Brooks Pure Flow 3

this is the second year I have been fortunate to take part in the Try It On promotion by Brooks where they let you have a pair of shoes to trial for a week.

I am a big fan of Brooks shoes. Most of my running shoes are Brooks.  I have been running in the Pure range of shoes pretty much since they were launched.

20140205-202148.jpgMy favourite Pure Project shoe remains the original Pure Grit trail shoe.  Despite the fact the grip on the sole wasn’t great, as a shoe, for fit,  feel and comfort it was pretty much perfect.

Last year’s update to version 2 of the Pure shoes didn’t work so well for me. I bought a pair of Pure Cadence 2 but they just didn’t feel as good as the version 1 shoes.  I tried the Pure Flow 2 as part of Brooks’ Try It On promotion and just couldn’t love them. They were too big, too soft and the upper rubbed my little toe. I blogged about them here.

I have been running in a pair of Pure Flow 3 for the past week as part of this year’s Brooks Try it On Promotion.

This year’s model feels much improved. These shoes are immediately comfortable and you can run in them straight out the box.

The ride feels lower and while there is plenty of cushioning,  it is a very responsive shoe.   There is plenty of cushioning to support my heavier frame. The shoe feels very well balanced. It nudges you towards a midfoot/forefoot strike rather than pushes you.  The shoe is very flexible,  allowing you to run fast, but still manages to feel substantial enough to protect you from the pavement.

It doesn’t feel too dissimilar to my beloved Racer ST5’s which are my preferred marathon race shoe.  After only a week’s running in them I am pretty confident that I could happily run a marathon in these shoes and be happy wearing them.

The fit is comfortable. The toe box is wide enough for my wide feet, without feeling too large. There isn’t too much excess volume on the top of the shoe. The fabric is soft and comfortable and hugs your foot very nicely. The heel is comfortably snug and doesnt rub. The asymmetric lacing has changed shape and is much more comfotable. The previous version tended to put pressure on the top of my foot (I have high arches) whereas the different shape is very comfortable. The tongue is stitched in place on the inside which again helps to keep the foot secure and in place.

I am still not convinced that either the Nav Band or the split toe add much to the shoe, but then again the shoe works very well so who am I to argue.

All in all there is very little more to say about these shoes. They are probably the best shoe I have tried for a long time and a shoe which I would be confident wearing for long distances and which are a significant improvement on the Pure Flow 2.

I will almost certainly part with my hard earned cash to buy a pair as I can see them becoming my workhorse marathon training shoe.

20140205-202209.jpg

20140205-202228.jpg

20140205-202243.jpg

The postman always rings twice

Two new pairs of shoes arrived today, a pair of Brooks Cascadia and a pair of Brooks Racer T7. Opposite ends of the shoe spectrum. So obviously I had to go for two runs. Here are my first impressions:

936008_10151712997129131_443658975_nCascadia

I am still in search of the perfect trail shoe. I love my Brooks Pure Grit, but on long treks over sharp stones you soon start to feel the pressure on your foot. I have been on the lookout for something more substantial which would fit the bill between my Grits and my Inov-8’s which are great for technical stuff, but not so great for really long runs.

These are the Cascadia 7 which is last season’s model which is also why I was able to buy them half price from sportsshoes.com. My first thought upon putting them on was that these were a solid pair of shoes. They look and feel substantial. They also feel comfortable straight off. The upper is soft and stretchy and on these shoes the asymmetric lacing seems to work for me. The toe box feels wide and roomy.

I took them out for a quick run through the woods. Mixed trail, some stones, mud, grass, gravel and a little tarmac.  Overall impression is yes, this is a good shoe.  The grip was good on all terrains. I was keen to find out how they felt running on sharp stones and they passed the test well. The sole gives good protection. They are a little more shoe than the Pure Grit so they are not quite as responsive, but they offset this by being very stable and well protected. These are the sort of shoes you could wear for an ultra over hard terrain. Having only worn them once, I am already thinking that I might wear them for the second half of the West Highland Way Race which is over stony ground and which has been hurting the soles of my feet when running in my Pure Grits.

In summary these feel like a comfortable, stable, well protected shoe which I expect to be well suited to long steady miles.

T7 Racer

These were a little bit of an indulgence. As they were only £35 or so in a sale, I thought I would give them a try. I had previously tried on a pair of these a few years ago and at that time immediately felt they were way too lightweight for my larger frame. Over time I have become a wee bit lighter and have also transitioned to lower drop shoes so I was pleasantly surprised when I laced these up just how comfortable they felt.

They are little more than some soft fabric attached to a sole, but that makes them very comfortable to wear. The fit is snug and really nice and the asymmetric lacing again works and holds the foot in place nicely.  They are incredibly light, but the sole is more robust that I expected. I already have both Green Silence and Pure Connect shoes.  This feels like a more structured shoe than the Green Silence and also has a much more comfortable upper and lacing system. I think that the Pure Connect has a more cushioning and the T7 doesn’t roll you on to your forefoot in the way that the Connect does. It feels like a slightly wider fitting shoe than the Connect as well. For me the T7 felt immediately more comfortable and better suited to my foot than either the Green Silence or the Pure Connect.

I wore these for a quick treadmill 5K at lunchtime and was very happy with them.  I don’t know how long they will last, but I look forward to trying them out in some 5K and 10K races.

Running out of Steam

As the lovely Lili von Shtupp, the “Teutonic Titwillow” sang, I’m Tired.

I cheated today.  Fortunately the only thing I cheated on was my training plan. I was due to run 12 miles tonight and just couldn’t face it. I am too tired, both mentally and physically, so I swapped workouts around and went to the gym at lunchtime and did a short speed session instead. It wasn’t a huge session, it was hard work, it wasn’t pretty, but at least it was something worthwhile, and will hopefully give me a wee bit longer recovery before attempting the longer run tomorrow night instead.

My lunchtime run took me to 501 miles for the year so far which I am pleased with.  Last weekend was a big one, I did a really good 21 mile Fast Finish Long Run on Saturday followed by 26 miles on the West Highland Way on Sunday.  So no big surprise really that I am tired. I’v ebeen here before many times and know that I am in those last few difficult weeks before tapering starts.

There are now less than 6 weeks left until the Boston marathon.  The real trick now is to keep the training going while staying healthy. My training plan for the next few weeks looks a bit like this:

B-6 50 miles Long run 17 miles at race pace

B-5 37 miles. Alloa Half marathon aiming for PB pace

B-4 68 miles. Back to back weekend 14 miles race pace and 30 miles easy

B-3 50 miles. Last longrun 22 miles FFLR and start taper

B-2 30 miles. Tapering.

B-1 15 miles. Tapering

B+0 40 miles Race and Recover

B+1 62 miles including 53 mile Highland Fling race.

I am looking forward to my 17 mile race pace run this weekend. It will be a real test of what sort of pace I can realistically shoot for at Boston. Things have been going well so here’s hoping I get a nice surprise!

Talking of nice surprises, my new racing shoes arrived today. Brooks Racer St5. This will be my shoe for race day, so I shall run maybe 30 miles in them over the next few weeks and treat them very nicely to keep them happy for marathon day.

Brooks Racer ST5
Brooks Racer ST5

Brooks Pure Flow 2

Update – for a review of the much improved Brooks Pure Flow 3 see here

I got the chance to try out a pair of Brooks Pure Flow 2 as part of a Brooks promotion. A great offer – wear the shoes for a week, take them back and get a £25 voucher to be used against a pair of Brooks Pure Project shoes. The Brooks marketing machine is pretty slick and even the box proclaims that this is more than just a shoe

Run Happy
Run Happy

I am a big fan of Brooks shoes. Firstly they fit my feet and secondly they have some nice technologies in their shoes.  I have previously worn two different Pure Project shoes, the Cadence and the Pure Grit. The Cadence is a very nice shoe, extremely comfortable and so far has done me for more than 400 miles. The Pure Grit is an equally comfortable shoe, and is a shoe I would willingly wear for many many miles. I was keen to try the Pure Flow because I was looking for a shoe for my next marathon, I am comfortable in the lower heel drop shoes and had read many good reports of the Flow. The chance to get  a pair to try was too good to pass up.

My initial impression of these shoes was one of disappointment. When I put them on, after the carpet slipper like sensation of the Cadence, they just didnt feel right. They pinched my right foot and my little toe pressed against the slightly hard edge of the toe box. My first run in these was on the treadmill and again slighlty disappointing. My toes went a bit numb, I got a hot spot on the ball of my foot and the heel cup felt hard and stiff as did the toe box.  Oh and I didn’t think they were very pretty!

pure project

sole
grooves in sole allow flexibility

I was prepared to give them a chance, so wore them for a fast 10 mile run at the weekend. Again, I just couldnt feel the love for them. The still pinched my right foot, and they felt like they were wearing long, so that there was an extra unused bit of shoe like a flipper at the front of the toe. They weren’t so bad, but I wasn’t impressed. I also felt like the sole of the shoe was very wide compared to the upper and so were a bit like clown shoes. This was accentuated by the bright green rubber of the midsole.

For my next run, I decided to lace them differently,  using the loop lace technique to hold my foot in the heel. This was an improvement. On balance I don’t think I am a fan of the asymmetric laces. I find that the top inside eyelet creates a pressure point on the inside of my arch ( I have quite high arches). The same thing happens with a pair of Green Silence that I own.

laces

On the verge of giving up, I remembered reading something on either Runblogger.com or RunningShoesGuru about the thickness of the insole causing a problem. Following their tip I removed the Pure insole and replaced it with the much thinner insole from my Brooks ST5 shoes.

Flow and St5 insoles
Flow and St5 insoles

The difference was instant. My foot splayed correctly across the full width of the shoe and the extra few millimetres volume in the toe box made them much more comfortable. I took them for a steady 3 mile run and they were like a different shoe. They didn’t have the slightly spongy feel they had had previously. Instead they felt quite responsive, but with enough cushioning to feel comfortable. Had this been my day 1 experience I would have been saying this is a nice shoe!

The fabric is a slightly more robust fabric than that used in the Cadence which will probably make them more water resistant at the expense of that luxuriant feeling. The big Brooks flash on the front of the shoe doesn’t look very good, but it is a super effective reflector which makes you really visible to oncoming traffic in the dark. The other Pure features – the Navband and the split toe don’t seem to have any significant effect as far as I can see, though the Navband does seem tighter and more effective than in the first models.

I was really surprised that I was struggling with these shoes, but a little bit of research uncovered quite a few similar reviews with runners finding the new Flow 2 a little narrow and long, so maybe its not just me!

Overall, I am not sure they are the shoe for me. They are nice and flexible though a little soft under foot for my taste, but for runners who like a lot of cushioning they would be ideal. By changing the insoles I could use them as a long distance road shoe and be quite happy with them. I might wear them for long runs instead of my Ghosts which are well cushioned but a little stiff. Overall, if the shoe fits your foot this is probably a very good shoe, but for me I was just a wee bit disappointed that it wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be.

Every Picture Tells a Story

sweaty gym kit
sweaty gym kit

This picture shows my gear from my treadmill session at the gym tonight.

Nothing too unusual in anything in the picture. But there are a few stories to be told. Lets start at the bottom:

The Shoes

Brooks Racer ST5.  I wore these shoes as I walked to work this morning. Probably one of the few people to walk down the road in a suit and a pair of racing flats. There has to be a reason of course beyond sheer eccentricity and mine was straightforward. I had to walk to work because Helen needed the car. We live too far from work to walk in shiny work shoes and not far enough away to make it worthwhile running, not that I could have run this morning because the DOMS in my groin (don’t ask) were nipping. I had a treadmill session planned for after work so needed my gear and rather than carry yet another pair of shoes with me it just seemed easier to wear them. I did discover however that the venting in the shoes upper makes for chilly toes on a cold morning! If you are interested the ST5 is a great lightweight shoe, I refer to it as flats for fats because it is supportive enough that less svelt runners like myself can wear them right up to marathon distance. I still think they were faster in the previous colour scheme of blue and orange!

The Shorts

Sugoi 42K. Most marathon shorts are rubbish. I cant understand why manufacturers can’t come up with a split short which has a big zip pocket and some mesh pockets for gels. Most brands have a variation which has some but not all of these features.  The other problem with marathon shorts os that by the time you put a few gels in the pockets you have to pull  the string really tight to stop them falling down when you run. This in turn means that I end up with the skin on my back rubbed away and  bleeding from the elastic on the waistband rubbing.  One more place to have to remeber to apply vaseline. Sugoi gear is really good and the previous version of the sugoi shorts had big mesh pockets but for some bizarre reason they removed them and replaced them with silly flaps on the bum which have velcro fastenings so flimsy that if you put anything into them the fastening comes apart.  I guess at some point I shall have to try out a pair of Race Ready shorts now they are more readily available in this country.

The Towel

A piece of merchandising from the Swiss Alpine Marathon in Davos. This is one of those bucket list races. Scenery to die for, running over the Swiss Alps, you get glaciers, helicopters, alp horns, cow bells, chocolate and red mountain trains. It is also my slowest ever marathon. The altitude absolutely killed me and even though I felt I was running flat out, I was actually running in slow motion.

The Shirt

The shirt sums up this running lark for me. It is from the Little Rock marathon in Arkansas. Little Rock is renowned for the size of its massive marathon medal and for the fact it is the home of Bill Clinton. I haven’t run Little Rock, but was given the t-shirt by a lovely lady called Hobbit (yes Hobbit) at the expo for the marathon in Niagara Falls, Canada. She was there promoting the race and we got chatting, learned she was wanting to come to Scotland to run Loch Ness, exchanged contact details, and she kindly gave us a shirt. We were in Niagara Falls to run the marathon there only 7 days after running the Toronto waterfront marathon. We ran Toronto again this year because it was our first overseas race in 2006 and from running there, we met some wonderful people with whom we are now great friends, and every time we run another race there are more introductions and our circle of friends grows and grows.

So there you go. A routine picture which hides a tale or two.