Brooks Pure Grit Review

So, I received the Brooks PureGrit on Wednesday and decided to put the shoe through its paces with a few short trail runs. My initial reaction to the shoe had been positive, so I decided to wear it over the weekend in the Xterra Trail Marathon in Colorado Springs. What was supposed to be a nice jaunt on well-manicured rolling trails with really only a few technical sections quickly turned into a major field test. Race day dawned with a steady rain and temperatures in the mid-thirties. Snow was falling on the upper parts of the mountain course and trails that were once wide and well groomed quickly turned into an amalgam of clay, mud, and treachery. Definitely not my favorite weather to race in, but certainly great wear testing conditions.

Bonus: We’ve now added a video review of the Brooks PureGrit to the bottom of this text review.

Brooks Pure Grit

First Impressions
My initial reaction after trying on the PureGrit was how well cushioned it is while still maintaining a low profile and very agile feel. Weighing in at 8.9 oz (US men’s 9) this shoe is certainly not featherweight but seemed substantial enough for the long haul. The PureGrit has a 4mm drop (15 mm to 11 mm) and the curved last of the shoe made me feel nimble. Add to that an upper that really hugs the foot and the PureGrit received the go as my race day shoe over the Saucony Peregrine, my current workhorse. My only reservation with the PureGrit was whether or not it could hold up on the trails? My initial forays wearing the shoe felt very comfortable on the roads, and I was concerned that the soft cushioning of the PureGrit would not allow me to “feel” the trail.

Upper
An ultra-light dual density mesh really hugs the foot through the length of the shoe. Brooks kept things simple and functional, adding nothing frivolous or purely cosmetic. I didn’t experience any rubbing or discomfort despite basically running a marathon in them out of the box. The tongue of the PureGrit is thin and only padded further towards the toe providing some cushioning under the laces but saving weight and bulk. In keeping with the functional philosophy of this shoe the laces are very thin sausage links style and stayed tied without issue. Overlays throughout the shoe are well placed and kept my foot centered even while running on cambered trails. Brooks included a “Nav band,” an elastic band in the midfoot of the shoe which goes over the laces. I didn’t notice the Nav band enhancing the already glove like fit, and it did make it harder to lace up the shoe tightly. In fact, the Nav band does not even appear taut when I have the shoes fully laced and my feet are average width.

Brooks Pure Grit upper

A minimal toe bumper saved me several times as I kicked rocks without damaging my toes at all. The PureGrit also drains very well, as the shoes were soaked for the better part of four hours including multiple times when my feet were completely submerged in puddles. Despite this, they never felt water logged and my feet never attained that shriveled prune look they would have in a shoe that drained poorly.

Midsole
The PureGrit uses BioMoGo with Brooks DNA compound throughout that gives a springy and responsive ride. The midsole cushioning was surprisingly more responsive than anything I’ve ever worn from Brooks. That being said, the PureGrit does not feel like an uber-minimalist shoe. Lovers of the minimalism of a shoe like the New Balance MT101 will probably find the PureGrit’s cushioning too substantial. The fact that I was able to run a marathon in them without feeling too beat up at the end is really a tribute to how functional and protective this cushioning is.

Any reservations I had about this shoe lacking proprioception were quickly dispelled and the PureGrit’s flexibility really allowed me to dig in on torn-up, clay-riddled areas of the trail where traction was dearly needed.

Outsole
The outsole is where the PureGrit really shines. Concepts that initially seemed like gimmicks functioned beautifully on race day. I have to admit, I raised an eyebrow at the PureGrit’s outsole featuring a split toebox designed to allow the big toe to function independently to increase toe splay and balance.  For the record, this actually works. On cambered trails and corners the rounded outsole dug into the trail and that extra bit of splay seemed to allow my foot to function more naturally. This outsole cutout also did not seem to pick up any rocks or mud/clay as I thought it would, and this one piece outsole is very flexible and allowed my foot to extend through the entire foot plant.

Brooks Pure Grit split toe

The PureGrit features an anatomical last, which basically means that the outsole follows the natural curvature of the foot. The edges and heel of the shoe are rounded which helped me through the technical sections of the course where I had to run over large rocks slickened by rain and clay. Brooks designed the curved nature of the heel to help runners land more naturally in the midfoot and the heel-to-toe transition is very smooth. There is also a strike zone “pod” in the center of the outsole which is designed to inform the foot of the shoe’s center. I did not notice any extra cushioning features there, and not noticing is probably a good thing in my book.

Brooks Pure Grit Outsole

I worried that the lug pattern wouldn’t be substantial enough for such bad footing, but again I was pleased to be wrong. Coupled with the flexibility of this shoe, the lugs dug into the trail when I needed it most and I seemed to shed clay and mud from the PureGrit more easily than my fellow racers who complained of their trail shoes feeling like bricks.

The PureGrit does not have a rock plate, and again I scoffed at this absence. This may be the one area of the shoe which I have not been able to truly test as I did not encounter sharp rocks or scree fields during my wear test. My hypothesis is that the PureGrit will provide enough protection in the midsole save for the most technical and rocky trails.

Overall Impression
Being the skeptic that I am, when a trail shoe is released to a great deal of hubbub and anticipation I naturally look for the shoes vulnerabilities. The PureGrit got me through a horrible day’s conditions in the mountains and I am pleased to report that I cannot find any weak points. Whatever input provided by Scott Jurek and his lifetime on the trails created a fully conceptualized shoe in its inception. On climbs, I felt a great deal of traction, even in wet clay, and the relative light weight of this shoe, at 8.9 oz, didn’t weigh me down. The excellent cushioning allowed me to bomb the downhills, and my legs feel less beat up after a marathon than they ever have. Runners looking for the flexibility and fit of a minimalist shoe with the added protection of a long distance racing flat will find a winner in the PureGrit.

Originally marketed for release in early 2012, the PureGrit is available now (MSRP $100).

Call for Comments
Are you eager to get your feet into a pair of Brooks PureGrit? If so, what are you most looking forward to about the shoe?

If you don’t think the PureGrit is for you, why not?

Tom Caughlan

is iRunFar's Minimalist Gear Editor. Tom’s passion for trail running and specialty running retail experience shine through in all of his highly technical reviews, which do range outside minimalist shoes.

There are 23 comments

  1. Erik Bahnsen

    Looking for input on durability of these shoes. My guess is since folks are commenting on poor wet performance , they are not made with sticky rubber which in my opinion typically melts away quickly.

    Erik

  2. BILL

    the upper on this shoe is very confortable, i found the insole spongy so I took it out, it feels better to run without this, much closer to the ground.

    however, my biggest problem with this shoe is the grip. on a 3 hr run today on muddy trails with some rocks I slipped more that once on the rocks, whilst actually walking. On any slippery surface, including muddy paths, brdiges, rocks, these shoes are something of a hazard. Given the price of this shoe is about 20% higher than others in the same category, i dont think this is good enough.

    some nice promo work around the shoe and lots of good reviews, but the main critism you hear ehoed is the grip. A real problem for what is meant to be a trail shoe.

  3. Erik Bahnsen

    Just wanted to offer some feedback after wearing this shoe for the past month. I live in Lyons,Co and the trails have been snow covered, then muddy and now dry. They performed well in all these conditions. In the the real muddy clay type stuff the lugs did clog easily, and at times required stomping to get mud out of lugs. I did not experience poor wet traction people back east and North west are encountering. But I believe those conditions are much different than CO.

    What I do want to report is that I'm having heal pain. I have been running in Merrell Trail Glove and prior to that the NB MT101. I had my complaints about both of this shoes but I didn't have post run pain. My complaints with those shoes were raw feet from 101 and no rock plate with Trail Glove. So I will return the Pure Grit to Boulder Running Co (which is awesome place to do business with, let me run in shoe for 30 days and return no questions asked). I guess I will look at MT110 which treadmill video tests says I overpronate in and the newly released Vertical K.

    If anyone has experience with sizing or how hot the vertical K is, I would love that info.

    Tomorrow is friday and look forward to AJ"s pick of the week (beer that is).

    Cheers

    Erik

  4. elizabeth

    I am forever adjusting the laces in my shoes. After 3 miles, I feel my feet are almost asleep and I need to losen then but then notice more movement of my foot than I want within the shoe. I am determined to figure this out. The decreased sensation is on the top and bottom of my foot. Any ideas?

    I have had one run in my new pure grits. It was comfortable and I like the shoe but still had this issue.

    thanks

    1. Steve A

      I had these issues for a while but happily now seems to have gone away after some adjustment in the middle laces. Also, just got back from running the Marathon Des Sables in these shoes and have had no issues and barley a blister. I ran with orthotics (Pure Grit are one of the few shoes that could comfortably accommodate them). While the lightness of the shoe meant I head to be careful with how I placed my feet in case of stones, all worked well.

    2. Bartman

      Elizabeth,

      Try changing out the insoles. The insoles provided by Brooks is extremely smooth and slick and allows far to much foot movement. On steep downhills you find your foot sliding forward and which any side pitch to the trail the shoes will be wonking on you. I took the insoles out completely and the problem went away.

      Bartman

  5. Jacques

    Elizabeth, I found the Nav band to be too loose and completely useless for holding my foot in place. By folding it over and then securing it with a safety pin, I was able to get the band snug enough . I think the band in a good idea, just too loose for me.

  6. Eric Fullen

    I have heard that the sizing of these shoes compared to most others (Nike, Asics, Adidas) is a half size smaller. What size shoe do you wear in other brands? Did you find the sizing to be the same or a bit smaller?

    Thanks!

  7. josh of all

    Whoa was this the review I needed! I having been doing all my trail running in Saucony Peregrines and recently won a gift certificate for a free pair of shoes from my local running store. They were out of stock in my size so I tried some different shoes on (really wanted a second pair as backup in a dropbag this weekend) and went with the Pure Grit, but very hesitantly. It's reassuring to know they are similar. I love the comfort and glove like fit of the Pure Grit, but was concerned about the addition of some cushioning. I don't find the Peregrines offer any cushion, just a thick buffer between your feet and rocks and roots on the trail. I love running in true minimalist shoes, but the soles of my feet simply cannot take more than 5-10 miles before they are hurting bad enough to be distracting, and sometimes depending on terrain, too much to continue on. I think the race this weekend is going to have some significant downhill, especially in the last 5 miles and I might wear the Pure Grits from the start and hope to not need a change. I will put a couple of trail miles on em tonight to get a feel, but have confidence after seeing this review that I made the right choice.

    Thanks,

    Josh

  8. Sheryl

    I just ran Wapack 50 miler in Puma Nightfox and my feet (legs, arms, back, etc) have never hurt so bad! Granted, it is a tough course but I came away with 8 blisters and two bruised toenails. I do think the shoe was too small initally and I did experiece substantial swelling.

    That being said I am looking for a new trail shoe. I used to run in Salomon and loved them but I am ready for a softer shoe since I am training for the Vermont 100. I have heard the terrain is gentle enough for a road shoe.

    I love what I am reading about the Pure Grit. I have had a pair of Cascadia but they were too much shoe. Would you recommend running a 100 in these? if not, is there a shoe you do recommend?

    S

  9. tess

    That was a really helpful review thanks! I wear orthotics and have been running in Saucony Xodus but find them too clumpy and heavy and also seem to get some arch discomfort! I recently bought some NB 110's which are a brilliant shoe but unfortunately don't really accomodate my orthotics so I can only wear them for short distances or walking! I have been looking for a low profile lightweight trail shoe that my orthotics would work with. I was a bit worried that the Peregrine would have the same arch as the Xodus, but I think I will give the Pure Grit a try if they are orthotic friendly! :)

        1. tess

          thanks mine are solid 2/3 but not too bulky compared to some I've had, normally they fit into pretty much any shoe, it was pretty disappointing they they didn't work with the NB 110's!

  10. kaddiemo

    I just tried on a pair of pure grit tonight and loved them right away. I am not a runner though and want them for an upcoming trip to New York City- walking. Do you think they will be ok for this purpose? Thanks all!

  11. D-Mo

    I agree with BenG. Wet weather traction is non existent with the Pure Grits. I love the Pure series with 500+ miles on the Pure Connect and still going strong. I have ran 2 races in them (100 & 70 miler) and they performed great as long as it wasn't wet. If they could use the traction from the Inov-8 295's it would be an awesome shoe!!!!!

  12. wsabg

    Hi all, I am using the PureConnect for two months now and will get a pair of PureGrits for spring. I've run a couple of runs including half-marathons on trails and hilly terrain with the Connect, but now it's getting wet and slippery and I need more traction.

    I am a bit confused about all I read here about the NavBand. From my point of understanding – and how it seems to be designed – the NavBand should go UNDER the laces, not over them. Having my shoes laced like that, I have no problems with the NavBand, it's holding nicely. I also exchanged the original laces to some Xtenex which allow me to adjust the lacing for each hole seperately.

    Will tell you about my Grits as soon as I got them,

    happy trails,

    Wolfgang

  13. tess

    These shoes were brilliant I did a marathon and 50k in them and all my long runs with no blisters or hot spots! Unfortunately during my last run I ended up with a huge painful bruise on top of my foot, never felt any discomfort there before! I think with age the fabric upper has gone out of shape and creased! Its a shame as the rest of the shoe looks good and I've done less than 300 miles in them :(

    Now I have to decide whether to buy more or try something different, if I'm not even going to get 300 miles out of a pair they work out pretty expensive!!!

  14. wsabg

    Got my Grits today – and the NavBand ist completely different from the one on my Connects. The way it's fixed on the Grit, there is no real use or function on it rather than putting the laces into it. I hope this feature will be redesigned with the PureGrit 2.

    Wolfgang

  15. kristina folcik

    I have been running in pure grits since sept 2011 where i bought them the night before a trail marathon and pr'd the next day! They are awesome! Traction is an issue in new england but a bloody knee or two is worth the speed and comfort of this shoe! I just ran sawtooth 100 and wore three pairs throughout the race. One small blister and no missing toenails! My favorite shoe! Only downfall is i wear through them in about 6 weeks but i run a lot too so im not sure anything else would hold up either. :)

  16. kristina folcik

    I wore the pure grits for wapack 50 and just wore them for sawtooth 100. I use speed laces as i had problems with the stock laces. I have never had foot issues in the pure grits. Every other shoe i have worn caused problems.. i did change my shoes two times at sawtooth but my feet felt great after 103.3 miles on very rugged terrain!

  17. Beau Thomas

    I tried them on at CHAMPS in the mall near me. I couldn't believe how comfortable they felt. Like a bunch of little pillows around my feet. Felt so good. I run trails mostly, so I am also looking forward to trying them out on the trail as well. Just saving up to buy them.

  18. John

    Did you wear socks? You mentioned " The PureGrit also drains very well, as the shoes were soaked for the better part of four hours including multiple times when my feet were completely submerged in puddles. Despite this, they never felt water logged and my feet never attained that shriveled prune look they would have in a shoe that drained poorly".

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