Brooks PureDrift Running Shoe Review

Brooks PureDriftI’ll start this review by saying that I am loving the Brooks PureDrift, but with a big caveat. That caveat is that I didn’t love the shoe out of the box, and I needed to make a modification for the shoe to work for me.

So let’s start with my problem. The Brooks PureDrift is designed to be a variable drop shoe. If you run without the included insole it is zero drop (i.e.,flat), and if you put the insole in it is supposed to increase the drop to 4mm (note: I measure the insole differential as only 3mm, not a big deal but I try to be precise). On my first run in the Drifts I left the insole in and had an overall positive impression, but could feel a hot spot developing on the side of the ball behind my right big toe. On my second run I took the insole out to try it as a zero drop shoe and the hot spot turned into a massive blister. It seems there is a ridge where the integrated footbed is stitched down, and that combined with an upward curl of the sole in this area causes the shoe to rub my foot badly on one side. I have seen others complain of this as well.

Brooks PureDrift Lateral

Brooks PureDrift Medial

I thought this hotspot/blister issue would be a deal-breaker for me with the Drift. The damage to my foot was pretty significant, but I decided to see if a thicker insole might alleviate the rubbing. I grabbed the insole out of a pair of Brooks PureCadence 2’s, stuck them in, and they worked like a charm. No more hotspot. I’ve now run almost 50 miles in the Drifts, and they have become a personal favorite.

Although I was only able to run once in the shoes without the insole, I did not have an overly favorable opinion of the Drift in its zero drop incarnation. With a stack height of 12mm, the midsole is thin enough that it feels very firm, and the pod-like design of the sole gives it a bit of a lumpy feel underfoot. I’d describe the ride as “harsh.” The Skechers GoBionic has a similar sole design and it is implemented much better in my opinion. As such, I would not recommend the Drift if your goal is to use it as a zero-drop shoe out of the box.

Addition of the PureCadence 2 insole changes the shoe dramatically for the better, and what’s cool is that it remains a zero drop shoe. Unlike the Drift insole, the PureCadence insole measures 5mm thick in both the heel and forefoot, so there is no drop added when you use it (the included Drift insole is 5mm heel, 2mm forefoot). Plus, the bit of added cushion it provides in the forefoot totally changes the ride and removes the hard, lumpy feeling that occurs when no insole is used. Brooks should either include this insole as an option in future versions, or sell it separately for a few bucks on their website.

Brooks PureDrift Top

Where the PureDrift really shines is in the fit of the last. The heel and midfoot are snug, and the shape of the forefoot is fantastic – wide and plenty of room for the foot to spread out. It looks unusual in photos like the one above, but does not look as paddle-like in person. I find it incredibly comfortable for both casual wear and running (I have worn it to work on more than one occasion). I have not tried running sockless in them yet (too cold up here!), but my sense is that the interior is well finished and should work well for that purpose. Upper durability looks to be good so far in my pair.

One note about the upper is that some people have had issues with indentations forming in the upper near the front of the toebox where the splits in the sole are located. I have not experienced this. The burrito-style upper does also tend to bunch if you cinch the laces too tight near the forefoot, but I find a bit of adjustment fixes this. The non-functional (in my opinion) nav-band is present.

Brooks PureDrift Sole

I’ve already said most of what needs to be said about the sole. The podded design makes it ultra-flexible, but feels lumpy, perhaps because some pods have protruding rubber outsole (black patches above) and others do not. A drawback of the podded design is that the shoe seeps water through the sole – this has led to some unpleasant experiences on a few of my wet winter runs recently. I see very little sole wear after 50 miles of use.

I’ve mostly used the Drift for easy runs of 3-8 miles, and they are great for that purpose (with the swapped insole). I also used them last Friday for an interval workout and though they don’t have the pop of a racing flat, they sufficed. I’d classify the Drift as an easy run shoe that could be used for long runs as well if you are acclimated to low drop, minimally cushioned footwear. For speed I’d go with something more designed for the task.

In conclusion, Brooks has a shoe with a great deal of potential in the PureDrift. The first incarnation has some shortcomings that I was able to remedy with an insole swap, but I think only some minor tweaks would be required to take this shoe to another level in future incarnations. I’d redesign the integrated footbed to remove seams along the margins, soften the sole just a tad, or include a slightly beefier insole (like the current PureCadence 2 insole). With the tweak I made, I foresee this shoe remaining on my active rack for quite awhile!

For more viewpoints on this shoe, view the Brooks Pure Drift thread on the Runblogger Forum.

The Brooks PureDrift can be purchased at BrooksRunning.com

Disclosure: The shoes reviewed here were provided by the manufacturer.

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. My personal experience with the shoe is pretty much on par with your review except I only got a small blister when running without the sockliner. I really like the suggestion of adding the Cadence liner. I have been using them without socks and have not had any issue other than where it tends to rub on the medial edge behind the big toe.

  2. Yes, but is the upper an oven like the PureFlow?

    • Erin Gates says:

      No, the upper is very breathable-you can see your socks through-I ordered the pure flows and only ran twice in them and returned them-I hated that shoe more than any other that I have had on my foot. This shoe is nothing like the pure flow in my opinion.

  3. I’ve had a pair these for a couple months now (haven’t run much in them until recently with wet/snowy streets). I had done 7-13 mile easy runs in them without issue. In a faster pace run last week and a half marathon today I ended up with a blister behind my left, big toe. Was really hoping they could be my long distance racing shoe. Tried out the Skechers GoRun2 as well, but they dug a hole in the top of my foot, so now I’ve ordered the Saucony Virrata.

  4. Looks awfully like an Altra shoe.

    • Alex Beecher says:

      It’s quite different, apart from the sort of foot shaped last. The outsole being segmented makes it much more flexible than any of Altra’s cushioned offerings, and quite a bit lighter too.

  5. Soekawan Holip says:

    Thanks for the review Pete. Between the GoBionic and PureDrift, I also prefer the former to run in. From an “eye-catching” standpoint, the PureDrift IMHO wins hands down (perhaps only Brooks can make black shoes with blue accents look so good).

    I enjoy running in the PureDrifts as well, and will try using the insole from the Cadence (albeit mine is the old Cadence). Fortunately I’ve had no blister from running in the PureDrifts, with the insoles (comfortable) or without (harsh). Interesting to read that many find removing the insoles on the PureDrift to be a less pleasant experience (ditto here).

    http://shoesgadget.blogspot.co

    • Pete Larson says:

      Agree on all points – GoBionic is a better ride compared to Drift without insole, but the Drift is indeed a good looking shoe. I suspect the old insole would be the same as in the update.
      Sent from my iPad

      • Soekawan Holip says:

        Just went out for a 5k with the PureDrift, with the old Cadence’s insole. More comfortable ride, thanks Pete!

        I did notice that the Drifts have a slight slapping sound upon ground impact; whereas the GoBionics are relatively silent (unrelated to the insoles).

        http://shoesgadget.blogspot.co

  6. Erin Gates says:

    I have 2 pairs of these. I was having knee issues and got went to a biomechanics workshop to find out I was a heel striker. In making the transition to a more natural foot strike I bought my first pair of Drifts and fell in love. It was the only shoe that I had tried that allowed me to run w/o knee pain. I purchased another pair a couple months later, after trying saucony virratas, pure flows, and asics noosa tri. I have worn them for 2 half marathons and an 18.12 mile race and they performed very well for me-however, when I just wore them for my first marathon I ended up w/ a hot spot on the top of my foot-right where the burrito style tongue ends. I just noticed Pete that you discussed this being an issue in your Pure Grit review. Interesting that it did not bother me until I pushed the mileage over 20 miles. It happened on my long training run, so I purchased this shield to protect the spot and even wearing that did not help. I finished the marathon w/ my goal time ( sub 4) but was left w/ some lingering pain for the next few days-just curious what your thoughts are on this? I don’t want to give this shoe up, but I want to run more marathons and do not want that pain for the last 3-4 miles. I am in search of the perfect shoe and I feel like I will never find it!

  7. Hi Pete,

    Thanks for a great review again.

    I went with the Go Bionic after ordering a pair of Levitas and sending them back (weird fit + there is no way I could have ran sockless in them on triathlons). Love the Bionic, being lightweight (130lbs) I have a hard time finding minimalist shoes with soft cushioning so that my runs doesn’t get clappy (like with the Altras… and some others).

    Anyway, love the Bionic and feel pretty much as fast as I can be in them but then your are making a point in your review I’d about those shoes (Drift but the same is true for Bionic I think) that these are not shoes that make you as fast as you can be compare to so called “Racers” (like the A5 I suppose).

    Can you say a bit more about this ? Think we can run faster in A5 than in Bionic for example ? I’m quite fast in the Gazelle (not sure it’s that’s a race or minimalist…) but get blisters in them, but don’t think I’m much slower in the Bionic, think an A5 could be faster and if so, why ?

    Thinking about trying to get a pair of Go Run 2 for a half marathon in 2 weeks, I think I can run it in the Bionic but just wonder if the last 15mn may not be slightly hard on my calves. Think for example on that distance a Go Run 2 can/will be faster than Bionic ?

    Thanks,
    Pierre

    • Pete Larson says:

      It may be entirely psychological, but I feel faster in a shoe that is a bit stiffer. The sole feels like it has more “pop.” That’s why I like a shoe like the Adidas Hagio in the 5k or for speed work – firm sole that has a bit more stiffness than most shoes.
      Sent from my iPad

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