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Brooks PureDrift Running Shoe Review

Posted on February 19 2013

Brooks PureDriftI’ll start this review by saying that I am loving the Brooks PureDrift, but with a big caveat. That caveat is that I didn’t love the shoe out of the box, and I needed to make a modification for the shoe to work for me.

So let’s start with my problem. The Brooks PureDrift is designed to be a variable drop shoe. If you run without the included insole it is zero drop (i.e.,flat), and if you put the insole in it is supposed to increase the drop to 4mm (note: I measure the insole differential as only 3mm, not a big deal but I try to be precise). On my first run in the Drifts I left the insole in and had an overall positive impression, but could feel a hot spot developing on the side of the ball behind my right big toe. On my second run I took the insole out to try it as a zero drop shoe and the hot spot turned into a massive blister. It seems there is a ridge where the integrated footbed is stitched down, and that combined with an upward curl of the sole in this area causes the shoe to rub my foot badly on one side. I have seen others complain of this as well.

Brooks PureDrift Lateral

Brooks PureDrift Medial

I thought this hotspot/blister issue would be a deal-breaker for me with the Drift. The damage to my foot was pretty significant, but I decided to see if a thicker insole might alleviate the rubbing. I grabbed the insole out of a pair of Brooks PureCadence 2’s, stuck them in, and they worked like a charm. No more hotspot. I’ve now run almost 50 miles in the Drifts, and they have become a personal favorite.

Although I was only able to run once in the shoes without the insole, I did not have an overly favorable opinion of the Drift in its zero drop incarnation. With a stack height of 12mm, the midsole is thin enough that it feels very firm, and the pod-like design of the sole gives it a bit of a lumpy feel underfoot. I’d describe the ride as “harsh.” The Skechers GoBionic has a similar sole design and it is implemented much better in my opinion. As such, I would not recommend the Drift if your goal is to use it as a zero-drop shoe out of the box.

Addition of the PureCadence 2 insole changes the shoe dramatically for the better, and what’s cool is that it remains a zero drop shoe. Unlike the Drift insole, the PureCadence insole measures 5mm thick in both the heel and forefoot, so there is no drop added when you use it (the included Drift insole is 5mm heel, 2mm forefoot). Plus, the bit of added cushion it provides in the forefoot totally changes the ride and removes the hard, lumpy feeling that occurs when no insole is used. Brooks should either include this insole as an option in future versions, or sell it separately for a few bucks on their website.

Brooks PureDrift Top

Where the PureDrift really shines is in the fit of the last. The heel and midfoot are snug, and the shape of the forefoot is fantastic – wide and plenty of room for the foot to spread out. It looks unusual in photos like the one above, but does not look as paddle-like in person. I find it incredibly comfortable for both casual wear and running (I have worn it to work on more than one occasion). I have not tried running sockless in them yet (too cold up here!), but my sense is that the interior is well finished and should work well for that purpose. Upper durability looks to be good so far in my pair.

One note about the upper is that some people have had issues with indentations forming in the upper near the front of the toebox where the splits in the sole are located. I have not experienced this. The burrito-style upper does also tend to bunch if you cinch the laces too tight near the forefoot, but I find a bit of adjustment fixes this. The non-functional (in my opinion) nav-band is present.

Brooks PureDrift Sole

I’ve already said most of what needs to be said about the sole. The podded design makes it ultra-flexible, but feels lumpy, perhaps because some pods have protruding rubber outsole (black patches above) and others do not. A drawback of the podded design is that the shoe seeps water through the sole – this has led to some unpleasant experiences on a few of my wet winter runs recently. I see very little sole wear after 50 miles of use.

I’ve mostly used the Drift for easy runs of 3-8 miles, and they are great for that purpose (with the swapped insole). I also used them last Friday for an interval workout and though they don’t have the pop of a racing flat, they sufficed. I’d classify the Drift as an easy run shoe that could be used for long runs as well if you are acclimated to low drop, minimally cushioned footwear. For speed I’d go with something more designed for the task.

In conclusion, Brooks has a shoe with a great deal of potential in the PureDrift. The first incarnation has some shortcomings that I was able to remedy with an insole swap, but I think only some minor tweaks would be required to take this shoe to another level in future incarnations. I’d redesign the integrated footbed to remove seams along the margins, soften the sole just a tad, or include a slightly beefier insole (like the current PureCadence 2 insole). With the tweak I made, I foresee this shoe remaining on my active rack for quite awhile!

For more viewpoints on this shoe, view the Brooks Pure Drift thread on the Runblogger Forum.

The Brooks PureDrift can be purchased at BrooksRunning.com

Disclosure: The shoes reviewed here were provided by the manufacturer.

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