Sunday, May 20, 2012

Running Shoe Review: Nike Free Run vs Brooks PureConnect

I mentioned in my review of Road Runner Sports that I had tested and compared no less than 8 different shoes over a period of two hours on my most recent trip and promised a review of my findings.  Now reviewing all 8 of these is more than anyone wants to read in one sitting, so today I’ll do Nike FreeRun+3 and Brooks PureConnect. These are the only two minimalist shoes I tried, so they'll just go head to head on this review. I'm not doing a full on review since I really only tested these out on the treadmill and put probably only a mile each on them, so consider this as much of a first glance rather than an in-depth review. 

Starting with the Nike's, I have to say I really wanted to love these shoes, in fact testing them was one of the primary reasons for my trip. The idea of a truly lightweight shoe just appeals to me. Now, I'm not ever going to be a barefoot runner, it's just not me. I run on sidewalks and other man-made surfaces and I really feel the need for some man-made protection when I do. Even still, I want the lightest, most comfortable and durable shoe I can have as once I run-retire them, they become my walk-to-work shoes.  I also just like Nike. That said, the shoe was comfortable enough for walking, and so light and flexible that I might see using it for my daily commute and even Zumba, but once I hit the treadmill, I truly felt like I was running barefoot (and for me not in a good way). I missed the responsiveness and cushion I usually experience in my standard shoes (which last season were my Nike+ Zoom Equalon 4 and Brooks Glycerin 8). I felt absolutely zero support, cushion, or responsiveness - and I was totally bummed. I'll try later versions, just because I am ever optimistic about finding the perfect balance between minimalist protection and a smooth, comfortable ride but this one just wasn't it.

My next try was the Brooks PureConnect. I have to say, I was skeptical after the Nike's, but this shoe is about the best compromise between comfort and minimalism I could find. It's comfortable for walking, flexible and truly a responsive shoe with just enough cushion so that I didn't feel like I was very literally "pounding the pavement". Brooks really got it right with this shoe. I even considered them for this season's purchase, but after considerable testing of other shoes (which we'll address in later reviews) I decided it still isn't for me, at least not yet. That said,  if and when I ever do go with a minimalist shoe, Brooks will be my first choice!  If you're considering switching from a standard neutral ride to a minimalist, definitely make the Brooks PureConnect one of your test-runs, it's the perfect transition shoe.

My take-away is that if you really want to make the to transition to barefoot running and want a shoe to help with that, while still giving you some support and responsiveness that you're used to: go Brooks. If your really ready to start scaling down and want something just a tad more supportive than a racing flat : go Nike. 


CrossCountryRunner said...

if you're going to review running shoes most runners arent looking for reviews from a treadmill, most runners run on small sidewalk trail or a longer rougher outdoor trail like a mountain. So try running outside on a trail to get the best reviews for your blog

Cheryl Hurt said...

I appreciate the feedback. On my regular runs, it's always sidewalk, trail and lately - beach. The only time I hit a treadmill is when I'm looking for new shoes and spend about an hour or so on the treadmill testing them out at the running store (for me it's RoadRunner Sports). These shoes in particular never made it past the test run for the reasons given.
Certainly not a comprehensive review, and one I might should re-do as I'm now thinking I may evaluate them differently for my beach runs :)