Gear Review: Brooks PureGrit Trail Running Shoe – Part 2

When I got my PureGrit Trail Runners I started a 3-part review of the shoes.  In Part 1, I laid out the specs and tech on the shoes and my out-of-box impressions.  For this part, I will describe the time, distance and conditions I’ve worn and tested the shoes along with some basic reactions to the performance.  I will write a more in-depth analysis of the performance of the shoe in Part 3.

PureProject – PureGrit Trail Runner

Part 2

These shoes were purchased specifically with trail running in mind.  I really like my Brooks Cascadia trail shoes and I was using them for both hiking, trail running and occasionally street running.  I wanted something lighter and more specifically design with trail running in mind.  When Brooks came out with their PureProject line I was very excited to get my hands on the PureGrit and get more serious about trail running.

Since I got the shoe’s in late January, I have put over 30 miles of trail running on them.  I also started using them for my street runs to see if I could tell if there was a performance difference on pavement (also, I was growing to like them and wanted to wear them more).

The trails out here in Arizona are very hard on footwear.  The Sonoran Desert is littered with jagged, rough terrain and mean, prickly cacti that usually equates to a short life for shoes.  The main trails I’ve been running are the Main Loop at Thunderbird Recreation Area (3.6m loop) and the trail system behind North Mountain (Shaw Butte and Trail 100).  The terrain in both locations is a combination of loose rock, rugged exposed bedrock and sandy washes.

The PureGrit outsole has proven to be incredibly tough against these conditions.  It’s thin, so you can still feel the ground even through the padded mid-sole but I like to have a sense of what’s under me when I’m running.  The unique tread design on the PureGrit is amazingly functional.  It really grabs the trail for traction when pushing forward or climbing uphill.  The impressive part was how effective the reverse tread at the heal of the shoe allows control on the downhill.  I have never once felt as though my footing was compromised in these shoes.  The durability of the outsole is also commendable.  With over 60 miles on varying terrain, I have seen no real wear and barely any scuffing of the tread.  The open tread design also means it doesn’t pick up small pebbles and rock as you run.

The outsole design has two specific features that are part of what makes these shoes unique.  According to Brooks, the Toe Flex (a split in the outsole to isolate the movement of the big toe) and the Ideal Heel (designed to shift your stride forward) are key features of the PureGrit that allow for greater stability, control and better form.  I really have not noticed much benefit from the Toe Flex feature.  I’ve even been wearing toesocks with my PureGrit runners in the hopes that it would allow me to feel more of the intended effect of the Toe Flex feature, but I don’t notice it.  The Ideal Heel design, however, does seem to have altered the mechanics of my stride.  I do feel a difference when wearing these as compared to my other running shoes.

The midsole was one of the pieces that worried me when I initially looked at these shoes.  It’s soft, allowing for fantastic comfort, but I didn’t expect it to hold up to trail conditions all that well.  Luckily, I underestimated the durability of the material.  It’s got a couple of scratches and stains, but otherwise has held up perfectly and has yet to let me down.PureGrit upper...

The main body of the shoe is so super light-weight that I expected to have some problems with it.  I had a pair of Nike running shoes a few years ago with an ultra-light material upper and it began to fall apart after only a few runs.  The upper of the PureProject shoes is remarkably resilient.  It conforms to my foot amazingly well and yet, somehow has really done well against the elements.  The outer material is a mesh, which I feared would let dust and fine sand in to the shoe and create problems in the footbed during runs.  Even running on very dusty trails and through sandy washes, I did not have any issues with small particles finding their way in to the shoe.

The cut of the upper is very low, offering no protection or support for your ankles.  On a trail shoe, this can be a little dangerous.  However, I have never felt unstable or uncomfortable running in these.  Other than my ankles feeling sore and fatigued afterward (something I attribute to my running mechanics rather than the shoe), I really have not had any trouble due to the lack of ankle support.

PureProject PureGrit from Brooks on the trail...

Gear Review: Brooks PureGrit Trail Running Shoe – Part 1…

Instead of patiently waiting until I’ve been able to put some miles on these shoes to fully field test them before starting my review, I will be breaking the review up into 3 parts.  The first part will focus on the technology behind the shoe and what the manufacturers profess about it’s design and construction as well my personally first impressions of the shoe.  The second part will describe the actual time, mileage and conditions of the field testing and summarize the shoe’s performance.  The third part will layout my final conclusions and pit the actual performance against the manufacturer’s claims.  So, without further adieu…

PureProject – PureGrit Trail Runner

Part 1

Specifications

  • Midsole Height:  Heel (15 mm), Forefoot (11 mm)
  • Outsole Height:  Heel (3 mm), Forefoot (3 mm)
  • Heel-to-Toe Offset:  4 mm
  • Tooling Height:  Heel (18 mm), Forefoot (14 mm)
  • Weight:  8.9 oz (M’s) / 7.6 oz (W’s)
  • Surface: Offroad/Trail
  • Pronation: None/Normal, Mild, Moderate
  • Build: Small, Medium, Large
  • Competition: Trail racing
  • Arch: Flat, Medium, High
  • Performance: Light Weight
  • Category: Trail
Technologies

Design

Brooks designers worked with ultramarathoner Scott Jurek, to develope a unique one-piece outsole that has a concave shape. According to their website, “When forces are applied, the piece splays out to provide a more balanced lay-down.” This dynamic outsole and unique lug design are intended to help the runner find better grip and balance on the trail.  Also built-in to the new outsole is a split toe design meant to allow independent function of the big toe for more natural balance and stronger push-off.  Brooks also boasts their outsole is, “Designed from the most detailed anatomical form…” which is intended to create unparalleled fit and feel.

The PureProject midsole offers a minimal 4mm drop and made of  “earth-loving BioMoGo technology blended with the responsive ride of Brooks® DNA”.  BioMoGo technology is brooks biodegradable midsole composite that “degrades 50 times faster than the standard midsole“.  Brooks DNA is a responsive midsole system that immediately adjusts to the runner’s size and stride as well as offering 30% more cushioning than standard midsoles and 2x the energy return.  Built into the midsole design is a new minimalist heel designed to encourage the runner’s, “contact points to shift forward, aligning your center of gravity for optimal spring.”

The PureGrit upper has had just as much thought put into its design as the rest of the shoe.  The upper is made of an ultralight, breathable mesh over a die-cut conforming foam for a firm fit.  Their Nav Band is an elastic band built into the upper that stretches across the instep to insure a glove-like fit and security while you run.

As for durability, Brooks says, “Just like our core line, we hold PureProject to the industry’s highest weartest and durability standards. Because of their lightweight construction and fewer materials, runners should generally expect shoes from the PureProject line to last approximately 250-300 miles.

First Impressions

These shoes are incredibly light.  This is the closest thing to a minimalist running shoe I’ve tried on.  Brooks did a great job in material selection here, even thought they are lightweight they don’t feel weak.  So many lightweight shoes feel as though structure was sacrificed to lose the extra ounces which just won’t cut it in a trail runner.  The outsole feels like it would chew up the trail, but the soft midsole seems like it might not take the abuse so well.  Especially out here in Arizona where the trail comes at you from all sides.

I have not felt any significant difference in my run experience due to the toe split or the concave outsole, but in all honesty I have not had them on the trail yet.  I’ve had them out for a couple of short jogs around the streets here and they feel very comfortable with really no break-in period.  I have very high arches and typically have to spend some time breaking in new shoes so that they don’t kill the tops of my feet.  My PureGrits were immediately comfortable and after a couple of short runs I did not feel any pain, fatigue or hot-spots related to my arches.

I am, after only a few miles on these, feeling fatigue in my ankles.  My assumption is that the design of these shoes is doing something to alter my natural stride and alignment (hopefully correcting it!) and it’s causing some fatigue as my ankles adjust.

In short, I am impressed so far and can’t wait to get them on the trail.  Look for Part 2 – the Trail Test coming soon…