Brooks Running Pure Flow 5
Guest review by Austin Bonds
A few years ago I came across the term “flow” and the relationship it has with running. A study on this intriguing concept is a worthwhile article for a later date, but Dr. Cindra Kamphoff summarizes flow well with these words: “Flow is when you are completely involved in a task to the point of forgetting fatigue, time and anything else but the activity itself.” Do runners experience flow? I believe they can and do from time to time, but I also believe that a handful of factors contribute to this experience – including the right shoes.
Speaking of footwear, the people at Brooks recently updated the Pure Flow, and version five has been disrupted a bit, namely from the designers and engineers who have a hand in crafting this particular model. So are the disruptions (e.g. changes) they made for year five good?
Unlike the Launch 3, which changed little from the Launch 2, the Flow 5 stands in stark contrast to the Flow 4. I’ll begin with design. The Flow 5 wins this accolade hands down. The 3-D Fit Print and the sweeping stars across the upper, tongue, and along the midsole undoubtedly captured my attention. The design is sharp, and Brooks continues to create unique color patterns with each passing year.
Since I’m on the subject of design, a glaring omission on the Brooks Pure Flow 5 is the strap that stretches across the midfoot. I slipped the Flow 4 (which employs the strap) on one foot and the Flow 5 on the other foot to gauge a perceived difference in the midfoot fit. I didn’t perceive one, but the Flow 4 feels slightly wider in the midfoot. The fit in the forefoot in the Flow 5, however, is another story.
Runners I meet, who like Brooks tend to like the presence of a wider toe box, but the Flow 5 tapers off up front – more so than the Flow 4. I have somewhat narrow feet, but I felt cramped in the forefoot. That said, a thin sock (or no sock for that matter) can open up some space in the toe box and potentially enhance the fit more.
Though the upper and the midfoot on the Flow 5 are a departure from the Flow 4, the changes on this model don’t stop there. Since the midsole is a critical component of a running shoe, I’ll venture there next. Brooks exchanged the BioMoGo DNA for DNA LT, which translates into a 10% lighter midsole.
As to the feeling underfoot, the Brooks website describes the midsole of the Flow 5 as one that provides “adaptive cushioning to respond to your pace.” I have the sense that this statement means a quicker pace will correspond to a firmness about the shoe whereas a slower pace equates to a softer feel. Whether walking or running in the Flow 5, the shoe felt firmer than soft – at least, to me.
I’d be remiss to conclude this article without a few remarks on the outsole as it was overhauled too. Brooks scrapped the pod structure on the outsole, along with the split toe design in the forefoot. The outsole in the Flow 5 appears similar to the Glycerin from a design standpoint though the Glycerin is a more cushioned shoe, ideal for longer runs as it offers more protection. The Pure Flow is generally regarded as a lightweight trainer though this is by no means an indication that it is better suited for shorter distances.
Needless to say, this would have been a shorter article if it was written about the Launch 3, but the Flow 5 has changed much from the Flow 4 – and all of the changes need to be accounted for as the fit of the shoe is new and unique and different. Furthermore, the reality of these revisions to the Flow 5 means that fans of the Flow 4 may not like this update. Others will find it to be a fantastic shoe. This is why trying on the shoe is essential for the sake of gauging personal comfort.
I will be curious to see how the Flow 5 is received in the coming weeks and months as Brooks will also be introducing a new lightweight trainer later this year: the Neuro. Those pods, noticeably absent on the Flow 5 outsole, look like they will make a return in some form on the Neuro. Incidentally, “neuro” refers to the mind, as does the word “flow” (which I referenced earlier). In light of this, try on both the Flow and the Neuro. Your brain will decide which is best.
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