At the end of last year I thought that I had my ‘perfect’ 100 mile trail shoe with the Saucony Peregrine. That was until I ran 100 miles on the Offas Dyke in atrocious conditions. For the last 10 km I had to run carefully with shoes that had split catastrophically on the outer edge giving me a fright knowing that if the soles came away much more then I would be left barefoot in the hills. Not a happy thought after a punishing 27 hours in the midwinter Welsh hills! A quick search on the internet when I got home taught me that this was no freak occurrence. This was certainly not a safe shoe to have as a mountain shoe. Sadly I begun to research the current crop of trail shoes on the market. There seemed to be plenty of stuff that was not yet out that looked quite promising but I needed something now. The search continued for a while, when one day I was wandering around Bath and decided to pop into the running shop, and as soon as I walked through the door I noticed they had in the Brooks Pure Grit shoes. Now, if you’ve read my review of the Brooks Pure Flow shoes, then you will understand my excitement when I saw them. Five minutes later and I was running up and down the corridor outside with them on my feet! They felt great. I knew that they had a 4mm heel to toe differential as well which is what seems to be feeling good at the moment. They had about the right amount of protection for my feet for a 100 miler I guessed, and they felt like slippers on my feet! I walked out with them on.
So, let’s just go over build of these shoes.
The upper as with my other two pairs of shoes from the Brooks Pure project range is incredibly comfortable, feeling secure yet non restrictive. It is constructed with from what I can see, four layers. The inner layer is a thin tightly woven fabric which should stop all stones from entering. Secondly there is a layer that has large (8mm) holes peppering it, Swiss cheese style. I’m guessing that this is the main structure of the shoe with no give. On top of that layer, we have a small mesh that is the layer that can be seen. The mesh is fine enough to prevent snags and large enough to let the water clear from it easily. The final layer is not so much a layer, but more a skeleton around it that offers some light protection around the toe box and links up to the laces and back down to the heel.
The Pure range all have certain characteristics. The first of these is the Nav band which is a piece of elastic strap that goes around the mid section of the foot. This is supposed to create a better fit, but personally I felt as though it added nothing. It is not adjustable so maybe I have narrow feet and get nothing from it. Seeing as the shoe fits so well then I’m guessing that it would be useless on most other people unless they have very wide feet.
As mentioned before, the toe has a little protection but nothing much. Perfectly adequate for me. The whole toebox is just perfect in shape and size. It is wider than the average shoe but still somehow keeps your foot locked into position. Bravo on the fit Brooks!
The laces are the ‘string of sausages’ style, meaning they have a fatter section every cm or so which really helps to keep them secure.
The tongue is a single layer of faux suede peppered with small holes which has a padded central region. The whole thing is kept central with a small piece of elastic inside around half way down. I think this is a great idea which all shoes should have, although one of my pieces of elastic has failed already.
Finally on the upper we have the heel cup. This is pretty stiff creating a little more stability to the run. The top Achilles section has a lot of give and is very soft. The heel really adds to the comfort of this shoe.
Right, I’ll just run off what Brooks states first then give my thoughts. It is made with their BioMoGo technology which basically means it’s a little friendlier to planet Earth than the average shoe. Next up is the peculiar DNA substance they use which supposedly gives you more of a custom ride due to it ‘remembering’ where the pressure is applied. Then there is, to me, the most important feature, the 4mm heel to toe differential. I have tried many shoes, and my favourites are either 4mm or close to it. The next feature is a Pure project feature, this being the Toe flex. This is a 2cm split in the front of the midsole between the large toe and the next toe which enables the large toe to function independently. The final Pure project feature is the Ideal heel. This is a slimmed down heel that has a cut away back section which encourages a mid to forefoot strike.
The BioMoGo I like. I hate waste, so anything that helps to cut that down is a bonus for sure. The DNA I don’t feel I can comment on. They seem comfortable but are they any different to other foams? I’m not sure. I certainly can’t say it’s ineffective though. I feel no difference with the toe flex though. It needs to have a little more give to be effective I think. The ideal heel is great! There is just no need to have the heel jutting out back and encouraging the heel to strike first. This is a simple but very effective idea that should be rolled out across all shoes.
The tread is quite unusual on these and when I saw them in the shop I wasn’t convinced they would be very effective. The day after I bought them I took them around the 50 mile Green man and was pleasantly surprised by the grippy tread. They were good for the many different surfaces I encountered including the road sections. The whole sole is quite banana shaped from front to back.
As I just mentioned, I wore these for the first time, the day after I bought them for a 50 miler. They were amazing and the next week I had the Viking Way ultra, a 147 mile beast of a race that was being held for the first time. From that one run, I decided to wear them the next week. No matter what I wear, my feet will be pretty sore after running for 147 miles, so I was not expecting my feet to be in tip top condition at the end. At the 100 mile point, they were pretty bad and were really sore. By the end they were incredibly painful. I was desperate to lie down and put my feet up after just under 30 hours. I had learnt that I need a rock plate in the forefoot. The Saucony Peregrines had a rock plate and this gave them that little extra protection from sharp stones that I needed. During the race, I caught them on a gate post and tore them on the heel a little but it certainly doesn’t look as though it will propagate. After this, I wore them one other time to see whether they would be a good 100 mile shoe, a last chance. I wore them when I ran the South Downs Way with a friend. This is just over 100 miles and by the end I was dying to get off my feet again.
I would just like to state the obvious here and remind you that shoes are an incredibly personal thing. I can only give you my opinions and my feedback from my experiences. These shoes just don’t quite hit the mark for me. I want a 100 mile shoe and this is not it. It is great in every aspect that I can think of, but it just doesn’t offer me enough protection for my poor feet. They are super comfortable, offer enough stability, the tread is effective and I love the roll that the banana sole gives, but I need a rock plate. It’s a real shame as I could see myself getting through a few pairs of these had they had a plate.
Who knows, maybe these would be your perfect trail shoe, but for me the search continues