The Pure Project line of shoes that Brooks introduced last year generated quite a bit of buzz, and I was among the biggest fans of the line. However, the Pure lineup lacked a real option for the near-barefoot or extreme-minimalist runner. Brooks aims to fix that this season with the only new model addition to the Pure line, the Pure Drift. This can be seen in the Brooks marketing for the Drift which features the tagline, “Devolve your run.” I had first seen photos of this shoe early last year and was immediately psyched to get my dogs in them due only to the fast-looking design and flashy colors. The yellow and black colorway we tested is VERY bright, but for those looking for something a little quieter, the black and blue option is less less loud.
All of the Pure Project shoes are built on a 4mm drop, but Brooks has promoted the fact that the Drift’s sockliner is removable and without it, the Drift is a true zero-drop shoe. 4mm is really not a lot, and I really doubt that any runners can truly tell the difference between a 4mm-drop and a zero drop shoe. Anyhow, its a nice consideration on Brooks’ part that the barefoot crowd can remove the insole and get closer to the tarmac. For the most part, I wasn’t wishing the Drift had less midsole, so I never tried removing the sockliner.
The Drift is extremely light weight . At only 5.6oz for a mens’ 9 (according to Brooks – 6.1 according to RunningWarehouse), the Pure Drift is firmly planted in the ultralight category! The weight begs comparison with many super lightweight racing flats. These shoes tend to often be firm and inflexible, tending toward responsive (stiffer and snappier) rather than flexible and compliant, and the typical racing flat fit is narrower through the toe box. The Drift’s wide forefoot, flexible and near-level base of the Drift make it unique among those peers, and a great option for those who don’t typically like the fit or ride of racing flats.
The first time I slipped on the Pure Drift, I was a little disappointed that it fit a bit long. This impression is exacerbated by the wide toebox and stretchy mesh used in most of the upper. Shoefitr data confirms that the Drift is roomy in the forefoot (see below). The Pure Project line seems to vary quite a bit in fit across its models. Something I hope Brooks makes more consistent as it revises these models. The Pure Drift fits about half a size larger than the Flow and Grit, and a full size larger than the Connect. Be sure to try on the Drift before you buy them or size down half a size from your normal Brooks size, especially if you plan on using the Drift for racing or faster-paced running as I imagine many runners will. The base of the Drift is unique to this model, and has a lower midsole that feels more firm than those on the other Pure shoes, and the outsole has only minimal patches of carbon rubber in high wear areas to save weight. The carbon rubber extends to the heel of the shoe only on the lateral side of the base, which makes the shoe almost sit leaning toward the medial side while at rest, but I didn’t notice any effect from this while running. Much of the midsole is cut away underfoot and the Drift has 2 of the Pure line’s signature toe splits for maximum flexibility and independent movement of the toes and tarsal bones. These grooves that cut all the way through the midsole really make this a very flexible shoe, even more so than Nike’s Free line.
The upper of the Pure Drift is also unique. The dominant mesh used in the upper is quite open and breathes very well and the heel is unstructured with no counter for lighter weight. The mesh is stretchy but the synthetic suede overlays which are welded and stitched in key areas to reinforce do a great job of giving the upper shape and hugging the foot. The wider toebox combined with the stretchy mesh struck a great balance between roomy but not baggy and will make the Drift a favorite among runners looking to give their toes room to roam and breathe. The Pure Drift keeps a Pure Project signature feature, the Nav-Band, one which I’ve expressed indifference to. I don’t feel that the elastic band that wraps the saddle of the shoe does much, but Brooks has kept it minimal and not too tight in the Drift. Asymmetrical laces do a great job of locking down the foot but avoiding pressure on the top, but the lace anchor points on the lateral side didn’t root in an overlay or reinforcing piece, so they tended to tug at the stretchy mesh fabric a bit. This looked troublesome when I laced up the shoe but it didn’t bother me much on the run. Reflective material is abundant in the Drift, with the large Brooks logo on the toe being reflective and a stripe that runs 3/4 around the shoe as well as bits on the lace eyelets providing good visibility.
Runs in the Pure Drift felt great. I love that the Drift offers much of the pure running experience one gets with a minimally cushioned shoe like the Vibram 5fingers or Merrell Glove series, but with a but more cushion that I think is welcome when running on asphalt or concrete. I tested the Pure Drift on steady-pace runs from 3 miles up to 12 miles, on fast interval speed work days, and on the treadmill, road and concrete path. Towards the end of longer runs I might have wished I could quickly trade the drift for the more cushioned Pure Flow, but for shorter and faster runs I really appreciated the barely-there weight and great feeling upper.
I heartily commend Brooks on the Pure Drift, an innovative new model that is a whole new concept for Brooks, and one that I think will be a huge hit among barefoot or super minimal shoe wearers looking for a shoe with more protection and cushion for longer runs or harder surfaces. I would also recommend the Brooks Pure Drift for runners looking for a lightweight, shorter distance racing shoe with a level base and room to breathe in thetoe box.
The Brooks Pure Drift retails for $100. For more info, visit brooksrunning.com.