Friday, October 7, 2011

all the gear and no idea

Went for a run this morning, from the ground up I was wearing:
When did it all get so complicated?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Brooks pureproject

I'm a one shoe guy. I buy a pair of running shoes use them for training and races, then after around 425-450 miles retire them to gardening shoes and buy a new pair. I don't even do that much gardening! 
October 1st saw the release of the Brooks pureproject (is it "Pure Project", "pureproject" or "PureProject"?) range of shoes. A range of minimalist footwear that satisfies the current trend. The pureproject (sic) shoes do appear to do it differently though. Compare the pureproject with, say the Hattori by Saucony, and there's no comparison. The whole pureproject shoe looks designed, refined and then stripped down. I bought a pair of the pureconnect shoes yesterday.
The first thing you notice is the colour. They are green and not just green but electric green, with bold flashes of reflective material that seem to reflect in all light. The Brooks logo is also now a proud, reflective, logo and on the pureproject shoes is oversized compared to normal. They must be pretty eye catching because my daughter cringed when she saw them and when I wore them on the school run this morning she said she would rather I wore my vibrams (which she also dislikes).
The second thing is the weight or rather lack of weight. This is a stripped down and lightweight shoe. The sole has cutaways, the upper is a thin mesh over a thin layer of 'hole-punched' material light and flexible over the nav-band and it is comparatively low profile around the sides of the ankle. With the lightweight build, low drop and split toe-box it actually felt to me like a cushioned and more sturdy vibram fivefingers shoe. 
The pureconnect is a neutral shoe, I use neutral shoes with my orthotics. I swapped insoles and slid them on. the fit is like a glove. I know that most new running shoes or indeed any trainers have that box-fresh stiffness and feel but this was something a little different. Like pulling on a slipper. Pulling the laces tight the nav band tightened the shoe making it feel totally secure on the foot without being tight. Jumping on the treadmill I tried them out. They felt great but the real test is when you get out on the road. Luckily I checked the recommended use of the shoe before leaving Up and Running, it's not a high mileage shoe but more for short runs and speed work.  
The same evening I went for a run. It was a horrible night, dark wet and windy. The rain was pretty much horizontal and had I not had new shoes I may not have bothered.
I set out and truly they felt remarkable. Discounting the placebo effect (they may have felt great because I was desperate for them to) that may have had a part to play the shoe felt almost like it wasn't there. It's so light and snug yet does not constrict the foot at all. I am a forefoot striker and pretty soon I felt like I was gliding down the road my heels barely skimming the tarmac. The other thing was, they felt fast. I've never used a lightweight shoe (other than the vibrams which I don't run fast in at all) and now I really wish I had done, particularly when doing triathlon. I don't know if it was real or perceived but my foot turnover felt faster and my stride more fluid. They made me want to run fast. They felt fun to be running in. In reality the run actually wasn't that fast or as fast as I could have done (5miles in just under 35mins) however taking into account the conditions and the wind that seemed to be head on the whole way around there was a definite positive impact on performance.
The shoes performed well on the tarmac and normal pavement surfaces. I did get some slippage as I ran past Cheltenham Town Hall that has some shiny flag stones. In the wet these were a bit 'icy' but in reality I think in most shoes I would have probably experienced that.
Ultimately in terms of comfort, stability and performance there is no issue with this shoe. In fact for a shoe that has little to it it offered an almost disproportionate amount of each. It is not a cheap shoe but there is a lot in it and I think that as a runner you can see and feel that once you use it. I am a sucker for shiny new tech so this, with the marketing machine that it clearly had, twitter hashtag #pureproject anyone?, was always going to hook me. The difference is that, here, the product is better than the marketing.
What will now be interesting is if Brooks take this tech and apply it (either literally or in principle) to their high mileage shoes.