Brooks Pure Connect: Too Narrow for My Feet

**Update: I have now posted a guest review of the new Brooks PureConnect 2. The upper of the update apparently allows a bit more give than the shoe described in this post.

After much fanfare and anticipation, Brooks finally released its Pure Project line of running shoes last month. Brooks has been careful to avoid calling them minimalist (Brooks CEO Jim Weber has openly mocked the minimalist movement), but I say let’s call a spade a spade and state clearly that this is Brooks’ answer to the minimalist running phenomenon. The Pure Project was released to compete with the Saucony Kinvara/Mirage/Cortana/Peregrine and New Balance Minimus shoes, and whether they’ll admit it openly or not, these shoes are their attempt to make a Brooks branded line of “natural running” shoes.

Brooks Pure Connect - Lateral

Brooks Pure Connect - Medial

Despite my problems with the initial marketing approach that Brooks took with these shoes, I was quick to put in a pre-order for the Brooks Pure Connect because I knew that the line would be popular. I am a shoe reviewer after all and I knew I’d get a ton of questions about these shoes. What’s more, the shoes look really nice, and I’ve had good personal experiences with Brooks shoes in the past (e.g., the Launch was a favorite in a previous phase of my running life). The Connect was billed as the most “minimal” of the Pure Project shoes, so they seemed like the obvious choice for me. The Connects arrived in the mail a few weeks early, and I was excited to take them out for a spin – until I put them on my feet.

There are only a few deal breakers that would prompt me to return a pair of shoes that I’ve purchased without running in them. Number one among those is a toebox that is too narrow (excessive heel lift is another, but that is more easily screened before purchasing). I can only recall three pairs of shoes that I have returned due to narrowness, and they are the Nike Waffle Racer, Saucony Shay, and now the Brooks Pure Connect. I’m quite surprised by the latter since Brooks designed the Connect to be the “maximal feel” shoe of their Pure Project lineup, and thus the shoe most likely to appeal to minimalist aficionados. Well, the only feel I was able to get from the Connect was the feel of my metatarsals being squeezed together and the sides of my feet hanging over the sole of the shoe. Standing on a shoe where the sole is narrower than your foot leads to a strong feeling of medio-lateral instability, and I just couldn’t justify swallowing the money I shelled out for these shoes to go for a run in them. I knew immediately that these were a no-go, and I’m left befuddled by what Brooks was thinking. I don’t by any means have a wide foot – the Saucony Kinvara fits fine on me – but the Connects were as narrow as any racing flat or XC shoe that I have worn.

Brooks Pure Connect - Top

The Brooks Pure Connect – notice how you can only see the bright green sole up near the toes. These shoes are narrow, and my feet were bulging out on both sides!

The other strange feeling in the Connect is under the arch. Instead of gently sloping from heel down to forefoot, it feels like Brooks put all of the 4mm drop right under the midfoot, and the result is a feeling of “arch support” that is more pronounced than in almost any other shoe that I own. This would not be a deal breaker for me as it feels a bit like the raised midfoot of the Skechers Go Run (though more localized to the arch side), and I learned from that shoe that what feels weird while standing might feel fine out on the road (I should note that I don’t think running with the insole removed is an option due to the way the shoe is constructed – it’s hard to explain in words). Also like the Go Run, the heel of the Connect feels extremely soft, and I suspect the combination of midfoot contour and soft heel would make these shoes quite good at encouraging a mifoot strike. However, I think the Skechers shoe is the better of the two if for no other reason than it has a fairly roomy fit and less going on under the arch.

Brooks Pure Connect - Insole

Insole of the Brooks Pure Connect – note the rather extreme contour in the midfoot region.

Brooks Pure Connect - HeelThe sole of the Connect is unusual in that the lateral forefoot and medial heel extend down further than the medial forefoot and lateral heel. You can see what I’m talking about in the photo to the left – notice the difference between how far the sole extends downward on the two sides. Once again, this is not a deal breaker for me, and I would have liked to have seen how this feels out on the road.

A couple of final observations. Brooks advertised these shoes as having 4 special technologies. One of these was the split sole between the big toe and the rest of the foot (see sole photo below). My take is that this feature is gimmicky and non-functional. First and foremost, the sole above the split (the lighter green area in the photo below) is rigid and little to no flex would seem possible. Second, the split is connected by midsole material only a few centimeters from the front of the shoe. For a split toe to really work, it needs to create greater independence for the big toe like that in the Vivobarefoot Achilles or in a tabi-style shoe (or the Vibram Fivefingers) – the trade-off is then that the shoes start to look weird. It’s also worth mentioning that Brooks’ conception of a shoe that allows you to “feel” the road is very different from mine. When I think “feel” I think Merrell Barefoot or Vibram Fivefingers. The Connect is pretty cushy, though I suppose if you are coming down from a more traditionally cushioned shoe it might have more feel to it. I’ve also heard that it feels firm on the run than when standing in them, but I can’t comment on that.

Brooks Pure Connect - Sole

I’ll end by saying that although I was disappointed by the Connect, it may be a fine shoe if you have a narrow foot (e.g., check out this review by my narrow-footed buddy Thomas over at Believe in the Run). After returning the shoe, I solicited some feedback from some on-line friends and from the Brooks rep on Twitter was told that the Flow had a wider toebox and might be more to my liking. I recently picked up a pair of those, and last weekend ran a solo half-marathon in them – a first-impressions review will becoming soon, and for now all that I’ll say is that I am rather impressed by the shoe. So, my advice to you is if you want to try out the Pure Project and have a medium to wide foot, skip the Connect and opt for the Flow – it’s a much better fit and will likely be a strong competitor to the Saucony Kinvara.

**Update: I have now posted a guest review of the new Brooks PureConnect 2. The upper of the update apparently allows a bit more give than the shoe described in this post.

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. strickensocken says:

    I love these shoes.  35 years ago I was running in Tiger (now Asics) Marathons.  These were a shoe little more than a 4-5 mm flat sole with a fabric upper and they were fantastic.  Then came progressively more complex shoes with thick cushioning. torsion bars etc.  I have always had a bit of an aversion to the more cushioned shoes and at last the right shoes for running have been rediscovered!  One feels ready to accelerate at any moment and they are fun to run in.  Superb, a great fit.  Well done Brooks!

  2. Kevin W. Schell says:

    Like you, Pete, I was initially disappointed by the timing of Jim Weber’s anti-barefoot remarks relative to the unveiling of the Pure Project line. I felt that the company was certainly being disingenuous with their foray into minimalism and didn’t want to have anything to do with it.

    I changed my mind about how to respond to Mr. Weber’s comments a few weeks ago. I thought that maybe Brooks would change their “official position” on barefoot or minimalist running if they sold a ton of Pure Project shoes so I bought the Flows and I really like them (I also found the Connect to be too narrow through the midfoot with a low volume, narrow toebox). I could do without the, “nav band” or “IDEAL heel” but the Flow’s toe-box is huge and I can run 20 miles in them without pain, blisters or lost toenails. I can’t run that far in my Vibrams yet and I can’t run that far barefoot.

    I am using my dollars to send Brooks a message to make more low-to-zero drop shoes with less features and larger toe-boxes. I hope it works.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Kevin,

      I also like the Flow. I wouldn’t call the toe box huge (for me at least – fit is very individual), but I must say that I do like the ideal heel. It’s basically the same idea as New Balance used on the Minimus Road and Skechers has on the Go Run. Undercutting the heel does seem to help one avoid a heel strike. It’s probably the only of the 4 “technologies” that they are touting in the Pure shoes that I feel is of any lasting worth.

  3. Are any of the brooks pure line shoes comparable to the Saucony Progrid Mirage? 

  4. I’m surprised you went with the Flow, as that one seems like a standard running shoe with a thicker sole.

    I agree with all the observations about the Connect – it’s way too narrow. The Pure Grit is a little wider but for me the huge deal breaker was that hump that exists at the midfoot of both shoes. It feels like there is a small bar extending across the shoe at that point. Maybe you get used to it, but I don’t get the logic behind such a design. Also, just look at the soles of the shoes – hardly minimal.

    It seems that most people are responding positively to Brooks Pure Project around the web, so maybe I’m in the minority. This Brooks Pure Project to me is a huge farce and a half-a**ed attempt at swaying the minimalist-interested crowd.

  5. Semajdunn says:

    Thank you for the review.  I was thinking about getting a pair but have been waiting for a shoefitter look at Running Warehouse.  I hate returning shoes so I either buy them at a store where I can try them on or buy them from Running Warehouse after they have been out long enough that they have the shoefitter info available.  Your review saved me a wasted trip to a store.

  6. Alex Beecher says:

    For pavement, I’d always opt for something lighter and without so much substance, regardless. But throw in some nasty rocks, and my opinion changes a little. Hence, the Grit looks a tad more interesting to me. Any chance you’ll take a look at that, Pete?

    • Pete Larson says:

      Quite possibly, they didn’t have it at the store where I bought the Flows. Might be a decent winter shoe.

  7. Nicole Lacoste says:

    I had a quick look at them this weekend too (while I was buying a new pair of VFF – the Komodo Sport – very nice shoe).  The shop had the whole Brook’s Pure line. The toe split looks like a total gimmic – there is no independent movement.  The toe box is too pointy for me and overall all the pure’s looked quite narrow.  I guess I just love the VFF too much. I’d love to try the Altra’s but they’re not available in Europe yet.

  8. naturalrunningstore says:

    Hey Pete.  With the introduction of this line that does “More With Less” are you aware of Brooks addressing their open letter from Jim Weber” in Jan of 2010.  Looks like the leader of the company had some interesting opinions about running and the necessity for supportive cushioned footwear that they believe “is not only beneficial, it also plays an essential role in delivering a comfortable, injury-free running experience.”   It would be interesting to hear if their thoughts or philosophy have evolved as the Pure line has emerged.

    link to talk.brooksrunning.com

    • Pete Larson says:

      I’m sure their thoughts and philosophy will evolve if these shoes continue to sell as well as they seem to be selling :) The marketing of these shoes was a mess, and not helped by the comments of the boss.

  9. I tried on the women’s version of the PureConnect and found the same thing. All of the reviews I’ve read are stellar, and I was really hoping to like them, but even in my normal size, my mid-through-front foot felt like it was being squeezed into a different shape. I don’t have wide feet and have never worn a different shoe width. I can see these being fun shoes to run in because the tactile sensation is really nice, but I have no idea what Brooks was thinking by creating such a tight-fitting shoe for a “minimalist” style. Also, does anyone really need this much arch support? Thanks for your blog post, now I don’t feel as crazy returning these in spite of hundreds of five-star reviews…

  10. Been running the Flow now for 3 weeks. Came from Kinvara (too little cushioninig; poor durability) and Cortana (perfect but cushioning too soft) to it. Must say, for me the best shoe so far! I run mainly on roads or hardpacks. Rarely below 1 hour so my legs take some beating and I need some cushioning under my feet.

    Flows were slightly too narrow in the beginning but widened after the first two runs. However, heard that the last seems to be wider than the Connect’s. Nice firm cushioning. Went two times for 3 hours this week end, perfect for that. Really like the inverted heel. Don’t notice the split toe.

    My only wish: make it zero drop!

  11. mtnrunner2 says:

    Too bad about the toe box, but I bought a pair of the PureFlow without even trying the Connect (tried the PureGrit and PureCadence, which I didn’t like as much). The Flow just feels really good on a fairly wide foot and has nice cushioning and not much drop. So far so good.

  12. I wish you had tried to size up! I am not a runner, I have a STAR ankle replacement, so walking in itself is a chore. It also makes it extremely hard to find comfortable shoes. When i shop for sneakers, I usually end up trying on 30 pairs at 3 different places before I find something that doesnt feel like a brick on my foot. I agree these shoes are very narrow, normally a problem for the side with the ankle replacement. However, after sizing up a full size, these shoes are like butter. I havent walked without foot pain for over a year, now i am actually enjoying it. Give them another try in a size larger, i think youll be pleasantly surprized!

  13. You have to RUN in this shoe to judge it.

    When I tried them on and walked around, I thought they were too narrow in the forefoot (my D width foot almost hangs over the edges).  Also the cushioned pods feel weirdly full under the arch.  I had trouble getting my foot into them.

    But RUN in them, and it’s completely different.  They are comfortable and have a very nimble, fast feeling.  I’d use them for any distance 5K-marathon.

    - rovatti  

    • Pete Larson says:

      In my experience certain things will improve when running vs. standing in a shoe, but forefoot width is not generally one of them. If my foot is hanging over the sole on both sides, that’s too narrow.
      Sent from my iPad

  14. You had me at “arch support”.  Even the arch in the Kinvara gives me too much pain.  I don’t understand why any natural or minimalist shoe would have anything close to arch support.  Thanks for saving me the time/money on any of the Brooks Pure Project line.

  15. Ghgreyhound10 says:

    Pete,
    Thanks for the review.  I have both the Connect and the Flow.  I really like both shoes.  I agree they are narrow but I have very narrow feet and finding shoes that fit is really hard.  However, the Flows were narrow enough I had to switch to very thin socks as my left pinky toe was jammed a bit with my heavier socks.  Once I switched to some thin socks no issue.  The Connects are really narrow a bit more than the Flows.  I can feel the road more with the Connects vice the Flows.  It has a quicker feel. I don’t feel the arch thing after a few runs. I really like both shoes wish the toebox was wider.

  16. Sscottthomas says:

    I had been running in Merrell pace glove and loving them except that on long fast distances with a lot of downhill I felt that Iwanted a little thicker cushioning under my foot. Decided to try the Brooks Pure line. I noticed the same thing with the Connect re narrow toe box and didn’t like the feel of support in the arch. Opted for Flows, thinking the whole split toe thing was a gimmick. Have to say, very pleasantly surprised by this shoe. Love the cushioning as it seems to allow me to fly downhill and am finding that my foot and toes are very relaxed. They’re now my favorites!

  17. The narrow toe box put the Pure Connects on the shelf for a while. However, my job was leaving me with some pretty sore feet, and, looking for a little bit more cushioning I decided to give them another shot. Changing to an open pattern lacing helped. But what really did the trick was swapping out the Brooks insole for a Kinvara insole. Not sure if either Brooks or Saucony would appreciate this running shoe crossbreeding, but it’s made all the difference. I’ve had a couple of 10 mile training runs in this “hybrid” with no complaints.

  18. I agree with your assessment of the toe box.  I tried these on at a race expo thinking I would love them.  Didn’t even walk around in them.  It looked like they were even tapered in on my feet. I ended up leaving with the Pure Flows, which I haven’t run enough in to decide if I like them or not. 

  19. It is funny to read your review as I LOVE the Connects. At first they did feel tight in the toebox and I do have a wide foot. I actually wear a wide in regular trainers. I tried them on in the store and ended up in a 7.5 when I regularly wear a 6.5 wide. In the first 4-6 runs I was concerned with both the width of the toebox & the arch support which sort felt like it was pressing too far into my arch. Something magically starting helping the more I wore the shoe. I t just started molding to my feet and loosen up in the toebox. I now after 150+ miles in them I have Crazy Love for them as I feel like I am flying in my fast runs.

  20. Cc Courtney says:

    Great write up, fancied these after my green silence but not so sure now. Anyone worn these and the green silence to compare them.

  21. Thank you for the review. I have narrow feet. the industry caters for the 80% of the pop with D width. Narrow male is about 5-7% so it has always been a chore fore me. I just did a 2:42 26 in the Pure Connect. I love them! Not the perfect trail runners, and certainly not cross-fit stability on plyo or strength. However, I am a believer and these are my go to runners. If you are a rare bird (narrow and mid to high arch), these are the best runners out there, IMO

    • Thank you for adding this. I love minimal-ish shoes, but they tend to have a wide forefoot and zero arch, so my narrow high arched foot has nothing to stop it from sliding around and jamming the toes on downhills. Sizing up to avoid hitting the toes only leaves more volume to slide around in and more bunched up material from trying to cinch the laces tighter. The firm metatarsal band and medium arch on the NB Minimus trail 10s are a good fit, but the lack of protection keeps me from using them on roads or trails longer than 5 miles. Have tried many others in the 4mm drop category, and everything is so wide that I have to wear thicker socks or add an insole to take up space. Ok enough rambling, I’m going to buy these now. Thanks.

  22. Paul Henry says:

    Its a shame that they are too narrow for you Pete because i would back up a little what rovatti said the shoes do feel different when running in them, as for the shape my feet are wide in the toes but not necessarily across the mid foot. They do feel close, much closer than my long run shoes but have more room than my track spikes. With sufficient space for toes which was my big worry when reading the early reviews saying they fit close.

    I too immediately noticed the knobbly feel of the midsole, and the ‘arch support’ … the feeling of arch support is created by the elasticated band wrapping the midfoot and pulling the shoe outer and liner up into contact with your arch… there isnt actually much support there at all…it just feels that way, and took me a little bit of time with the shoes on my feet to get used to… and you notice it again every time you put them on again.

    With the toe split i was expecting a lot more independent flexibility. But there is some flexibility there, certainly noticably more than a standard light trainer.

    Brooks says ‘This is a shoe for those who want as little as possible between them and the road’ but they arnt really. I dont think these are shoes that will appeal to the Barefoot or Super Minimal running types. There is simply too much sole underfoot. and to be honest despite the advertising I dont think thats who they are marketed at… Rather they are marketed at someone like me, someone who runs most of my miles in regular or light trainers, But is looking for something flatter and a little more minimal something to help promote a midfoot strike, without going as far as say the Merrell Road Glove

    Ill still do some Barefoot running, ill still clock up most of my miles in lightweight trainers, or perhapes the flow if i can get my hands on a pair, but the connects will definately have a place in my shoe rotation as well.

    For any that are interested you can read about my first steps in them here: http://kiwi-running.blogspot.c

    • Pete Larson says:

      Thanks for chiming in Paul – I’m enjoying the Flows, but there was just something really off about the Connects for me. As always, individual results will vary!

      • Paul Henry says:

        How true. No shoe will suit everyone. ,,, If im lucky i think i may have got my hands on some Flows…really looking foward to seeing if they will be a better choice for my regular (longer) runs.

      • Daytripper1021 says:

        Hi Pete! I cant wait for your PureFlow review. Hope to read it soon! Thanks.

  23. Tom Buckner says:

    Nice write up!  I have both the Connect and the Grit (Grit are pure heaven).  While the Connect is a bit narrow, my feet fit comfortably in them and hve not got any blisters or sore spots.  They are a joy to run in, very comfortable and absolutely no problem running efficiently and staying off my heels.  

    In your review you called it arch support.  It does curve the lines of the arch closely, but support?  Thing flattens out with the slightest pressure, and definitely isn’t noticeable when running.

    The split toe actually serves a purpose and IS functional.  I can take both hands and easily manipulate the sole back and forth around the split.  I have noticed it most on uneven terrain, sloped bike lanes, slanting trails.  For me, at least, it feels like I have more stability than previously.

    As for cushioning….WOW!  Spot on with the Connect and very nice on the feet.  The minimalist movement seems to think that less is more.  I like my cushion and can feel the road just fine.  I can be in my super thick hiking boots and still feel a pebble on the ground when I step on it.  Was never quite sure where the anti-cushioning is leading.  Can’t we have zero drop shoes with cushioning?

  24. Surprising to see this shoe classified as “minimalist”. It has quite a
    bit of cushioning and the heel counter is quite rigid. I’d say it may be
    “neutral/transition”. The toebox gets many negative comments but it can
    be made roomier by replacing the proprietary insert with one that is
    thinner. Overall a nice shoe. Flaws I’ve noticed: 1) once
    dirty, hard to clean (dust accumulates under the mesh and soakes into the inner foamy layer); 2) the front, pointy tip of the logo (stiff plastic shape affixed onto the surface) pierced a
    hole in the plastic mesh as it is positioned (in my case) directly in
    the flex area.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Depends on how you define minimalist I guess – I view it as a spectrum from traditional shoes to barefoot-style shoes (basically anything under 8mm drop or so and under 10oz). But yes, I’d put the Connect in the neutral/transition category within that spectrum.

      —-
      Pete Larson’s Web Links:
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      • Hmmm…. I might sound too orthodox but to me the word “minimalist” translates into “as little as possible”. So for me the “barefoot-style” shoes are in fact minimalist (and these two terms are “parallel” or overlapping) since it’s as little of a shoe as possible, compared to the bare feet. But then I’m not native English speaker and of course classifications are secondary to function – and of course, to the very act of running :) So in fact my post was more about the flaws than terminology. I might also add that the shoes felt a little weird at the beginning (foot sliding to the side, strange feeling under the arch) – especially when walking in them. Surprisingly, they felt much different/better when running (forefoot/midfoot gait, of course).The cushioning is not firm but is “springy” and does not seem to dampen the stride dynamics.

        So much from me ’bout the Connects. Thanks for responding, Pete, I truly enjoy your website and visit often :) Keep up the good work and good luck in 2013!

        • Pete Larson says:

          I think the issue for me is that the term minimalist is used to mean lots of things to lots of different people, and is applied by marketers to all kinds of shoes. As such, to be more specific I think using things like barefoot-style/ultraminimal, neutral/transition, etc. allows for greater specificity. Ultimately you are right though, function is more important than terminology :)
          Sent from my iPad

  25. Peter Sendelius says:

    It is interesting that they have one branch of “natural running shoes”. This means that their other shoe lines are unnatural and who would like to use them?

  26. I suspect the shape of the last utilized on the Pure Connect is an issue affecting the narrow feel of the shoe for many.  Unlike the other shoes in the  Pure line, the Connect utilized a curved last; the same last as on the T7 racer.  I have a medium-width foot and while I run in and have raced in the Kinvaras, I always felt a bit of a pinch on the metatarsals on my right foot.  The Pure Connect is a much better fit for my particular foot. 

  27. Aguz Advincula says:

    i bought these shoes a couple of months ago and all of the problems here described attacked to me… and i changed for my old trust adizero hagio and a few days while on a mtb ride i realized that my specialized clipless shoes insole was so worn, i can feel the clip access so i changed the insole and trouble fixed also i got rid of those ugly laces… so i went to a fabrics shop and i bought some bungy little cord and some stops and i made some speed laces like the triathlon ones and now i like these.

  28. I’ve been running for 20 yrs, I’ve run many road races including 12 marathons and the pure connect is the best shoe I’ve ever run in. True it’s for narrow feet as the flow is for wide feet.

  29. RunningPT12 says:

    Dang, Pete! What kind of meat-snowshoes do you have for feet?

    All kidding aside, I had a similar experience two weeks ago when the Brooks rep came to our local store for a demo day. I preferred the Flow and the Cadence over the Connect – the Connect just had a really irregular under-foot feel, like running on lumpy potatoes.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Ha! I think my feet are just used to not being squeezed. Lumpy potatoes is a good description!
      Sent from my iPad

  30. Andrew W. Lischuk says:

    Interesting take on the shoe.  I am glad to see more manufacturers putting a more (minimalist) shoe out on the market.  The competition should drive for better products and choices and also end up lowering the cost.  Always a good thing.  Too bad you couldn’t put in a run in the shoes to give a functional review.  Having read your prior post on the New Balance minimus trail and the shoe surgery you had to do on that one, I can understand the hesitation to run in this one.  No reason to injure yourself for this one.  I for one have fallen in love with the Saucony Mirage having run in it and the Kinvara for the better part of the last year and a half.  I have chosen the mirage as my NYC marathon shoe as I feel it gives me just a little more support in my foot, probably better for me since I carry about 195lbs.  What is interesting is that when I brought the Kinvara I they recommended a size one half size below my adidas shoe size (my prior running shoe).  It fit well for the better part of 250miles, but when I got the new Kinvara II and the Mirage I ordered the same 11.5 mens size and both feel a bit snug. Not sure if it is a sizing issue or if my foot actually has adapted to this minimalist running things.  (never took original measurements)  I assume there may be some truth the the foot adapting to the running style as I certainly feel much stronger in the feet/ankle/calves now compared to over 1.5yrs ago.  Looking forward to your next review.

  31. I’ve had the Pure Connect for about 3 weeks now, and have put about 200 miles on them, both trail and road, with a 2:33 marathon in them last weekend.  I completely agree with the review and the comments. Though I really wanted to like the shoe and have been running in it anyway, I wish I had just returned it before it got dirty.  I have wide feet (even Altras aren’t quite wide enough at the toes; my 4th and 5th toes ripped through the uppers in a few weeks). I had to modify the Pure Connect by cutting away the lateral side of the plastic toe guard that is glued to the outer translucent mesh.  This allowed substantially greater stretch of the green inner material. I’ve been used to my toes hanging over a shoe’s midsole for quite a while, and the Pure Connect is no exception. However, a plastic inner toe guard restricts this ability, and the makes the shoe more constricting than other narrow shoe I’ve tried on. Once nice feature is that despite the narrowness, the medial toebox is straighter than in other shoes.  In other words, the toebox doesn’t narrow over the 2nd or third toe, but has its apex distal to the big toe, so the 1st ray and big toe are in better alignment than in some other narrow shoes. The split toe doesn’t work at all.  The midsole is too stiff (though it has become significantly more flexible with wear). The bottom line is that the shoe is painfully narrow, especially for something marketed with an “anatomical last.” I don’t know who’s anatomy this is based on, but its not remotely shaped like my foot. When I removed the insole and placed my foot over it, I laughed.  Dumb, Brooks, dumb.

    I bought the Pure Connect hoping it would replace my aging pair of Mach 11 flats (the Mach 12 is nothing like the 11 in my opinion), based on reportedly similar midsole heights/differentials.  The Mach 11 was also narrow at first, but stretched/ripped out and has served me well. In fact, it now has 2000+ miles on it, I run on it regularly, and it’s the single best running shoe I’ve ever owned. But the Pure Connect feels like a marshmallow, especially in the heel. Maybe it’s the convexity of the midsole, or too much midsole overall, or softer midsole in the heel, but I actually feel like it encourages a rearfoot strike (albeit a few cm forward compared to a shoe with a traditional angular heel shape).  I’m hoping the Pure Connect will prove better with time. After 200 miles it is much more comfortable than when I first laced it up. But unless Brooks can make significant improvements in last shape and midsole contour in the next iteration of the Pure Connect, they’ve probably lost me as customer. I’m hoping the Minimus Road (2012) or Mizuno Wave Universe 4 prove to be better road shoes.

    • Pete Larson says:

      Phil,

      I agree with you on the Mach 11, it’s also a narrow shoe, but for some reason it works. Maybe because it’s narrow and firm, and lacks the softness that I feel contributes to instability in the Connect. In my opinion Brooks could have just taken the Mach 11, made the last a bit roomier, and they would have a near perfect minimalist shoe.
      I just got the MWU4 – great road shoe!

      Sent from my iPad

  32. Mike Stewart says:

    It’s interesting, as I find the Kinvaras slightly more roomy in the toes than the Connects but not by much. Once I’m running in the Connects, it’s almost as if they loosen up and I don’t even notice. My feet aren’t particularly wide, however.

    As for the Flows, I know I *should* like them better for longer runs, but as I switch back and forth between Connects and Flows, I think I like the Connects better. The Flows are nice, but that’s it: nice. I knocked out ten miles in the Connects last night (which is a relatively lengthy run for me right now), and they continue to amaze. Feet and legs felt great, and I just felt zippy the entire time. With the Flows, feet and legs feel appropriate to the distance (i. e., not “great”).

    I’m sure you’ll like the Flows, with the roomier fit. For me, I expected to like them even more than the Connects, but for some weird reason I don’t. I guess that’s why Brooks makes different models. :-)

  33. Misszippy says:

    Great review, thanks. There’s been so much gushing over this shoe so it’s good to get another perspective. Wondering if the narrow toe box doesn’t bother those whose feet are used to being trapped in traditional shoes (and thus less toe splay) than you has probably has pretty good splay by now? I’ll be interested to hear about the flow.

  34. Wondering if they might be a good shoe for marathon training, I tried these on as soon as they came out. Like you, the narrow toe box made them a no-go. Instead got the Flows. Like marshmallows! But that wasn’t the deal breaker. Rather, it’s the nav-band (perhaps combined with the exaggerated arch support) that caused numbness and discomfort. Returned mine within the 30 day window.

  35. I have put about 800 miles on my PureFlows and I love them. I actually found that the shoe was a little too wide for my foot, so I am going to try the Connects out next. I recommend the Flows if you have concerns about the connects being too narrow. 

  36. I had many of the same thoughts when I tried the PureConnects a few weeks back at my local Fleet Feet. I knew going in that they would almost certainly be too narrow (I have wide feet – Altras are HEAVEN for me!) but I wanted to try them anyway. I even tried a men’s size as Brooks suggested to me on Twitter – no dice. Also, I hated the arch. I actually giggled to the salesman that it felt like I was standing/running with a tennis ball under my arch (and I have pretty high arches).

    I really wanted to like them…they’re so gosh-darned pretty… ;)

  37. Haewon Kim says:

    I just ran in the Connect 1 today and boy they were narrow… as someone suggested, I went ahead and swapped the insole from a Kinvara 3 (which I thought were half a size too big) and bam, two nice perfectly fitting shoes. Although I love the Kinvara’s, I thought they do lack a bit of the arch support, so the Connect insole works perfectly. The Kinvara insole in the Connect gives it more room and a perfect size. Thanks for the suggestion, someone who commented. =) I’ll remember that trick for future shoes as well.

  38. I totally agree with your assessment of the Connect, all the way to the split toe which makes no logical sense to me in the way it is executed. The Saucony Kinvara is a bit narrow in the toe box for me so the Connect was way too narrow. And I hated how the arch felt. I ended up with the Flow which I’m still on the fence about. I felt like I needed a bit more cushion on my longer runs since my old stress fracture spot was acting up in my Kinvaras once I went over a measly 15 miles per week, but after having such nice road feel, it was hard to get used to the squishiness of the Flow.

    Be glad you’re a man though – the women’s line is fugly. Why must we always have blue and the guys get good colors like green????

  39. Your assessment mirrors mine, though I found the PureFlows to still be too narrow (though I did figure if one liked the Kinvara, they may like the Flow also). In my mind, Brooks missed the mark completely, and I hope they stay in the game and try again.
    My short review:
    http://welcome-to-briders-plac

  40. Greg Strosaker says:

    This seems consistent with the two other reviews I have read about the Pure Connect, and is a deal-breaker for me as well.  Thanks for taking the time to write up the details anyway.  Interested to read how you like the Pure Flow’s.

  41. Erinmcdougall says:

    Interesting- I found the Connect more comfortable across my toes than my Kinvaras. I’ve got about 700km on a pr of Kinvaras, all of them without socks since I find the toe box too narrow to wear socks. I bought Connects last week at a race expo and took them out for about 45 mins yesterday, and found them quite comfortable. To me they felt quite cushy when standing, but when running they felt quite firm. One thing I might try though is replacing the insole with something flat. The arch didn’t bother me for a short run, but it might get annoying on a long run.

  42. Ken Skier says:

    Wow.  If the toebox is too narrow for your feet, there’s no way I’d manage to stuff my feet in there!

    Odd that Brooks would target a shoe to people who think of themselves as “running barefoot” or “running natural” or “running nearly-barefoot”–and then make a toebox that is so narrow it excludes their target market.

    Unless their target market is not people who run barefoot, or nearly-barefoot…but people who’d like to think they do?

    Disappointing, any case.

  43. Chris Baad says:

    I think I may be in “narrow feet” minority (though I have never really had it pointed out to me before).  I have had mostly positive experiences with my Pure Connect shoes though I can definitely understand those that are not so much a fan of ‘arch’ portion of the shoe. 

    My first steps were pretty off putting but as I have retired most of my shoes with any cushion at all, I felt compelled to give them a real try (REI’s return policy is pretty lenient).  After the first run, I knew I wasn’t going to be returning them.  To me the shoes represent a middle ground between the Kinvara (which I find to be a bit soft) and the Saucony A4′s (which I do like alot).

    I haven’t done any particularly long runs in the shoe yet but I anticipate that my experience will remain positive.  Good to read your perspective though, Pete.  

  44. I’m a long time Vibram runner, but have tried some of the more substantial shoes. Of the Pure line, I had the Flow when it came out and ran in them for a few weeks before returning. Like the Nike Frees, I seemed to get some knee pain that had me worried but I was especially bothered by the numbness to my arch. I am flat footed and the Vibrams and Altras and New Balance Mins serve me well whereas the traditional build up can cause problems.

    So fast forward a year and I just read your Kinvara blog. Went down to the running store and put that, in a sz 11, on my left (and still curious about the Pure line) a sz 11.5 Connect on my right. Just standing still, the Kinvara felt great. Nice roomie toe box like the Altra Adams that I have. The Connects where OK.

    Stepped onto the treadmill and did a couple minutes. Whereas the Kinvara felt comfortable but “wet”, the Connect was… well, not uncomfortable but certainly not ideal. But what it was is “snappy”. Maybe my right leg form is naturally better?, but on the video I could see how the Kinvara was encouraging less than perfect form on my left stride. And, although I am thinking about a longer mileage shoe, I just don’t think I could stand the energy losing feeling. 

    The Connect is looking like a surprising winner for me. Like the Flows, they give me a bit of sting to the arches (not during the run but even the next day just sitting around) but I am very surprised by how much I like them when I run. Compared to my minimalist shoes, they are like running on clouds and I feel slightly disoriented by the 1 inch of elevation above the ground, but otherwise just snap along with me as I glide the miles. Lighter than the Flows (and especially the Grid) and on par with other good “normal” shoes, I don’t mind the 7oz at all. I’ll be keeping these.  

  45. I love these shoes. I have very narrow feet and have tried many different kinds. They are always way too wide in the front no matter how tight I can tie them. This is the first pair I have ever found that does not cause me blisters and pain. I am already disappointed with the Pure Connect 3 because they made it wider than the 2. I hope they keep making them for people like me.

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