Used to be that I always looked for a shoe that wowed me. You know what I’m talking about. A shoe that felt so good when you put it on that you’d fire up the nose hair trimmer and take a sharpie to your gray whiskers before you go do your general strength circuit on the roof of the Whole Foods at lunch hour. Something sexy. Something with pop. You know what I mean. The 1400 does it. Adios. A-Series. Maybe Kinvara if you’re hanging out at the, you know, church fund-raiser. That’s mostly what I used to like. And, most often, that’s still what I want.
Now, though, maybe because of the, you know, age thing or maybe the slow thing, I’m finding that on occasion when I’m feeling a little more beat up, a bit more pragmatic, I like certain shoes because they are more, I don’t know, sensible. Not, like, Aunt-Myrt’s-shoes-sensible—I’m not going Velcro yet—but just more, you know, practical. I mean, you know?
The Brooks Pure Flow 3 is, for me, a little more practical. It’s not a “wow” shoe, and I’m not sure that Brooks wants it to be. Brooks is the very best at making running shoes for the roundy part of the curve. That’s the target market—that’s almost everyone’s target market—and Brooks captures that the best. Their shoes are super comfortable and push all the right buttons for those on the middle part of the runner spectrum. Like minivans or some shit.1 Even the Pure line, which is supposed to be more “Feel” oriented, is not really that “feely” to me. Maybe the Connect has some feel, but I don’t really find the Flow or the Cadence to be much more Feel than the Ghost.
My man Gundi sent me a pair, because he’s super generous, but mostly, I think, because I asked. Which pretty much proves his generosity.
The updated PF3 is an improvement over the first two incarnations. The shoe is smoother and fits a bit cleaner, and to me that’s good enough. I’ve always worn the PF on easier days, when I just wanted to explore the neighborhoods, and with this new one, I expect I’ll continue the same.
With this update, Brooks brought out an entirely new midsole/outsole. It’s still the softest of the Pure line, and still has a nice, moderately low ride. First, the bevel of the Ideal Heel is increased to allow a more forward landing; and the pods in the forefoot have been repositioned and the entire width of the forefoot has been decreased, both presumably to deliver a smoother ride. I’m not sure I noticed much of a difference with either of those things, but the narrower forefoot fit me much cleaner, so props for that. Someone help me out with the Toe Flex thing, because I can’t for the life of me tell that it’s there. It’s one of those technologies that sound really cool in theory, but the application is pretty much negligible.
The biggest change to the upper, and one that also helps clean up the fit a bit, is the change in direction of the burrito wrap upper. Now the shoe opens up on the lateral side, and now I get a snugger wrap of the midfoot. Brooks also made a change to the lacing direction as well, and I do think that helps a bit. But I’d solved that issue with my PF2’s, by taking the laces out of the eyelet closest to my little toe. I’m still not sold on the whole Nav Band thing—it doesn’t engage my foot at all. Theory, sure; application, not so much.
So the PF3 is, for those of you who are fans of the shoe, a really good improvement, mostly because they’ve refined the fit. The ride is still pretty smooth, though if it had true full ground contact, like the Ghost or Green Silence, that shit would be real. Actually, if the entire Pure line got full ground contact, I’d go so far as to say that it might have the potential to be brilliant. Pods, in general, just don’t work. Not to get all Princess and the Pea Pod on you, but you know what I mean.
Eventually, I ended up taking out the sockliner for a few runs, which is often a good way to see how the shoe really rides, and got much better Feel out of them.
The PF3 is good—I pull them out frequently for customers—but Brooks makes simpler shoes–Launch anyone?–that are smoother and it makes me wonder why a shoe that is supposed to be essentially “less” ends up being almost but not quite as good as it could be. In the end though, Brooks is number one because they make the shoes that the masses like most, and they’ve continued that with the PF3.
1Maybe if you have a surfboard on the roof, but still…
Next up: ASICS Hyperspeed, ON Cloud, Saucony Type A6, New Balance Fresh Foam 980