Thursday, December 19, 2013

Gear Review: Brooks PureConnect 3


Never let it be said that Brooks doesn't listen to their customers. There were two issues that people seemed to complain about with the PureConnect: the poor durability caused by a lack of lateral forefoot rubber and the narrow toebox. While the PureConnect 2, which was pretty much the PureConnect with a burrito-upper, was most likely already designed and a done deal by the time these complaints came out, these issues were addressed for the third iteration. The result is the Brooks PureConnect 3, a new shoe that has seen an extensive redesign, yet still shares some of the DNA of its predecessor (no pun intended).



The Brooks PureConnect 3 is the lightest and most stripped-down of Brooks' PureProject collection (well, second most stripped-down at the moment, since the PureDrift is still available for now).The PureConnect 3 weighs in at 7.5oz for a men's size 9 and 6.1oz for a women's size 8, and has a stack height of 16/20 for a heel-toe drop of 4mm. Running Warehouse describes it as such:
The PureConnect 3 is a minimum featured, minimum neutral shoe designed for daily training or racing.
CUSHIONING
  • 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.
MIDSOLE
  • 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 first two toes to function independently and engage the runner's natural balance during toe-off.
  • Omega Flex Grooves enhance midsole flexibility without compromising cushioning.
UPPER
  • 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.
  • Strobel Last with the upper stitched to full length fabric for a comfortable underfoot feel.
OUTSOLE
  • Ideal Heel consists of a curved outer heel, to encourage midfoot and forefoot striking.
  • Blown Rubber outsole offers durability, responsiveness and flexibility.

Brooks PureConnect 3

My biggest complaint about the PureConnect and PureConnect 2 was its durability. I loved the shoe and would have been perfectly happy using it as a daily trainer, but I hated how I wore through the exposed EVA on the lateral forefoot so quickly. So when I saw pre-release pictures of the carbon rubber-covered outsole of the PureConnect 3, I was seriously stoked. Sure enough, 90 miles on the shoe, and the outsole still looks good (to be perfectly fair, it's winter in upstate New York, and it's probably only 50 pavement miles, with the other 40 on unplowed roads). 90 miles was enough to see significant wear on the original and second PureConnects, so this is definitely a durability improvement.

Brooks PureConnect 3 (top) has added outsole rubber vs. the PureConnect 2 (bottom). Outsole rubber is white and dark blue.

Of course, there's no such thing as a free lunch. The added rubber does have an effect on ride, especially since the outsole rubber pods have little rubber bridges connecting them. This decreases forefoot flexibility somewhat (particularly torsionally), which takes away some of the nimble-ness of the shoe and makes it more trainer-y and less minimal. It's still a flexible shoe, but less so than its predecessors. Personally, I used it as a trainer anyway, and will take the added durability over whatever racing flat feel has been sacrificed, though if the PureConnect was your racing flat, it is something to be aware of. It also adds a small amount of weight over its predecessors, but the weight increase is pretty negligible. Additionally, traction is much improved over the previous two iterations. It's still not a trail or mud shoe, but it seems to handle snow much better than the first two PureConnects.

While still a flexible shoe, the Brooks PureConnect 3 is less torsionally flexible than the first two PureConnects

The added rubber bridges between outsole pods and decreased flexibility also makes for a noticeably more stable ride. This caught me by surprise, since when you put the shoe on, it's immediately noticeable that the arch support has been reduced, yet I got out on the road and noticed the added stability. This also goes towards pushing the PureConnect 3 a bit more towards the performance trainer side of the trainer-racing flat continuum. I don't think it's so stable that it'll cause problems for most people who previously wore the PureConnect, but it should open up this shoe to a few of the people who thought previous versions were too neutral/lacked stability. It's still a pretty neutral shoe, and I'd say it's still less stable and further into the neutral spectrum than say, the Brooks Launch, but it has taken a step up in stability. (If I lost you in that "more stable, but less stable than another neutral shoe" mess, read this.)

Because I realize how confusing that paragraph was, I made a stability spectrum chart to try to clear things up. Not to scale, since the spacing between shoes would be different, but it should better illustrate my point. Keep in mind that all but the Ravenna (far left) are considered "neutral" shoes, so the arrow would extend much farther left if I added Brooks' complete line. Click for full resolution.

While the ride has changed from the first two PureConnects in the ways mentioned previously, it's still a smooth ride with a natural feeling transition. Despite the decrease in torsional flexibility, there's still a lot of flex through the toes, which helps keep the ride smooth. The PureConnect 3 continues to use a blend of BioMoGo and DNA as its midsole material, which means the cushioning should feel familiar to PureConnect and PureConnect 2 fans. It's still a surprisingly soft and cushioned ride for a shoe of its weight. While it's not quite as responsive as something like the Brooks T7, it has some pretty good response for a trainer.

Width comparison. From left to right (narrowest to widest): Brooks PureConnect 2, Brooks PureConnect 3, Brooks PureCadence 2, Brooks PureDrift (no PureFlows in my current collection, sorry)

The upper has retained the burrito design of the PureConnect 2, though the direction the tongue wraps around has reversed. The very distal end of the toebox (the part past the metatarsal heads, so basically the part where your toes are) has also widened a little bit. It's still a fairly narrow shoe, and it's still not as wide as the PureFlow or PureCadence, but it's clear that Brooks has addressed people's concerns about previous iterations not being wide enough. The wider platform may also go into the whole slightly-more-stable and more trainer-y feel I was discussing before, but honestly, it's hard to break down exactly which ride characteristics are coming from which features, and the best I can do is describe the ride and take an educated guess. The rest of the upper remains similar: it's still breathable with a stiff heel counter. It looks like the white/blue and white/red versions might have the slightly less breathable upper of the original PureConnect, but as I've only worn the grey version that uses the PureConnect 2's mesh upper, I can only comment on that one. It also still has a relatively low-volume upper, which is something to be aware of if you have a high instep.

The Brooks PureConnect 3 retains its forefoot flexibility.
The Brooks PureConnect 3 has a firm heel counter.

As far as the PureProject-specific technology, the PureConnect 3 retains the IDEAL Heel that its predecessors also had, which means that it has a rounded, undercut heel that mimics the shape of the calcaneus. It also still uses the Nav Band. While the Nav Band itself isn't really noticeable, the PureConnect 3's upper through the midfoot hugs my foot tightly, so I'd assume that the Nav Band, along with the Anatomical Shape last, must be doing its job. Finally, the Toe Flex has changed from one midsole split between the first and second digits to two midsole splits, with one between the first and second digits and the other more lateral. I still don't notice the Toe Flex at all though, as the shoe is stiff enough through that area that it's near impossible to bend the pieces of the sole individually (and cranking on it with my hands, I'm getting less flex than the previous iterations with one split but separated pods).

Rounded IDEAL Heel on the Brooks PureConnect 3 mimics the shape of the calcaneus.

Nav Band on the Brooks PureConnect 3. You can also see the burrito upper which switched directions.

Toe Split on the Brooks PureConnect 3. It doesn't actually flex independently though, so you probably won't notice it.

The PureConnect 3 is a bit of a departure from the first two PureConnects in that it's a little bit more trainer-y and less minimal than its predecessors, but it still retains the smooth ride and soft cushion that fans of the first two PureConnects will appreciate. The increased durability is a very welcome change, and the improved traction and slightly widened toebox may also make some people happy. If this is your racing flat, or if you use this shoe exclusively for short and fast speedwork, you probably want to test it before you buy it, because it has lost a bit of the nimble-ness and quickness of the PureConnect and PureConnect 2. However, for those PureConnect fans who use it more as a trainer and/or tempo shoe, and for those looking into getting into a low-slung performance trainer, the PureConnect 3 remains a solid choice.


The Brooks PureConnect 3 retails for $100 and is available on Brooks' website, as well as at many running stores that carry Brooks merchandise. It runs true to size, and though it still is relatively narrow through the forefoot, the toebox is a bit wider than previous iterations.

Full disclosure: The Brooks PureConnect 3 was provided free of charge in exchange for a review. The opinions expressed in this review are mine and based on my experience, and do not reflect the opinions of Brooks or anyone else.

6 comments:

  1. Nice review Becky. Going to give them a try at some point.

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  2. Despite the slightly roomier feel, would you recommend people go up a 1/2 size if getting the PC 3?

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    Replies
    1. Probably not, unless you also went up a size in the original PureConnect and PureConnect 2. I wear the same size PureConnect 3 as I did its predecessors, and the same size as I wear in the Launch. If your feet are really wide, you may need to size up, but I think they'd be too long. It's always ideal to try them on if possible though!

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  3. How many miles have you been able to put on your Connect 3s now?

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    Replies
    1. To be honest, it's been a particularly rough semester at school, and I've been neglecting my log since the end of December since I'm just running and not formally training at the moment. I generally have a number of shoes in my rotation, so I can't just estimate mileage for the month, and my log is the only way I really track mileage on shoes (I generally just throw them out when they feel dead, not when they hit a given mileage...seeing the number in the shoe section of my Athleticore is an incidental finding). So I'm really not sure, sorry.

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