Brooks PureCadence 2 Review

Truly excellent running shoes never go out of style. Color palettes may change and trends may slide up and down the minimalist/maximalist spectrum, but the shoe that works for you will still work for you. Buying last year’s models is a great way to snag premium shoes for cheap. So what if they aren’t the latest and greatest of what’s available?
With this in mind, I offer up the Brooks PureCadence 2 for your consideration. Brooks introduced the PureCadence 3 at the start of 2014, so the PureCadence 2 is on its way out, although it may still be on the wall at your favorite specialty running store, and it’s still widely available online.
Brooks exhorts runners to try the Pure line with the tagline, “Feel more with less.” Somewhat ironically, I consider these shoes to be feature-rich despite the minimalist/reduced running shoe hype.
Features:
-Lightweight: 9.3 oz for men’s size 9
-Low drop: 4 mm drop
-Ideal Heel: undercut heel discourages heel striking
-Nav Band: elasticized band creates a personalized fit
-Stay-tied laces: lumpy lace ends reminiscent of sausages help secure knots — I always double knot my shoes in order to avoid having to stop to re-tie my shoes, so I’m not really in a position to notice any benefit from this feature, but it’s worth identifying
-Split toe: Supposedly this small split at the front of the toe box allows the big toe to flex independently from the other toes. I call bologna here. All I noticed the split toe doing was kicking up rainwater and getting my feet absolutely drenched. Check out my complaints in my mid-testing update about the PureCadence 2.
-Progressive Diagonal Rollbar: a tri-density midsole which controls mild-moderate pronation and smooths transitions. This pronation control is subtle.I can’t recall having been fit for a shoe that was perfect for my specific pronation control needs, so I don’t know what “just right” feels like, but I do know what crazy floppy and out of control feels like (I’m looking at you, Adidas Energy Boost), and this felt controlled and comfortable.
-Burrito style tongue: the tongue is only loose on one side, so it doesn’t squish down into the front shoe when you stick your foot in the shoe. I thought I would hate this, but the tongue is the right size so it doesn’t gap. In fact, it’s so gapless, that I frequently try to move the wrong side of the tongue — the side that’s attached to the rest of the upper. Surprisingly precision fit.
-One piece upper(?): It looks like the upper of the PureCadence 2 is one piece of fabric with some overlays. This gives the shoe a pretty slick look, and I imagine that it saves weight as well.
My Runs in the Brooks PureCadence 2:
-1/3/14 (morning): 4.03 miles, 31:55, 7:55.19/mile average pace, 6:00/mile max pace, Treadmill
-1/3/14 (evening): 4.03 miles, 32:05, 7:57.67/mile average pace, 6:00/mile max pace, Treadmill
-1/6/14: 1.5 miles, 11:38, 7:45.33/mile average pace, 6:53.79/mile max pace, Treadmill
-1/7/14: 4.04 miles, 32:05, 7:56/mile average pace, 6:00/mile max pace, Treadmill
-1/11/14: 10.27 miles, 1:27:30, 8:31/mile average pace, Paved trail and somewhat hilly sidewalks
-1/12/14: 3.13 miles, 26:24.40, 8:26/mile average pace, 6:35/mile max pace, Mostly hilly sidewalks
-1/20/14: 14.14 miles, 2:02:18, 8:39/mile average pace, Paved trail and somewhat hilly sidewalks
-1/21/14: 6.14 miles, 49:04, 7:59.48/mile average pace, 6:00/mile max pace, Treadmill
-1/24/14: 4.14 miles, 32:43, 7:54.14/mile average pace, 6:00/mile max pace, Treadmill
-1/27/14: 4.03 miles, 31:31, 7:49.23/mile average pace, 7:08/mile max pace, Treadmill
-1/28/14: 8.19 miles, 1:03:59, 7:48.74/mile average pace, 6:00/mile max pace, Treadmill
Total: 63.64 miles, 8:41:12.40 time running in the Brooks PureCadence 2
Free Form Thoughts About the PureCadence 2
Sometimes I run for speed, sometimes I run for distance, and sometimes I run for mood — a good run can make the crappiest day melt away. These shoes are a good choice for any of those types of runs. The light weight can go long and go fast, although the lower drop leaves my legs more tired than more traditional running shoes since muscles that aren’t used to working so hard are put through their paces in the PureCadence 2. The more miles I put in these shoes, the better they felt — I think I was beginning to adjust. I completely forgot about my shoes during the 14-mile run.
Despite the rubber pods on the sole, the ride is reasonably smooth, but those pods don’t make for ninja-like footfalls…at times I heard myself slap slap slapping along. Eventually I either got better at running in these shoes, or I figured out how to tune out the slapping noises eventually.
The medium-plush heel cup provides a touch of extra comfort which cradles my heels with a soft fabric hug. I’m excited about the maximalist trend in running shoes. You may never catch me in Hoka One Ones, but I like to feel protected and cushioned in my shoes, especially over the long haul. Other features such as pronation control are arguably more important, but the comfy shoe and the good-looking shoe win the day with me, and probably most runners if they’re being honest, when buying new running shoes. If the looks and the out of box feel don’t excite me, the shoe isn’t coming home since I won’t want to run in it.
My Non-Running Activities in the Brooks PureCadence 2
-Casual wear
-10 hours of driving to a friend’s wedding
-BFit workouts
-Regular gym workouts
The PureCadence 2 is eye-catching, especially the all-over red version that I have. I took off my high heels after my friend’s wedding and donned these bad boys to drive to the hotel and really confused the night manager when I strolled in with my loud, incongruous shoes. These will be great casual shoes when their running life is over since they look great and perform adequately in non-running applications.
By the Numbers
Looks: 10/10
Just awesome. Initially I thought that I wasn’t that into the non-traditional look of these shoes, but when I opened the box and put these on, I fell in love pretty quickly.
Durability: 7/10
The all-fabric toe ripped when I fell during a run. Rocks, crooked sidewalks, and other obstacles will occasionally and naturally get kicked during a run. It’s a shame that the upper can’t stand up to the ordinary rigors of road running. I can’t fault any of the seams or the construction, but the lack of an exterior toe cap (there is a semi-rigid plastic toe cap underneath the fabric) is a significant flaw as far as I’m concerned since tears in the toe area can affect the entire upper because it’s one piece.
Comfort: 8/10
Certainly not the most plush shoe I own, but the interior fabric is soft and cushioned all around. Good comfort, but not great.
Feel: 8/10
I can go fast in these shoes, but I don’t necessarily feel fast in these shoes, if that makes any sense. The lower drop makes me work harder, but I realize that that’s my problem, not the shoe’s problem; were I more into reduced/minimalist running shoes I would be better equipped to run in the PureCadence 2 without difficulty.
Price: 10/10
Jump on these if they sound like your cup of tea and if you can find them — expect to pay less than $70 since retailers will be looking to clear them out in order to make room for the new PureCadence 3.
Overall: 9/10
I surprised myself with how much I liked these shoes — they aren’t perfect, but they are very, very good.

PureCadence 2’s No Good Very Bad Weekend

I don’t torture test the shoes that I review. They’re all personal purchases, so I don’t want to destroy them. Moreover, I think it’s more useful to produce a review based on normal use of a product rather than adjusting my behavior in order to gather data which speaks to or subverts the validity of certain marketing claims about performance. If a shoe works for me, I don’t particularly care if it lives up to its own hype or not. I certainly don’t have an agenda in terms of finding means of bashing or praising any particular company out of blind hate for a brand or blind fandom for it.

When I incorporate a shoe (or any piece of running gear) into my regular routine, I can get a good sense of how (or whether) the experience I’m having is being influenced by the item in question.

I offer this as preface because I had a pretty lousy time with the Brooks PureCadence 2 this past weekend. And it’s not as though I meant to.

During a Saturday long run in the PureCadence 2s, my feet got drenched when it wasn’t raining, and on Sunday, I fell (and HARD!) during a run for the first time in my life. Yikes. I’m a little over halfway through my goal shoe review mileage of 60 miles, but I thought that this no good very bad weekend merited a post even though I’m not comfortable rendering a final verdict on this shoe just yet.

Saturday
Having huddled inside while the bitter Polar Vortex was parked over DC, I was keen to log some outdoor miles in the milder winter weather, no matter the conditions. I woke up to light rain on Saturday morning, but it let up quickly, so I was able to lace up for a morning run on one of my favorite routes. The pavement was wet, but there wasn’t any standing water to speak of. What little there was, I was able to discern and navigate around easily.

Nonetheless, my feet were positively drenched about three miles into my 10+ mile run. I don’t mean just a little bit of moisture on my socks; I mean toes to heel completely saturated with water. I’ve run through downpours in non-waterproof shoes and had my feet stay drier than that! I noticed that drips of water were kicking up from the toe of my shoes, right where the sole material is missing, a feature that supposedly allows for independent flexion of the big toe. Moisture was able to come up and over the toe of the shoe in this spot, but not only that, it was seeping in at the big toe groove because that spot is only covered in fabric. The only good things I can say about the PureCadence 2’s inclement weather performance are that the shoe didn’t have any issues with traction on the wet pavement and that it didn’t make gross squelching noises, even when it was supersaturated late in the run when the rain started back up again in earnest and I ran through puddles (why not since my feet were already wet?).

Sunday

I went to an open gym session in the morning and put myself through a BFit like workout for an hour: five sets of the following, as quickly as possible: 10 pullups, 10 ring dips, 20 kettlebell swings, 10 slam balls, 50 situps, 100 single-unders (100 jumps with a jump rope), 400 meter run. So on Sunday evening, I was tired and would have been content to skip my run, but I don’t like skipping workouts, so I laced up anyway. I was finally in the groove and speeding up a hill when SMACK! My right toe catches on an uneven bit of sidewalk and I go sprawling onto my hands and knees, tearing a small hole in my tights (let this be a lesson to you: get Target-brand tights since they are as good or better than some expensive brands and you won’t be so heartsick when something happens to them) and bruising and bloodying my knees. I’ve run a lot in DC so I’m familiar with its treacherous sidewalks, especially the sidewalks on this route since it’s a short one that I frequent. Even when I get in the zone or I’m tired, I pay attention since it’s easy to get in trouble while out running, so it’s not as though I was mentally elsewhere while zipping up the hill. So what happened?

Despite the reduced profile of the Brooks PureCadence 2, the groundfeel isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. There is a lot of rubber underfoot, and while it provides satisfactory traction and durability, it limits flexibility and groundfeel.

What happened to the PureCadence 2 after the kick to the sidewalk was disappointing, too. The whole shoe is wrapped in the same fabric with few overlays, and there are no reinforcing overlays at the toe, so when shoe met sidewalk, the shoe ripped. The fraying is minor now, but it could eventually compromise the integrity of the shoe.

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Everyone has bad days sometimes, so I’m not going to write this shoe off yet. I’ll even concede that some of its crummy performance this past weekend could have been my fault; I might have tripped at that exact moment no matter what shoes I was wearing because I was really motoring, but I should be able to reasonably expect that my feet will stay mostly dry while running on recently-rained-on streets if it’s not actually raining during the run. Even if I was completely at fault and my expectations were unreasonable, I still have to question whether this shoe works for me. I run in the rain normally and I traverse uneven terrain in the urban jungle on a regular basis, and I need a shoe that can keep me comfortable and safe.