Product Review: Brooks PureConnect

Confession: over the past few years, I’ve had a love affair with Brooks.  To be clear, though: these shoes were bought and paid for myself.  These are not wear-test, discounted or free products.

Sure, here and there I’ve strayed and tried out other shoes, but somehow I’ve always come back.  I’ve been a member of the ID program, and now am a “Brooks Fanatic”. I value Brooks’ focus on the amateur runner and their focus on running, not multi-sport. I’ve run in the Glycerin, Defyance, Green Silence, T6 and my go to shoe for the last three years: the Launch.

In the last 18 months, to address chronic Plantar Fasciitis and other recurring nagging aches and pains, I’ve really been focused on midfoot striking and the ChiRunning/POSE approaches.  For me (and most), its simply tough to run that way in traditional stacked heel running shoes.  That simple fact has led me to try out the Saucony Kinvara and the New Balance Minimus Road as Brooks did not have a comparable model with a low heel to toe ratio.  I had hoped that either the Green Silence or the T6/T7 could work for me, but sadly, they simply didn’t.   So, I was pretty excited when I heard about the PureProject!

Brooks was pretty clear about their stance on minimalism when the CEO wrote an open letter expressing his disbelief in the benefits of barefoot running and minimalism.  However, clear market demands seem to have forced the issue of bringing product to market, if even for a niche.  Brooks created the Float/Feel axis and the shoes in the PureProject line up vary along the two-dimensional grid according to their targeted purpose, however most lean toward the Feel side as the Float side is covered by Brooks’ traditional product line.

I chose to try the PureConnect out of the PureProject line, as it is the least cushioned and the furthest toward the Feel side of the spectrum.  All the products have a relatively low heel/toe drop, and the PureConnect is measured at 4mm, exactly the same as the Kinvara and the New Balance Minimus Road.

So, on to the impressions:  when I put it on for the first time, I was struck by a couple of things:

  1. It felt like a sock.
  2. It felt like a sock with a surprising amount of arch support.

The upper fit my foot very much like the Vibram FiveFinger Bikilas in that it is a foot hugger.  Obviously without the toes, but with a much more generous toebox than the T6/T7.  I was surprised by the snug arch fit I guess because I was expecting something similar to the Kinvaras and the Minimus, which both have little there in the way of the arch.  The combination of the Nav band (an elastic strap) and molded sockliner really fill up my high arch.  Not really minimal, and I’m on the fence of how I feel about it long term.  I don’t want another crutch for weak feet.

There is also a generous amount of cushioning in this shoe.  Enough to make me very glad that I didn’t get the PureFlow with even more cushioning.  They are well made and comfortable out of the box, and I took them for their first spin in a 5 miler at 6:45 pace with no issues whatsoever.

To compare it to the other shoes I’ve referenced here; it’s between the Kinvaras and the Minimus road.  Similar weight to both.  More structure and firmer than Kinvaras, yet softer than the Minimus road.  If you can run in these, you’ll do fine in the PureConnect.

They have a fairly aggressively cut out outsole with a mix of EVA and harder rubber pods.  I don’t get why companies focusing on minimal shoes are constantly putting these pods below the ball of the foot and directly under the big toe.  If you’re like me, you don’t toe off from your big toe.  i could be the anomaly here, though.  Anyway, as a result, after about 20 miles on them in the first week, there’s a fair amount of scuffing in the EVA under my second toe, directly where there should be a pod, but there’s not.  Time will tell, but I suppose they’ll wear like the Kinvaras where I had similar concerns.

I’m not sure yet I really see a benefit from the split toe, but the shoe rides well and feels springy and flexible enough.  So far, I’m enjoying them, and I can see them replacing the Launch as my go to daily trainer.

Group Run Contest – Follow up and results

As some of you know, I started a group run at work.  We’re fortunate to have a corporate gym and an employer that supports health and fitness.  Along the way, we picked up some new runners here and there, but to try to increase attendance and commitment, a couple of runners suggested a contest of some sort.  I am a member of the Brooks “Fanatics” team for 2011, so I thought I’d give Brooks a shout to see what kind of support they would be willing to give.  Doug Rosenberg, sponsor of the team, replied almost instantly with some suggestions on how to execute the contest and contributed a certificate for a pair of shoes to act as the main prize!  This is one of the many reasons I believe Brooks is the most supportive company to the amateur running community.

So, how and what did I do?  I started talking it up.  A lot.  I spread the word through co-workers, email and flyers around the campus.  We set the range of the contest to be 10 weeks, and the terms were:

-Show up and start with the group, no matter how far/short/fast/slow you run, you get an entry

-Each entry went into a raffle drawing for the pair of shoes.  The more times you showed up, the better your chances of winning.

Simple stuff, right?

Before the contest, the group had about 12 occasional members, with an average of 3-4 showing up every week.  At the end of the contest, we had 15 regular members, with peak attendance being 12 and average attendance between 6-8.  Not too bad for a lunch-time group run from a corporate gym!  I tracked every attendee and every run date, assigning each a sequential number.  At the end of the contest, I then plugged the number range into a random number generator and used the selection to choose the winner!

One lucky group runner won a new pair of Brooks shoes of his choice, and the whole group gained some new friendships and got a bit healthier!  One big lesson I learned: it’s very important to make the group non-intimidating, accommodating and open/friendly, this will make runners of all ages and skill levels feel welcome.

Army Ten Miler Race Report

Mack Trucks

Image via Wikipedia

Firstly, this was a great race!  It was well organized, well supported and was run on a great course through some of the most meaningful landmarks commemorating our country.  I was running on the Mack Trucks Military team, and we were there to raise visibility and awareness of Mack Trucks as a supplier to the US Army and other branches of the armed forces.  With that, we had one goal: to finish in a position high enough to escalate visibility of the team/account, preferably top ten.

The race event started for me on Saturday when I hopped in the car and drive 5 1/2 hours to DC from where I live.  I entertained myself the whole way by listening to the collective works of Tom Gabriel Fischer (Celtic Frost, Tryptikon for you non metal-heads).  I got to DC too late to meet my teammates for dinner outside of the city, but in enough time to have an impromptu dinner with fellow dailymile team mate Brodie Wise (

Early to bed and early to rise.  Kent P and I headed down to the race area at the Pentagon on the Metro.  It took a couple of trains for us to be able to get on, and the crush of runners at the platforms looked like Toyko.   We got to the event grounds, went to the bathroom and then Kent and I split up to warm up a bit and head to our respective starting areas.  On the way up to my starting balloon arch, I hear someone say “Is that Jay Parker?”.  I turn around and it’s Brodie again, I just couldn’t shake this guy…

It was great to hang out and chat while standing in the corral.  We were up front in the group starting behind the elites, so it wasn’t too crowded.  The Achilles Athletes (wounded soldiers) started 10 minutes before the elites with a silent start, and then the color guard brought the flag out for the national anthem.  We were then treated to a fly-over by 4 helicopters and then an impressive cannon start!

Brodie and I ran together for the first half mile.  I was planning on 7:00-7:15 for the first mile due to crowds.  Brodie was talking crazy talk about running 8:15-8:30 due to injury and the upcoming MCM.  Then, he just looked at me and said “this is feeling good”, and took off.  about a quarter mile after that, I had to pee.  Stupid mistake, drank too much on the Metro.  So, I jumped behind a small bridge embankment and joined 4 other dudes with the same issue.  I only lost 10-15 seconds and then sprinted back into the stream (pun intended).

Shortly after this, I heard a piper.  What the hell?  It wasn’t decreasing in volume.  Then I saw this guy, all in American Flag gear running and playing the flute.  Apparently, he is a staple of the race, but as a first-timer, the thought of running 10 miles while playing a flute was quite impressive.

The course took us over the river and to the Lincoln Memorial.  I was feeling great and cranking it up a bit, trying to catch back up to Brodie.  We went down past the Memorial and then turned up into down toward Watergate for the first slight uphill.  I caught up to Brodie at the base of the hill, and he had slowed down a bit, saving himself for MCM and reducing the risk of re-injury.   Cresting the hill, we barreled past Watergate and downhill into a turn back toward the Kennedy Center, running underneath the cantilevered balcony there.  At this point, I passed the first of some of the injured veterans.  What an impressive effort those guys and girls are putting in.  Simply amazing and inspiring.

The course then took us up to the Washington Monument, then down the long straight of Independence Avenue. At about 5.5 miles in, the leader passed the pack coming the other way.  At that point, he had about a 30 second lead on second place.  Not knowing where the course took us, I thought: “Hell, he’s not really THAT far ahead of us”.  He was actually at 7.5 miles in, a full 2 miles up on us, but hey, who’s really counting…  At this point, we passed the Army Jazz Band, and I got a kick out of the bassist and drummer playing Rush’s YYZ.  We went down a block in front of the Capitol building and then back up Independence Avenue.  Then, we went left on 14th street, out the bridge and past the Jefferson Memorial, over the George Mason Bridge back to the finish at the Pentagon.  The last two miles were fairly tough for me, but I was boosted a bit by the guy dressed like Michael Jackson (thriller era) handing out beers to runners at mile 9.

Once I finished, I was standing in the waiting area for the rest of the team, and who came up to me?  Brodie Wise.  Out of 30000 runners, I run into the guy twice.  He’s like magic. Run with him.

I felt pretty strong at the end, though, even though the energy flagged in the last bit.  I’m looking forward to seeing how I can do at my next half-marathon based on these results.

Overall, the team came in 9th place out of 135 corporate teams, and we beat all the 4 Navistar teams!  I beat my goal by 1:10, and set a PR.  I’m looking forward to the race next year!



  • 7:01 (including pee break)
  • 6:36
  • 6:44
  • 6:34
  • 6:56
  • 6:45
  • 6:47
  • 6:53
  • 7:01
  • 6:51

Product Review: Bodyglide

It’s on my mind today since I just used the last of my Bodyglide stick, and it struck me how it has become a valuable part of my running toolkit.   I’ve always dealt with foot blisters, and through trial and error, the combination of wearing Injinji Tetrasoks and using Bodyglide on my feet has served me well.

I’m not sure exactly what this stuff is made of, and it tastes freaking terrible (don’t ask why I know this), but for the most part, it lives up to it’s manufacturer’s claims.  Bodyglide provides a nice friction barrier for those “hot spots” you get, particularly on feet and toes, and sometimes around other body parts where gear or skin mixed with moisture produces friction.  The product comes in a stick format, much like deodorant, that makes for easy application in a variety of places.

One issue I have had with the product is the claim of  stainlessness.  When used for nipple protection (pretty much a guy only issue), I’ve found shirts develop a quite unattractive half-dollar sized brownish stain right above the nipple area.  Not terribly cool.  Good thing I’m not out to pick up the chicks…  Anyway, after contacting them via email and twitter, soaking the shirts in water with a temperature of 160F or above got the stains right out by melting the Bodyglide.  Perhaps I could avoid this by not leaving my nasty sweaty clothes in my gym bag in my car after lunch runs, but that’s another story.  Regardless, the people at Bodyglide were quite quick and polite at helping me through the issue to my satisfaction.

Since I’ve started using it, they’ve introduced a whole line of additional products that I haven’t tried yet.  These additional products seem to target individual or specific applications or needs (Bodyglide for Her, Bodyglide for Feet) that could possible be solved equally well with the original product.  However, given my need, the Bodyglide for Feet is something I’ll most likely try.

Overall, I would recommend giving this a try if you have blistering or chafing issues.  For the most part it’s a product that does exactly what it says it does, for a reasonable price, and THAT is something us runners need more of…

Two observations about myself by a maturing runner

I learned two things about myself as a runner the other day.  They’re both things I think I knew for quite some time, but just kind of wormed it’s way through the crowd in my psyche (trust me, it’s crowded in there).

Observation #1:

When running any kind of speed workout, I much prefer flats and “minimal” shoes.  About a year and a half ago,  I went through a somewhat similar thought process around realizing that the Brooks Glycerin and Defyance were “too much shoe” for me.  That realization landed me smack in the middle of a love affair with the Brooks Launch.  Lately, I’ve dusted out my Brooks T6s and Green Silences, both shoes I didn’t like much when I first got them.  Now? I like them.  a lot.  Maybe even love.  Although I will admit preference to the T6s,  the ideas behind the Green Silence (reused materials, biodegradable midsoles, etc…) are more attractive to me.  Regardless, the lower profile and drop from heel to toe is what is attracting me back to both of these shoes…  I’ve been following the hype on barefoot/minimalist running with a healthy dose of skepticism, while dipping my toes in the water (pun intended) here and there.  The conclusion that I’m coming to, while completely unscientific and purely anecdotal and personal is that moving toward less shoe is good for me overall…

Observation #2:

I actually like my VFF Bikilas, and I’m looking forward to logging more miles in them safely and wisely.  Tied to observation #1 above, I bought these mainly to see what they hype was about and in the desparate hope that walking and running in them would help with the Plantar Fasciitis that I still suffer from.  While I’ve only run a couple of times in them, what I have observed is that my feet relax and feel better for days after, even after short 1 milers in them.  Again, purely anecdotal and not controlled, but real results that I’m happy to accept.  I don’t see myself as becoming a barefoot runner at all, but I do see this as a valuable tool to help me become an injury free runner.
What’s your experience with minimalism?

For more scientific evidence on both areas, check out

Predawn Runner Profile

Hey guys! I was a featured profile today on Greg Strosaker’s well written blog: Predawn Runner.

Check it out, and stick around to read the rest of his blog, it’s worth your while…

The Newfound Joy of the Group Run

Group runs?  Bleh, who needs them?  I’ll just go out on my own, or maybe with my one and only serious running partner, Kent P.  At least that’s what I thought up until this week.  I’ve been on some group runs before, mainly on business trips, and people are jetlagged and cranky, hungover, and are at such different skill levels that it really wasn’t that much fun for anyone.

Earlier this week, several of my work colleagues suggested we go out for a group run at lunch.  Initially I was skeptical, but the day before, the daily mission on dailymile was to let the crowd vote on your workout the next day, and the crowd voted for the group run.  So I did it.  And I liked it.

We went slower than I normally run, by about 1-2 minutes per mile.  The whole out of the out-n-back, my ego told me to speed up, even through I know I need to make my easy runs easier.  So, at the turnaround point, I just loosened up and relaxed, chatted and enjoyed the experience.  You know what?  Slower is sometimes better, especially if it means building good relationships and remembering that the run is about fun.

We’re going to keep it up, and hopefully the work group run will grow.  We’ve already talked about having different pace groups, and ways to keep it fun for all skill levels, so I think everyone is going to win here…