Sunday, November 20, 2011

Brooks Pure Grit Shoe Review

In March I ran across a post on about the Brooks Pure Project.  As I was training for my Potentially Painful Summer I was contemplating what shoe I would use for tacking all these 100 mile races.  I wanted a shoe that had a minimal upper, less than 4mm heel/toe differential and sufficient cushioning and protection to run 100 miles.  The Brooks Pure Grit grabbed my attention.  On paper it looked like the perfect candidate.

I did everything I could to get a pair of pre-production shoes, but I just couldn't make it happen.   Finally early last month I got my hands on a pair of them.  Because I like lots of room for my toes I normally buy a size 11 in my running shoes, even though my foot measures more in the range of 10-10.5.  I got a pair of 11's and did a few short runs before my run across NH.  The shoes were simply to large for me, but since I did end up wearing them for over 40 miles of paved roads that day.  They turned out to be a really good road shoe with sufficient protection for long pavement runs. 

 A few weeks ago I ended up giving them to my younger brother, who loved them.  I bought a pair of 10.5's which fit my entire foot much better.  I used them for pacing my friend Adam for the last 32 miles of the Pinhoti 100.  I was in them for 10 hours.  I then used them last weekend for a 28 mile run that consisted mostly of pavement, but also had 15 miles of rocky rail trail.

I never encountered anything that technical during either one of those runs, besides some rocky single track at Pinhoti.  So when Pete from asked me to do a shoe review I decided that I better try them for a more technical run to better analyse them.  So this morning I headed out on a 15 mile trail run on the local snowmobile trails to put them through their paces.

I started with a mile of paved roads before I ducked into some of my favorite trails.  The trails were rocky and covered with leaves for the first couple of miles until I hit my first steep climb.  As I continued with the run I threw everything I could at them.  One thing I hadn't tested yet was their ability to drain.  I am glad to report that I ran through every waterhole, stream and puddle that I could and these shoes are remarkable at shedding water quickly. 

Post-run.  Ended up in a swamp buried up to my crotch.  All in the name of testing drainage...

I am a little bit mixed on my feeling on the traction.  I actually ended up ass over teakettle when I tried hit an off camber section.  The side traction isn't awesome.

Unique traction pattern.
I had no trouble with normal climbing and descending.  Over the course of the run I encountered loose leaves, pavement, rocks, mud, sand, water, swamps and nice sticky single track.   I even ended up stuck in a swampy bog up to my crotch.  It only looked like a puddle...

All that being said, here are my personal Pro's and Con's of these shoes.


Toebox.  I'm not sure if I have unusual shaped feet, but the toebox in the big toe area is very pointed.  It looks like it has been extended, perhaps to fit in the Brooks cameltoe thingy.  To illustrate my point, here is a picture of my feet on the footbeds. Because of the rapid slope of the toebox my outside two toes end up rubbing slightly against the front of the shoe.

I wore socks to spare you the horror that are my bare feet.
Arch support.  I have become very use to shoes that don't have arch support.  As a result I no longer have PF.  The arch support in this shoe has started to aggrevate it.  Not a good thing.

Too much arch support for my tastes.
Nav Band.  It just doesn't do anything.  I do have a low volume forefoot, so perhaps those of you with weird gangly tall forefeet will love it.  For me it is simply a nice place to tuck in the long laces.

Nav Band is too loose to do anything.

Overall Fit.  They don't wrap around my feet the way some of my favorite shoes do.  The New Balance MT110 is still the gold standard which I measure all trail shoes against as far as fit.  The Grits allow my foot to twist in the shoe when side traversing.  Its not severe, but it is still there.

Comparison in shapes.  PG insole, NB MT110, my foot.


Cushioning.   The BioMoGo sole does a great job of protecting your feet, offering lots of cushioning, while still being flexible.

Great cushioning, low heel rise, incredible draining powers

Minimal heel rise.  The forefoot/heel delta is only 4mm.  This allows a nice neutral mid/forefoot stride.

Drainage.  This is one of the quickest draining and drying shoes that I have ever used. The uppers material is excellent at shedding water.

Overall Usability.  If I could only have one pair of shoes (God forbid) these would probably be the ones.  They have enough cushioning to run 40 miles of roads.  They have enough protection to run rocky trails.  They drain well enough to run in mud and muck all day and they allow for and encourage a midfoot stride. 

I'd really like to see this shoe have less (or none) arch support and a more rounded toebox.  For now, those few flaws aren't enough to keep my feet out of them.


leeapeea said...

Thanks for the review, Nate. I had been looking at these, but without the ability to try on a pair. The detailed review and pictures really helps understand the shape of the shoe.

The Running Bran said...

I got the Pure Grit's recently as well and ran my first race in them this weekend. It was an 8 mile trail race, with lots of leaves, roots and rocks, as well as some mud. They seemed pretty good for the most part but I did take a spill at one point and I'm not positive yet if they're all that great when you're on wet ground. I found myself being pretty tentative on some wet rock sections (but maybe I would have been in any shoes!) Otherwise though, I love them. I agree 100% about the nav band though...very useless for me too :-)

runningfarmer said...

Nate, your review closely mirrors mine. I have a few runs in mine so far, mostly non-technical single track. The biggest issues I had were the wet traction and a stability issue, like the foot twisting you mentioned. I haven't noticed the weird shape to the toe box. Otherwise the feel is quite good, light and the nice low drop. Like you the Nav Band is used on mine to stow my laces. Good review, keep up the hard work. Cheers!

Anonymous said...

Nate, spot on review of the Pure Grit. i have run in mine a few times and have yet to hit the trails as i am recovering from a broken big toe!!! (trail marathon) from wearing the Inov8 195 which offered useless toe protection. the PG does have the toe protection but the shoe itself is a bit bulky and i also found the Nav band functionless and removed it for a cleaner look. also, the insole's arch was too high and i had to replace with a flatter Nike insole. will continue to rotate the PG and looking forward to using on trails but will probably end up as another yard duty shoe. KB

Anonymous said...

Ran my first 15K race this past week in the Pure Grits and they performed well, my only complaint is that my forefeet slid around a bit too much in the toebox and friction quickly heated the bottom of my feet on the downhill section of the race. However, I may have been running with the laces a bit too loose. Otherwise, they felt non-existent on the uphills and tracked well on the single track. I did feel a foot start to roll a bit in the shoe once or twice but, again, I may have had them laced a bit loose. I wear a size 11.5 in most shoes such as Cascadia 5's and Peregrines and 11.5 felt too large in the Grits. 11 feels just about right, perfect length-wise. Agree on the nav band which seems to do nothing and I can't help feeling I'd be better off if the shoe had a couple more lace eyelets in the mid-foot instead. Overall, I like them and I'm hoping they'll get even better with a few more miles but I'm not sure they'll replace my Peregrines yet.

Mr. Kleinman the 3rd said...

I recently bought the pure grits. I love the fit on my foot and really enjoy the way they feel but I'm having serious problems with their traction. On dry leaves they slide and on wet packed dirt or wet smooth rocks they also slip. Also, on wet pavement (granted they are a trail shoe but I've also tried them on the road) they slide a few centimeters forward each time my foot hits the ground. This all makes me feel very nervous when running in them since I'm often slipping/sliding because of them and never feel that my feet are really secure on the ground. Since I love them other wise, I was wondering if any body had any suggestions for the traction. Perhaps a coating to put on? It seems the material they use is just a very low friction material. Any suggestions would be awesome.

Grrrtrude said...

Could you expand a little on the shoes aggravating your PF? I am interested in these shoes, but have a real problem with PF.

MarkG said...

Hi, thanks for the review. Two things you said concern me but one of them really got me interested.
You said "Arch support.  I have become very use to shoes that don't have arch support.  As a result I no longer have PF.  The arch support in this shoe has started to aggrevate it.  Not a good thing.".
As a two year PF sufferer who is constantly looking for ways to fix it this intrigues me. Did you get rid of your PF by abandoning arch support? I've had no luck with stability shoes, orthotics etc but adding arch support seems to be one of the main methods to cure PF. I've wondered for quite a while about going the other way, which is one of the reasons I've been researching minimalist runners (not ready for barefoot or vibrams!). I've just been a bit reluctant to make the leap out of fear of making it worse and not being ale torun at all. I'd love to hear your experience in this regard.

Nathan Sanel said...

Regarding the PF. I have now put about 400 miles on these shoes. My PF does not seem to be getting worse. It flared up when I started using these shoes and they are the first shoes that I have used with arch support in a long time.
About a year after I started running seriously I was striken with severe PF. As the running store put me in more and more supportive shoes it got worse and worse. As I reduced the amount of support in the shoes the PF got better. I believe that strengthening the foot helps relive it, BUT I also went to Physical Therapy at the same time. This was after trying every PF "cure" in the book. Now whenever it flares up, which has been years until I started in this shoe, I do a deep tissue massage on the facia (arch) to reduce inflamation. That helps a LOT. Good luck Grrrrtrude and Mark G.

MarkG said...

Thanks Nate,
I've also tried a myriad of PF (non) fixes. I'm currently running in brooks glycerine with orthotics, but have toyed with many combos but not minimals. Your arch support comments made me look at other options (I then went and read your altra instinct review). I like brooks (they seem to be more compatible with me than other brands I've tried and have wide feet (something else that worried me a little in your pure grit review). From what I've told you and from your personal experiences do you reckon I should go with the grits or instincts? (all experimental anyway!).

Cheers and thanks for the info


PS Good luck Grrrtrude!

Nathan Sanel said...

Considering what your in, I would think that the Grit's would be a better choice. The Instinct is an awesome shoe, but the Grit will be a great way to transition towards more minimal shoes. Keep me posted!

Gabriele said...

Hi, what is the size of nb mt 110 that you have?

Nathan Sanel said...

I wear a size 11 in the MT110. They fit a bit small so I suggest going up 1/2 size from what you normally wear. For me they run exactly the same as the MT10, but more snug than the rest of the minimus line. In the MR00 and MT00 the 11 is too large. In the Pure Grits I wear a size 10.5. Hope that helps!

Gabriele said...

Yes thanks, I bought a size 9,5 in the MT110 and a size 9 in the Pure Grit.
Now I must taste them.
With the Pure Grit can I run a few miles of roads?

Arch Support said...

Good effort Nathan and thanks for your helpful review..

Shoes For Custom Orthotics said...

I tried these shoes and really got some good results :)