I don’t run very often. Once or twice a week is it. I don’t like it that well and I find it somewhat boring, but it’s great exercise (though high impact). And I regularly get the itch to run if it’s been awhile. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes I do enjoy it, like running the hills at Thompson Park in Watertown, NY on a nice hot day.
Unfortunately I sometimes I have foot-related problems while running, walking fast or hiking; problems that I don’t have while doing other exercises and fitness activities like biking, nor do I have problems while doing daily things where I am on my feet.
After having a few on-and-off Plantar Fasciitis problems and after my most comfortable sneakers began to wear out, as well as realizing that the other two pairs of sneakers that I had previously run in were making running unbearable – we decided to get a nice pair of running sneakers for me. And not just any moderately priced ones that were going to cause me just as many problems as my old running sneaks.
I think both my wife and I had thought that I would need some sort of uber-cushioned and super-supportive running sneaker.
We went to check out the running sneakers in Dick’s Sporting Goods at our local mall, and a salesperson helped us a little. I say a little because helping us didn’t seem to hold that much interest for her nor did putting much effort into it – but she did suggest Brooks running shoes because some models had really good support, she said.
There was a small section with Brooks shoes so we proceeded to go through the various models in their boxes on the displays looking for my foot size. I tried a few on and they were pretty good, but immediately upon slipping my feet into the Brooks PureConnect 2‘s my feet felt natural and good. Much better than the walking sneakers I had been wearing.
It was weird, and hard to explain after wearing other sneakers. Even the sneakers I was wearing to walk around the mall in felt clunky and uncomfortable after putting the Brooks on.
The Brooks seemed to wrap my feet snugly and securely but surprisingly without very much cushion at the sole or heel, and I could feel the ground as I walked. Yet I didn’t feel like my ankle would twist if I stepped on a stone or the edge of something, nor that I wasn’t supported. Nor did they feel like how I imagined any minimalist shoe or near-minimalist shoe or sneak to feel like. In fact we didn’t know at the time that there was anything ‘minimalist’ about them – they just felt right for me.
In actuality, as we found out later when checking the manufacturer’s description of them, they are a hybrid of a true minimalist shoe and a more cushioned supportive shoe.
And indeed for me they seemed to be the best of both worlds.
They did seem fairly expensive, at least to me as I’m not used to paying a lot for sneakers. So we wandered around to a few other stores in the mall and then came back, as nothing felt quite right after trying the Brooks on.
I did once again try on some other Brooks’ sneaks and found another similar pair that had more cushioning. It was somewhat of a toss-up as without running for a distance how can you really tell how well one works for you over another, especially with some foot issues.
I finally went with the PureConnect 2’s. They just plain felt that good.
At the counter we were a bit surprised when the very talkative older woman at the counter mentioned that she did marathons and who really didn’t look like a runner – which just goes to show you that not everyone who runs long distances ‘looks’ like a typical runner.
We were also very pleasantly surprised when we ended up paying much less than the advertised price, even before using a coupon that we had. So that was a bonus.
At home I immediately changed into my running clothes and took a two-mile run.
It was almost like running in my bare feet. I had tried running in my bare feet several times before and just could not do it; it hurt too much. But this “felt” like running in bare feet, yet wasn’t.
So obviously these sneakers provided just enough support, cushioning, and protection yet still gives the minimalist feel.
And in fact I could feel the impact on the road more than my regular sneakers yet; surprisingly perhaps, it didn’t bother my feet, legs, hips, or anything else. Even after running a number of times I’ve yet to feel any adverse effects in this aspect from using the sneakers.
My Plantar Fasciitis problem was still there, but it felt like it was just an injury to get over instead of an injury that was ongoing and being caused by the footwear I was using. It barely bothered me, and now – I believe through using these better sneakers as well as some exercises to help me recover from what was probably caused by my badly designed previous running sneakers – the injury is nearly gone.
I’ve run hills, both up and down, as well as my regular distance (10K) and I continue to enjoy and feel good running in them. I also found that they felt just fine on the treadmill, and sometimes running on readmills can bring up issues that aren’t felt outside.
The sneakers themselves are very thin and light, they weigh in at about 7.2 ounces. The sole is extremely flexible, hugging the curve of the underside of your foot, yet it’s still there and substantial. There’s just enough sole and heel to cushion you slightly, but not enough that your feet don’t feel like they are naturally adhering and conforming to the surface that you are running on, and they make you feel like you are running barefoot.
The upper part of the sneaker is a very light mesh, very airy. Mine are red but they do come in a variety of colors including orange, black, blue, etc. They’re bright colors (except for the black and grey of course) but not neon-bright. The tops of the sneakers have a reflective check mark as well as reflective material along the laces and trim and across the backs. There’s no ‘conventional’ tongue but just a part that wraps under the opposite side of the top of the sneaker, with laces covering it.
There’s not much protection from the elements, which is good when you’re running in warm weather or even moderate temps. But they might be cold if you’re running in the snow and cold, so you might have to look elsewhere for something warmer and with more protection for those times of the year.
The manufacturer’s description mentions a “split toe groove”, which you can see in the photo to the left. The treads look very grippy, and they have some softness to them. Looking at them it looks like there is a fairly good sole there, but you just don’t feel like there is.
Lifespan is supposed to be around 250-300 miles. They are a lightly made sneak so this may be pretty accurate. I am seeing a little heel scuffing on mine, as you can see in the pic below – but I tend to drag my heels once in a while at the end of a run until I tell myself to pick my feet up again, so that certainly doesn’t help.
I don’t know how they would be for trail-running. Maybe you would need more support and protection, maybe not if you were used to trail-running. I tried trail-running for the first time this fall, for a run of a few miles, and even with supportive sneakers I still felt every stone and hole.
A quick personal opinion about minimalist sneaks/shoes – I think whether you can use them or should use them would be totally up to your personal preferences and what you feel you need for your feet and what is good for your feet. There’s an opinion that this is a more natural way to run and that everyone should be running with them. But for those who have foot problems more support might be needed, or more cushioning.
So, in conclusion – I believe that the Brooks running shoes to be a great sneaker if you’re looking for something somewhere between a minimalist and a fully cushioned, supported running shoe. Not sure about the durability yet but for pure running comfort, and for a nice-looking seemingly well-built sneak I find them to be excellent. Check ’em out on Amazon or at your local sports or shoe store.
Addendum – I received a pair of the first version of the Brooks PureConnect running shoes and have been testing them out also, these are very very similar to the PureConnect2’s except for things like the more conventional tongue and shoelace configuration and look.