When Brooks first announced their PureProject line of shoes back in 2011, I expected that the PureConnect would be my favorite shoe in the collection. It was the lightest of the bunch, and was billed as the maximal “feel” shoe among it’s PureProject brethren.
I ordered a pair of the original PureConnects as soon as they were available, but the moment I tried them on I knew they weren’t going to work. The shoes were narrow to the point that my foot spilled over the sole on both sides. And the insoles had a crazy amount of contour/arch support built into them. Both were deal breakers. Since I had purchased the shoes myself I decided not to run in them. I returned them and picked up the original PureFlow instead (which I liked a lot, just got a pair of the PureFlow 3’s for review).
Because of my initial experience with the Connect, I opted to pass on version 2 since the sole had not changed (Becki Pierotti reviewed them for me here). A few weeks ago Brooks contacted me about the launch of PureProject v3, and asked if I’d be interested in reviewing any of the shoes in the collection. I’d heard that the PureConnect 3 had undergone a substantial update (Becki also reviewed the PureConnect 3 on her own site), including the sole, and that it had a bit more room up front. I decided to give it a try (Disclosure: these shoes were free media samples provided by Brooks Running).
Let’s start this review by addressing my two big problems with the original PureConnects:
Given how narrow the original Connects were, I opted to try a 10.5 in the PC3 rather than my usual 10 in Brooks shoes. I think it was the right choice. The shoe definitely feels wider than the original PureConnect (I can actually wear them this time), but it’s by no means roomy. Think of it as a performance fit, similar to that of a typical racing flat.
The problem I have with the PC3 is that the shape of the toebox remains a bit odd. It fits, I can run in it comfortably, but it’s still kind of rectangular. My guess is that this would be a great fitting shoe on someone with a long, narrow foot, but on me it it’s just not quite right, and I think if I sized down my toes would be a bit scrunched. I’d love to see this shoe on the same last as the Flow or Cadence.
Another positive about the PC3 is that although it is still prominent, the arch contour seems to be toned down a bit. Either that or the wider fit or sizing up makes it less noticeable. I’ve never been one to complain too much about arch support, and I’ve had no issue with this shoe over 30 miles or so of running. That being said, if you don’t like arch support, then this shoe is not for you.
Some thoughts/observations on the upper of the PureConnect 3
- The upper of the PC3 is fairly substantial, but it seems very well made and durable.
- The PC3 has a burrito style tongue. I’ve never been particularly crazy about this type of design, but it works fine on this shoe. It does seem to make lacing a bit more challenging as the tongue needs to be shimmied around more than I’m used to.
- The upper material is a double-layered mesh that is fairly thick and not very porous. It’s done a great job on cold winter runs, but I do wonder how it will handle in the heat. For a shoe built for speed I’d like a bit more breathability built into the mesh.
- Like other shoes in the PureProject, the PC3 has nav-band which wraps from the sole over the top of the foot (red band over the arch in the photo above). I’ve never found the Nav-Band to be particularly functional, and it seems like the PureProject shoes could be simplified by just eliminating it from the designs (Brooks does love any chance they can get to stuff tech in a shoe!).
- There is a substantial plastic heel counter in this shoe.
The sole is really what makes this shoe. First the specs:
- Brooks PureConnect 3: 7.2oz shoe weight (men’s size 9), 20mm heel , 16mm forefoot
For comparative purposes, here are specs for the Brooks PureFlow 3 and Saucony Kinvara 4:
- Brooks PureFlow 3: 9.0oz shoe weight (men’s size 9), 22mm heel , 18mm forefoot
- Saucony Kinvara 4: 7.9oz shoe weight (men’s size 9), 22mm heel , 18mm forefoot
- So the Connect is slightly lighter and lower-profile than both the Flow and Kinvara. Personally, I’d probably compare it more directly to the Kinvara since the Flow has a bit more of a substantial feel to it (less “performancy” if that’s a word).
I’m very skeptical of marketing and shoe tech in general, but I really think Brooks has something unique in the Biomogo DNA midsole used in the PureProject shoes. Brooks describes their DNA material as follows:
“Brooks DNA automatically and physically adapts with each foot strike to the ever-changing amount of force placed on the foot during the run.”
The sensation I get running in these shoes does seem to agree with this. While walking in the shoes the sole has a soft, spongy feel to it, but once you start running it feels far more responsive. Cushioned yet responsive perhaps. I like it, and I’d love to see a Biomogo DNA sole in a 5-6oz, 4mm drop racing flat.
Given the properties of the sole, the Connect is a very versatile shoe. It’s light and responsive enough to use for speed, and it’s cushioned enough to use for distance (if your foot can handle the fit over double-digit miles). Very impressed by the sole of this shoe.
A few additional observations on the sole:
- The outsole of the PC3 has plenty of rubber in key wear areas. The addition of rubber to the lateral forefoot is a new addition in the PC3, and should help those who tend to chew this area up.
- The sole is broken up a bit into pods which provide decent flexibility, and I’ve actually found that they also help with traction on crusty ice/snow (broken up soles tend to grab nubs on the surface below better than uniformly flat soles).
- I love the undercut, rounded heel. This heel geometry works exceptionally well with my stride, and the shoes ran smooth from the first mile. The heel design might be my favorite feature of the PureProject shoes.
- One last note on the sole – Brooks once again has incorporated the silly split-toe that does nothing. This time they say it’s positioned to allow the big and second toe to work as a unit. I can barely even flex the split with my hands when I try to force it, so it once again seems like a complete marketing gimmick.
This shoe frustrates me a bit. I love the ride, and could easily see using it as a marathon shoe given it’s cushioning and responsiveness, but the fit is just not quite right for my feet. Fit is such an individual thing though, and if you go to the Brooks page for the PureConnect 3 you’ll find people trashing the shoe because they widened it a bit. Any change will please some and anger others. If you have a narrowish foot and like lightweight, low-drop shoes, the Brooks PureConnect 3 would be an excellent shoe to try.
I’d love to see Brooks make a new shoe in the line that incorporates the Biomogo DNA sole, strips off an ounce or two (perhaps by removing just a bit of the rubber from the sole in less wear-prone areas, eliminating the Nav Band, reducing the size of the heel counter, and simplifying the upper), and is on the PureFlow last. Call it the Brooks PureRacer and I’d be first in line to buy a pair.