Saturday, November 1, 2014

Shoe Review: Brooks PureFlow 2 (or: News You Can't Use)

It is time for another fake shoe review. Fake because I got these shoes on super hella clearance, which I can only assume means that Brooks is about to release an update (Newsflash: Apparently during the time this review was sitting in my drafts folder 90% finished, they did just that), ergo it doesn't do people much good in terms of deciding whether or not they want to buy them. Based on the pictures, though, I'm betting the new version is not dramatically different, so at worst this probably provides a reasonably accurate picture for someone who does not know a lot about the Pure line or how the Pure Flow fits into it.

As I mentioned in my fake review of the Pure Drift, my first Pure line shoe was the first version of the Pure Connect, which was narrow and weird and had a super-high arch & this weird bubble-sole thing going on & after months of trying to like it, I finally just gave them away. I'd heard good things about the 2nd version of the line, though (particularly in terms of the width of the shoes, especially in the toe box), and since the whole line seemed to be on sale for like $40 a pair, I decided to give the Pure Drift a try. (The 10-second summary: Lots to love, but I need just a TOUCH more cushion when I was training for Santa Rosa. Lately I've been throwing them on every now and then for a couple of miles at a time. I love the way they feel, but still definitely a shoe I will have to work up to running very far in.)

Fast forward a month or so. Sesa mentioned that she'd been loving the Pure Flow for a while now & had recently picked up another pair on clearance, & Beth echoed her sentiments. Since they are both former Kinvara-wearers, I figured that as long as the 'Flows were on crazy clearance, why not give them a try?

You can tell by looking at them side-by-side that the Drift & the Flow are clearly related & share some DNA in terms of construction.

There are some obvious big differences as well. The Flow is just more shoe overall, especially in the mid-sole, and if it wasn't obvious just by looking, there's no way you can miss it if you put one on each foot.

The Pure Drift is the lightest, lowest-slung member of the Pure line, while the Pure Flow is the plushest & most heavily cushioned. Indeed, The Brooks website describes the Pure Flow as all about "lush cushioning," which is a spot-on description.


The Pure Flow 2 weighs in at 7.1 oz for a women's size 8. Depending on which website you read, it has a stack height of between 27 & 28mm & a forefoot height of between 23 & 24mm, for a drop of maybe 3.5-4mm. (I think officially, Brooks has generally marketed the Pure line with a 4mm heel drop.)

Other potentially interesting info:

  • Blend of BioMogo & DNA smart cushioning. Supposedly this "Earth-friendly midsole technology adaptively tunes the cushioning and responsiveness to the specific needs of each and every runner." Each and EVERY runner, you say? A bold claim. The scientist in me can't help asking what exactly they mean by that and how exactly it works, because it sounds a little like marketing hooey.
  • "Inverted Heel encourages contact points to shift forward: Aligns the joints and creates optimal energy return." This makes no sense to me.
  • Split toe forefoot feature designed to isolate first ray (big toe): Independently empowers the big toe to engage the runner's natural stability, creating a more efficient and aligned toe off." You guys, I do not buy this. TOTALLY do not buy it one bit. Yes, it has the split-toe feature, but the whole situation there is fairly well encased in blown rubber, making the sole too stiff for you to do anything independent with your big toe. And frankly, I'm fine with that. With this shoe there is WAY too much cushioning between your foot and the ground for your big toe to do much more than it would do in any other traditionally-constructed running shoe anyway.

  • "Elastic band (Nav Band) wraps over the instep: Creates a comfortable, assured arch fit. Enhancing fit and feel. Offering additional support assurance when needed." Maybe? I personally have never been able to feel the "nav band" doing anything whatsoever in any Pure line shoe I've worn.

  • "Anatomical last mimics shape of foot: Contours the foot. Minimizes the use of material to provide true support and a glove-like feel." I do like the curved shape of the shoe, particularly because the toe box is wider than a lot of trainers. I would not say the fit is "glove-like" but it is quite comfortable.
  • BKW1710 (I don't know what this means. Prizes for anyone who can a) tell me or b) make up the most entertaining explanation.)

The Bottom Line: If I'm dividing everything into two buckets of things I like versus things I don't like, I'd put the 'Flows in the 'like' bucket. They're extremely comfortable with LOTS of room in the toe box, have some nice cushion without feeling bulky, and are still relatively light and actually fairly flexible. During my Santa Rosa training I enjoyed wearing them on easy mid-week runs, particularly on days when my legs were feeling sore & I felt like babying them a little.

In a way, I think the light weight along with the flexibility is what makes this shoe work for me. If it's super cushioney, I need it to be light and flexible. If it's fairly hard, I need it to be on the slightly stiffer, firmer side. (For example, that's what I want in a racing flat.)

They have their drawbacks, though. I'm a big fan of ground feel, and while I'd prefer just a TOUCH more of that in the Kinvaras, the Pure Flows have even less of it; the ground is a distant dream. The trade-off for the cushioning that feels so great when your feet are feeling beat up is significantly less responsiveness & a bit of a sloppy feel if you're doing anything much beyond easy running (particularly on turns - I would not wear these on the track, ever). For this reason, I can't really see racing in them, except maybe a marathon where I didn't care about running that fast & thus was willing to trade responsiveness for protection from prolonged pounding. Given that the Kinvaras are lighter and have better ground feel, I can't really see a reason why I'd opt for the Flows instead.

So, not the love-love-love forever shoe I've been searching for, but not a bad option at all for an easy training run unless you just hate hate hate cushioning.

Further Reading:

  • Some notes on the Pure Flow 3 from SneakerReport.
  • RunningShoesGuru's review of the Pure Flow 3, with some notes on the changes.
  • Ann Visintainer's comparison of all three versions of the Pure Flow.


  1. I agree with you on a lot of points with the Pure line (although I wear the PureCadence). I don't get the toe split thing - what is it supposed to do? Unless you're a true toe runner, I can't imagine the tip of the upturned toe ever really hits the ground, the only way to spread the forefoot adequately to separate the shoe as it is intended. Hmm. I did kind of feel the Navband, probably since I had the more stable Cadence, and I liked how my foot sat in the shoe (I often note that my weird feet pull the laces crooked or make the vamp roll inward, etc - these did not do that). My main dislikes for the Pure line are the clunky, hard to control feel (perhaps due to wide toebox and uplifted toe) and the lack of durability. I'd barely get 500 miles out of these, and my Kinvaras got over 1000, especially when I was a little lighter weight.

  2. I appreciate the blogger who admits their fake shoe review is a fake shoe review!

  3. Ah, shoe-marketing hyperbole. It doesn't do to fall too deeply in love with any one shoe model anyway. When you're ready to put a ring on it the company goes and 'updates' the shoe beyond recognition. I feel like the best any of us can really do is to keep tinkering!

  4. I got these shoes for the exact same reason - $40. And I feel like I got my $40 worth. That's the entirety of my review.