Brooks Pure Drift and Grit 2

This is our review of two new-for-2013 models from Brooks – the Pure Drift road shoe and the Pure Grit 2 trail shoe. We reviewed the original Pure Grit HERE. The Drift is brand new.

Pure Project is Brooks’ take on the ‘minimal movement’. Their motto is, “Feel More With Less.” Keep in mind, neither of these shoes fall into the category of what we at Slowtwitch consider to be truly minimal shoes (for more on that topic, see THIS). Rather, they serve very well as a transition-to-minimal-shoe, or simply as shoes for those who prefer to run with a lower ramp, or heel-to-toe drop.

I’ve had both pairs of shoes since the end of 2012, and have logged considerable miles in both. Let’s take a closer look.

Pure Drift

The Pure Drift is new for this year, having no predecessor. In the past, the lightest and thinnest model in the Pure Project line was the Pure Connect. The Connect weighs 7.2 ounces, and the Drift comes in at a paltry 5.6 (for an average size men’s shoe).

That’s light. Does it mean the shoe has posting? Yes. Does it mean the shoe has zero cushioning? In my experience, no. Brooks has done a very good job of retaining a cushion and comfort in a very light package. The height of the shoe is as follows:

Forefoot midsole + outsole = 11mm

Heel midsole + outsole = 11mm

Sockliner (insole) = 2mm forefoot + 6mm heel

TOTAL = 13mm forefoot, 17mm heel

You might compare that to a Saucony Kinvara's published thickness of 18-22mm, and think that the Drift is 5mm thinner overall. Keep in mind, however, that Saucony does not include their 3mm sockliner in the published thickness, so apples-to-apples, it's actually an 8mm difference between the two shoes.

For those who desire a full minimal experience can remove the sockliner entirely.

The shape of the Drift is definitely what you’d expect from what we traditionally call a neutral racing shoe, with a curved last. Brooks calls it their “Anatomical last”. Combined with the tread design, the shoe looks like a kidney bean from the bottom.

Where the Drift begins to diverge from a traditional racing shoe is the width of the arch. Similar to other modern ‘minimal-type’ shoes, the entire sole is wide. The photo below compares my Drift test shoe with my old Brooks Mach spikeless flats:

As you can see, the Pure Drift has a wider arch, toe box, and heel. I don’t have particularly wide feet, but I most definitely prefer the feel of the Drift. Both shoes are the same men’s size 12. Speaking of sizing, I found that the Drift follows what I’ve come to expect from Brooks – running about ½ size smaller than my “usual” (I normally wear 11.5 in Saucony and New Balance).

The Drift also features what Brooks calls their “burrito-wrap” tongue, which attaches only on one side of the shoe:

Overall, I really like the Pure Drift. The shoes are leaps-and-bounds better than my Mach spikeless flats in terms of general comfort and foot feel. In that respect, Brooks really did their homework. I find myself wearing these shoes around to the gym, or wherever sneakers are appropriate. They feel more cushioned than you’d expect at their weight and thickness.

The Drift is definitely a light weight and neutral shoe; likely not for those who suffer from poor mechanics. Brooks says that all of their Pure Project shoes are intended to last 250-300 miles. While that is a fairly short lifespan, the $100 asking price is reasonable in the modern climate of running shoes.

Brooks Pure Drift specs:

-MSRP: $100
-Weight: 5.6 oz
-Heel-to-toe offset (ramp): 4mm with insole, 0mm without insole
-Forefoot height: 13mm with insole, 11mm without insole
-Heel height: 17mm with insole, 11mm without insole
-Category: Neutral / Cushioned / ’Natural’
-Sizes: Men’s 7-13, 14
Women’s 5-12
-Widths available: No

Pure Grit 2

The Pure Grit 2 is an update to – you guessed it – the Pure Grit. This is the trail-intended shoe in the Pure Project line.

The biggest update for the Grit 2 is a new tread pattern. The original Grit received criticism for having a too-open tread pattern that could slide around on rocks or slippery surfaces. This image compares the road-intended Drift (left) to the trail-intended Grit 2 (right):

I found the traction of the shoe to be quite good on almost all surfaces. It still slid around in our Colorado-clay-grease-mud, but so does every other shoe in the world.

The Grit features a 4mm heel-toe drop, putting it in the low ramp category. Here are the full thickness specs:

Forefoot midsole + outsole = 14mm

Heel midsole + outsole = 18mm

Sockliner (insole) = 5mm forefoot and heel

TOTAL = 19mm forefoot, 23mm heel

The Grit 2 features Brooks’ split toe design, said to increase flexibility and improve feel. While the Drift has a double split, the Grit has a single split:

Does the unique toe split make a difference – can you feel it? By seat-of-the-pants, I was unable to feel a difference, but that doesn’t mean that the shoe is any worse for it.

In general, the Grit 2 feels more substantial than the Drift. It’s just a different experience. Surely the weight plays in to this (the Grit weighs 10.0 ounces vs 5.6 for the Drift). More than that, however, the Grit seems to have some measure of built in guidance, although it is listed as a neutral, curved shoe. For some reason, it feels straighter than it is. The outsole is quite flat, and there is no cutout at the arch. While entirely subjective, it almost feels like the shoe pulls your foot straight along its intended path as you land. It isn’t unsettling in the least – it is just a unique feel. There is no medial posting to combat pronation; it’s as though they’ve found a shape that does the work for you.

I have the unique ability to pick from a wide range of shoes, so I pick by feel. What sounds good today? I find myself reaching for the Grit 2 on days that I am a little more tired. I want some cushion. I want to go for an easy or moderate run on the trails, and get away from the computer for a while – no more, no less. In contrast, when I’m feeling good and want a light, springy shoe, I’m more apt to reach for the Drift.

The only downside I found with the Grit 2 was the sizing. This photo compares two size 12 shoes – the Drift on the left and the Grit 2 on the right:

Clearly, the length is different. I exchanged the size 12 Grit for an 11.5, which matched up almost exactly with the size 12 Drift:

The Pure Grit 2 is definitely roomy inside. I can wear thick wool socks and still have plenty of room. As a result, I would likely only pick it as a racing shoe on very rugged courses, where I also intended to wear socks. If it was an open 5k on a light dirt trail, I’d pick a lighter and less-roomy shoe.

Brooks Pure Grit 2 specs:

-MSRP: $110
-Weight: 10.0 oz
-Heel-to-toe offset (ramp): 4mm
-Forefoot height: 19mm with insole, 14mm without insole
-Heel height: 23mm with insole, 18mm without insole
-Category: Trail / Cushioned / ’Natural’
-Sizes: Men’s 7-13, 14
Women’s 5-12
-Widths available: No

All images © Greg Kopecky /