The Brooks PureGrit 7 is a great all around non-technical, everyday trainer. It is comfortable and works great for buffed trails but lacks the technical features for more advanced trails.
The Brooks PureGrit 7 is the latest iteration in a long line of popular trail shoes from Brooks. With the 7 Brooks is attempting to get back to pureness of the Pure line. They removed almost all of the overlay material on the upper, increased flexibility of the midsole and improved the lug pattern and grip. It keeps the same weight (9.6oz) and drop (4mm) as before which has always been one of the benefits of the Pure line, lightweight and low drops. With the updates to the 7, what seems to have happened is that they made a shoe that fights against itself. The upper by itself is very good, breathable and secure. The midsole and outsole is responsive and protective. But, the two parts do not necessarily work together.
When stepping into the Brooks PureGrit 7, it is comfortable, with a well padded heel, and a comfortable burrito style tongue that wraps your foot securely. The upper is still fairly roomy without being floppy, and is breathable and flexible. That comfort unfortunately leads to a pretty insecure upper. Without any overlays there is so little structure that there is almost no protection. The midsole is well cushioned and comfortable at various speeds.
The PureGrit 7 is not a fast shoe, but can hold its own when it needs to. However, it only performs well on hard packed and smooth trails. It is most definitely not a highly technical, mountain trail shoe. It is great on dirt/gravel trails and smooth trails. They hexagonal tread pattern grips well on dry rocks and can climb well, but with its lack of protection and flexible midsole it struggles on really technical terrain.
The Brooks PureGrit 7 is a very comfortable shoe. If there is one things Brooks does well, it is making a comfortable shoe. The PureGrit 7 is no exception. With its flexible and breathable mesh upper, a well padded heel collar and burrito tongue, it has an almost plush feel. The asymmetric lacing gives the shoe a unique look but also works really well in creating a secure lacing system without hot spots or pinching which plagues some other shoes. The comfortable mesh upper is great for easy running and non-technical trails but when pushed hard on winding rocky trails there is a decent amount of movement due to the unstructured nature of the PureGrit 7. The midsole is well cushioned but also offers a protective and flexible ride.
The PureGrit 7 is not the fastest shoe ever but it is light enough to still perform well. It has a really smooth transition, even with a rock plate and fairly high stack height. This shoe struggles at high speeds on steep descents and technical trails due to it lack of structure. The Brooks Mazama 2 is a better fast paced shoe but the PureGrit 7 is more comfortable. For longer, less technical trails, the PureGrit 7 is an excellent choice and can handle a wide range of distances.
Security of Fit
The asymmetrical lacing system on the PureGrit 7 was a big hit. It made for a comfortable lacing system but also it was felt very secure. That, combined with a well executed burrito tongue, made for a nice secure, and snug fit that was not constricting in any way. The heel also fits well and adds to the overall confidence inspiring fit. With a complete mesh upper, with almost no overlays, the upper can feel flimsy. It does allow for a nice range of motion and free feeling, but compared to most other trail shoes now a days, it leaves you unprotected.
The PureGrit 7 is a mixed bag when it comes to agility. The lugs grip well in dry conditions and the low drop and light weight make for a nimble shoe. But with the very flexible mesh upper there is a fair amount of movement when trying to cut hard around switchbacks or around obstacles. Ultimately if the shoe grips, but your foot slides in the shoe, then it is hard to feel confident especially on technical downhills.
It seems to be a common theme running through this shoe that the midsole is excellent but is limited by other factors. This is the case with how responsive the shoe is. The midsole is nicely responsive, with good spring thanks to the rock plate. It is not the fastest or most responsive shoe ever but it holds its own and performs well. The limiting factor here is the upper. Since it is so flexible some of the snappiness of the midsole feels lost and at times almost a disconnect between your foot and the shoe.
The exact same thing happens with Protection as Responsiveness. The midsole is fairly protective. It is firm enough and has a rock plate so minor rocks are not a big issue underfoot. The PureGrit is certainly not a technical mountain shoe but it is protective enough for almost all types of trail running. However, the upper offers little to no protection. Without any overlays around the midfoot and no toe bumper to speak of, there is no real protection. The upper material, although not protective, does seem to be pretty durable which should help fight against rocks ripping or tearing at your feet. Again, it is is not designed as a technical mountain shoe, so for what most people will be using it for, it will be fine.
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HOW WE TESTED
Out testing spans the course of several months. Our testers spend a few weeks running at least 50 miles (typically much more) in each shoe. They live all over the country so each shoe can be put through our testing protocol in a variety of terrains and conditions. Each tester is encouraged—to the best of their ability—to test the shoes in as many different terrain environments as possible: in the mountains, on dirt roads, buffed single track, technical terrain, etc. In addition to varying terrain, our testers have to test each shoe at different efforts including a long run, easy running and fast running. As mentioned above we test for six different criteria: comfort, speed, security of fit, agility, responsiveness and protection.