Brooks' marketing pitch: A minimalist silhouette but with cushioning where it counts.
Surfaces tested on: Synthetic track, road, ambient temperatures of 18° C/64° F
Upper: Closed mesh, synthetic leather, fused urethane layers, midfoot strap.
Midsole: Compression molded EVA blend.
Outsole: Circular carbon rubber pods.
Weight: 259 gms/ 9.13 Oz for a half pair of US11/UK 10/EUR 45/CM 29
Widths available: Single - normal (reviewed)
US Retail: $ 100
It’s good to see the Pure series still going strong in its fourth year, considering their initial release intended to tap into the then booming minimalist shoe market. Now that brief era of all-out minimalism is just a footnote in running shoe history, with the trend of thin midsoled, low drop shoes being replaced by that of ‘maximalist’ models.
Talk about something rapidly metamorphosing into its polar opposite.
We had a go in the original Pureconnect back in the day, and fortunately, we still had a pair around. So the process of comparing it with the 2015 edition was interesting, to say the least. Is the new PC-4 still close to the foundational model? Or has it strayed vastly from its original brief?
A few runs later, we found our questions answered. It would have been more helpful if we had all four Connect versions on hand, but the original PC is the only past experience we have on our wear-test resume.
A majority of design elements stay true to what the Pureconnect was once, with some adjustments blended in to keep up with the changing times. If we were to call out two most important areas of change, that would be the midsole ride and upper fit. The 2011 Pureconnect had a firm, low to the ground racing flatfish feet mated to a minimal upper. The 2015 version is a couple of steps removed from that template.
Present day running footwear market is being snow-stormed with midsole softness, and the new Pureconnect catches some of that too. It rides softer and responsive than three years prior, and even its upper gets infused with extra plumpness. None of the either updates are bad, because there’s no overdoing here. The 2015 PC4 plays to the underlying strengths of the original Pureconnect’s character, yet stays relevant to contemporary trends.
As you know, the Pureconnect together with Pureflow and Cadence form the Brooks Pure series. We haven’t got around to doing miles in the Pureflow 4 yet, but based on its online product description and our initial on-road experience of Cadence 4, we have a fairly good overview of how the three models are meant to be differentiated.
Going by what Brooks says, Pureflow is supposed to be the most cushioned of the lot, with the needle moving towards increased firmness and support as we go from Connect to Cadence. That said, the lines are blurred, and the assortment lacks clear, linear separation. For example, we found the PureCadence to run firmer than Connect 4 and with a wider midsole base, yet the PureConnect’s upper has better arch support. And we’re willing to bet that when we review the Pureflow 4, there are bound to be performance based overlaps as far as cushioning and support is concerned.
This makes the process of deciding which Pure shoe to buy a not so easy one. We think the right way to solve this quandary is to treat all three shoes as the same model, but with different levels of calibration. Naturally, the ideal starting point would be to try all three shoes on first, and then try to find your way home from there. As reviewers, the best we can do is to get down to brass tacks, and lay bare the shoe’s characteristics.
The Pureconnect 4 has a soft fabric upper which is nearly overlay free. Except for the midfoot window which houses the ‘Nav-band’ and logo treatments, the upper mesh surface is uncluttered with layers. The toe bumper is part of the upper interior, an unseen component which gives shape and structure to the toe area.
Brooks logo is made of molded TPU, which doubles up as a reflective element too. A pair of curved strips flank the side of the heel, and these offer the sum total of Pure-connect’s night-time visibility. Reflectivity is somewhat dulled by the use of non-metallic colors, so the shine-back comes through as muted when compared to metallic silver colored pieces.
Upper mesh has a lining inside, save for a small spot in the forefoot. Inner lining serves an important purpose in the PC4 – that to insulate the foot from the elastic ‘Nav-band’ which wraps around midsection. The stretch band is narrower in width on lateral side than it is on the medial (arch) side.
Medially, the strap gradually widens up downwards and then splits into three separate bands. One goes outside the upper and over the midsole, and the remaining two flank the sides and stay inside the upper.
The stretch band is a feature which debuted on the original Pureconnect, and has been a fixture ever since. It is not without its share of evolutionary changes; medial width of the nav-band (at its widest point) is more than twice of what it used to be in 2011.
If it interests you, the Connect’s Nav band is widest (medially) relative to Pureflow and Cadence, thus targeting to deliver higher level of upper arch support.
Tongue’s made of a soft synthetic suede on top and softer mesh lining inside, with plenty of foam padding in between. And for reasons only known to Brooks, the Connect 4 uses a softer suede material than Cadence.
Given the fact that the tongue edges are fused and not stitched, a softer layer helps. Cadence 4 has a similar design, but by using a harder suede type, the edges poke into the feet. More on that during our review later in February.
Tongue is one of the areas which has gone plusher from what used to be once – and we’re talking about PureConnect OG’s relatively spartan set-up. That said, the PC4 misses the elastic mini-gussets (of Connect OG) on either sides which kept the tongue in firmly in place.
As a compensatory measure, the tongue is much wider (a la Mizuno) which attempts to minimize slide. Not completely effective though; there is a small amount of slide, but nothing which we would call a bother.
The heel area will feel a familiar place if you’ve been a Pure series regular. The lining is a neoprene kind of mesh which has been used in Pure shoes since inception, and it’s well filled with foam, especially around the Achilles area. This nature of construction makes the Achilles dip soft to the touch, which is always welcome. We’d like to call out that the heel section isn’t collapsible because an internal counter sits molded within. This isn’t a new addition, it was there in the original Connect too.
Heel collar feels nice to slip in to. The smooth textile is friction free, and soft Achilles dip has a minor amount of stretch, making it easier for your foot to slide in and out.
Talk about upper fit, and the word snug will be commonly used to describe it. There isn’t much forefoot room on either side, and neither does the midsole flare out, making the base narrow. Just because the upper material is soft and without overlays, it allows some wiggle/splay room.
Right in the front, the toe box runs small and shallow. Some will feel the need to buy half a size larger. Noteworthy of mention is the fit difference between different Pure models. Can’t comment on the PureFlow yet, but the Cadence runs half a size bigger than the Connect, with a thumb’s width of sizing difference.
It must be pointed out that none of the Pure shoes come in additional widths, so the default fit is all what you get.
Midfoot is snug, perhaps more than what it needs to be – with particular focus on arch side. The Nav band performs as advertised, and yet you can’t seem to shrug off the feeling that there’s too much of it. During runs, one feels the forward section of the Nav Band pressing into your arch, and we’re not overtly fond of shoes which do that.
And the contrast was even more stark in face of how the original Connect and Cadence 4 felt, meaning neither of them had this overbearing feel of wrap. The Pure Connect’s midsole has a fairly slim waist in the midfoot, which leaves most of the arch hugging duties to the Nav band with a 1-into-3 split design.
You can see the split design of the Nav band inside the shoe once you remove the insole. Put the prominently curved footbed back in, and it hides the exposed Nav band straps connecting to upper base.
The noticeably contoured insole has a raised arch profile and combined together with Nav band, it does provide good upper arch support, but then there’s that question of whether it is too much of a good thing.
We haven’t tested the PureConnect 3, but going by pictures, the lacing system on the PC4 has changed quite a bit. We’re also willing to bet (some of our readers can confirm this) that the lacing top down pressure is higher on the PC4. Why? Because the latest connect switches back to traditional eyelets instead of the closely space speed-loops of the Connect 3.
This also spreads the PC4’s lacing wider, and resultantly increasing the pressure. Like many of adidas shoes, the lesser number of lacing rows (5+1) on Connect 4 just about manages to achieve a basic functional level, and not the reassuring snugness coming from the 6 plus one 2011 Pureconnect.
Cushioning’s surprisingly responsive for this kind of silhouette. Look at the side profile, and you see that the heel stack height isn’t much. The foam thickness appears no higher than where the original PureConnect left it, but the density treads the border between soft and firm.
The midsole (DNA foam) works in tandem with the EVA strobel layer and cushioned Biomogo insole above it. The removable sockliner isn’t cut price; specs feel similar to what you might see inside a Glycerin or Ghost.
A fitting tip – try and push the insole right till the toe. Fail to do so, and the walls might get squashed in a particular area. We were a bit careless with one of the shoes, and we got a ridge around the heel area. (picture above)
Outsole has a pod based layout; this architecture has its roots in Brooks’ popular outsole of old. You might remember shoes like the Brooks Radius SC (1996-97) and Tsunami, both of which featured the pod (or e2O) outsole. This geometry gives the PureConnect’s sole an immense degree of articulation. No less than 10 individual pieces of rubber (11 if you count the hard midfoot EVA pod) are stuck to its bottom, allowing a greater range of movement.
Transitions come efficient on the Connect, which makes it a good for pace or simply serves as a lightweight (259 gms/ 9 oz) shoe with decent cushioning. Outsole grip is tenacious. Each rubber pod has mini-lugs built in, and since they’re built of a soft compound, traction is good, very good. At least till the texture holds.
Speaking of durability, we know not how long the Connect will last. Brooks says something on their website about the Pureseries being lightweight in build, and sets mileage expectations of 250-300 miles. We’d like to hear user experience on long term outsole wear, so look forward to your thoughts in the comments section.
Right at the tip, the outsole seems to divide into two areas, a design feature which Brooks calls split toe. Product literature says that it enhances toe push offs and transition but the truth is much more mellow.
The big toe does not have much of actual articulation, so it doesn’t allow big toe push-offs, at least not at the level you’d notice. The split toe is far from independent, so if you were expecting Nike Air Rift levels, then the PureConnect won’t pass muster.
There is a positive outcome of this Biomimicry inspired design. Exposed areas in the forefoot make the PureConnect very flexible, which in turn makes the transition more natural. Less of a roll-off, but more work for your foot.
No deal breaking negatives on the PureConnect to speak of – as a complete package, the shoe makes a good case for itself. It is lightest in the Pure series, costs a reasonable $100, and it is well cushioned for a shoe which looks like that. The only catch is to know which Pure model to buy. Once we’re done review the PureFlow 4, we should be able to lay it out for you, soon enough.
(Disclaimer: For this review, Solereview.com bought the shoe at full US retail price.)