I want to write something about the trail shoe I’ve been running in since I started training for Leadville, but to get to those impressions I first need to give a frame of reference. My last 3 trail running shoes have been, the New Balance Minimus MT10, Vibram Trek Sport, and Brooks Cascadia 3. I haven’t run in the Cascadia’s in a long time. I think that the Steamboat 50 may well have been their retirement party. That said, I do still use the shoes for yardwork and when I feel like my feet need a rest.
On to the back story then. When I came to the States in October I brought with me two pairs of shoes. The VFF Bikila and my MT10s. Unfortunately, I was forced to realize that I need more protection for races (and trail running in general) during the Blues Cruise 50k. I also quickly realized that in order to be able to walk to the corner I would need a shoe with a bit more support.
It so happened that, while I was in the Northern Hemisphere and with great fanfare, Brooks launched their Pure line of shoes. These are shoes with a 4 millimeter heel to toe offset and a minimal aesthetic which appealed to me, but were much more shoe than I was currently running in. I ordered a pair online.
When I was able to resume running again, I took the Grits up to Cuevas with me and left them there. They’re the shoes I run in when I’m in the hills. My running here isn’t terribly technical, but the roads can get rocky – fist sized cobbles regularly pave my running routes. It was an ill placed foot strike in my MT10s which initiated the difficulties which eventually taught me to appreciate that sometimes an ounce of protection is worth a pound of cure.
Enough of that then. Here are my impressions. When I first tried on the shoe, I thought it about the most comfortable shoe I had ever put on. I even tweeted that feeling to @brooksrunning. A little later on however, I thought they may “run” a bit longer than the Cascadia 3 in the same size (14 in my case).
More recently, I’ve come to notice that the Grit have a lot more internal structure than the MT10s too. There’s a bit of of an arch support. These days, when I first put the shoes on I find it annoying, but I don’t notice it while I’m running. There’s also a bit of heel structure, but the heel is cut nice and low - I don’t feel any pressure on the back of my foot while running at all.
One area I used to have major problems was with a tendon that bridges the angle the top of the foot makes with the lower leg. I found that shoes which laced high up the foot (tight to the ankle) would iritate that tendon over time and I’d have real problems even just tying a shoe. This is one thing my transition to minimal footwear cleared up very quickly.
The Grit doesn’t seem to have brought a return of that malady (note: I mix up my footwear a lot). The tongue of the shoe is padded in the right places and isn’t where it doesn’t need to be. A design feature I really like.
An instant complaint about the shoe was the silly Navband or whatever they call it:
According to Brooks, it was there supposedly to give a custom fit to the upper. In my case it’s superfluous green and silver elastic. It did nothing to enhance the fit of the shoe at all and I feel it actually detracts from the overall look of the shoe. Laces do a fine job of providing a custom fit, why even consider adding that thing to begin with?
That’s really a nitpicky complaint. I do like that the Navband provides a place to stow my laces. The laces stay put and don’t trip me even on my hardest runs…
As far as actual running in them goes? I’ve now got 150 miles in them and I have no complaints. I thought that they may have been too long initially, but they seem to fit just right. Once I got the lacing dialed, I haven’t had any problems with slipping in the shoe and I don’t have even the slightest hint of a black toenail. Maybe they’re a half size too big, but better that than a half size too small. Dear Brooks, please release a size 13.5. I promise: I’d try it on.
I like the tread pattern. It’s really open and it provides more than adequate traction. I’ve run in a fair bit of sticky hideous mud and the mud seems to shed quite quickly.
I’m not sure about the center pod or the “independent big toe”, but they don’t seem to hurt the shoe’s performance. The pod is supposed to inform your foot of the shoes center position. I guess that means it was included to improve the ground feel of the shoe. I don’t notice that section of the sole of the shoe providing any more feedback than any other. In all the Grit provides a whole lot more information that my Cascadias ever did, but it smoothes out the road in a way the MT10s don’t by providing extra cushioning between foot and ground.
Around Cuevas there are many, many streams. Stream crossings are inevitable. The upper is wide open and drains water quickly. Feet will stay dry with a couple changes of socks.
As far as durability, these shoes are wearing out just about the same as every other pair of trail shoes I’ve owned. All of these pictures were taken at 120 miles:
The outside of my heels is worn down more than the rest of the outsole, but there’s still plenty of traction left in the rest of the shoe. I expect to get another 150-200 miles in these shoes. I weighed in at 205 when I started running in these shoes and have dropped 10 – 15 lbs since. I am by no means a featherweight forefoot runner. I allow my heels to come down under me when I run…
For some reason I seem to wear the part of the upper just forward of my ankle bone out. Every pair of shoes I own exhibits this wear pattern. Even my Vibram Five Fingers. Is that just in the nature of shoes or is it something that makes me special?
In all, I’ve really enjoyed my time in the Grits and am actually considering them for the start of the Leadville 100. They are light, fit my feet well (13.5? please), provide good feedback but still offer more protection than my other options. They are minimal without being stupid. Had I worn these in my race in October, I’d have run top 25 for sure - perhaps even top 20. Hindsight…
Thanks for reading and may your shoes always quickly shed mud.