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Brooks PureConnect 3 Review

Brooks Pure Connect 3When 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).

Brooks PureConnect 3 side

Let’s start this review by addressing my two big problems with the original PureConnects:

Width/Fit

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.

Brooks Pure Connect 3 top

Arch Support

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.

Brooks Pure Connect 3 medial

Upper Construction

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.

Brooks Pure Connect 3 sole

Sole Construction

The sole is really what makes this shoe. First the specs:

For comparative purposes, here are specs for the Brooks PureFlow 3 and Saucony Kinvara 4:

    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.

2014-01-24 13.00.25

Conclusions

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.

The Brooks PureConnect 3 is available for purchase at Running Warehouse, Zappos, and Amazon.com.

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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. Really good review, Pete!

    I agree, the Pure Series has good potential, but there are some hiccups in the implementation.

    Of course performancy is a word!

  2. It’s funny reading this… I have a narrow foot and a high arch and the brooks pure connects v. 2 are my dream. The first edition had issues with pinching in the heel for me, but the second are perfect… they hug my foot perfectly and the cushioning hits right where I want it without anything extra. Best adjective I have for them is “precise.” I’m a little concerned that this will be taken away by the new version, but in the meantime, I’m hoarding v.2′s that I’ve been getting really cheap from Sierra Trading Post… 2 pairs lying in wait for after I run the current pair into the ground.

    • I have to agree!! My daughter LOVES these shoes. She has a very high arch and a narrow foot. She actually prefers the original PureConnect to the PureConnect 2. I’m now on a search to hoard some for her before her only choice is the PureConnect 3 which sounds like might not be right for her.

  3. “…and I’d love to see a Biomogo DNA sole in a 5-6oz, 4mm drop racing flat.”

    So would I, Pete. So would I.

    • Would be a great shoe I think!

      • PureRacer: enter the INOV-8 Road-X 155
        This is my road racer that has a last feeling just like my PureFlow 2′s. There is no foam midsole, but the rubber is soft (for a rubber, think a touch softer than normal racing flats). It’s also extremely flexible, 3 mm drop (close enough I think), and 6.1 oz. if only Brooks did a bit better with the PureDrift *sigh*.

  4. I can’t remember the last time I saw so many superfluous design elements on a running shoe. That “Nav Band” looks like it’s one of those features that’s there for the sake of failure after 100 miles.

    Excellent review, as usual, Pete!

  5. The PC1 was my first minimal shoe. I managed to put more than 100 miles on them. I don’t know how, because they were so narrow. Must be why I love Altras so much now. Anyway, since the nav band does nothing, it can’t really fail. That pair still looks pretty good, and I’m sure I could still wear them.

  6. I skipped the pure connect 1, but I bought v2 and I really enjoy them. I happen to have a narrow to normal foot so width wasn’t an issue. My foot does seem to roll off the sole towards the inside on my right foot though. I’m not liking the look of v3 but since I enjoyed v2 I may have to try them on sometime.

  7. I completely agree with the arch support. Very irritating at first, but disappears after a couple of miles or so. my advice, run slowly first.

    But alas, after running in my PC3 for 4 times at a rough estimated total of 40kms, the “eyelet” nearest the toe just tore / snapped off.

    Maybe I just chanced upon a lemon of a pair, but I’ve made up my mind: this would probably my first and last time to purchase pure project shoes by brooks.

    • Contact Brooks customer service and my guess is they’ll send you a replacement pair for free.

      • I actually plan on doing this real soon. But I don’t think the replacement pair wouldn’t be seeing any more running action on the road. Though, I have a feeling they’d look spiffy as casual sneaks. Thanks, Pete!

  8. “While walking in the shoes the sole has a soft, spongy feel to it, but once you start running it feels far more responsive.”

    Sounds like a non-newtonian sole…

  9. I am on the same page as you more often than not. I tried the PureConnect 1 for a single run of 6 miles. I had yet to run in a shoe with that much arch support and I quickly knew it was not for me. And the width was too tight for my normalism-to-narrowish foot. I own the Pureflow 1 & 2. And also the PureCadence 2. I enjoy them all and put many miles on them, but they do have many aspects that seem like overkill. A stripped down version of the PureFlow would be awesome. The 2 & 3 uppers look pretty cool, but they need to lose about 90% of that ugly thing extending up the heel to look cool for wear outside of running.

  10. If Brooks had made the Pure series shoes in 15 I’d have bought several pair! Fed up with clerks pushing adrenaline’s at me (the only 15 in the store) and telling me I need them! My goal is form & midfoot. I have the Altra Torin’s & skechers Bionic Trail and am pogressing well. Merrell is next. However, I would have stayed with Brooks and we wouldn’t be having this discussion

  11. I’m on my 4th pair of Pure Connects (two pairs of PC1, 1 pair of PC2, now on PC3), and I put over 1200 miles on each of the first three pairs. I agree, it’s a unique fit. Despite my very broad forefoot, I never found the width of the shoe to be a dealbreaker. After cutting open the toebox to accomodate my forefoot, the rest of the fit was great. I’ve found that a heel cup and midfoot that really contours and locks down my foot is more important (especially at a fast pace) than a perfect toebox. Also, the toebox isn’t tapered on the medial side, so my first ray stays in good aligment. In contrast, I just can’t tolerate something like the taper of a New Balance or Saucony racing flat.

  12. “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”

    This exactly what i feel with pureconnect2 when i was looking for my first 4mm drops shoes..i heard great thinks from some other review and have high hopes..but it just doesn’t fit me especially the narrow midfoot arch contour..i finally opt for minimus ionix 6mm drops, soft, flexible, good for a start..but rather snug toe box, probably not counted as minimalist

  13. Trialing a pair this week. I’ve only done 6 miles in them so far and was pleasantly surprised with them. I went up 1/2 size based on Shoefitre. They feel a tad too long, but fit nicely everywhere else. I too found the tounge cinched a little under the laces. The lacing system makes me feeel they’re being tightend too much as the two sides of the upper seem really close together. Not sure if this is just a perception because of hoe that looks?

    Interestingly, RunningWarehouse shows the fit to be pretty much identical to the Flow 3.

    Two more runs in them before I make my mind up

  14. Nav Band and toe split have always been totally useless! Too much nonsense in the design and feel there are other manufacturers’ shoes that deserve the name ‘Pure’

  15. I have PureConnect (first model) I total hate it. It hurt my knee and feet even I run in short and slow stride. I try fast and slow pace and it still hurt. I even can’t use for walking. When I saw 2nd model and try on… no no forget it. Saw your review on 3rd. I glad somebody review it because it save my time to try put it on and knew it will not worthy. BUT ONLY ONE thing I love PureConnect shoe is air breath thought my feet while bicycle in summer time. It help dry my feet fast. I don’t have car, so I depend on bicycle and bus transit. My favorites place do long run that don’t have transit so I have to use bicycle to get there. After my long run finish, my feet are wet, so I change shoe to PureConnect for bicycle to ride back home. That shoe great for bicycle that it. I use PConnect for 3 year for bicycle only. I need new one because my is old and torn up. I hope Brooks keep same “air breath” design because I maybe buy one when it on sale or clearance.

  16. I have a narrow foot and still found the 1st iteration a bit narrow. I am so excited to try this, could be my regular trainer for 2014.

  17. Just done my 3rd run in these before I iether buy them or take them back. They definatelt feel much better whilst running than just standing around in them. I was unsure about them at first but decided last night I quite liked them and may buy….until I got home and noticed a hotspot on my achilles! We all know a hotspot at 6 miles is a blister at 12 and pulling out of a marathon at 18! I don’t do blisters!!!

    Like the Pure Grit 2, there is a hard edge underneath the foam on top of the heel, which can dig in. I much prefer those heels that have a cut-out shape.

    Oh well, so close, but no cigar

  18. Has anyone tried them on trails? if so, how to they perform?
    Thanks

  19. Pete… have you had a chance to put the PureFlow 3 through its paces yet? I’m looking for another shoe to eat up some miles, and was considering the PF3 or the Skechers Go Ride 3. Any thoughts on them?

    My initial intent is just to add it to the rotation as a long run shoe… but I’m also tossing around the idea of using it for long course tris as the extra cushioning does help after a long day of racing. I was considering the PF3 after reading some reviews of the GRR3′s “looser” fit.

    • I have them, but have not run in them. I find the fit to be rather snug, and going a half size up made them too big. Need to try again with an insole swap.

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