Placement of rubber outsole pods only matches certain runner profiles
The most minimal shoe in the Brooks Pure Project line works much better as a transitional 4mm drop shoe than a zero-drop shoe for true minimalist runners.
A super-lightweight, highly flexible road trainer with moderate (14mm) stack height and capability of adjusting the heel-to-toe drop from 4mm to zero thanks to a removable insole.
Weight The 5.6-oz Pure Drift is in the same weight category as gold-standard minimalist shoes like Vibram’s FiveFingers and New Balance’s Minimus Zero lines, but maintains a more traditional shoe structure. If you like classically-designed running shoes and want to get as light as possible, the Pure Drift is a must-try.
Fit and Comfort Here’s where the minimalist venture breaks down a bit: out of the box, the Pure Drift is configured as a 4mm-drop shoe. If you remove the insole, the resulting platform is flat, but you gain excess space through the midfoot and toebox that makes the shoe excessively roomy. Even with the laces tightened as much as possible, I still experienced movement of the forefoot during track workouts and fast tempo runs.
If you keep the insole in place and maintain the default 4mm drop, the shoe runs fairly true to size, and the toe box is spacious enough to allow full toe splay during foot strike. An elastic Nav Band across the top of the midfoot provides extra stability on steep descents, and the burrito-wrap tongue and all other all interior surfaces are comfortable enough for sockless use.
Flexibility Considering that the midsole is a moderately-thick 14mm, flexibility of the Pure Drift is surprisingly good from heel to toe. Flex points are built via deep, wide (average ¼”) longitudinal grooves that run the length of the shoe, and shallower grooves across the width of the shoe. The heel to toe grooves are completely open to the underside of the insole, leading to the curious sensation of water penetrating from the bottom of the shoe if you’re running on wet surfaces.
Ground Feel Brooks’s proprietary BioMoGo EVA midsole material is remarkably light, thus allowing traditional midsole construction without adding excess weight. What it doesn’t compensate for is the loss of ground feel from being 14mm off the ground. While you may feel some rocks or small sticks poking at you from the deep outsole grooves underfoot, the Pure Drift rides more like a cushioned trainer than a minimalist shoe.
Traction The outsole features high-abrasion rubber at impact areas, and the rest is comprised of exposed EVA. Placement of the high-abrasion rubber is excessively biased towards the outside of the heel and midfoot, so if you’re a pronator or even a neutral runner, the rubber coverage may not be a great match for your biomechanics.
Additionally, the rubber has very shallow knobbing, so while traction of the Pure Drift is adequate for road running, off-road excursions typically felt a little bit sketchy.
Durability Integrity of the uppers hasn’t been a problem after about 100 miles, but if you’re not a lateral foot striker (see traction section above), you’ll probably grind down the EVA disproportionally to the rest of the outsole, which could then impact your natural biomechanics even further.