Name: PureConnect 2
Weight: Women’s – 5.9 oz; Men’s – 7.2 oz
Drop: 4 mm
Other: Anatomical last, BioMoGo DNA Midsole (biodegradable!), IDEAL Heel, Toe Flex, Nav Band
I’d like to start this review on a personal note. I’ve talked a lot on this blog about having sensitive feet. Working on my form so that I remain light on my feet and ample use of Body Glide keeps the blisters and peeling at bay, but when it comes to longer distances, for me, a minimalist shoe with a little more cushion and protection is the way to go. Since I started my journey to find the right combination of padding and minimalism many months ago, I’ve tried out many different shoes. Somehow, though, I never managed to find myself in a pair from the Brooks PureProject line. I think I may have shied away, to some extent, because of the similarities they have to Newtons (see my review of the Newton Distance U here), i.e. a significant amount of cushion (although, not quite as much as the Newtons) and a unique sole design (separated pods in Brooks, lugs in Newton).
Long story short, I finally got the chance to test out a pair of Brooks when, a few weeks ago, I got my hands on the PureConnect 2 (just released on January 1!), the updated version of their popular PureConnect model. Overall, I’ve been pleasantly surprised about how these shoes have performed, and I was happy to find that my reservations about them were unfounded. Brooks is definitely doing it right when it comes to making a shoe that allows for proper midfoot form while giving the runner a nice, cushioned ride. So, let’s get down to details!
Next to the all-new PureDrift, the PureConnect 2 is the most minimal model in the PureProject line-up. However, as with the PureFlow 2, I would hesitate to call this a true minimalist shoe. The relatively substantial amount of cushion, the arch support, the 4 mm drop, the toe spring, and the somewhat narrow toe box make this more of a transitional shoe. That being said, I don’t find them interfering with my form. In fact, as Jason noted in his review of the PureFlow 2, the PureConnect 2 also encourages a more natural running form. As I mentioned above, the heavier amount of cushion in these shoes initially scared me because I thought it would be too much, like in my Newtons. However, the foam and rubber used to construct the PureConnect 2 sole is much spongier than in the Newton sole, so I find it much more comfortable and much less “platform-like” to run in. The soles are designed to provide “custom cushioning” to every runner, in that the Brooks DNA cushioning is designed to respond to each step and disperse the impact of your foot. Many people have compared running in the PureConnects to running on clouds, and I would have to agree with this analogy. To clarify, though, I should note that there is enough firmness there to keep them from feeling too mushy, and they give you a fast, light spring to your step. The more responsive cushioning (and the fact that there is less of it compared to Newtons, or even to most of the rest of the Brooks PureProject shoes) also make the forefoot section of the shoe much more flexible than I expected it to be.
I do have a couple complaints about the performance of the Pure Connect 2. First, the shoe does run quite narrow, and based on reviews and comparisons of other PureProject shoes I’ve read, it sounds like it may be one of the more narrow shoes in the line-up. This is not so much a problem for me, as my feet are narrow, but I can see it being a big problem for many others. Even for me, though, the rounded pods on the sole, combined with the overall narrowness, still add up to me feeling slightly unstable, especially when going around corners. In addition, these shoes are supposed to have been designed with an “anatomical last”, but the toe box is significantly narrower than most minimalist shoe options.
The second issue I have isn’t so much of a complaint as it is something I find odd. This shoe features the characteristic toe split also found in the rest of the Brooks line-up. Supposedly, it allows for better control of your foot while you run, but it doesn’t really do much for me. That being said, there are breaks/openings that extend towards the midfoot from the toe split (and maybe they’re supposed to be part of the toe split that Brooks describes?) in the Pure Connect 2 that likely help to increase the flexibility and responsiveness of the forefoot.
In general, the PureConnect 2′s are a comfortable shoe. As I mentioned above, the Brooks DNA cushioning and BioMoGo sole give you a very cushy, springy ride. The upper is made of comfortable fabric, although the exposed seam on the inside of the tongue would discourage me from wearing them without socks. The fact that the tongue is only cut out/separated on the outer edge of the shoe, and the asymmetrical lacing, do give the upper a more secure, but also sock-like, feel. Working against this is the inexplicably hard and stiff heel cup, which has some sort of insanely hard plastic in it. It hasn’t bothered me as much as I thought it would, and hasn’t rubbed or anything, but it doesn’t really work for my freakishly narrow heels. It just feels slippery to me, and the heel is not narrow enough to keep my foot from sliding forward, although the midfoot-gripping elastic Nav Band does keep things from getting too crazy in that respect. It does, however, create sort of a weird feeling where the heel is not narrow enough, and much too stiff, but the toe box and midfoot are slightly too narrow, even on my narrow feet.
My only other issues in terms of comfort are the fairly aggressive toe spring (not too bothersome, but not too natural, either, so it’s a concern), and the fact that the PureConnect 2′s do seem to run a bit small, at least for women, so you might consider ordering a half-size up.
When it comes to barefoot feel in this shoe, let’s be honest, it isn’t really there. That’s to be expected, though, in a shoe that is built with more cushioning in mind. The fact that the forefoot part of the sole is separated into rounded pods/pieces takes a little bit to get used to, but does give you some feedback on your form and the terrain beneath your feet. I found the large pod on the outer edge of the midfoot a bit uncomfortable when I ran on a cambered road or trail, but not quite to the point of pain. Other than that, in terms of ground feel, these are much more in line with a traditional shoe than any minimalist shoe.
The PureConnect 2 is a very sporty- and sleek-looking shoe. They are definitely not something I would wear casually, but they do look pretty awesome for running. I appreciate the pops of bright color in the black model. It is funny that this is the third black and green shoe that we’ve reviewed in the past couple weeks, though, no? As with the PureFlow 2, the updates to the PureConnect are purely aesthetic. That said, the PureConnect 2′s are, in my opinion, a much sleeker, more futuristic-looking shoe than the original PureConnect. I’m a sucker for asymmetrical lacing–it’s just so cool!–so I’m happy to see Brooks implementing it.
- Surprisingly flexible at the forefoot
- Comfy, cushy, springy ride — like running on clouds!
- Nav Band, anatomical last, and asymmetical lacing provide a secure fit
- Allow/encourage natural running form
- Significantly narrower, especially around the toes, than most minimalist shoes
- Heel cup is very stiff
- Likely too “maximalist” for many minimalist runners (i.e., significant cushion, arch support, toe spring, not zero drop)
In the end, I think the Brooks PureConnect 2′s would be a great starter shoe for someone looking to transition to minimalist running, especially considering that they are at the lower end of the minimalist shoe price spectrum. For the right experienced minimalist runner, I think they would work as a more cushioned shoe for longer runs, but the narrowness may make the wider PureFlow 2′s a better choice for many (no word, yet, on the width of the most minimal option, the PureDrift). Hopefully the next iteration will see Brooks implement a wider toe box and continue offering great features like the asymmetrical lacing and springy cushioning.