked about them was that by the end of the run, I’d forgotten I was wearing and testing new shoes, they just felt right. The fit wasn’t a concern at all, nor were blisters, the ones I had acquired on Tuesday’s run weren’t aggravated at all in them, although I was wearing a new pair of socks, which may have helped with some of the friction.

I’ll write up a more full review next week, after I’ve done a longer run and hopefully some speed work, that’ll allow me to ensure I give the Brooks rep my full and honest feedback when I hand them back.

Long Slow Run – Three words, all important.

The past couple of weeks my long runs have been in a bit of a ‘funk’, they’re just steady, minimal effort time-on-feet workouts. I was starting to get a little bit nervous about the speed I was doing (9:30min/mile) and if this would be good enough to get me over the Marathon distance in under 4hrs, for which I have to average below 9:09min/mile. So this week I decided to do something different on my long run, which has made me appreciate more that in the phrase ‘Long slow run’, all 3 of the words are equally important.

Long Fast RunAs you can see from the run above, I set out to do a 7mile there-and-back route for my long run, which was mistake number 1. Actually, it wouldn’t have been a mistake other than it was compounded by the idea that I wanted to do it with some effort this week. On Saturday, my friend Gary, who I’m running the marathon with did his long run of 12miles at 8:30min/miles. Gary is the one who first bullied me into signing up for the marathon, or to be precise, he twisted my arm gently and I agreed pretty quickly. This inspired me to want to go out and see if I could do the same. Sadly, I forgot Gary lives on the sea front, so did a 12mile run with around 280ft of elevation total throughout. The route I picked, had 3 times as much total elevation, including some pretty long steady climbs, and a couple of very short but very steep routes. Oh, and I also got lost on the way back, which is why there’s a weird loop on the map rather than a nice line going straight out and straight back.

I did manage it, but yesterday wasn’t a fun rest day as my calves, glutes and thighs were all sore from the effort of foolishly sticking to 8:30min/mile pace. I did manage it, but it hurt, both at the time, and afterwards. I’m not stupid enough to think that 8:30min/mile is achievable for the marathon just yet, doing it in under 4hrs is still the goal, and I need to base my training around that, including making my weekend runs longer and slower. Time on feet is the key, not the speed of a training run. You don’t get rewards from a training run.

I’ve managed to shake out most of the kinks from my legs with a nice steady 5mile run today. I even put my Vibram Fivefingers on for the blast, which is the furthest I’ve ever run in them. I’m now suffering from a pretty sore blister, caused by a little debris which I think crept in my shoe before I put them on and rubbed on the ball of my left foot. It was still a good run, and I managed to get some nice intervals and speed work in (I really don’t enjoy speed work!). I even manage to set a couple of segment records on Strava.

My KSO's

 

I still loved the run, even with the blisters, the weather currently is perfect for me, as I get very warm very quick, and running as the sun goes down is nice.

 

So, I may be a heel striker

So I had a look at the bottom of my running shoes yesterday for any wear and tear (Incidentally, the needlework my mum did last week is still holding strong after nearly 20 more miles in the shoes), and spotted a very interesting pattern of wear on the heels.

Heels of my shoes

Heels of my shoes

If you look a the outside edges of both heels (more noticeable on the left foot – the upper of the 2 in the picture), you can see that the thing green rubber is wearing through and exposing the EVA cushioning below, which won’t be as robust over time.

Now I don’t think I heel strike when running, in fact when I think about my running form I’m mostly happy with it as it feels mostly like I’m landing my whole foot at the same time. Only very occasionally near the end of a longer run or if I get distracted do I actually feel myself land heel first, and in these shoes, I definitely do feel it. The wear on my shoes suggests something completely different. Although it is only on that very outside part of the heel, the rest seems to be holding up well with minimal wear.

I think what’s happening is that I’m not landing on the heel exactly, but it’s not far off. I seem to be sliding the outside of my foot on the group just before the entire foot lands. That’s why I’m not feeling any massive impact, but the abrasive nature of the heel sliding over the ground is akin to me rubbing sandpaper across the bottom of the shoes.

I think I need to do more work on my running form. Get out for some shorter runs in my Fivefingers and really focus on how I’m landing before I completely wear through my heels!

On a plus note, had a successful run yesterday, did a 10k around the area I live in 47:53, that’s 5 mins quicker than I’ve done before, but it could have been quicker if I hadn’t had to avoid all the mothers and parents walking home from school (seriously though, do they ever give up any space on the pavement? Why’s it always me that has to run on the grass/roads whilst they walk 5-abreast). I need to do some more speed-work in preparation for the marathon, but this was encouraging.

Free Shoe Test – Brooks Pure Project

I saw a link on the Runners World forums today to a Brooks website. It seems that between February 21st and the 28th they are offering people the chance to test out some of their new Pure Proect series of shoes. I quickly signed up and confirmed that in just over a month’s time. I will be testing out a pair of the lightest and most flexible of the more minimal range, the PureDrift. If you want to join in, you can sign up here.

Picture

“Experience the next thing to naked feet with the hyper-light PureDrift. Spread those toes with dual Toe Flex splits that allow your forefoot to flex through its three functional units, creating natural balance and a springy push-off. An anatomical last mimics the shape of your foot for a closer fit and the hardly-there upper provides just a little more coverage than a birthday suit. When you really want to feel free as a bird, remove the sockliner for a zero drop experience. No-seam construction keeps it comfortable and a soft platform mellows impact. Feet, meet feel”

I’ve never worn a pair of Brooks shoes before, but am excited about the chance to try out some new shoes in a proper running environment. They seem like they meet all the requirements I have (They’re super light and have a 4mm heel-toe drop with the insole in and 0mm without the insole) for a running shoe, but with the adequate cushioning I need for pounding the pavements of Southampton. I’ll give an update on them when I’ve had a chance to really try them out.

Running Naturally

I mentioned on a previous post that I bought a pair of Vibram Bikila toe-shoes and then shortly after read the excellent “Born to Run” book by Christoper Mcdougall. Interestingly, I realised that I had done it the unusual way round of shoes first, book second. Most people read the book, get inspired and decide to run more ‘naturally’ and go out and buy a pair of ‘barefoot’ trainers (there’s an oxymoron for you), with the goal of running as close to barefoot as possible. In my case, Becca and I had already been recommended the toe-shoes by my brother-in-law as a way of running differently and potentially injury-free. It was once I’d tried the shoes that I went and did some further research, which is where the book came in.

I won’t wax lyrical about the book, that’s been done enough on many blogs and websites in the past. If you haven’t already read it and have a passing interest in running, please go read it. Sadly, I bought it on the Kindle so don’t have a copy of the book to pass around to my friends. Some people say it’s propaganda for the minimalist/barefoot running movement, and in some ways it is. What it has definitely done though is inspired a movement towards people taking time to consider what they put on their feet.

I have a pair of Nike Zoom Equalon 4 running shoes I bought after putting them on in a shoe-store, walking up and down the aisles a bit, bouncing up and down a little and feeling the lovely springy cushioning in them and thinking that the feeling of walking on clouds was what running shoes were all about. Admittedly not the most thorough way of testing.

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My ‘old’ running shoes.
On reading the book, and then doing further research I realised that big, cushioned shoes are not the way forward. Running shoe manufacturers know exactly what they’re doing making shoes feel like they’re made of marsh-mellow when you test them on in a store. They want people to buy more shoes after doing the briefest of tests, as I did, and it works.What the extra cushioning does do is make it possible for people to run by landing on their heel first, and this, it seems, is not a natural way of running. To test this out, watch children running around before they get to wearing shoes, they’ll land on the front of their foot before letting their heel land. Watch the fastest human being ever to walk the planet, Usain Bolt, and other sprinters, their heels barely even touch the floor. Test it out yourself, take your shoes off and run just 10 yards (do it somewhere safe), you will naturally and instinctively run on the balls of your feet.
The above graph is from a Harvard study on the bio-mechanical differences between the different types of foot strike. The comparative graph for a runner landing on the the front of their foot or mid-foot is a much smoother single curve and a more balanced load of the body weight along the duration of the running stride. The impact of this continuously over the average 150-180 strides per minute can add up and make a runner more prone to injury. The other key factor of heel striking is that the point of impact tends to be further ahead of the body (shown below) meaning the impact force is actually pushing back against the direction of movement.
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I could go into more detail, but the study above gives the information more accurately than I ever could, and sites such as the Barefoot Running University also give some fantastic insight if you’re after more. The end result of me doing my research was that I was firmly convinced that running naturally and focusing on a forefoot strike was the way forward for me. Having been running now for over half a year, I believe I have transitioned well to a mid-foot strike rather than heel or forefoot. It may be that over time I transition even further forward, but the mid-foot strike, with my feet landing underneath my body mass as I run is really working for me. My calf injury of last year from trying too much too soon has gone completely, and I feel happy running and am getting quicker, even over distances approaching 10miles

As much as I’d love the idea of running entirely barefoot and feeling every step I run, the streets and climate of Southampton and the UK in general are not conducive to going all-in for the barefoot movement. Against my wife and my bank accounts’ better judgement, I have already tested out a few different types of running shoe to try and work out what feels best for me and settled on a minimalist-with-some-cushioning end of the spectrum rather than trying to get as close to barefoot as possible. I’ll discuss my shoe collection in a later post I’m sure.The four things I feel are important in a running shoe are the following:

  1. Level or minimal heel-toe drop, meaning that any cushioning/sole below the foot should be as close to the same width as possible the whole way along the shoe. A raised, excessively cushioned heel is not an option as this gets in the way of a natural midfoot landing.
  2. Flexibility along the sole (or last) in all directions. My foot bends naturally in multiple directions and so should my shoe.
  3. The sole shouldn’t be overly soft or overly thick for two reasons. Firstly, more cushioning simply weighs more, and it’s easier to run with less weight on the feet. Secondly cushioning makes it hard to feel and respond to the floor, what is known as ‘proprioception’ or ground feel. If you can feel what is under your feet better, you can respond quickly to unexpected changes in the surface you’re running on.
  4. Wide toe box. I don’t know about you, but my foot naturally is not the shape of the end of a pair of shoes, I like walking around the house barefoot and my toes naturally splay out to support my body weight. I want to be able to do that in my running shoes too, for stability and responsiveness.
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Top two pictures are of a person who has never worn shoes. The bottom two are of a person who has.
The above picture speaks volumes for the effect of tight fitting or shaped shoes. I plan for the rest of my life to remember that image when buying shoes for any type of activity, not just running. My goal is to run as close to naturally as possible and run as far as possible, this may require some padding below my feet as I adjust to first running for 26.2miles and then further. The thing that sticks in my mind the most came from my older brother when I first spoke about the toe-shoes and why they make sense his response was “You mean, God designed us right in the first place?”.