“How do you like those shoes?” one of my peers at my new job at MEC asked me pointing at my bright orange Brooks shoes “I love them, the best I’ve owned I think, well I haven’t really run with them yet but so far so good” I replied, to which he responded “cool, yeah they are like future shoes, so light!”
So went a brief exchange a couple of weeks ago when I wore
my brand new Brooks Pure Grit trail shoes to work. Obviously I am pretty jazzed
about these shoes, and so are the people involved in selling them (at least at
MEC). So what is the big deal? Well, since showing off my shoes at work, I’ve
put them through their paces trail running and hiking and the results have been
very positive. They’ve outdone my expectations for a long hike and trail run in
the Adirondacks last weekend and a tempo workout at the Fortune trails in the
Gatineau Park. They now look like they've been used and I've enjoyed using them.
The “Pure” line of Brooks shoes follow one huge trend in running shoes towards “barefoot” or "minimalist" design. In general this means the shoe is built to encourage running technique that mimics a more natural, in perhaps the anthropological sense, way of running. The theory is that traditional (since the 80’s) shoe designs put too much emphasis on cushioning impact, and shoe makers propped up the heel with a variety of different proprietary foams and “air” shock absorbers. These kinds of now “normal” shoes, according to minamalist advocates such as Christopher McDougall (of “Born to Run” (2009) fame), created several generations of runners who predominantly heel struck more aggressively and experienced related leg and knee injuries.
The “pure” line of shoes does away with a big foamy heel and the foam that is there is pretty stiff and is only 4mm higher than at the ball of the foot. Furthermore, the soul is smaller around the heel and relatively big at the ball of the foot. Following the contour of the foot makes a solid platform for a ground strike that is further forward on the shoe. Lastly, the soul is divided at the gap between the big toe and all the little ones, which helps activate your big toe when you run, and for balance. These design features are all great news if you believe the logic of the minimal running shoe trend and from my experience they all seem to be working the way they should be.
My knees, which sometimes hurt when I run haven’t had a problem with these shoes, and the extent to which I can “feel” the trail has been increased quite a bit. This has not come at the expense of comfort though and my feet felt game for more at the end of every run I've done so far. The fit is excellent, colour is great and they are made of thin, cool material that is super light.
The only downside I have found with these shoes is that perhaps they don’t go far enough down the minamalist path, that is they still have a fair bit of foam that might encourage less “natural” running. As this is the first generation of Brook’s minamalist shoes this is understandable and I hear a new version is already in the works for next year that may quiet this small criticism. Furthermore, if you want to run a lot on wet rock these shoes will probably grip a bit less than your usual trail runners but it is still pretty good. Overall, the grip these shoes offer is quite good and since you can feel the trail better you have a better understanding of the grip you have or don’t have and can adjust your stride on the fly with confidence.
In conclusion I recommend these shoes to anyone who wants a solid long distance runner that eliminates the “clunk” factor of a big foam heel and looks and feels great. These shoes let you experience the surface you’re running on, which in my mind makes a whole lot of sense. Hope some of you get a chance to try them out yourselves.
Thanks for reading!
the sole of the shoe. Note the divided big toe.