Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Brooks Frunner : Can you feel your calves tonight? A quick review on Brooks PureGrit

As some of you know, I'm quite a newbie when it comes to running. Albeit being quite active in the gym scene for the last few years, I've only took up running a couple of years or so. This was to tweak and give more variety to my workout routine besides the usual gym classes. Never had I thought that I would be so hooked into running that its turn into quite an addiction. But running on the treadmill and on the road has it's limitations. Just over a little a year ago, I've started to do some trail running as well. 

I've read a lot about the benefits of trail running before embarking into it. As time goes by, I got really bored on just running on a "straight line". Where else with trail running, you be able to run on a rough terrain, work lateral movements, get wet, get dirty and etc. And running in a jungle or forest is just pure awesomeness.

I have the pleasure of staying close to FRIM (Forest Research Institute Malaysia) and it's my usual "go-to" trail playground. Just recently, I've obtained the new Brooks PureGrit (under the Pure Project line) to test out. 

Lets look at the design and specs of the shoe.

Look of Brooks PureGrit overall. 
Brooks PureGrit is a minimalist shoe, so it's lightweight (weighing at 8.9oz - that's light!). A collaborative effort with ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek, you know this shoe is something. A first look at it and you can tell that everything is designed to it's minimal. The heel-toe offset is about 4mm, giving it an almost barefoot feel and your feet is closer to the ground. You won't be sacrificing comfort as the sole is made from Brooks BioMogo DNA midsole, so it does give a little cushioning.

A closeup on shoe material.
Upon wearing it the first time, it feels like you slipped on a pair of gloves. The shoe is designed to anatomically fit the natural form of the feet. The shoe is well ventilated as well.

Closeup of the tongue of PureGrit
The tongue of the shoe is pretty standard but don't be fooled. It's actually quite padded; almost like it has a pocket of air tucked underneath it. Unlike most lightweight shoes I owned, the tongue is usually a piece of flat material and can cause quite a discomfort. So the the comfort over the top of my feet is a good feature.

The Nav band
Next up is a Nav band. It's like a giant rubberband that wraps around the feet to give it a right amount of secure feel without over tightening it. Nifty little idea, especially every runner's feet is different.

The ideal heel. 
On the back, there is the "Ideal Heel". Doesn't sound so exciting. What it does is it helps to promote a natural foot strike by landing in a more forward position on the foot.

The Toe Flex. Ninja soles?
Then there is the Toe Flex. This is one interesting bit that caught my attention. First thing that came into mind was "Ninja Toe" shoes? Well, it's suppose to allow the big toe to function independently and engage the runner's balance. Hmmmm...something new.

Base of shoe.
Last but not least, the base of the shoe. Besides it's awesome looking colour, it has the usual grooves of what you expect from a normal trail shoe. But because of it's minimalist approach, the grooves were smaller and further apart. Perhaps not to my liking but let's see how it fares on my trial.

Is that a wink of approval or pain?
Now see my face. This is the face I made after 1km on a pretty standard trail road. I'm feeling a bit of pain cause my feet is adjusting to the shoe and the sole of my feet is hurting. But all this were momentary and I soon forgot about the pain as I started to observed how my running patterned "changed".

A minimalist or a lightweight shoe usually has a less dense sole, so you would feel the ground more. Sooner you will feel that you actually land mid or land forefront more. These shoes were meant to assist runners to run in a more natural style (or the correct term is - the CORRECT running style). That is why in recent years, more and more runners are embracing lightweight shoes or even going barefoot.

Well, there is always the constant debate of running with shoes or going barefoot. To me, either way works. In the end, it's what the runner themselves feels most comfortable in.

Observe the fore front lift off.
Initially the pain started to go away and I ran quite comfortably in them. I'm usually quite observant when I run; constantly reminding myself to land mid or fore front. With the PureGrit, it's almost quite natural. Most of the time I'll be landing mid or front. It's almost like running barefoot.

You can always try this experiment. Try running barefoot and observe most of time you will always land front instead of heel. There have been studies that suggest that running in this manner lessens or prevents injuries.

Stride shortened.  Fore front landing.
I've dabbled with "barefoot running" with the Five Fingers (aka. Hobbit Shoes as I like to call it) and it has almost the same feeling. Nowadays, I just use them as my "conditioning shoes" for walking. I've noticed that I don't take my usual longer strides but shortened. I could feel my calve muscles were activated more and more engaged; resulting in a more faster lift off. Sounds so powder-full!

Half way running through the trail, a thunderstorm was about to start and rain started pouring! Even better as now I could test out the shoes in wet muddy conditions.

A little faster and I'm sorta back into my original landing. Midfoot landing. 
As I got a little faster, I felt a little more energy return with each stride. But soon my calves were burning and alas I could only do so much speed at a short amount of time. I was told that this is because my leg muscles is adjusting. But this is a good thing as it works the calve muscles more for more better lift offs.

Soon hell broke loose. The thunderstorm was a little too much to take and the rain was heavy. Already soaking wet from head to toe, I had to cut my noon run short. But I had still about 3km to my car!

While running back, I tried to at least rough it out on rougher terrains and muddy patches. So far so good. Then came the tar road. Cause it's still raining heavily, the road is quite slippy and I had quite a few (near) slips.

Muka siaran thergendala.
Albeit the slips, it still fared quite well on leveled tar road as long it's not too much of an elevation. As soon as I got to my car, the rain stopped completely! What siaran tergendala is this? Anyways, I had to stop anyhow as it was very cold and I'm seriously too soaked. But how were the shoes?

Amazingly clean after the rain.
One look down and I'm amazed. Besides looking clean, it still looks like it's new! Another surprising factor is that it's very well ventilated although I'm wearing quite thick socks. It doesn't feel soggy and heavy albeit drenched wet.

So clean!
In a nutshell, it is a great shoe. I've yet to test it on more rougher terrains like what I did with my Brooks Adrenaline ASR 8. It's still quite good for anyone thinking of going minimal or something less bulky for trail. As for me, it's good to at least have another pair of lightweights and have another variety in my trail arsenal. Hopefully in the future I will be able test these babies on some "serious business". So far I'm quite liking it.

As for now, let's ease out the calve pains...

Ps: Don't forget that Brooks Malaysia is still having their RM150 rebate promo of their latest line. Offer still valid till end Sept 2012. Do hurry!


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