Brooks continues their PureProject introductions with the new 2012 Brooks PureConnect. The Brooks PureProject is a shoe line that merges the gap between zero-drop “barefoot” minimalist styles and traditional running shoe designs allowing a more natural stride and feel. PureProject styles are the middle ground. For runners who want a shift from traditional, built up training shoes the Brooks PureProject not only bridges the gap but makes a better landing point. You don’t have to learn how to run over again to run in PureProject shoes.
The Brooks PureConnect is the cushioned ride relative to the PureCadence, also in the PureProject line. I reviewed both shoes simultaneously, switching back and forth between them to gain perspective on the difference between the two. The PureConnect has a distinctly different ride than the PureCadence. It’s more cushioned and provides less guidance of your foot’s geometry during contact with the ground. The first phrase I thought of to describe the ride of the PureConnect was “rolly polly”. The shoe has more radius-ed geometry than the PureCadence from every angle.
The natural, flexible ride of the PureConnect is accomplished with a number of clever design features. Most features remove material from the shoe, reducing weight and improving feel on the foot. The elegance of the PureConnect is how Brooks brought technologies together to influence ride quality. It isn’t one thing that makes the shoe work well, but the interaction of many different design features- some are subtle, some are radical.
“The PureConnect provides protection while allowing flexibility to naturally develop as a runner.”
Switching back and forth between the shoes emphasized how a less guided shoe benefits your workout by focusing on form and development of stabilizing muscles not used on a more stable shoe. A theme of minimal running is “injury-proofing”. The irony is that overzealous adaptation of minimal, “barefoot” shoes has led to a lot of injuries. It contradicts the reason to adopt the running philosophy. The PureConnect provides protection from impact while allowing the flexibility to naturally develop as a runner.
From toe to heel the PureConnect begins with the “Ninja” style split toe seen on the other PureProject shoes. You see the radius-ed edges of the shoe when looking from the front and feel them on push-off when running. It’s delightfully reserved, allowing you to gently pad-off the ground when you stride. A weird impression I got running in this shoe was that I felt “lighter”, not just my feet- but my entire body. This is likely from the less clunky interaction with the ground. For a dramatic contrast I switched back quickly to a conventional motion control trainer from another brand. It’s amazing how much more free these shoes feel.
The side view of the shoe reveals a lot of rocker, or curve to the shoe profile. This additional curvature of the shoe allows for your own natural stride to prevail over the shoe. As you run in these you sort of “roll over” them during the stride cycle, a nice feeling that reduces your vertical oscillation. Fans of “Chi” running and Pose style running will recognize and like this sensation. The outsoles are also slotted to increase flexibility.
The sole of a shoe won’t work well unless the upper is tuned to work with it. Brooks built the upper of the PureConnect with a gossamer mesh outer over a perforated cocoon inside the shoe. In addition to reducing weight, maxing ventilation and drainage it also makes the upper nearly sock-like. The lightweight polymer roll bar on the side of the PureCadence is gone on the PureConnect. There is still a heel bolster across the back to provide a modicum of guidance at the rear.
Fit on less structured shoes can be tricky but Brooks used a clever feature called the “NavBand” to anchor your foot to the shoe sole and tune fit in the upper. The NavBand is an elastic strap that runs over the saddle area of the shoe upper, wrapping the tongue and anchoring to the other side of the shoe sole like the main strap of a sandal. NavBand is used on both the PureConnect and the PureCadence but is a trifle more distinct on PureConnect because of the very thin tongue on the PureConnect.
Because the PureConnect uses such a thin tongue there are also anchor points for the tongue to the shoe upper that help donning so the tongue doesn’t push forward into the shoe. These also maintain the position of the tongue when running.
An interesting benefit to Brooks’ ingenious design of the entire PureProject line and especially the PureConnect is that, when you let the foot adopt its own geometry it needs less guidance features on the shoe. As long as cushioning and geometry are adequate and the design of the outsole and upper facilitate natural interaction with the ground the heavy, rigid heel counters can be removed. The shoe gets lighter, further facilitating a natural running experience. As a result you don’t see much heel in the PureConnect.
The entire midsole on the PureConnect is Brooks’ BioMoGo DNA. There aren’t layers of different hardness EVA on this shoe as with a conventional shoe. The midsole uses a 4 millimeter drop from heel to toe, also a nice middle ground between a traditional trainer and a barefoot style. Overall the midsole is relatively thin, further influencing ride, feel and control.
With all its cleverly designed ride control features from removing (not installing) material the PureConnect is very light weight. My size 9.5 test shoes from a production run were a scant 7.5 ounces.
Brooks Running created a great middle ground where most runners will land with the PureProject shoes. The PureConnect provides a unique ride within that category that is not only a nice training tool but is a viable everyday shoe even for big mileage runners. There is a lot to love about a new shoe with clever design and entertaining, animated ride that even improves your running form gradually. Brooks found a new category with these shoes that was missing from shoe shelves.