Friday, March 15, 2013

Brooks PureFlow 2 | Review


The Brooks PureFlow2 says, “Welcome to the future.”
The PureFlow2 is, as the name would suggest, the second generation of the fully cushioned, 4mm drop shoe from the Brooks Pure Project. The Pure Project is Brooks’ foray into minimalism, and they’ve seen decent success. The PureFlow2 (PF2) falls into roughly the same category of shoes as the Saucony Kinvara 3. Its light weight, low offset, and wide toe box put it squarely in the minimalist genre, while its full cushioning and stack height give the feel and protection of a more traditional trainer. Don’t let the word “minimalist” throw you off, though. This shoe brings a lot to the table in terms of technology. “Technology?” you may ask. Why, yes. The PF2 is a walking, or perhaps running, (heh heh) contradiction. It is a minimalist shoe with all the bells and whistles. 

"I'm a monster!"
Think, Smart Car with a lift kit, rims, hood scoop, and a fin. There’s nothing wrong with such a Smart Car. The extras don’t turn it into a gas guzzling SUV. But it does seem go against the ethos of why a Smart Car was built in the first place. To date, the Brooks PureFlow2 is the most technology equipped minimalist shoe I’ve ever used. The bad news is that some of these “technologies” do nothing for me. The good news is that they don’t seem to inhibit me either. In fact, I even like some them.

Asymmetrical goodness and Ideal Heel
The Nav Band is the green strip over the mid foot.
The Best Parts

Fit- I really enjoy the feel of the tongueless, asymmetrical lacing system. I honestly wish more shoe companies would make the jump. I think asymmetrical lacing works because feet are asymmetrical. The thickness of a foot is not uniform, but traditional lacing systems treat the foot like it is. Instead of cinching the two pieces of the upper over the top of your foot, the upper of the PF2 swaddles the the foot with overlapping layers of maternal affection. I simultaneously feel secure and free. Good job, mama Brooks. Also, the PF2 run wider than some of the other PureProject shoes, which in my humble estimation is a big plus. Minimalist/barefoot enthusiasts love the extra space.

Cushioning- The cushioning in the PF2, as I mentioned earlier, is very similar to the well loved Kinvara 3. It may be just a touch firmer if at all. Perfect for a daily trainer. My longest runs in these shoes have been between 9 and 10 miles, but they could easily perform well over longer distances; I suspect they’d be great up to a marathon. If you’re used to running in something more on the barefoot end of the minimalist spectrum (like I was) then this will feel like quite a lot of cushion between you and the ground, enough to noticeably change your gait. Brooks claims that their BioMoGo DNA midsole is an “adaptive” cushioning system, meaning that it should feel firmer when running faster and and softer when running slower. If the midsole is actually accomplishing this, and I’m skeptical that it is, it’s not all that noticeable. 

Beveled Heel- Brooks calls their beveled heel design, “Ideal Heel”. Whatever they call it, it works great. It makes the shoes feel more level than the 4mm offset would suggest. Further, it delivers on the promise of moving the runner a little more forward in their stance making the mid/forefoot strike feel about as natural as it would in a zero drop shoe.

Outsole at 0 miles
Outsole after 100 miles
Durability- After 100 miles, there is very little wear on the outsole rubber. It may be difficult to see in the photos, but there are very small, hexagonal etchings on the black in the rubber pods. The only difference I can see between the sole with 0 miles and the sole with 100 miles is that some of those etchings seem to have worn off. They served no function beyond aesthetics as far as I can tell, so the out sole rubber might as well be new. Likewise the upper is flawless. 

Traction is good but not great; fine for every road I’ve been on. I took these out for two snowy/icy runs. They performed fine. They didn’t catch my attention as being either excellent or sloppy. I slipped around a little, but not enough to think that the shoes were failing me.

The Worst Parts

As I mentioned, the worst part about this shoe that it’s not as awesome as it wants to be, which isn’t to say that the shoe is bad. Think of this section of “The Worst Parts” as “The Underwhelming and Mediocre Parts”.

Split Toe
Technology- Technology is not bad. But I am pretty sure a good bit of the technology that is supposed to make these shoes unique and, indeed, supposed to set the entire PureProject apart, is non-functional. Take the Nav Band for example. It seems like nothing more than a piece of elastic waistband material. I can’t tell if it’s doing anything that the laces are not doing already. I can’t feel it, so it is good that it doesn’t bother me, but I’m not sure why it’s there. The other bit of technology that has me scratching my head is the split toe. It’s not a bad idea really. Other folks are doing it. The idea is that it’ll allow the big toe to flex independently and in a more natural way. That would be fantastic if the big toe section could actually move. I can push, squeeze, compress and pull at the toes of the PF2’s but I can not, for the life of me, make that big toe section budge one bit from the rest of the shoe. So how exactly does it allow my big toe to flex independently of the rest of my foot?

Weight and Flexibility- The PF2’s are light (8.5 oz), but they could be lighter. The upper is thick and firm. Here, I think the PF2 could learn from the Kinvara 3. The Kinvara is comparably cushioned, even slightly thicker (23mm/19mm heel and forefoot stack heights), uses a similarly strategic outsole rubber scheme, but manages to be noticeably lighter (0.6 oz lighter according So where does the extra weight come from? Almost certainly from upper materials including the Nav Band. The shoe is no clunker, but it’s no feather weight either.

The PF2’s flexibility, like some of its other features, is just ok. It’s certainly more flexible than some of the other shoes Brooks makes (*cough* Beasts *cough*), but is just average-compared to other minimalist shoes in it’s category. On maybe one in ten runs I feel like I’m fighting the stiffness just a little. My foot wants to bend and flex in a way that is every so gently restricted. Perhaps another 100 miles will change it’s mind.


The PF2 is a solid shoe and has been my go to daily trainer since January. I can’t say that it has ever let me down. It leaves something to be desired in terms of simplicity, but the lack of simplicity is not a deal breaker.   If you’re looking for a transitional minimalist shoe, or just a cushioned daily trainer that is level, and feels stable and secure, you should take a look at the PureFlow2.

Weight: 8.5 oz (U.S. Men’s Size 9)
Stack Height: Heel (22mm), Forefoot (18mm)
Asymmetrical Lacing
Split-Toe Design
Omega Flex Grooves
Nav Band
Ideal Heel (beveled heel) 
BioMoGo DNA midsole

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