Brooks PureFlow 3 Review

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Like others in the Brooks Pure range, the PureFlow is neither a minimalist shoe or a massively cushioned Maximalist shoe, but part way between the two extremes. I found the PureFlow to have less cushioning than I expected given its weight. It's not a bad shoe, but you can get the same cushioning with less weight, or the same weight with more cushioning, and either would be better. I was surprised how quickly the foam in the PureFlow broke down and became softer, though I generally found the shoe better once it had started to wear. I found no significant problems with the PureFlow, though I'd advise cutting away the 'Nav Band' that puts pressure on the top of your foot. Overall, I liked the PureFlow, and while there are better shoes out there, I'd recommend it to you as a contender for your funds. For the latest version of the PureFlow see Brooks PureFlow Review. (I use The Science of Running Shoes as the basis of how I test running shoes and what you should look for in a running shoe.)

Brooks Pure Flow 3 top
Brooks Pure Flow 3 bottom
Brooks Pure Flow 3 inside
Brooks Pure Flow 3 outside

1 Characteristics

  • Why you’d buy it. The PureFlow could make a good shoe for someone looking to transition from a more traditional shoe, though I prefer the Saucony Kinvara as it's lighter and more softly cushioned. If you're not looking for a transition shoe, then the Hoka Clifton is lighter and much better cushioned, or the Altra One that's a lot lighter and more softly cushioned. For a faster shoe, try the Asics Gel Hyper Speed which provides similar cushioning at a much lower weight. However, the fact that there are better shoes available doesn't make the PureConnect a bad shoe in any way. If you like the way it fits and feels, I have no hesitation in recommending it.
  • Cushioning . The PureFlow is reasonably cushioned, but I've been surprised how rapidly the midsole became softer. Overall the PureFlow is a little on the firm side given its weight, though this firmness breaks down. As noted above, you can get the same cushioning with less weight, or the same weight with much better cushioning.
  • Drop. The PureFlow has 5mm of drop, which did not impact my foot strike unduly. Swapping between the PureFlow and a zero drop shoe highlights the tendency for the heel raise to move your foot strike back towards the heel, but this is fairly minor in this shoe.
  • Structure. The PureFlow uses a single density of foam with some slight grooves to improve flexibility. The area under the arch is slightly raised, which could put pressure on the arch and cause problems as arches are strong when loaded from above, but can be broken easily by pressure from below. The Pure range of shoes includes a "Toe Flex", which is a thinning of the midsole at the front that Brooks claim "allows the big toe to function independently", though I couldn't nice any effect. The heel of the Pure shoes is more rounded than most traditional shoes, which is a good thing.
  • Flexibility. The PureFlow is nicely flexible due to the midsole groves and the gaps in the outsole.
  • Outsole. The hard rubber outsole covers most of the underside of the shoe. This outsole improves longevity and grip, but adds to the weight. As you can see from the pictures, the outsole is in patches which help keep the shoe flexible. The outsole rubber used here is a nice combination of hard wearing and grippy, and is fairly thick. This outsole increases the weight of the shoe, and the longevity it brings probably won't help much given the way the foam midsole breaks down.
  • Shape. The shoe of the shoe is closer to the human foot than many designs, but it's not right and I'd recommend cutting open the toe box for comfort. (I recommend cutting open the toe box of virtually all running shoes, with the exception of a few shoes like some Altra shoes. When you have some worn out shoes, you should try cutting open the toe box. I've found that it's a big improvement, allowing my toes to move naturally and engage for toe off, as well as reducing the possibility of blisters.)
  • Upper. The upper is inflexible and there are seams that could rub and create issues for some runners. The ankle opening is well padded, but the rest is thin and breathes reasonably well. The PureFlow has Brooks' "Nav Band" which is an elasticated band over the middle of the shoe, going from where the upper meets the arch of the foot, over the top and down to the outside edge of the midsole. This elasticated band is intended to keep the shoe secure, but it just puts extra pressure on the top of the foot. I strongly recommend cutting this band where it crosses the tongue. Overall the shoe is slightly less comfortable than average.
  • Tongue. The PureFlow has a tongue that is attached to the inside of the upper, with the outside free, a combination that I like. It keeps the tongue in place without the problems of a sock style upper. The tongue has a slight degree of soft padding which should be enough for most runners.
  • Lacing. The laces are bumpy, which helps them stay tied, but also makes it trickier to get the tension right when tying the shoe. The laces also have an asymmetric pattern, which I didn't find made any difference when compared with other shoes.
  • Heel Counter. The heel counter is quite solid, with hard edges that might cause some people problems.
helping-hand.jpg

2 Comparisons

Here are some direct comparisons with its potential competition.

2.1 PureFlow, PureCadence, & PureConnect

The Brooks Pure range of shoes is intended to be more minimalist, but they're only minimal when compared to a traditional shoe like the Asics GT 2000. I would consider Pure shoes as in the "balanced" category that is part way between minimalist and the massively cushioned Maximalist style of shoes. The Pure range all have some over engineering, with pointless features such as the "Nav Band" that puts extra pressure on the top of the foot. It seems that most shoe manufacturers feel the need to justify their prices with some type of gimmick rather than producing simple, effective shoes, which is a shame. To evaluate the three shoes, it's best to look at how they compare to the PureFlow, which is the middle ground.

  • PureFlow and PureCadence. The PureCadence has a slightly thicker midsole than the PureFlow, but it's also a little firmer. The PureCadence also adds a Medial Post which makes the shoe a little firmer, but this breaks down remarkably quickly.
  • PureFlow and PureConnect. The PureConnect has a little less cushioning than the PureFlow, though they are remarkably similar, even when wearing one on each foot. I did notice that the gaps in the midsole of the PureFlow do create a slightly uneven, "lumpy" feel underfoot.
Brooks Pure Flow 3 top
Brooks Pure Flow 3 bottom
Brooks Pure Flow 3 inside
Brooks Pure Flow 3 outside
Brooks PureCadence 3 top
Brooks PureCadence 3 bottom
Brooks PureCadence 3 inside
Brooks PureCadence 3 outside
Brooks PureConnect 3 top
Brooks PureConnect 3 bottom
Brooks PureConnect 3 inside
Brooks PureConnect 3 outside
helping-hand.jpg
helping-hand.jpg

2.2 PureFlow and Hoka Clifton

Comparing the PureFlow and the Hoka Clifton, the Clifton is the clear winner, as it's both lighter and better cushioned, and though it's a lot more expensive, I think it's worth the extra.

  • Similarities
    • Shape. Neither has a good toe box.
    • Drop. Neither is zero-drop, but neither is bad enough to cause problems.
    • Longevity. The extra outsole on the PureFlow improves longevity, but its foam breaks down more quickly.
  • Advantage PureFlow
    • Flexibility. The PureFlow is more flexible.
    • Grip. The PureFlow has slightly more grip.
    • Price. The PureFlow is a lot cheaper.
    • Availability. The PureFlow is more widely stocked.
  • Advantage Hoka Clifton
    • Cushioning . The Clifton has far thicker, softer cushioning.
    • Weight. The Clifton is lighter.
    • Trails. The Clifton has a little more protection on rocky trails.
Brooks Pure Flow 3 top
Brooks Pure Flow 3 bottom
Brooks Pure Flow 3 inside
Brooks Pure Flow 3 outside
Hoka OneOne Clifton top
Hoka OneOne Clifton bottom
Hoka OneOne Clifton inside
Hoka OneOne Clifton outside
helping-hand.jpg

2.3 PureFlow and Altra One

Comparing the PureFlow and the Altra One, the Altra wins on weight and cushioning, but the PureFlow will last longer:

  • Advantage PureFlow
    • Price. The PureFlow is cheaper, especially when longevity is considered.
    • Grip. The PureFlow has more grip.
    • Availability. The PureFlow is widely stocked.
    • Trails. The PureFlow has more protection from rocks.
    • Longevity. The PureFlow lasts longer. (The Altra wears out distressingly quickly.)
  • Advantage Altra One
    • Cushioning . The Altra is a lot more softly cushioned.
    • Weight. The Altra is a lot lighter.
    • Drop. The Altra is zero drop, the PureFlow has 4mm.
    • Shape. The Altra has a much better toe box.
    • Flexibility. The Altra is more flexible.
Brooks Pure Flow 3 top
Brooks Pure Flow 3 bottom
Brooks Pure Flow 3 inside
Brooks Pure Flow 3 outside
Altra The One 2.5 top
Altra The One 2.5 bottom
Altra The One 2.5 inside
Altra The One 2.5 outside
helping-hand.jpg

2.4 PureFlow and Saucony Virrata

Comparing the PureFlow and the Saucony Virrata, the Virrata is a lot lighter and has somewhat similar levels of cushioning.

  • Similarities
    • Shape. Neither has a good toe box.
    • Longevity. The extra outsole on the PureFlow improves longevity, but its foam breaks down more quickly.
    • Availability. The both are reasonably easy to find.
    • Cushioning . Because the PureFlow is not zero drop, it has more cushioning than the Virrata in the rear foot, but less in the forefoot. Depending on your foot strike, you may find one is better cushioned than the other.
  • Advantage PureFlow
    • Grip. The PureFlow has more grip.
    • Trails. The PureFlow has more protection from rocks.
  • Advantage Saucony Virrata
    • Drop. The Virrata is zero-drop.
    • Weight. The Virrata is a lot lighter.
    • Price. The Virrata is a little cheaper.
    • Flexibility. The Virrata is more flexible.
Brooks Pure Flow 3 top
Brooks Pure Flow 3 bottom
Brooks Pure Flow 3 inside
Brooks Pure Flow 3 outside
Saucony Virrata top
Saucony Virrata bottom
Saucony Virrata inside
Saucony Virrata outside

2.5 PureFlow and Asics Gel Hyper Speed

Comparing the PureFlow and the Asics Gel Hyper Speed the Hyper Speed has similar cushioning but is vastly lighter, making you faster.

  • Similarities
    • Cushioning . Cushioning is similar, though the PureFlow achieves its cushioning with thicker but firmer foam.
    • Shape. Neither has a good toe box.
    • Drop. Neither is zero-drop.
    • Availability. The both are reasonably easy to find.
  • Advantage PureFlow
    • Grip. The PureFlow has slightly more grip, though it's close.
    • Trails. The PureFlow has more protection from rocks.
  • Advantage Asics Gel Hyper Speed
    • Longevity. The PureFlow foam breaks down more quickly.
    • Weight. The Hyper Speed is a lot lighter.
    • Flexibility. The Hyper Speed is more flexible.
Brooks Pure Flow 3 top
Brooks Pure Flow 3 bottom
Brooks Pure Flow 3 inside
Brooks Pure Flow 3 outside
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 top
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 bottom
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 inside
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 6 outside
helping-hand.jpg

3 Cushioning and Shoes

It's intuitively obvious that the cushioning in a shoe will reduce the impact on your body when running. However, The Science of Running Shoes indicates that the reality is rather more complex. While slight cushioning may reduce the effort needed to run by improving your Running Economy, most scientific research indicates that more cushioning does further improve Running Economy. In addition, cushioning does not generally reduce impact and may actually increase it. This is counterintuitive, but is likely to be due to the way a runners mind and body adapts to softer cushioning. Unfortunately, the scientific evidence is far from complete and it's hard to give clear recommendations. I believe that some runners will prefer more cushioning, while others prefer less, and typically those running further have a fondness for greater cushioning. I also believe that a shoe should be as light as possible, and a shoe should justify its weight with the cushioning it provides. My advice is to decide what level of cushioning you're looking for, and then find the lightest shoes that also fit well and are comfortable.

4 Visualizing the Attributes of the Brooks PureFlow 3

File:Brooks PureFlow 3 RFCushPenalty.png
How Brooks PureFlow 3 compares showing rearfoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
File:Brooks PureFlow 3 FFCushPenalty.png
How Brooks PureFlow 3 compares showing forefoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
File:Brooks PureFlow 3 PriceBenefit.png
How Brooks PureFlow 3 compares showing the price against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.
File:Brooks PureFlow 3 DropBenefit.png
How Brooks PureFlow 3 compares showing the loaded drop against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.

5 A Comparison with other Recommended Shoes

For a more detailed comparison of these shoes see the Recommendations for Best Running Shoes. This table lists the key attributes of What to Look for in Running Shoes. For more detailed information, on the shoes see detailed shoe comparison.

Full Review Name Rating Recommended
price
Benefit Weight
(oz)
Penalty
(sec/mile)
Forefoot
Thickness
Heel
Thickness
Loaded Drop
mm
Cushioning Flexibility
Asics 33-DFA Review 33-DFA Worth considering $90 5.7 10.6 16.5 27 27 0 6.1 5
Saucony Type A6 Review A6 Highly Recommended $100 8.2 6.1 9.5 17 21 4 5.0 7
Adidas Adios Boost 2 Review Adios Worth considering $140 4.7 8.6 13.4 17 27 11 4.0 6
Merrell Bare Access Bare Access Review Pending $95 5.0 7.2 17.8 15 12 -2 3.6 7
Hoka Bondi 5 Review Bondi Recommended $150 6.1 11.6 18.1 38 42 5 7.1 2
Hoka Clayton Review Clayton Best of the Best $150 8.8 8.3 12.9 26 30 3 7.3 4
Hoka Clifton 3 Review Clifton3 Best of the Best $130 9.1 9.8 15.3 34 38 3 8.9 5
On Cloudracer Review Cloudracer Worth considering $130 5.7 8.2 12.8 19 27 5 4.7 7
Hoka Conquest Review Conquest Worth considering $170 5.0 11.9 18.5 28 34 5 6.0 2
Saucony Cortana 4 Review Cortana Worth considering $150 4.4 9.9 18.7 22 28 5 4.3 4
Mizuno Wave Cruise Review Cruise Worth considering $120 6.6 5.9 12.5 17 20 7 3.9 6
Newton Distance IV Review Distance Worth considering $155 7.5 9.1 14.2 26 31 3 6.8 5
Asics Gel DS Racer 10 Review DS Racer Worth considering $110 8.2 7.0 10.9 21 26 6 5.8 5
Mizuno Wave Ekiden 8 Review Ekiden Worth considering $115 5.7 5.7 14.6 13 18 6 3.2 8
Saucony Endorphin 2 Review Endorphin 2 Review Pending $115 7.4 5.5 10.2 15 13 -1 4.1 8
Adidas Energy Boost Review Energy Worth considering $160 7.2 10.0 15.6 20 30 7 7.2 5
Altra Escalante Review Escalante Best of the Best $130 9.1 8.7 13.5 28 25 -1 7.9 6
Puma Faas 100 R Review Faas 100 Highly Recommended $90 8.4 6.1 9.4 15 20 1 5.1 8
Saucony Fastwitch Review Fastwitch Highly Recommended $90 9.5 7.1 11.1 20 22 4 6.8 7
Topo Fli-Lyte Review Fli-Lyte Highly Recommended $100 6.0 9.4 14.6 23 24 4 5.6 5
Nike Free 4.0 Review Free Recommended $120 5.3 8.2 13.6 24 30 6 4.4 5
Saucony Freedom Review Freedom Recommended $160 5.4 10.7 16.6 25 29 3 5.8 6
Asics Gel Lyte 33 3 Review Gel Lyte Not recommended $90 8.0 7.3 11.4 17 24 4 5.8 9
Skechers GOmeb Speed 3 Review GOmeb 3 Worth considering $120 6.9 8.1 12.6 20 24 4 5.5 8
Skechers GORun 4 Review GORun Not recommended $100 6.1 7.5 11.7 15 23 3 4.5 7
Skechers GOrun Ultra 2 Review GRU Worth considering $90 7.5 10.0 15.6 28 34 8 7.5 4
Skechers GOrun Ultra Road Review GRU-R Worth considering $105 6.5 11.3 17.6 30 40 6 7.4 6
Asics GT 2000 Review GT 2000 Not recommended $120 4.8 11.2 17.4 28 35 5 5.4 2
New Balance Hanzo S Hanzo Review Pending $110 7.6 6.9 10.7 21 19 2 5.2 5
Hoka Hupana Review Hupana Recommended $115 6.1 8.9 13.9 31 36 7 5.4 4
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 7 Review Hyper Speed Highly Recommended $75 10.9 6.3 9.8 22 26 5 6.8 6
Altra Instinct 3.5 3.5 Review Instinct 3.5 Recommended $115 4.9 9.3 15.2 24 23 0 4.5 5
Altra Instinct 4.0 Review Instinct 4.0 Worth considering $120 6.0 9.8 15.3 29 25 -1 5.9 5
Asics Tarther Kainos 3 Review Kainos Worth considering $130 10.0 6.9 10.7 17 27 9 6.8 6
Saucony Kinvara 8 Review Kinvara 8 Review Pending $110 9.3 8.6 13.4 26 31 3 8.0 5
Nike LunaRacer 4 Review LunaRacer Recommended $90 9.9 7.0 10.9 22 30 7 6.9 5
Nike LunarSpider R5 Review LunarSpider Recommended $125 6.9 6.7 10.4 17 21 3 4.6 6
Hoka Mafate Speed Review Mafate Best of the Best $170 7.6 11.9 18.5 39 40 4 9.0 1
Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 v2 Review N0 Highly Recommended $100 7.9 6.5 10.1 14 20 4 5.2 8
Saucony Nomad Review Nomad Review Pending $110 4.3 10.5 17.2 25 27 2 4.5 4
Hoka Odyssey Review Odyssey Highly Recommended $130 8.5 9.4 14.6 37 45 5 8.0 3
Altra Olympus Review Olympus Highly Recommended $130 5.4 11.8 18.4 27 27 3 6.4 3
Altra One 2.5 Review One Highly Recommended $100 8.5 7.1 11.1 22 25 2 6.0 7
Altra Paradigm Review Paradigm Highly Recommended $130 6.4 9.9 15.4 25 25 1 6.4 2
Asics Piranha SP 5 Review Piranha Recommended $100 10.1 4.2 6.5 11 15 3 4.2 9
Brooks PureFlow 5 Review PureFlow Worth considering $110 6.0 9.7 15.1 26 29 5 5.8 8
Salming Race Review Race Worth considering $130 6.9 6.5 10.1 16 19 4 4.5 6
New Balance RC1600 v2 Review RC1600 Highly Recommended $110 8.8 5.6 8.7 15 21 5 4.9 8
New Balance RC5000 Review RC5000 Best of the Best $125 12.2 3.4 5.3 13 17 3 4.2 8
New Balance RC5000v2 Review RC5000v2 Best of the Best $125 14.2 4.0 6.2 13 21 6 5.7 7
Skechers GoRun Ride 3 Review Ride Worth considering $85 5.9 8.5 13.2 18 28 6 5.0 8
Inov-8 RoadXTreme 220 Review RXT-220 Worth considering $120 5.2 8.0 18.2 14 17 3 4.2 8
Topo ST-2 Review ST-2 Highly Recommended $90 8.2 7.3 11.4 20 18 0 6.0 7
Hoka Stinson Lite Review Stinson Highly Recommended $160 7.3 11.6 18.1 35 40 6 8.5 0
Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 Review Streak LT Best of the Best $80 8.8 5.4 8.4 16 21 4 4.8 5
Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Review Takumi Sen 3 Highly Recommended $160 7.7 6.6 10.2 17 21 4 5.1 5
Altra Torin 2.0 Review Torin Worth considering $125 5.8 9.6 14.9 28 25 -1 5.5 4
Hoka Tracer Review Tracer Recommended $130 7.2 7.4 11.5 21 24 2 5.3 5
Merrell Trail Glove 3 Review Trail Glove Best of the Best $100 2.9 6.9 24.7 11 11 0 2.0 8
Topo Tribute Review Tribute Recommended $100 5.9 7.3 11.4 20 18 -1 4.3 6
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 Review Universe Highly Recommended $125 10.7 3.1 10.6 9 12 1 3.3 9
Merrell Vapor Glove 2 Review Vapor Glove Highly Recommended $85 2.1 6.1 27.6 6 5 0 1.3 10
New Balance Vazee Pace Review Vazee Pace Worth considering $110 6.0 8.6 13.4 18 24 6 5.2 5
Asics TartherZeal 3 Review Zeal Worth considering $140 10.9 6.3 9.8 17 27 9 6.8 6

It's not a running shoe, but I love the Hoka Tor Ultra hiking boot and I've tested the Altra Lone Peak Boot.
Older shoe reviews: Saucony Hattori Review, Mizuno Cursoris Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, Hoka Clifton Review, Saucony Virrata 2 Review, Brooks PureCadence 3 Review, Brooks PureConnect 3 Review, Brooks PureFlow 3 Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, New Balance 980 Review, Brooks Transcend 2 Review.
Reviews of shoes that are not worth including on the table: Hoka Huaka Review, Patagonia EVERlong Review.