Monday, January 14, 2013

Gear Review: Brooks PureDrift

A few months ago, I was desperately searching for a new shoe. I had a stack of boxes of Brooks Launch sitting in the back of my closet, along with my emergency hand-crank flashlight and a few bottles of water in case the zombie apocalypse arrives, because, as we all know, the first rule of Zombieland is cardio (that's a YouTube link, so don't click it if you're somewhere where noise is bad). However, they were strictly for emergencies, like sore feet that required familiar shoes...or the zombie apocalypse. A friend of mine had just posted to Twitter that she had just run through her last pair of now-discontinued Nike Skylons, so I knew that, Launch supply or not, I needed something different. There was the Mizuno Wave Precision, but why start to wear that when that's about to be replaced by the Wave Sayonara? There was the Saucony Kinvara, but the upper on that didn't fit me quite as well as that of the Brooks PureConnect. There was...wait. Why not just wear the PureConnect? Which is what I did. Anyway, needless to say, the Launch was saved which made my search moot, but my stint with the PureConnect rekindled my interest in the PureProject (which, Brooks, if that was your intent, well played), so when I heard about the release of the Brooks PureDrift, hey, I wanted them too.

The PureDrift is the lightest and lowest-slung member of Brooks' PureProject line (slotting in as one step less shoe than the aforementioned PureConnect). The PureDrift weighs in at 5.6oz for a men's size 9, and 5.1oz for a women's size 8. It has a stack height of 18/14, for an H-delt of 4mm (although the insole can be removed to zero drop it, if you wish). Running Warehouse describes it as such:
The PureDrift is a minimum featured, minimum neutral shoe designed for daily training or racing.
  • 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.
  • Duel Toe Flex uses two toe splits in the outsole/midsole materials allowing your toes 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.
  • Asymmetrical Lacing adapts to the foot to reduce hotspots.
  • Ideal Heel consists of a curved outer heel, to encourage midfoot and forefoot striking.
  • Blown Rubber outsole offers durability, responsiveness and flexibility.

Burrito-style upper of the Brooks PureDrift

The biggest change that Brooks made to the PureProject line in general is the swapping of the upper to a mesh-y burrito-style upper like that used on the now-discontinued Green Silence. Good move, especially since the tongue on the PureFlow used to migrate to the side on every run...not to mention the old material got really hot in the summer months. The PureDrift uses this same burrito-style upper, though it's much softer and thinner than the material used for the Green Silence. This gives it a buttery soft feel. Additionally, it's seamless, and can be worn with or without socks. Just a super comfy upper.

Brooks PureDrift (center) has a wide forefoot. Compared here with Brooks PureConnect 2 (left) and Brooks PureFlow (right)

One of the complaints about the original PureConnect was its narrow forefoot width. I actually found the width of the PureConnect fine...but I also spent college in spikes (which tend to be super narrow). Actual minimalist runners probably want nothing to do with pointy metal object protruding from their feet, so I find it doubtful that they spent much time in spikes. When I first put on the PureDrift, I was shocked by how wide it actually is. For those of you who like toe splay, you're in luck, because these are up there with New Balance WT10 in the shoes with roomy toeboxes category (though the WT10 is snugger through the midfoot and cups the heel more than the PureDrift). I immediately cinched the laces, which pulls the fabric over the toebox kind of strangely, the same way it does when I wear men's D width racing flats (only this is with a women's B width PureDrift). Luckily, like with the flats, it's an aesthetic thing that doesn't seem to affect function at all. The PureDrift looks like it's built off of a curved last, but the forefoot is roomy enough that you won't really notice. I do wish it was a little narrower, but I guess people like me are the reason that Brooks kept the width of the PureConnect the same.

The original PureProject shoes were surprisingly soft and cushioned for their weight, so I was expecting the PureDrift to be a somewhat soft shoe, given that it uses the same BioMoGo + DNA midsole compound. Nope, this shoe is firm. And not just firm for a PureProject shoe, but actually firm, particularly in the forefoot. The PureDrift seems to fall more in-line with the minimalist market than the reduced/transitional shoe market in which the rest of the PureProject resides, though it still seems to have more cushioning than some of the closer-to-barefoot offerings from dedicated minimalist companies, like the SKORA Form. (I'm sorry, I know, I hate labels too, but that's the easiest way to write a review). The groundfeel isn't quite as high as in some other minimal shoes I've worn, which is nice if you don't always pay attention to all the stupid little pointy pebbles that end up on the road in the winter, however, there's definitely far more groundfeel than in any of the other PureProject shoes.

Lots of forefoot flexibility in the Brooks PureDrift
Also lots of torsional flexibility in the Brooks PureDrift
Brooks PureDrift has a double split toe leading to flex grooves

The PureDrift is flexible. While I'm not convinced the split toe itself does much (your toes don't move independently the way they would in say, Vibrams), the split toes each lead to one of the flex grooves, and the deep flex grooves through the sole gives the PureDrift nearly (not quite, but nearly) Nike Free-like flexibility. Not that you'll notice that the Nike Free might be slightly more flexible...unless your feet somehow roll up into balls. The PureDrift will flex any way your foot wants with very little resistance. This does mean there's not much "pop" from the forefoot, the way you'd get with a racing flat, but that's not really the purpose of this shoe.

Brooks PureDrift lacks a heel counter

The PureDrift's flexibility, combined with its lack of a heel counter, means that there's not much stability to them, other than the inherent stability you get from a firm shoe with a wide base. Unlike the PureConnect, they're a very flat shoe with very little arch support (along with the arch support, the PureConnect also has a stiff heel counter). However, they are built off a wider base than the PureConnect, and they have a firmer midsole, so I'd be hard pressed to say which of those two shoes is actually more stable (neither have much stability to them, so it would likely depend on which features are a better match for your feet, and honestly, if you're looking for a lightweight shoe with a touch of stability to it, look elsewhere).

The ride and transition of the PureDrift is very smooth. Just buttery smooth from landing to toe-off. It's not as quick feeling as the PureConnect (and definitely has nowhere near as fast a transition as something like the T7 Racer), possibly due to its very high flexibility. The PureDrift tends to disappear on your foot (at least on easy runs...more on this later).

Nav Band of the Brooks PureDrift
Brooks PureDrift has IDEAL Technology that slightly undercuts the heel

Like the other PureProject shoes, the PureDrift has a Nav Band, though it's much looser than the Nav Band on the PureConnect (similar to the original PureFlow in this respect), and doesn't really seem to do much to hug my foot (this may be because the Nav Band is looser than I have my laces). It also has an undercut heel (Brooks calls this IDEAL Technology), which is intended to mimic the shape of your calcaneus and move the initial contact point forward slightly, though it seems to be slightly less undercut than the PureConnect (probably because the midsole is too thin to round it radically.

The PureDrift retains the kinked laces used by the original PureProject. Hooray for laces staying tied!

Insole of the Brooks PureDrift

The PureDrift is a better shoe with the insole than without the insole. At first, I thought I just preferred to wear it with the insole because I'm not a minimalist runner, but then I saw some other reviews popping up from minimalist runners who also didn't like the PureDrift without the insole. It just doesn't ride as well or something. I'd really recommend leaving the insole in the shoe. It is comfortable for just walking around sans insole though, so I guess when they're shot for running and relegated to kick-around shoes, you can ditch the insoles.

Despite the published numbers that the PureDrift goes from a 4mm to a 0mm heel-toe drop shoe by inserting or removing the insole, I'm kind of skeptical. Playing with the insole (outside of the shoe...lots of touch and proprioception receptors in your feet, but even more in your hands), that just doesn't seem right. Then Pete Larson of RunBlogger measured it at a 2.5mm difference between the forefoot and heel of the insole. Whether that means the shoe goes from a 2.5mm to a 0mm drop, or a 4mm to a 1.5mm drop, or some other numbers entirely, I couldn't tell you. My recommendation would be not to worry too much over 1.5mm. You compress the EVA in some areas of the shoe more than others, and I can almost guarantee that by the time you're done wearing a shoe, the drop is slightly different than when you bought it. For what it's worth, they feel pretty flat to me.

As far as traction goes, these are road shoes. Traction on the road is great. Traction on mud and rocks is not.

Sole of the Brooks PureDrift. Black is outsole rubber, blue is blown foam (DNA + BioMoGo in this case)

Durability-wise, the PureDrift has the same issue as the PureConnect in that there's no lateral forefoot outsole rubber, so if you tend to wear down that part of the shoe, you'll eat through the blown foam quickly. However, my need to find a replacement for the Launch pushed me to wear a pair of PureConnect well past the point where the lateral forefoot rubber was just gone, and surprisingly, I actually got another 200 miles out of them before they were completely shot (just under 400 total, which is less than I get out of the Launch, but not bad...your mileage may vary based on your weight, stride, terrain, etc). The traction went almost completely out the window, but other than that, they held up better than expected. Here's hoping the PureDrift ends up being the same way. Still hoping for more outsole rubber on the next iteration though.

The one thing I would not recommend the PureDrift for is fast running. I disagree with Running Warehouse's statement that it was designed for racing, because I'd be very surprised if the same company that designed the T7 Racer designed the PureDrift for a similar purpose. I took these on a speedworkout, assuming that their light weight would make them a good workout shoe, but ended up swapping them for an actual flat after a mile. It's a touch sloppy and they tend to feel too much like what I'd imagine trying to run fast in bedroom slippers would be like. While the PureDrift disappeared on my feet during easy running, they kind of got in the way when I picked up the pace. The threshold for me was somewhere around my marathon pace, but your mileage may vary. I have heard a few people liken the PureDrift's appearance to that of the discontinued Green Silence. However, appearance is where any similarities end. The PureConnect is more similar to the Green Silence than the PureDrift is, though keep in mind that the PureConnect is narrower and has more prominent arch support than the Green Silence. If you're looking for a speedwork or racing shoe, stick to racing flats, because the PureDrift is not it.

Brooks PureDrift

The PureDrift is an interesting addition to the PureProject, and Brooks' first true foray into minimalist territory. I'm enjoying it as a supplemental shoe for easy days, recovery runs, and doubles, and would recommend it for someone who's biomechanically efficient and is looking for a comfy, lightweight shoe for their easy days. I do tend to prefer the PureConnect to the PureDrift, just because I feel like it is the more versatile of the two shoes, and I tend to prefer the shape of the PureConnect's last to that of the PureDrift. The PureDrift is a fun addition to my long as it's not the only shoe in my quiver.

The Brooks PureDrift retails for $100 and is available on Brooks' website, as well as at running stores that carry Brooks products. It fits somewhere between true to size and a half size large, so order appropriately if you are on the edge, and it runs wide through the forefoot. Additionally, if you plan on taking out the insole, you'll most likely want to size an additional half-size down.

Full disclosure: As some of you may know, I won the Brooks PureProject contest on Facebook (Yay! Thanks Brooks!), though I bought these with my own money the day before I found out about that because I was on my way back to school and really needed to pick up shoes before I left I guess there's not really anything to disclose. The opinions expressed in this review are mine and based on my experience, and do not reflect the opinion of Brooks or anyone else.


  1. Great review, thanks!
    Interesting note on fast running. With that in mind, where do you think the Pros that currently where the Green Silence will navigate towards when it is no longer avaialable? The connect? T7?

    1. That's a good question, especially since I know I've seen a few Hansons guys wearing them (although one of the ex-Hansons GS-fans is now running ultras with Scott). I would suspect the T7, though I wouldn't be surprised if we saw some PureConnects and ST5s in there.

  2. Just a quick correction, the Runblogger review of the PureDrift was written by guest contributor Fred Brossard. Not that it makes a huge difference. It's just something I noticed. I've been looking forward to the Brooks PureDrift for some time, but the initial reviews seem to say the same thing, i.e. it's an interesting shoe but not exactly what we thought it would be.

    1. Thanks for pointing that out, Jordan. The measurements were on his forum, so I'm pretty sure Pete did them himself...I can't remember if they were in the review too.

  3. If they only made a pureconnect in a wider version... The pure drift is too minimal for outside but fine on the treadmill.

    1. Have you tried the PureFlow or PureCadence? A little more underfoot than the PureDrift, and a different feel than the PureConnect, but they're definitely wider. Outside of Brooks, I've been hearing some great stuff about the Mizuno EVO Cursoris, which is a zero-drop shoe that supposedly has some decent cushioning to it, and Altra is coming out with a more cushioned zero-drop shoe (the Torin, I think?). Plenty of other shoes out there, but hopefully that gives you somewhere to start!

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    1. Hey man, I really hate deleting comments, and I apologize. I know I'm not above cussing every now and then in my posts, but no f-bombs, alright? Thanks! :-)

  5. Just got this shoe and love it. Using it instead of saucony hattori's. I agree with whoever said (think it was Pete At runblogger) to put the pure cadence insoles in these. Did that and they're about perfect for me for shorter distance runs.

    1. Now I feel like I should try doing this haha. Actually I haven't had the blister problem Pete described with the stock insole, so maybe I lucked out!

  6. Thanks for the review. I have put 7 miles on my pair of Drifts. I agree that they feel kind of sloppy in the forefoot, which is probably due to the wide toe box. But I think if Brooks used slightly less upper material in the toe box, or use a stiffer toe guard as found in the other pure models, it should give a more secure feel.

    My other minimal shoe is the Merrell Road Gloves, which despite the extra weight and harsher ride, I like bc of its durability and solid feel. How do you feel about the Drifts' durability? Brooks says about 300 miles. Mine feel very flimsy and like they will fall apart if I'm not careful.

    1. I've got around 200 miles on mine. The sole is getting trashed, but they still feel fine. My upper is still good, though I've heard some other people say theirs ripped early on. I predict similar durability to the PureConnect (I've gotten 300-400 miles on them), though it's hard to say without actually wearing them out. I'll be surprised if they outlast the Road Glove, given the latter's firmer midsole and Vibram outsole.

  7. Hi Becki,
    Thanks for the review. I've been running in the Pure Connects since November 2012 and ran a marathon in them in December. I like them but I've always felt like the toe box was just a bit shallow. I'm 3 weeks away from my next marathon and I'm considering a last minute switch to the pure drifts for race day because it's a lighter shoe and has a bigger toe box.

    What do you think about the pure drifts for a marathon? Are you the same size in the pure connects and pure drifts? What would you choose in my position, a new pair of pure drifts or tried and true pure connects with 300 mi on them? I'm hoping that they're similar enough so that the transition would be easy.

    Side note: I was planning on using the Mizuno Evo Levitas for race day but they've been causing a burning ache in my toes on my left foot (I've got a slight hammertoe) about 10 miles into my runs.


    1. Hi Kara. The PureDrift and PureConnect are about as different as possible. I wouldn't try to make the switch three weeks out. Personally, I think the PureConnect is a great fast shoe. It's responsive, it's got a performance-fit upper that hugs your foot, etc. The PureDrift is a great easy day shoe, but IMO sucks for trying to run fast in. The upper is definitely on the sloppy side, which is what I think causes that. Additionally, the entire feel of the shoe is different...the PureDrift has significantly less arch support, has a much wider toebox, and is far more flexible. For me, personally, I wouldn't hesitate to wear the PureConnect for the marathon, but I haven't taken the PureDrift beyond 12 (and have no plans to do so). Your experience my vary, obviously, but I just don't think it's a good choice for the marathon, ESPECIALLY trying to make the switch this close to race day. If it were me, I'd wear the PureConnect this time around, and then start looking at racing flats with a higher volume toebox for next time.

      Hope that helps!

    2. Thank you Becki!! Your advice is really helpful. I think I'll save the Pure Drifts for after the race.



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