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. So...next...
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.