Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Gear Review: Brooks PureFlow Shoe

After the Virginia is for Lovers 14k, my intense case of arch pain had me convinced that I needed a new pair of running shoes. My beloved, trusty Brooks Ravennas have about 400 miles on them.

They are the "original" version - Brooks is now up to the Ravenna 3, but I love the original so much that I was afraid to try the new ones (you know, the whole "create of habit" problem that I have). When I went to replace my very first pair and found they had moved on to Ravenna 2 I freaked out and scoured the Internet until I found a pair of the originals at some random website and promptly purchased them. I toyed with the idea of buying 3 pairs and stocking up (they were on clearance), but my cheap side won out and I didn't.
I regre that decision, because this time it was downright impossible to find the original Ravenna in my size. When this tragedy struck, it just so happened that my issue of Runner's World included the Spring 2012 Shoe Guide. So I sat down and actually read that section for once. It was in that article that I came across the Brooks PureFlow:

The reviews for this shoe were positively glowing - in fact, Runner's World named it one of their Best Buys. When I used the "shoe finder" flow chart (which I'm sure is just oh-so-accurate...) that accompanied the article, it pointed right to the PureFlow. So, I decided to give the shoe a closer look on the Brooks website. The user reviews there were all pretty positive. However, I was still unsure, so I decided to chat with one of their representatives before buying to get their opinion on what was going on with my arch and whether or not the PureFlow might be a viable option for me.

After my chat with the Brooks fellow, I ordered up the shoes. They arrived on February 21, right around the time when my arches were really bothering me and just in time for a scheduled 9 mile run. I opted, however, to not try them out for the first time on a long run. Instead, I gave them their maiden run on the indoor track at the Y.

At first, they felt strange to me. They are pretty minimalist shoes, which Ravenna definitely are not. The material on the topside of the shoe is so thin and light that you can see your socks through them (I have an orange stripe on my socks and it was glaring at me!). The only support that I felt was the elastic band midfoot - you can see it underneath the Brooks logo in the photo above. At first it was a weird sensation, and I found that it made my foot feel constricted even when I left the laces as loose as possible.

An immediate plus was the cushioning. Wow! These things really felt like walking on air. When I was doing my 5 mile tempo run around the Y track, it went from feeling like I wasn't wearing any shoes at all to feeling like I had just the right amount of support when I needed it. The only problem I felt was that the 4th and 5th toes of my right foot were rubbing the inside of the shoe box. This often happens to me... I guess my feet are wide at the base of the toes or something. I also couldn't tell if that was happening only because of the grading on the corners of the indoor track. I was on the fence about whether they would work out or not.

A 6 mile outdoor tempo run went slightly better. I didn't get the rubbing on my toes, but I did have some arch pain. Still a toss up! What ended up eliminating these shoes was last week's 10 mile run. Miles 7 and 8 took place on uneven cobblestone sidewalks (probably not very smart but hey, it's Richmond) and as I ran I was noticing that my left ankle was just dropping all over the place - rolling inwards, outwards - everywhere but straight up and down This led to serious arch pain in my left foot. To make matters worse, the 4th and 5th toes of my right foot were beginning to be rubbed so raw that they were going numb.  When I got home and got the shoes off, my poor toes looked as red as the Swedish Fish I'd been munching on during the run. I was shocked that I didn't have blisters.

Here is the run down (punny!) of my review in easier-to-digest format:

  • Lightweight
  • Price is Right - $70
  • Lots of cushioning, especially in the heel
  • A cool mid foot support that you don't even notice is there (in a good way)
  • Very breathable

  • Not enough stability for high arches
  • Toebox seemed a little more narrow than my Ravenna, resulting in rubbing
  • Not wild about the color combo... the mainly white pair made my size 9 feet look like boats
  • If you step in a puddle or it starts to rain, your feet are going to get SOAKED

So they are going back. I bit the bullet and ordered a pair of Ravenna 2's - which luckily (?) are being replaced by the Ravenna 3 so they are on sale for $65. Initially I tried to get the neon yellow detailed ones, but they were out of my size (figures), so I ended up with these instead:

They haven't come in yet, so I'm back to my trusty Ravennas for now. I also ordered up some ankle length compression socks from Pro Compression thanks to Skinny Runner, who posted a coupon code for 20% off. I figure these might help support my arches and my calves too. I wanted to get some fun neon green ones, but restarined myself and got practical white ones. Y-a-w-n.

Tonight I'm headed out but don't really have anything particular in mind. This week is a little bit crazy so other than my scheduled 11 mile long run, I didn't really faithfully put Training Schedule into my calendar, figuring I'll just fit in miles whenever I can.

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