My New Favorite Running Shoes and the Story of a Gigantic Chocolate Egg in a Suspicious Package

1101411D725.070defaultpdMy friend Jason Fitzgerald, who writes the brilliant blog Strength Running, taught me a philosophy that I think strikes the perfect middle ground in the barefoot-versus-shod running debate:

“Run like a barefooter, but do it with shoes on.”

What Jason means when he says to run like a barefooter is that you should run with a quick cadence, short strides so that your weight stays over your feet, and a midfoot strike, instead of landing hard on your heel. Running barefoot essentially forces you to do these things, since doing otherwise just plain hurts, without all that cushioning that traditional running shoes offer.

This lack of feedback caused by modern shoes, of course, is the main argument for barefoot running. Cushy shoes allow us (encourage us, even) to run in a way that’s unnatural and that, over time, leads to injuries.

The argument for wearing shoes is less subtle: a layer of cushioning between our feet and the ground protects us not just from the impact of the road (which is perhaps much harder than the surfaces we evolved to run barefoot on), but also from rocks, glass, etc.

You can see the appeal of the compromise: Run with the form nature designed us to run with, then throw in a layer of protection from the ground.

Replacing the Green Silence

From my first run in the Brooks Green Silence (which happened to be the 2010 Marine Corps Marathon, thanks to my destructive habit of buying new running shoes the day before a race), I was in love. I had found a shoe that was light, flexible, and comfortable, and one that more than any other encouraged me to land on my midfoot instead of my heel. It was, for me, a perfect compromise between minimalist running and comfort, and that it was eco-friendly certainly didn’t hurt, either.

For two years I ran happily in the Green Silence. And then I found out they were being discontinued.

I thought about stocking up with enough pairs to last me well into old age. Thankfully, I procrastinated, because little did I know that something better was coming.

Then one day late last year, salvation showed up on my doorstep — in the form of a giant chocolate egg.

The box had some sort of Chinese or Japanese characters on it and a warning to crack open the egg with 12 hours, which led me, in my infinite paranoia, to classify it as a suspicious package (I figured the time-urgency was so that the anthrax inside wouldn’t die). I made a few phone calls — no joke — to the delivery company and then to a chocolatier in Portland to find out who sent it, but to no avail. Ultimately, my wife came home, convinced me I was nuts and pointed out that the box said “Run Happy,” and cracked open the egg with a hammer. I made her do it outside, at least.

Inside was neither a bomb nor an evil germ, but a plastic-wrapped pair of running shoes destined to become my favorites. The egg was from Brooks, and inside were the brand new, not-then-released PureDrift.

Introducing the Brooks PureDrift

Running shoes in a giant chocolate egg. If only we hadn’t been as far as you can possibly get from Easter, the promotion would have made so much sense.

I still don’t get it, but the shoes are amazing. The PureDrift aren’t supposed to replace the Green Silence, but in my mind, they do. Only they’re better.

I wish I were more of a running shoe nerd and could talk specs. I’ll try in a minute, but here’s the non-technical, take-home message: the PureDrift have that “barely there” feeling of a slipper or even a sock, which encourages the barefoot running form, yet they provide cushioning far more substantial than, say, Vibram Fivefingers. The sole is flexible enough that it allows your foot to conform to any undulations in the ground (and it still hurts if you come down too hard on your heel, as well it should), but the cushioning provides for a smoother ride and a more pleasant experience than I ever had when I fooled around with quasi-barefooting in Fivefingers for a few months.

(And by the way, all of Brooks’ running shoes are vegan-friendly. A few of their walking shoes are not.)

And now for you nerds out there, here are the specs that matter to me, as compared to the Green Silence:

  • The Green Silence weighed 6.9 ounces. The PureDrift come in at a whopping 20 percent lighter, 5.6 ounces.
  • The Green Silence had a pretty big heel-to-toe drop of 8mm. (That’s the height difference of the sole between the built-up heel and the toe, which barefooters point to as the main culprit behind injuries caused by shoes.) As for the heel-to-toe drop of the PureDrift? Get this: they come with a removable liner, which left in gives the shoe a 4mm drop, but removed results in a zero-drop experience, just like barefooting. I’ve tried both ways, and prefer the 4mm option.
  • The PureDrifts have two notches cut in forefoot area of the sole and a wide toebox, which allow the toes to splay out and the forefoot to “flex through its three functional units,” according to the website. Whatever that means.
  • Although the PureDrift weren’t designed with the obsession on eco-friendliness that the Green Silence obviously were, it’s nice to know that the BioMoGo midsole will biodegrade 50 times faster than ordinary midsole materials.

There’s a downside to light, minimal shoes like this, and it’s that they wear out rather quickly. Brooks says the PureDrift and the other shoes in the PureProject line will last only 250 to 300 miles, as compared to the standard 300 to 500 you hear quoted for other shoes. At 100 bucks a pop, that could get pricey.

The Long and Short of It …

I kinda wish I had more negative things to say about the PureDrift, so as not to gush like someone might just because he got free running shoes in a giant chocolate egg. I’ve read other reviews saying that some runners find the upper to be too loose, so that when tied tightly, the material bunches up, but I haven’t noticed that.

Honestly, I thought it’d be a long time before I found a pair of shoes to replace my beloved Green Silence, and to have discovered in the PureDrift a shoe that I like even more has me over the moon. If you’re a minimilist shoe fan like I am, there’s a good chance you’ll be as excited about these as I am.

PS — Jason is one of several friends of mine whose blog, along with No Meat Athlete, made it onto Greatist’s lists of 60 Must-Read Health & Fitness Blogs for 2013. It’s an honor to be on the list — thanks, Greatist!

PPS — I did two interviews recently that I hope you’ll read/watch:

1. A video interview I did with Jeff Gaudette for the Runners Connect podcast, and we talked a lot about nutrition, running, tips for going plant-based, and my new book.

2. The second is one I did for a new site called VegBelly, where I answered some fun questions about No Meat Athlete, caffeine, music, books, movies, and more.

These were really great interviews; please check them out and share them!

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Comments

  1. Hey Matt, how would you compare these to the other shoes in the Pure project line? I currently rotate the flow and cadence after using fivefingers for 2 years. I originally switched back to normal shoes because I found I was getting injured more often once I started stacking on some more serious miles. With that said, I miss the connection I got from the fivefingers. So, if you’ve had some time in the other Pure shoes, how would you compare/contrast the drift to them? Thanks!

  2. My shoe of choice as well. Been doing the minimal/barefoot thing for a good while now. Vibrams, to VivoBarefoot Neos to New Balance 730s to Brooks Pure Flow to Brooks Pure Drift. I really like the philosophy but as a bigger guy, I need some cushioning (with minimal drop). These have worked out the best of any shoes I’ve tried. I love the flexibility and the feel. Don’t see anything out there that looks to fit my needs any better!

  3. How do these compare to some of the other Pure project shoes like the Pure Flow which is also a minimal running shoe?

    • the pure flow is not a minimalist running shoe. not even close.

      • Actually all of the PureProject shoes are based on a minimalist platform. The are the self titled “minimalist shoes with cushion”.. so yeah.

  4. Glad you like them; I would have taken just the chocolate; I have tried the Pure line and dislike! Just goes to show… different strokes!

  5. These are way, way more minimal than the Pure Flow and the Pure Cadence. I came from the Pure Flow and when I bought these, I tried them on at the same time as the Pure Flow 2. I like that shoe but it’s way, way more sole. This sole does have cushion (not near as much) but it’s also flexible as heck due to cutouts in the sole & such.

    • Thanks for answering that, Chris. I haven’t tried any others in the Pure Project line, only talked to friends who run in them. And yeah, the sole really is flexible; you can roll it up in either direction because of the notches cut out (which I’ve seen people say reminds them of the Nike Free).

  6. I’ve been running in the NB Minimus for a while now. I love them, even for long runs now, but have considered trying something with just a little more cushion. These sound like they might be worth a try. Thanks for the info.

    • Mike, I’m a big fan of the Minimus Trail, but haven’t tried the road version. I imagine they’re pretty similar as far as weight, heel-toe drop, etc. If you try the PureDrift, I’d be interested to hear how they compare.

  7. I was just wondering when you would write about the drift when this came out!! You wrote most of what I was thinking as I compared both shoes. Its funny how you recount the emotions you went through when the announcement of the Green Silence being EOL’d was made. I fully relate to it! :)

    I disagree with the marketers wanting to sell the notion of 200 – 300 miles a pair. I have my original green silence which has well over 500 miles on it (and I’m a Clydesdale) with uppers all beat up, but still feel awesome to run in. I had since bought several more pairs and tried to even out the wear across them over time.
    It was a huge relief to see that the drift almost perfectly replaced the Green Silence. You are right about the Drift being super flimsy, so while the initial runs were fantastic, let’s see if it holds up as well as the Green Silence.

    • I’ve got about 900 miles on my Green Silences and they still feel good. I don’t want to switch to another shoe, but this post has me thinking I might…especially since I won’t be able to find any more of my GSs soon. Ramsan and Matt, how are your PureDrifts holding up so far?

  8. Jon Weisblatt says:

    Has anyone tried the ONS? I have one friend who loves them and she swear her hesrt rate has gone down since using them. They look gimmicky but supposedly have a minimal heel-forefoot drop.

  9. I learned , years ago- mid-80’s- to run like I was barefooted. I wanted to run for health and sanity BUT had just finished playing football in college and had some knee surgeries.

    I ran in private on a track and developed on my own a version of what is now POSE running or Chi running. My goal was to run on top of the crusted snow outside and not break through, run without making a sound (and I wear size 17 shoe and I am 6’8 and 288lbs.)

    I now run silently and have been running since my first 10 mile race and marathon in 1988.

    Good stuff thanks ( and I am a recent vegetarian (6 years)
    as I prepare for the Charlottesville Marathon I run up and down hills quietly and have fun sweating….

  10. Ugh, these shoes sounded wonderful, then I looked for them online and see they only come in width B for women. It’s like running shoe manufacturers think that wide footed folks don’t want to run in minimalist shoes. I’m stuck in the expensive and suffocating New Balance for now.

    • Lynn, have you looked at Inov-8 shoes? I have a fairly wide foot and am finding them great. http://www.inov-8.com

    • Lynn, I would see if you can find a pair of PureDrifts to try on. I have wide feet as well and these are plenty roomy. This is the first pair of Brooks that didn’t suffocate my feet. The Puredrift is way more comfortable than the NB 630s I’ve been running in lately.

  11. PureDrift sounds great. By the way, there is no way I could resist reading a post when the title includes “the Story of a Gigantic Chocolate Egg in a Suspicious Package.” Haha. Excellent.

  12. After reading this I looked around and found the Green Silence on sale for $59 on the Brooks website. WOW they are awesome! PS on week 8 of the training program!!!

  13. Ray Hunt says:

    I bought a pair of PureDrifts when they went retail back in January. I’ve ran every race so far this year in them very comfortably except a couple of times when I stupidly broke form. Prior to the Drifts, I had been running in PureFlows since last September. Got 400 miles out of my first pair of PureFlows before I retired them. BTW, I was “diagnosed” as a heavy overpronator in need of $160-200 motion control shoes back in January of last year…

  14. Meg Nilsson says:

    I bought a pair of pure drift about 3 weeks ago. On my first run (trail) with them my left foot fell asleep despite me continually loosening and adjusting the laces. I have only done short, speed workouts with them since that point and they still feel sort of weird.
    Yesterday I wore them around the house and for a strength session just to ‘feel them out’ again. I feel like I have a bruise under my big toe. What am I doing wrong?

  15. Great review, especially because I’ve been looking for information on replacement of Brooks Green Silence, which I absolutely love. I think these are the best running shoes I’ve ever had; great for racing, tempo and long slow running (for the reasons you have pointed out). You wrote that the Pure Drifts provide far more cushioning than the Five Fingers, but how do they compare to the Green Silence in terms of cushioning? They look much more minimalist than the latter. I’ve been running barefoot style for some time now, but still need some cushioning (I don’t want my feet to go to sleep after 20-something miles). Many thanks for your feedback!

  16. Hey Matt and the community. I have run in Green Silence since seeing them on the NMA site and am really disappointed that they are now discontinued. The “replacements” don’t get such favourable reviews if you read widely, compared with excellent GS reviews. So why fix something that wasn’t broke? It would be great if Brooks listened to what their customers really appreciate, and let us again “run happy”.

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  1. [...] This guy loves/loved the Brooks Green Silence as much as me and believes he’s found a solid replacement. I’m still searching. [...]

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