On occasion, we pick the Brooks PureConnect 3 to wear during our longest runs because of the extra comfort it provides. Besides that, this shoe is on the tail end of minimalist running shoes we reviewed, having too much cushioning along and not enough flexibility or sensitivity to keep up with the front of the minimalist pack. We feel that the midsole and hefty outsole landing pods could be slimmed down to shed a bunch of weight and increase flexibility and ground feeling. For a more minimal feel, try the Editors' Choice-winning New Balance Minimus 10v3 Trail, or for a comfortable shoe to help you transition to minimalism, try the Nike Free 5.0.
Brooks PureConnect 3 Review
Cons: Low ground feeling, narrow fit, not minimal enough
Our Analysis and Test Results
Brooks is relatively new to dishing out minimalist specific footwear, and we still feel that they have some catching up to do. The Brooks PureConnect 3 is light, comfortable, and durable, though the overall design and outsole materials are much too substantial to keep up with the rest of the minimalist running shoes we tested. Compared to the other minimalist shoes, this model lacks the sensitive ground feeling we want and aren't nearly as flexible as we'd like.
This shoe feels far away from what we like to see in a minimalist shoe. The ride feels similar to a lightweight neutral trainer like the Saucony Kinvara 6, which we reviewed in the Running Shoes Review. The Brooks have a soft and comfortable ride, though don't expect to get the same ground sensitivity as most of the other minimalist shoes we tested. The Toe Flex integrated on the midsole is intended to allow for individualized movement of the toes, separating your big toe from the rest of your toes. We can't really tell how effective this feature is and don't notice any difference when comparing to other shoes without this feature. We tried to see if there is any give in the toe split by flexing it with our hands, and it barely budges.
This shoe features a carbon rubber outsole on the landing pods. We feel this provides a reasonable amount of traction, though not nearly as much as the New Balance Minimus 10v3 Trail. Unlike the individually placed landing pods on the PureConnect 2, Brooks decided to link many of them together on the current number 3 version. We feel this change takes away from the PureConnect 2's flexibility and pushes the PureConnect 3 even further away from the minimalist ride we look for.
This shoe takes significantly longer to break in than any other minimalist running shoe we tested. Once broken in, we do enjoy the comfy ride, though feel it's too much for a minimalist running shoe. It has a narrow fit. Even with narrow feet, the PureConnect 3 feels noticeably too snug. The shoe tongue is uniquely designed, using a "burrito" style wrap around the foot. Some shoe tongues slide from one side to another while running, but this design makes that virtually impossible and we've come prefer this design.
With a significant lift integrated on the forefoot, along with the largest outsole landing "pod" located on the midfoot, this model gives us somewhat of a propulsive ride that we don't feel in any of the other minimalist shoes we tested. This extra push is nice, though it doesn't give us that real minimalist, sensitive ride like we do in all most of the other minimalist shoes in our test.
Weighing at 7.5 ounces, the PureConnect 3 score in the middle of the group in terms of weight. If Brooks can slim down this model by lowering the stack height, toning down the hefty upper, and removing the rigid heel counter, we believe it would have a better shot at competing with the top minimalist running shoes like the Merrell Trail Glove 2 or the New Balance Minimus 10v3 Trail.
This is the best shoe in the group for cold weather running. It has a much more substantial upper and higher stack height (20 mm) off the ground than any of the other minimalist shoes we tested.
Given how substantial the midsole and outsole is, it should be no surprise this shoe scores second highest behind the Inov8 Trailroc 245 in foot protection. The heel counter on the PureConnect 3 is also very rigid, more so than any other shoe we tested. Brooks uses a Nav Band strap on the upper, which wraps around the midfoot to help keep the foot stable during movement. This added security doesn't do much, and is hardly noticeable to us.
This shoe is best used when you need to give your legs some rest from using a "real" minimalist running shoe. Take them out for extra comfort on your longer runs.
If you're looking for a truly minimal running shoe, your $100 could be better spent somewhere else. If you want something similar to a neutral lightweight trainer, give this shoe a chance.
If you are looking for a running shoe to transition from a normal trainer to something truly minimal like the Merrell Trail Glove or New Balance Minimus, we feel the Brooks PureConnect 3 can help you bridge that gap. Brooks needs to take some weight off this model if they want to compete with the top minimalist shoes we tested. We do enjoy the comfortable ride and breathable upper, though our final verdict of the Pure Connect series is that it is far from what a minimalist running shoe needs to be.
— Jimmy Elam