Brooks PureDrift Review: Shoes for Minimalists Pushing Mileage

When you're running "barefoot style," you have be careful as you're building strength. Try to run too far or too fast in minimal shoes, and you could really hurt yourself. Brooks' all-new PureDrift is yet another shoe designed to bridge the gap between cushioning and minimalism. Let's see if it can succeed where others have failed.

Disclaimer: Minimalist running shoes are not for everybody. You have to adjust your running style and build very slowly or you will break your feet and ruin your entire life. Do your homework if you plan to slowly transition to shoes like these.

What Is It?

A new, light, minimal-ish running shoe from Brooks.

Who's It For?

People just getting into minimalist running, or minimalist runners who are pushing their limits in terms of milage and/or pace.

Brooks PureDrift Review: Shoes for Minimalists Pushing Mileage

Design

At 5.6 ounces, these are very light (not as light as the 4.4-ounce New Balance Minimus Zero Trail). A rounded heel cup keeps the back of your foot in place as the shoe widens to allow toe-splay. The sole is divided up into sections to make it more flexible, and the top of the shoe is basically one giant elasticized tongue that wraps around your foot and cradles it nicely.

Using It

Very light and very comfortable. The elastic strap almost feels like it a quick-lace (aka a shock-cord). You can feel the ground extremely well (I could tell when I was running on painted lines), yet there's enough cushioning that the occasional accidental heel-strike won't shoot a bolt of pain up your leg. Despite the shoe's width, you can corner quite well.

The Best Part

I've been setting my personal bests in these shoes for the last month, both in speed and distance. They are much more forgiving than other minimalist shoes, yet they don't lose the best qualities of minimalism.

Tragic Flaw

The shoes leave a blister in the same spot every time I push beyond a few miles—on the pad of my left foot between first two toes. The Brooks PureConnect caused the same problem earlier this year. I think it's because the sole is split between your toes to allow more flexibility. Because it only happens on one foot, I think it might be a fit issue that won't affect everyone.

Brooks PureDrift Review: Shoes for Minimalists Pushing Mileage

This Is Weird...

It seems like there's too much material in the upper, toward the front of the foot. Lace it up tight at all, and the materials bunch up and press into your foot, which is annoying.

Test Notes

  • The off-center lacing system follows the lines of your foot (similar to the Skora Form). It feels pretty good, but I liked it a lot more when I swapped in speed-laces. The big uni-tongue is a nice touch and made the upper feel smooth and more supportive.
  • The padding is too thick for strict minimalist runners, but for most, there's still more than enough control, and they're very comfortable. You can even walk around in them and not feel like you're killing your heels. You can have inserts in or out to control whether it's a zero-drop or a 4mm-drop shoe. (My testing was done without the inserts.)
  • The tread is not super-robust. It's fine for damp ground and a little bit of dirt, but for serious trail-running you're going to need tread with more bite.

Brooks PureDrift Review: Shoes for Minimalists Pushing Mileage

Should You Buy It?

If you're an aspiring minimalist runner, or a minimalist runner experimenting with your limits, then yes. They're light and comfy, but still have a lot of those must-have minimalist qualities, like good ground-feel, zero-drop, and a very roomy toe-box. The Merrell Barefoot Road Glove has been my favorite running shoe, but now it has company. The PureDrift isn't as thin a the Merrells, but for longer runs, these are what I'll be reaching for. If I can get that weird blistering problem sorted out, I'll be wearing these when I do my first half-marathon in February 2013.

You can pre-order the PureDrift now, and they will begin shipping January 3rd, 2013. $100 is not a bad price for shoes this good. [Brooks]

Brooks PureDrift Specs

Type: Running
Weight: 5.6oz
Drop: 0mm (or 4mm, w/ inserts)
Men's Sizes: 7 - 14
Women's Sizes: 5 - 12
Men's Colors: Blue on black, or black on yellow.
Women's Colors: Black on blue, or pink on black.
Price: $100 (retail)
Giz Rank: 4.0 Stars