Thursday, May 21, 2015

Brooks Purecadence 4 Review

  Another busy time.  I am out on my first 12 week clinical rotation and things have been a little hectic getting used to everything during the first week.  Excited and nervous.  Also that's my excuse for why this blog has been quiet for a while.  I appreciate the comments everyone has provided and have had many requests to get this review up.  I have had an interesting relationship with the Purecadence line thus far.  I ran through more pairs of version one than I can remember, hated version two (picky), version three was good and now we're on to version four.  These shoes have been the mild support and firmer alternative to the Pureflow and in my mind are better in most ways.  The Pureflow in my (humble) experience has tended to be overly soft and not necessarily responsive.  I don't like either of those.  The Purecadence is a shoe I use as a mileage workhorse but I know in the back of my mind it can handle workouts.  It has survived many tempo runs, intervals and brutal trail climbs.  Definitely light enough that it could also be a marathon racer.  A surprisingly versatile shoe.  Enough ramblings.... let's get on with this.  Here are my thoughts on version four:


Sole/Feel: Overall the sole is not that much different than previous versions (see my review of the Purecadence 3) except for two glaring details to my overly critical eyes.   The sole is now on a narrower base and the medial support is not only significantly decreased but to me is only present in the heel.  Unfortunately that combination makes the shoe inherently more unstable.  Be warned this is not the same lightweight support shoe that it was in the past.  It is still lightweight and the ride is smooth (more on that in a second).  However the support is very minimal.  I would go as far as to call the Purecadence 4 a slightly firmer Pureflow.  The only time I've felt the support is with a significant heel strike and it only lasts briefly in the medial heel.  From there forward I feel nothing.  So if you come expecting the full length medial support the Purecadence 3 had, know that is not present in version 4.

On a positive note, the ride is very smooth.  This is typical of many Pureproject shoes, but for some reason this version improved over version three.  I attribute that to the outsole flexing much more than previously, but that might also be the reason these shoes feel slower (more on that later).  Additionally, the "Ideal Heel" or curved heel feels a bit more curved than previous versions, so that too might contribute to the smoother ride.

On another positive note, the sole isn't as slippery on wet surfaces as the first two versions of the Purecadence.  Again I don't know why many Pureproject shoes had that issue with Brooks being based in Seattle.  Luckily they seemed to have fixed the issue.


Upper/Fit:  Here is where this shoe has truly improved.  The upper from the midfoot forward is vastly better than previous versions due to the removal of the toe guard that seemed to extend all the way around both sides to the midfoot.  It was uncomfortable in previous versions but with enough time I would forget it was there.  Now not only does the upper look better, it's softer and stretches nicely in the forefoot.  Thanks to the stretch, the toe box feels wider, but the mesh makes the foot feel more secure at the same time.  The whole upper feels softer and better on the skin (yes I have worn these sockless and yes they have been great) throughout the entirety of the shoe.

Also gone is the asymmetrical tongue.  I was indifferent about that design and kinda prefer the straight tongue because that's what I am used to.  The current tongue is a bit short but I haven't had any major issues with it.  It's still a tiny bit puffy but seems to work.

My only complaint is that the laces are a bit short.  Other than that I have to give Brooks major props to the updates to the Purecadence 4's upper.


Responsiveness: Due to what I feel is an increase in softness of the midsole, the responsiveness of this shoe has decreased from previous versions.  However, it could still be used as a long distance racer for those coming from moderate support traditional training shoes.

Heel-Toe Drop/Ramp: Even though the heel drop is listed at 4mm, it feels lower.  Definitely lower than something like the Kinvara or Mirage but not zero drop.  One millimeter doesn't really matter though, just know it seems to feel lower than what it is listed as.  This will also change depending on your footstrike (heel strikers compress the heel more, making the shoe feel like it has a lower drop).


Durability:  The durability is pretty good on these shoes.  Brooks has always given a warning that Pureproject shoes only last 250-300 miles, but I fully expect to get more out of these.  The outsole starts to wear fast, then seems to slow down around 100 miles.  So far at almost 200 miles they are doing great, but I will give provide an update when things do go south.

Weight:  Brooks lists this shoe at 8.8 ounces which would make it slightly heavier than the 8.6 ounces of the Purecadence 3.  Personally version 4 feels lighter, although I have not weighed the shoe myself, know that it feels lighter.

Thoughts as a DPT (Student): Want to make a shoe more stable?  Don't narrow the base of support for starters.  Then don't make the shoe softer.  While Brooks may also have toned down the medial support, in my mind the above two reasons are why this shoe feels less stable.  A wide base of support gives more stability inherently.  Simple physics.  Imagine standing with your legs apart vs them right next to each other.  Probably easier to get pushed over standing with your feet touching right? (Obviously if you stand with your legs too far apart you'll be unstable too.  Don't be a smart-ass).  Same thing applies to shoes.  Racing shoes are inherently more unstable because many companies make the soles very narrow to cut weight, whereas many traditional stability shoes have very wide soles for the opposite reason.  There's more surface area and a broader platform for your foot.
   The softness is something I've addressed in previous posts.  Imagine standing on the cement vs standing in a water bed.  The cement doesn't move as much and thus is more stable.  It doesn't absorb any of the force you put into it.  That's the job of your own joints.  The softer cushioning takes some of the impact of your landing, but the unstable surface means your body has to work extra hard to keep itself stable.  So there is always a trade-off.  This is why a good stability shoe should be on the firmer side.  Not cement like, but enough to give the person a stable platform to land on so they don't have to work as hard to stabilize themselves.  Then many people feel the shoe doesn't provide as good shock absorption and there you have one of the conundrums of the running shoe industry.  Personally I think people should work to get their own bodies to provide the right stability and shock absorption   (in the absence of traumatic injuries or congenital issues) but that is because I'm a (student) physical therapist.

Final Thoughts: So while I still have a special place in my heart for the Purecadence line, I'm a little sad about what happened to the midsole and outsole.  At the same time I love what happened to the upper.  So I'll continue running in this version hoping for the return of the sole of version 3.  These changes haven't killed the shoe for me, I just think it could be better.  Know overall that this is a great lightweight trainer with a very small amount of stability.  I have used this shoe during long runs on roads and on very technical trails.  They have performed very well on both as the segmentation of the midsole grips dirt pretty well for a road shoe.  I have enjoyed running in them and will continue to do so.  If you are a neutral runner or someone who needs a very small amount of support in the heel looking for a low drop shoe, try this one on.  I highly suggest it.

Thanks for reading and don't forget to Tack On!

These shoes were purchased for their full US retail prcie.  I put at least 100 miles on every pair of shoes before I review them (except racing flats which I put on at least 50 miles).  Currently I have 193 miles on my pair (I waited a bit for this one).

As always, my views are my own.

-Matt Klein, SPT

*Images obtained from the Brooks Running website.  Go down to your local Run Specialty Retailer to check them out. 


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