Friday, August 3, 2012

Transitional running shoes and a Brooks pureFlow Review

I have spent the past few months putting a lot of work into trying to improve my running efficiency and economy. With the incredible press coverage around Chris McDougal's "Born to Run" book last year, the minimalist movement has really kicked into full swing over the past 18 months. I must admit that this pre-occupation with minimalism always struck me personally as yet another passing fad, and I just wasn't going to bite on that hook.

Fast forward to late Winter of this year, and I began to experiment with running shoes that were classified as "Transitional". What this ends up meaning is that some running shoes target around a 6mm heel-to-toe drop differential. It's not quite minimal in structure, as that implies anywhere between a zero-drop to a 4mm drop. But, the key benefit of the transitional running shoe is that it begins the process of helping you get more comfortable with focusing on your mechanics and your gait. Heel striking is a bad, bad thing for most people, and it certainly was for me. Moving to a transitional shoe was the starting point for getting my economy closer to what it should be.

Now enters the Brooks pureFlow

Out of the box, the pureFlow ("Flow's") are a good fit. They combine a nice, wide toe box (this is completely relative to your specific foot, of course) with a padded collar that really provides a snug but cushioned fit around the foot. The heel cushioning is still there since this is a transition shoe, as opposed to a minimalist shoe in which the cushioning is really non-existent.

From the perspective of comfort on the run, I've found them to be easilly as comfortable as the ASICS Kayano and Nimbus that I ran in for many years, but without the monster heel outsole wedge. Again, because the focus here is to encourage your body to be able to adapt to a forefoot strike pattern, having a minimal shoe drop ratio is key. My old ASICS maintained somewhere around a 23mm heel-to-toe drop ratio. Far too high to be able to let my feet and connective tissues absorb and return the energy that I was expending on the road. The primary goal of a transition or minimal shoe is to allow your lower body and legs to do what they were created to do. No orthotics, no heel wedge, no arch support, nothing.

With over 300 miles on my 2nd pair of them, the Brooks pureFlow does just that. And it does it very, very well.

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