Brooks Running Pure Project: Brooks to Introduce a New Line of Minimalist Shoes

Brooks Running Logo I was just alerted yesterday to a new post on the Brooks Running blog where they announced their plans to jump into the minimalist shoe market with a collection called the PureProject (thanks @ZakBranigan!). The Brooks post is an interesting one, and I actually find their approach to be positive in a number of ways. In the post, one of the shoe designers at Brooks talks about how they did extensive consumer research to get a feeling for what “new runners” want when it comes to shoes. Not exactly sure why they only talked to new runners, especially since they are least likely to know what they really want in a shoe given their lack of experience, but that was their approach.

Based on this consumer research (my personal preference would have been extensive biomechanical research, but one hopes that has been done as well), they reported a number of findings. Among these were the fact that runners get confused by too much technology in a shoe, that runners often don’t understand what happens when their gait is analyzed in order to assist in selection of shoes (don’t get me started on the whole pronation control paradigm…), that less shoe should not cost more money (let’s hope they stick to this campaign promise!), and that runners are variable and want more choice when it comes to shoes.

The last point is where I applaud the Brooks approach. They discuss the fact that some runners like to connect to their surroundings on the run, and feel the ground under their feet via a very minimal shoe. Other runners like to float along, disconnected from the ground with billowy cushion underfoot and headphones in their ears. Brooks admits that they have not provided for the “Feel” crowd in the past with their shoes – the closest they come would be the Mach series of cross country flats. They view their “core” lineup, including shoes like the Adrenaline, Launch, Glycerine, Ghost, etc. as the “Float” group (see graph below with the Float-Feel axes). I have worn several of these regularly in the past, and Float is a pretty good description – very little in the way of ground feel. The New Pure Project shoe will be the “Feel” group – for what I think is a picture of one of the Brooks Pure shoes, check out this post by my friend Tuck.

Brooks Float Feel Chart

Float-Feel Axes Depicting the Location of the Brooks Pure Project Shoes. Image from the Brooks Running Blog. Based on this, looks like the new shoes will be neutral and emphasize ground feel. Can’t wait to see what the one indicated by the icon on the bottom left is!

Brooks also points out that some runners like to vary things from run to run – I am in this camp. Some days I like nothing more than to throw on my Vibrams and have a blast out on the road, whereas sometimes I enjoy the soft cushion of a shoe like the Saucony Kinvara. In this sense, I view this Float-Feel terminology as a fairly accurate and useful set of descriptors. I also have no problem with Brooks retaining the traditional axis – some people prefer it and that’s fine, though I personally don’t view the pronation control axis as primary, especially if one learns to run with better form. What I like about the Brooks approach overall is simply the recognition that we need more variety. Every runner has the ability to find out what works best for them, and what is best will never be the same for every single runner.

Permit me to be snarky for a second – one section I found a bit humorous was this:

PureProject is a new line of footwear that promotes a natural ride and a truly unique running experience in a lightweight package. We utilize a new proactive approach to biomechanics called Ideal. Ideal technology is built into the very geometry of these shoes. It was created to promote a runner’s ideal alignment by attempting to shift force application points to align force vectors, and then load internal structures to enhance performance and decrease the risk for injuries. With this incredibly unique product line, the shoes work together with the body to put runners back in the driver’s seat.”

So if PureProject “promotes a natural ride” that will “enhance performance and reduce the risk for injuries,” I’m wondering what they are comparing to? Is it compared to Brooks’ core product line? Do traditional Brooks shoes promote a more unnatural ride, reduce performance, and increase injury risk relative to the PureProject shoes that are in development? Just throwing it out there…feel free to share your thoughts in the comments ;)

Anyway, it will be interesting to see what Brooks comes up with in the Pure Project lineup. I’ve heard rumors about these shoes for months, but this is the first official announcement directly from Brooks, and it looks like there will be five four shoes in the collection to start if we are to go by the symbols on the Float-Feel graph. I’m excited to see another company aiming to add variety to the shoe market, and this can only be a good thing for the running community as a whole. Competition breeds innovation, and it’s an exciting time to be a shoe geek!

About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. Agree – competition is a good thing.

  2. This type of thing reminds me of all the large companies that have been destroying the environment and are now putting out the message that they are “saving” the environment and need your money in order to do so. For decades the runners world cabal has been preaching that form doesn’t matter and that tinkering with form will do more harm than good. The shoe companies fell right in line with this.

    To be honest a shoe company is the last place I’d go to for advice on running form.

  3. I checked out some of the other pictures of Scott Jurek’s blue Brooks’ on Anton’s site, and I’m not sure they are all that minimalistic. Reduced, ala the Kinvara, yes. They seem to have a Green Silence style sole that is definitely thicker than say the NB Minimus Road. Still, they look pretty cool. I imagine Scott Jurek is probably Brook’s first and best choice for testing anything new, but I have never heard him say anything about using minimalist shoes. Interesting and intriguing. I can’t wait to see what Brooks throws into the mix.

  4. Brooks entering the minimalist market can only be good news, Wether they ultimately go with near barefoot like merrel or a reduced traditional trainer like sauconny is ultimately Immaterial, We will still have more variety, greater choice, and more competition, which cant be a bad thing.

  5. If I remember right, Nike completed some similarly interesting verbal maneuvers with its announcement – and continued promotion of – the Free line. It emphasized the lower-leg strengthening benefits of running “barefoot”, but tried desperately hard not to say that traditional trainers might do the opposite.

  6. My hope with this product is that it will continue to reinforce the role of efficient form and technique in running. By focusing on the things we can control (form, breathing, gait) we become less dependent on what we can’t. This seems to be a very different energy than the blog post from CEO Jim Weber on 1/25 of last year.

    Where I am excited is that this is going to expose more people to this concept and hopefully they share the data used to create Ideal Alignment. I think the success of this strategy will come from how committed Brooks is to this concept. If they are dabbling as a way to capitalize on what they believe to be is a fading trend, then the line and perhaps Brooks may burn out. If they are ready to take a logic and evidence based approach to running, than this could be a huge catalyst for Brooks and a generation of runners to create better running experiences.

  7. Sam Winebaum says:

    While the resulting shoes may turn out to be great the Pure Project post, matrix, and the language makes me wonder if the audience is their own management, retailers reluctant to move away from the grand 3 type of shoe counsel to consumers and to what ultimately should be lower price points as eventually less material weight and assembly equals lower costs ( look at a tear down of the iPad 2 to see this in action, and finally data and buzz words for the running mainstream press when it comes to review time for the new line.

  8. I agree with the snarky reaction to the ad, but it’s got to be hard for a shoe company to come up with good sales pitches for products that are hurting and sidelining thousands of runners every year.

    “At least your feet will look cool as we slowly destroy them.”

  9. I am not sure what to think. As someone who has been a Brooks supporter (former ID member and current Fanatics member, full disclosure) I am excited that I may have a minimalist option coming our way from Brooks. However, I must say that since my own “conversion” to BF and minimal running, I have diversified my collection to include New Balance MT101, Merrell Trail Gloves, Inov8 195s, and Saucony Kinvara and Peregrine. Not all those are truly minimalist, but you get my drift. I do think that Brooks has taken some chances and brought out products in the past that were pretty unconventional, the Green Silence comes to mind. No, not unconventional in the minimalist sense, but in the environmental sense. It is a weird looking shoe, unusual lacing and construction, and in the first place it was seriously ugly, but they put it out there and has gotten some praise, so maybe they are willing to take chances, and although their entire line is not that enviro-focused, maybe the Green Silence is a step in the right direction and someday their whole line will be that much better for it.

    As far as Brooks’ idea of a minimal approach…I also agree with one of the other posters and with Pete that some of the language they have in this release is walking a fine line and can be pretty contradictory to the formal three-type paradigm, which they told us was gospel. All I can say is that I would not want to be in the “shoes” of the big shoe companies right now and have to figure out this conundrum. It is hard to explain why you want to make minimal shoes when you have been telling us all along the the built up trainers are necessary. This announcement from Brooks is the same one Nike, New Balance, Saucony, etc. are all walking as well.

    I suppose it will have to be incremental, Rome was not built in a day, so I’m happy to let the big companies crawl before they walk before they run rather than just sit back and criticize them without restraint. They built overbuilt shoes because people were buying them because they were advertising them because people were buying them because….well, you get the picture. Industry is like a rolling stone, I am happy, though, that the rolling stone seems to be rolling towards less shoe being a very good thing for the running community, and I think we are better off for having New Balance, Merrell, Nike, Saucony, and Brooks going through this awkward process to get some minimal shoes out there, because with these companies comes mainstream distribution, education, and marketing that will only help the less shoe crowd…Vivo, Inov8, Altra, etc., just don’t have the kind of scale to really transform the market…most everyday runners will never have heard of those companies, but they have likely heard of New Balance or Nike, for instance. Although Nike needs to get a better minimal option out there, to be honest.

    Besides, we will always have our bare feet if we want to go that route and we can tell the companies to shove it.

    • …by the way, reminder that I was a former ID member and am now a Brooks Fanatics member, but there is no longer an exclusivity agreement with Fanatics as there was with ID, so Brooks will need to come up with the right product to keep my business just like anyone else…that is why I have been trying every other new option under the sun lately, and enjoying the wide variety of approaches out there on the market already this year, it is a great time to be a runner, I think!

    • Pete Larson says:

      I’ll add that I remember from my short tenure as a Brooks ID member myself I
      recall when they put out feelers to gauge the market size for a minimalist
      shoe. In fact I wrote a post about it in Nov. 2009 -
      link to runblogger.com….
      Seems clear that the market is what probably drove the decision.

      pete

    • Pete Larson says:

      Well put Zak, and yes, a very fun time to be a runner!

      Pete

  10. Jim Moore says:

    I’m a little turned off by this announcement. I was excited by the rumors of this line of shoes (mainly from a more choice and competition is better perspective), but this section worried me:

    “It was created to promote a runner’s ideal alignment by attempting to shift force application points to align force vectors, and then load internal structures to enhance performance and decrease the risk for injuries.”

    Seems a fairly traditional shoe company attempt to “fix” a runner’s form with a shoe, which I still feel is the wrong way to go about things, and in the end is likely to do more harm than good. (I also realize that I may be being slightly hypocritical here because my preferred shoes are Newtons which could probably be accused of attempting to do exactly what Brooks is stating, so maybe I am just taking umbrage to their wording.)

    Also, not to be too picky here, but I only count 4 icons in the chart, not 5.

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