Athletic shoes are a funny thing, especially in series. Some series, you can count on certain fits and feels without having to try on the shoe first. With others, feel and fit may change dynamically, and some shoes are a bit of a surprise, not because of any dynamic differences from their predecessors, but because the shoes in focus may do more than you expect.
In the case of Brooks’ PureProject running series, all of the shoes within that umbrella are consistent, but one new model that caught my attention went from something a bit more niche and less relatable to me in my training to something that far exceeded my expectations and the crown jewel of my regimen. Enter the Brooks PureDrift.
The PureDrift — shown above and in finer detail here — is, as aforementioned, the newest PureProject model of the Brooks brand. Its relevance to the running landscape is significant because of its adaptability. It can literally change from a low-sitting neutral runner to a zero-drop minimalistic shoe, solely on the presence or absence of its insole. In other words, you can moderate the support of the shoe at virtually any time you desire. This is achievable, not only through Brooks’ clever and intelligent design of the last and sole, but also because the company was smart enough to engineer a working footbed beneath the insole that it’s equipped with, making the PureDrift a doubly-equipped tool for running.
To say that the PureDrift isn’t for everyone (at least on the surface) is a bit of an understatement. It’s an expert-level running shoe. Its base fit with the insole is low to the ground and is for runners who have achieved a great deal of training with minimalistic running footwear; in other words, strong feet are necessary for the shoe, no matter how high or low your arch is (though a low arch does help in the PureDrift). I’ve ran for years in minimalistic footwear and have had mixed results, but all positive experiences with Brooks, at least in the past. With the PureDrift, I clearly wasn’t ready, as my feet weren’t yet strong enough for high mileage for prolonged periods of time. I was able to really have strong performances in sprints, like high intensity interval training (HIIT), but fairly traditional runs weren’t pleasant, but that’s not the PureDrift’s fault.
The PureDrift fits beautifully. It is the definition of ergonomic fit. The feel of the shoe is tremendously comfortable in resting/casual activity and is what I consider to be exemplary comfort. It comes from Brooks designing a wider, more human-like toebox that allows for the right kind of space for foot spread and toe spread when the feet are in action (something that Brooks has been the leader of in the last few years). The PureDrift is incredibly light, thanks to its DNA midsole/outsole (which is strong enough as a ground contact surface, replacing large amount of typically-placed rubber, but soft to act as a cushioning compound), and its all mesh upper with heat-welded panels. It lacks a traditional tongue, but the PureDrift upper actually folds into itself like a burrito, hugging your foot and creating a more customized fit, as it did my own. Along with an elastic, fabric-wrapped band over the foot bridge for additional support, the PureDrift is a winner even if no running were ever to take place. But alas, I found that it is a champion in another sector of activity that enhances its duties and use – weight training.
As not only a fitness and training specialist in the field, but also as an advocate and advisor, training is a huge part of my research, and while Brooks isn’t known for its presence as a training footwear brand, its current products can get the job done depending on what I’m doing. Disappointed by my inability to enjoy the PureDrift in the way I wanted to as a runner, I took to experimenting in the weight room and found that the shoe is probably the best trainer I’ve ever worn in my lifetime.
The same attributes of the PureDrift that make it both so successful as a shoe for seasoned runners also made it successful for a season resistance trainer like me. Its wide, ergonomically-supportive design made finding my core strength in exercises like standing shoulder presses and squats much easier. The strategically-placed rubber nodes built within the DNA foam sole made grip to the ground easy, allowing me to anchor myself with various forms of bentover exercises. The PureDrift’s mesh upper allowed me the ability to walk around with ease, sprint with reckless abandon, and leap for weighted jump squats and jump lunges when I desired; and to boot, its torsional strength allowed the shoe the ability to match my limits when I needed it to. Simply, the PureDrift allowed me the ability to train without fetters from the feet up.
In all, the PureDrift isn’t a shoe for everyone. Novices need to steer clear if you need a shoe to give you more support, but those looking to enhance foot and lower leg strength and challenge themselves can look upon the PureDrift with delight. And if you participate in strength training, the PureDrift is literally tough enough to make it through and allow you to be active without much care about the feel of your feet — they’ll likely feel great the whole way through.