Brooks Connect (2012)

The new and highly anticipated Pure Project models are in stores now. Are the high expectations realized? Pure Project is an entirely new line, soup to nuts, with four models.

The Pure Project line includes the Connect, the Flow, the Cadence and the Grit. The first three are made for road running. The Grit is a trail shoe. All the models are built with a 4mm heel-to-toe drop (aka ďrampĒ), and this 4mm ramp is a metric around which more and more companies are coalescing, when itís ďnaturalĒ running shoes that are contemplated. Itís the same as in the Saucony Kinvara and Mirage, as well as the Hokas.

But this doesnít mean all these shoes feel the same. While Brooks Pure Projectís models and Sauconyís Kinvara and the Mirage maintain the same 4mm ramp, these Brooks shoes feel flatter, to me, than do the Saucony models.

The Connect
This model features the thinnest midsole of all 4 Brooks shoes in the Pure Project line. Itís built on a 14mm heel and a forefoot 10mm forefoot. This is the Pure Project model that comes closest to a minimalist shoe, but the sole is still too cushioned to fit squarely into the minimalist category. If you like the natural running style but need or want just a little more cushioning, this could be your shoe.

But this might not be a mail order buy, unless youíre familiar with the model, because the fit of The Connect is not for everyone. Theyíre narrow. Itís been my observation, in my running store, that many mid/forefoot strikers start withóor end up with as a result of years of their running techniqueóa wider forefoot. So, when Brooks makes a model for this running style, and builds it narrow in the forefoot, it runs counter to my retailing experience. That said, if you are built with narrow feet you might like then more than the wider models available.

The next obvious feature is a higher-than-typical arch support, which runs from the medial to the lateral side of the foot. I had to get used to this feeling while running. Still, every time I put them on I feel its presence. Iím not sure why Brooks decided to put in such a large arch support, because its size might be an impediment to its sell-through.

The snug fit of the heel cup is welcome. Also, the Nav Band: This is an elastic support strap that secures the midfoot and arch. The Connect also enhances Brooks proprietary Toe Flex: A toe box split that allows the big toe to function independently and engage the runnerís natural balance. I didnít notice the Toe Flex at all, so itís hard to tell if this works or not. Itís certainly not negative, since I didnít notice it.

For a shoe at just 7.2 ounce it gives a very nice ride and the cushioning is very comfortable. Compared to a Saucony Kinvara the Connect feels slightly firmer to me. It also makes you more aware that you need to strike midfoot, or even enhances this feeling due to the Brooks proprietary Ideal Heel. This rounded heel shape places your strike automatically more to your midfoot.

Also of interest is Brooksí use of different midsole densities in this model, depending in shoe size. The Connect is built with a Shore value of 55 in the womenís model, but with a value of 57 in the menís model up to size 10 and from 10.5 and larger itís built with a value of 59.

There is one final point Iíd like to make, about this shoe as well as midfoot strikers made by other companies. Yes, typical outsole wear patterns are lateral heel and medial forefoot. But, is this necessarily the case with these new styles of shoes, made for new styles of running? Iíd like to see a new analysis of this, with the durable outsole material adjusted accordingly.

The men's colorway is above, the women's shoe is pictured adjacent.

[Editorís note: Our capable editor-at-large for footwear Jeroen van Geelen owns Total Running, one of the more important running and triathlon retail establishments in The Netherlands.]