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.

Brooks Ghost 4 Review

20140111-195553.jpgI really, really love running shoes. I love trying new pairs out and seeing how they affect, or don’t affect, my running. The latest models can attract me with strong reputations among runners, long pedigrees, smart design, innovative technology, or even factors as base as newness, good looks, and slick marketing. I’m only human!

As much as I love running shoes, I just can’t get excited about the Brooks Ghost 4.

I think my first pair of Brooks was the Ghost 3 in the white, lime green, and blue colorway. Small pops of color, often seriously heinous color, was par for the course in running shoe design at the time, so I considered these shoes to be pretty neat looking. They also performed like champs, so I really couldn’t complain.

Fast forward to (I think) early 2012. I went to my favorite local running store for my first real shoe fitting there. Instead of just picking a shoe off of the wall based on a Runner’s World review, an expert would analyze my gait and make some shoe recommendations tailored to my needs. I’d been running in the O.G. Brooks Pure Flow and I was looking for another minimal-esque shoe. The store employee who handled my shoe fitting didn’t listen to me. He served up the Brooks Ghost 4 for its mild pronation control and not only was it the most boring looking shoe on the wall, but it was way more shoe than I was looking for. Not wanting to ignore a pro’s advice, I bought the shoes despite not really digging them. I’d had a good experience with the Ghost 3, so the Ghost 4 probably would work just as well once I got over what I perceived as their lameness.

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Problem was, I didn’t get over it. I ran in the shoes for a little while (this was when I ran only a couple of times per week) and went back to the same store for another fitting at the same store. A different employee helped me and I walked out with a pair of shoes I loved, the more performance-oriented, flashier Mizuno Wave Elixir 7 which I loved so much I stuck with through version 8, after which the model was discontinued. I have a pair of Elixir 8s that I wore for one ten mile race that I’m hoarding until quit grieving and give in and try the Wave Sayonara (maybe before the Sayonara 2 comes out?). But I digress!

Point is, I never really gave the Ghost 4 a chance. In 2013 I realized that I wouldn’t feel good about throwing this shoe away or giving it away since it was still in such good shape. So I put it in my rotation…occasionally. And that’s where it’s stayed. I run in this solid workhorse trainer only every once in a while. Because I think it’s ugly. Yes, really.

And seriously, isn’t it?

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The Good:
-Price: If you can find this discontinued shoe, it’s sure to be steeply discounted.
-Sole: Plenty of rubber which has held up well against my sole-chewing stride and which offers a sure-footed grip even in the rain
-Comfort: No pain after a 15-mile run when long runs weren’t a regular thing for me. Lots of protection and a bit of pronation control is a recipe for a run-all-day shoe. Despite the Ghost 4’s weight, I forget that it’s on my feet when I’m running. It doesn’t blow my mind with pillowy softness; it just quietly gets the job done.

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The Bad:
-Looks: Compared to all of the flashy competitive options available today, this conservative shoe is a snore.
-Laces: Ugly gray stripes (plain white would have been much better) and entirely too long. Strange that Brooks would whiff on something so simple.

The Bottom Line:
If you can get past the looks of these ugly ducklings, you’ll love how they fly, er, run. Sorry for the throwback review of a discontinued model, but hopefully this gives you a sense of what the Ghost family is like when you look at the current model. And who knows, maybe a comparison of the Ghost 4 and the Ghost 6 is in the future!

Running in the Snow and Other Musings

Since my office follows the lead of the federal government’s OPM, today is a snow day for me. Woohoo!

I checked the OPM guidance before heading out on my run. When I stepped outside, I laughed inwardly a little about the government’s temerity: it wasn’t that cold and the wet patches on the roads and sidewalks weren’t icy. My run was going great for the first 7.5 miles, until the sky opened up and started pelting me with sharp needles of snow. I squinted through bombarded eyelids and managed to run the 1.5 miles back to my house as the sidewalks and streets quickly acquired a crusty layer of snow. My hoped for 14-mile run was curtailed into a 9-mile run. Oh what might have been!

In the same “oh what might have been!” vein, I realize that I missed out on a chance to do some interesting reviews based on the OG versions of two popular models and updated versions. I had the OG New Balance 890 and the OG Brooks PureFlow. It’s been too long since I last ran in either pair for me to make any meaningful comparisons to the 890v4 or the PureFlow 2, both of which I recently picked up.

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OG New Balance 890

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OG Brooks PureFlow

And it’s not just a matter of dusting off my old shoes and taking them out for a few runs. It’s been so long since I wore those shoes that my feet have changed shape. They went from a women’s 9.5 to a women’s 8.5 and back to a women’s 9.5/men’s 8 (if the men’s colors are better; read: not pink) and these shoes were from my size 8.5 days. Consequently, I donated them to a shoe drive for Soles4Souls held by Jenny’s Crossfit gym so someone who needs them can enjoy them since they’re still in good condition. So really, this musing about a missed opportunity has a happy ending! And besides, there’s plenty of shoe review goodness coming down the pipe for your reading pleasure: New Balance 890v4, Saucony Kinvara 4, New Balance 870v3, New Balance 1400v2, Brooks PureFlow 2, Brooks PureCadence 2, the resurrected Brooks Launch, and maybe a few others.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love Shoes

The title of this post is a play on the title of a Raymond Chandler short story collection. I majored in English in college and that sensibility will always be a part of me, even though I’m no longer regularly writing analytical essays.

I broke a cardinal rule of running and picked out a pair of shoes based on their looks. Well, kind of. I was aware from a little research that they were a cushioning-focused model, and I did try them on at Pacers, the specialty running store where I purchased them. But initially they piqued my interest because they’re sharp-looking kicks.

I’m talking, of course, about my beloved Brooks Glycerin 11s.

I came into the late summer/early fall running season with the goal of dropping my half marathon PR of 2:01:05 to sub-2:00. I stumbled in a hot Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach with a disappointing time of 2:01:43 and again in the Parks Half Marathon with a 2:12:29 while suffering from a cold (and having run two 5ks the previous day, one of them in my old Marine Corps boots…I really didn’t set myself up for success so I shouldn’t have expected any and I can only blame myself for that).

So I really wasn’t in sub-2:00 territory.

Fast forward to October 4, 2013. Pressed into service for a business trip in Lisbon, Portugal on short notice, I had to transfer my Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon entry to a friend (I was able to do the race anyway since it got moved to November 10, 2013 due to the government shutdown and fit in my schedule). As luck would have it, the Lisbon trip coincided with the running of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Lisbon Marathon and Half Marathon. The president of my company, also a runner, jailbroke me from my Saturday responsibilities so I could join him for the race. I hauled my swollen legs and a very patient Jenny along to packet pickup instead of touring the city. We were able to register for the sold-out race only because we’d traveled from outside Portugal, a lucky break.

Shod in Glycerin 11s I hadn’t yet done a long run in, and having been on my feet most of the previous day despite the swelling I experienced during my international flight, I really didn’t expect much from myself in this race. But I wanted to beat my boss; I knew I wouldn’t hear the end of it if I didn’t.

Given all that was against me (again, I can only blame myself), you can imagine my surprise when I felt not just good, but great on the course and cruised to a 1:53:30 — not just under 2:00, but under 1:55, too!

And I positively smoked my boss.

I thought that the time might be a fluke, but I improved on it a week later at the very difficult Baltimore Half Marathon, posting a 1:53:09. For the first six or so miles of the race I was simply not present; I later likened it to the probable mentality of a stripper while working: I just went somewhere else.

My Glycerin 11s have carried me through a number of performances I’m proud of, and I love them for it.

Including tax, I paid north of $150 for these beauties, so I was hoping to get 500-600 miles out of them. They’ve got less than 250 miles on them now and the sole has worn away completely in places, exposing the midsole. I’m not experiencing any physical issues, but this lack of durability is troubling. For both emotional and financial reasons, I’m not ready to say goodbye to these shoes yet.

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