Thursday, February 9, 2012

Gear Review: Brooks Pure Flow

As some of you may know, I've been wearing the Brooks Launch as my daily trainer (with the Brooks PureConnect mixed in there sometimes). Unfortunately, some bad timing on my part had me at the National Running Center needing shoes on the spot with no time to actually ask them to order anything. No Launch in stock in my size meant I had to grab something else. Seeing as I had wanted to try the Brooks PureFlow for a while, I decided to take this opportunity to give them a spin.

Before we start, just to get you up to date, information on the Brooks PureProject can be found here.

The PureFlow is the highly cushioned shoe in the Brooks PureProject line-up. It is intended for the neutral, biomechanically efficient runner, though it is more forgiving than the aforementioned PureConnect. The PureFlow weighs in at 8.7oz for a men's size 9 and 7.5oz for a women's size 8, has a stack height of 22/17, and sports an H-delt of 4mm. Running Warehouse describes the PureFlow as such:
The PureFlow is a minimum featured, minimum neutral shoe designed for daily training or racing. It is built with a curved shape.
  • BioMoGo DNA fuses BioMoGo midsole and DNA gel cushioning technology for a fully custom responsive ride that adapts to the needs of each and every runner.
  • BioMoGo DNA fuses BioMoGo midsole and DNA gel cushioning technology for a fully custom responsive ride that adapts to the needs of each and every runner.
  • Toe Flex uses a toe split in the outsole/midsole materials that allows the big toe to function independently and engage the runner's natural balance during toe-off.
  • Omega Flex Grooves enhance midsole flexibility without compromising cushioning.
  • Nav Band is a flexible, stretching band that wraps over the midfoot to help keep the foot secure.
  • Anatomical Last mimics the shape of the foot, resulting in a glove-like feel and allowing the the foot to work as a single unit.
  • Ideal Heel consists of a curved outer heel, to encourage midfoot and forefoot striking.
  • Blown Rubber outsole offers durability, responsiveness and flexibility.

Insoles are a crappy way of showing how much arch support a shoe has, but since it's impossible to take a picture of the actual arch support without cutting the shoes apart, this is the best I can do. Kind of works though, since in this particular case, the insole is a surprisingly accurate representation. Brooks PureFlow on the left and PureConnect on the right.

The first thing I noticed about the PureFlow was that despite the fact that it's billed as a more substantial shoe than the PureConnect, it's flatter than the PureConnect and has less in the way of arch support. I'm not talking about the Nav Band, which is present on both shoes. The Nav Band on the PureFlow is looser and doesn't hug the foot as tightly as the Nav Band on the PureConnect (to be honest, I don't notice it at all on the PureFlow). However, the Nav Band doesn't really do much in the way of actual support, since it tends to move with your foot rather than supporting it. The real arch support comes from the shape of the midsole, which does provide support for your foot, and the PureFlow definitely has less arch support than its lighter, more race-bred cousin. However, it does provide more arch support than many flats I've worn, so it's not like it's completely flat either.

The cushioning of the PureFlow is similar to that of the Saucony Kinvara, only a little bit softer. Suffice it to say that this shoe is pillow-y soft. Incredibly plush cushioning for a shoe that only puts 17-22mm of foam (plus the insole) under your foot. While it has the same stack height as the PureConnect, it is infinitely softer. In my review of the PureConnect, I had stated that that shoe felt soft, but compared to the PureFlow, it is downright firm. I have to admit that one of my first questions was whether a heavier runner would completely bottom this shoe out, but since the midsole is made up of a combination of BioMoGo foam and Brooks' non-Newtonian DNA gel, as long as the DNA is doing its job, heavier runners should be fine (though I have not actually talked to any heavier runners to confirm this). The Flow does seem to trade responsiveness for its soft cushioning, so despite its light weight, it would not be my choice for race day...I'd prefer something more responsive and faster feeling for that purpose (like the well-cushioned but responsive Brooks T7 Racer, or the super responsive ASICS Piranha, for example). It's also soft to the point that your foot really sinks into the cushioning, which can exaggerate any existing overpronation if that is of concern to you, making this shoe best for the neutral runner and perhaps the mild supinator.

It's hard to tell from the picture, but that black stripe above the blue is midsole foam, and all of that foam is of a super soft durometer.

Of note: "soft cushioning" is not the same as "lots of cushioning." This shoe is not an ASICS Nimbus or Brooks Glycerin. It doesn't put loads of cushioning under your's just that what's there is super soft. Again, it's a softer, very slightly more built up Kinvara. It's not a Glycerin.

The soft cushioning of the PureFlow also means there's not a whole lot in the way of ground feel, but I feel like ground feel is often more of a trail runner and minimalist thing, and trail runners are probably more likely to buy the PureGrit and minimalists are probably more likely to buy an actual minimal shoe anyway. On Brooks' "float versus feel" spectrum, this shoe is squarely in the "float" category, PureProject or not. That's a good thing if you're looking for a soft, protective ride (as many people are), but just be aware that there's less "feel" to this shoe than several of Brooks' shoes that they place in the "float" category. However, that makes it a great choice when all you want is cushioning and you don't really feel like feeling the ground (and we've all been there...or at least I have).

Brooks PureFlow forefoot flexibility
Brooks PureFlow torsional flexibility

The PureFlow is a very flexible shoe, perhaps a little less so than the PureConnect, due to its wider base (which does add a very small amount of lateral support versus the PureConnect). Like with the PureConnect, we're not talking about Nike Free flexibility, nor are we talking about the ability to roll the shoes up into a ball, but it should be more than flexible enough for most people. Lots of torsional flexibility, and lots of forefoot flexibility. I had no issues as far as flexibility goes, and I tend to like my shoes fairly flexible (though I don't necessarily need minimalist shoe-level flexibility).

The Brooks PureFlow has a looser Nav Band than the PureConnect
This is where the tongue of the Brooks PureFlow ended up on every single run.

The upper of the PureFlow is comfortable both with and without socks, and also has the benefit of having a nice thick tongue which, at least for me, seems to reduce the possibility of lace bite. It also has a higher instep than the PureConnect, so if you have high insteps and the PureConnect's are too low, you may not have that problem with the PureFlow. Unfortunately, the tongue does seem to slide around, and it would have been nice if there was a loop to run the laces through. I'd cut one myself, but the Nav Band is in the way. I have yet to finish a run where the tongues haven't slid all the way to the sides of the shoes, though luckily, it's not something I really notice while I'm running. The uppers also don't seem to be quite as breathable as some of my other shoes, though this is less of a problem in the winter than I assume it will be when the weather gets hot. *EDIT 3/13/12: These are bad news when the weather gets warmer. I am putting them away until it's 40 degrees F again.* It's a really attractive shoe though...after they're dead I'll probably actually save them for walking around instead of getting rid of them like I do with most of my shoes (despite the fact that mine are black. I know a lot of people don't like black running shoes, but whatever, they're black with a teal midsole, and if you aren't down with black and teal, I don't know what to tell you other than your fashion sense sucks haha).

Brooks PureFlow stiff heel counter for rearfoot support
Brooks PureFlow IDEAL heel to move contact point to middle of heel

Similar to the PureConnect, the PureFlow has a stiff heel counter for rearfoot support. It sports IDEAL heel technology, which means the heel is rounded under the shoe to mimic the shape of the calcaneus and move to contact forward slightly (Brooks claims that it moves it forward 3cm to the center of the heel). Like the PureConnect, the PureFlow seems to feel good with either a heelstrike or midfoot strike (either of which is possible in the shoe...though either being possible is the same for pretty much every shoe I've worn, minus the Piranha and Adidas adiZero PR which suck for heelstriking).

The Brooks PureFlow Toe Flex doesn't seem to have an effect on the ride of the shoe

Also like the PureConnect, the PureFlow has a split-toe. However, I didn't even notice this on the PureConnect, and the Toe Flex on the PureFlow is even smaller, so I definitely didn't notice it here either.

Brooks PureFlow (left) has a wider, less aggressively curved last than the Brooks PureConnect (right). It also has significantly more outsole (black on PureFlow; black and darker, less dirty teal on PureConnect).

While the PureConnect has the glove-like fit and curved last of a racing flat, the PureFlow is built off of a Universal (semi-curved) last and fits more like a regular trainer. They are wider than the PureConnect, lacking the very narrow forefoot of that shoe and of the T7. They also do not have the glove-like performance fit of the PureConnect and the T7, fitting more like your typical trainer. The upper is roomier, and as mentioned earlier, the Nav Band is looser. Don't get me wrong, it's not so wide that it becomes sloppy, nor is it "minimalist shoe" wide for room for toe splay, but it's definitely not the narrow toebox of the Connect.

Durability-wise, the PureFlow has much more blown rubber outsole on its sole than the PureConnect. Hopefully this means it will last longer. For now, they have very little outsole wear (slightly more than you can see in the picture above, since that picture was taken when they were new, but not significantly so) at a mileage mark that the Connect was already showing significant wear. They aren't wearing quite as well as my Launches or Ghost 4s do though. I'm still not expecting to get anywhere near the mileage out of these shoes as I get out of my regular trainers (I feel like Brooks' Twitter had claimed 300-500 miles for their regular trainers and 250-300 miles for their PureProject shoes, but I may be wrong on that, and those are just ballpark numbers anyway).

The PureFlow has kinked laces! So I didn't need to change them. Score.

Black shoes and white socks. Sexy.

As far as "minimal" shoes go, the PureFlow...isn't minimal. Tons of soft cushioning and very low ground feel probably aren't on the top of most minimalists' lists. It seems to be a little bit more shoe than the Kinvara and Free, and is obviously more shoe than most of the shoes popular with minimalist runners. So what is the PureFlow? Well, it is a solid contender in the lightweight trainer category, as long as you're looking for a shoe with extremely soft cushioning. It's a pretty cool shoe as far as lightweight trainers go, though it's a little mushy and unresponsive for my tastes. Also of note, like with the PureConnect, I don't really notice the PureFlow's 4mm heel-toe drop (though as I stated in my PureConnect review, I have also worn spikes for years).

The Brooks PureFlow retails for $90 and can be found on the Brooks website, as well as at many retailers that carry Brooks products, like the National Running Center. NRC does not have it on their website because Brooks prefers that their current products are not advertised online at some of the dealers that offer discounts (like NRC's PR Club), but if you call them at (800) 541-1773 or drop them a message here, they can get you set up. I found that they run true to size and bought the same size as I wear in the Launch and PureConnect, though some people will tell you to go a half-size down.

Full disclosure: I bought the PureFlow from the National Running Center.. The opinions expressed in this review are mine and based on my experience, and do not reflect the opinions of Brooks, the National Running Center, or anyone else.


  1. Great review! Thank you.

  2. Appreciate the great review. I own these and love them. I use my Five Fingers KSOs for 3 miles and under training, and these PureFlow shoes for longer distances. I've only had them a few days, but they're definitely a nice break from the minimalist toe shoes, and work perfectly for comfort and support (while still being very light weight) for the long runs.

  3. Thanks, glad you enjoyed it. And happy to hear you're enjoying them!

  4. Hi Becki,

    Great review; you mix tech and layman well. I wore a pair of PureFlows at my last half and really enjoyed them...however, that's not why I'm here. I wondered if you had an opinion on Frees vs PureConnects; specifically, do you know if the PureConnect toebox is more narrow than the Free's?

  5. Two VERY different shoes, so you're going to have to try them on. The Frees are much more flexible (all of them) than the PureConnect. The PureConnect has more prominent arch support than the Free and the PureFlow, and it also has softer cushioning than the Free (though it's firmer than the PureFlow). And yes, the toebox on the PureConnect is narrower and the upper also has less "give" to it.

  6. Thanks for a helpful, well written review! I am contemplating the PureFlows and after trying them on, your description confirms my initial opinion. I think they would be a good shoe for me but I'm concerned about your comment on how hot they were for summer running. Heading into what will likely be a warm training season, I'd prefer more breathability!

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Great detail and thought in the review--that is what I call a quality review! For me, I was always told I was pretty neutral and pretty much ran in neutral training shoes for 25 years. I took a few years off-packed on a few pounds-and got my butt back in shape. Went to a fancy running store where they videoed my gait and said I am a stability guy. (still not convinced on this) So, have been running in "light stability" shoes like the Wave Elixer and just bought a pair of Brooks PureCadence. The 4mm fad for me might be an issue (but also I read about an adjustment period for the musceles to adapt) but I think the PureCadence may add to much correction for me so I am thinking of trying the Flow.

    So my question is, has anyone run in both the PureCadence and the Pure Flow and how would one compare the two? Thanks

  9. No experience with the Cadence, but it's very light on the stability. I'd give them a fair try before you send them back. Are the Elixir working for you?

  10. I love my Pureflow.

  11. Hi becki, nice review... I'm using pflow since 2 months ago as slowly degrading my nike2+ shoes. I must say it is a very good shoes. Last time i had ITBS issues usIng lunarfly. Probably due to high cushion support... Now the problem seems to ease away. But the problem is that every time i want to initiate run for 1st 1k, it will cause me a calf pain... But later it eases of when i'm getting use of it...
    Great article

    Run happy ;)

    1. Hm, not sure that you should be using a shoe that causes pain until your muscles warm up, unless you don't think it's the shoe, in which case your best bet is to figure out what is causing the pain. Did you have that problem in the Nike 2+ (I'm assuming that's the Nike Free Run+ 2)? If not, it could be that the PureFlow is too soft for has a ton more cushion than the Free Runs.

    2. Becki, I own a pair of pureflows and feel that I have to limit myself to running on an eliptical machine since I have purchased them 4 months ago. I have never had calf pain until I owned these shoes. Whenever I do run outside, the calf pain will eventually flair up and force me to a walk. Is this due to overpronation? I am flat footed. I suppose this is not the shoe for a flat footed person, even though they are extremely comfortable when I am just walking. Please give me a suggestion for a good shoe!

    3. It could be overpronation, it could be that they're too soft for you, it could be that the heel-toe drop just doesn't work for you, etc. It's hard to know without seeing you in person, knowing exactly where the calf pain was, and knowing your running and injury history! My best suggestion would be to go to a running store and try on a bunch of shoes to see what feels good. A gait analysis might help to point you in the right direction too, but isn't the be-all end-all unfortunately...only time in the shoes can tell you that!

    4. They are definitely a softer shoe than what I am used to. Ive researched the trance 11 brooks shoes and they had good reviews for over pronations. With the pureflows, I definitely can feel the shock way more than any other shoe Ive worn. Im definitely flat footed, and in the past the running shoes I have worn have been somewhat thinner, nike shocks, etc...Ive never had a medical history when it came to running. Ill look up a gait analysis and see what thats all about. Thank you for your advice!

  12. Hi Becki, reading your blog for the first time and was very impressed by your Pure Flow review - very substantive! I have been both training and running marathons in Newton Gravitys and am looking for a similar shoe (don't need the training lugs anymore) at a lower price point. Is the Pure Flow Such a shoe or would you recommend another shoe that comes closer to the Gravitys?? The internet is full of contradictions as to whether or not this shoe is appropriate for marathon distance. Thoughts?
    Thanks in advance for your help.

    1. Hi Joe
      I just have missed the part in your email about the Newtons. Newtons and the PureProject are extremely different shoes...Newtons tend to be firmer, more responsive off of a forefoot strike, less flexible through the forefoot, and more awkward for heelstrikers. If you want a softer shoe with a more flexible forefoot, or if you heelstrike, moving away from Newtons and to a PureProject shoe will likely be a good move. Whether the PureFlow is appropriate for the marathon is a personal choice. The shoe can handle the distance, just depends on your biomechanics and what you're most comfortable running in.

      That said, Newton is coming out with a new shoe that's cheaper, more flexible, and has less prominent lugs (without the air chamber) that testers seem to be getting excited about. Looks like a more substantial MV2 to me, but a lot of people are saying it's an improvement (the MV2 got pretty mixed reviews). I believe it's called the Energy.

  13. Just wanted to say that I don't have a problem with these of Gen 2 of the Flows in warm weather. I'm in Texas so it gets to be 115 F some days. Just my findings.

  14. Thanks so much for taking the time to write a lengthy and thorough review.
    I really enjoy the Brooks pure cadence. I was faithful to asics gel trainers for last 3 years but am happy I made the switch. I just picked up a pair of pure flow yesterday and excited to see what comes.

  15. Are these appropiate shoes for training and running a marathon?
    Can I harm my knees running those distances with the Pure Flow shoes?
    Thanks in advance

    1. Take them on a few long runs and marathon paced runs and see how you feel. That's really the best way to determine whether they're an appropriate marathon shoe for you. Good luck!

    2. For what it's worth, I ran a marathon in PureFlows and PR'd! :) I upgraded to the PureFlow (from NB Minimus) for long runs during marathon training and was so grateful for the extra cushioning. The Minimus was just not enough shoe for me for longer than 10-12 miles, especially on roads. Now I am debating whether to stick with PureFlow or downgrade to PureConnect for medium distances (15-16m)...

  16. Pure connect vs Kinvaras? Loving my minimalist Merrells but just need a tad more cushioning for longer runs...thx!

    1. Very different shoes. PureConnect is narrower through the toebox/forefoot and has more arch support than the Kinvara. PureConnect also has a slightly more traditional "racing flat" feel to it, though my guess is that's at least in part due to the fit.

  17. I have a pair of PureFlows and hate them precisely for the tongue problem you wrote about. It's such an annoying design flaw.


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