The Sole Runner Pure shoes arrived direct from Germany in a simple cardboard shoe box that included the following customs declaration: House Slippers. Upon opening the box I could see why they were labeled that way. The Pure is an extremely flexible shoe whose uppers are constructed of mostly 3D mesh and a cushioned fabric overlay to give it just a hint of structure. The shoes have a sole made of an abrasion-resistant but very thin material. That same (or a similar) material wraps up the sides around the base of the upper to help protect the lower portions of the mesh.
When I picked them up I definitely thought they could pass for a comfortable shoe that might be worn inside the home. However, a closer inspection of the Pure revealed that they are definitely designed for active movement. The shoes include a lacing system made up of nylon loops that when pulled tight by the laces can be used to wrap snugly, but comfortably around the foot.
After putting on the shoes my first impression was that they felt super flat and the sole may be the thinnest I have ever tried (this was confirmed after researching the sole and learning that it is only 1.5mm thick). The ground feel is awesome and my initial walk around the office had me excited to seek out textures to feel through the shoe. I worried that the shoes might be a little too minimal for me, but knew that many would likely really love the feel.
- Manufacturer: Sole Runner
- Model: Pure
- Weight: 130 grams, approximately 4.6 ounces
- Outsole: 1.5mm
- Midsole: None
- Heel-to-Toe Drop: 0mm
- Website: http://www.sole-runner.com
From my first few steps it was obvious that the shoes were designed to maximize ground feel and minimize any impact a shoe has on running form. The thin and flexible sole allowed my foot to naturally flex to absorb impact, but also made for a few zinger moments where pointy little rocks painfully made their presence known.
My first run was a controlled MAF run where my goal was to run at an aerobic heart rate. The shoes worked well for that, but I am not sure I would've felt comfortable moving at a much faster pace unless I knew the terrain was smooth and free of poky rocks. I found myself having to think a bit more about what I placed my foot onto than I do typically and inherently understood that I would be using this shoe with caution. That being said, I couldn't help but feel like a ninja silently moving through the neighborhood. I think a runner with a longer history of near barefoot running would feel very comfortable in these shoes.
Once on grass the shoes felt particularly good. As I've previously mentioned I like a bit of cushion in my shoes - since the Pure do not have much (any) cushion, the grass was appreciated.
During the first run I also noticed that I had ordered the shoes too small. I could feel my sock-enclosed foot rubbing a bit in the toe box. Since the entire shoe is flexible I didn't feel like my toes were going to bruise, but I would've liked a little more space especially since the shoes have a good anatomical shape - it seemed a shame to not set my foot free in them. The fit was glove-like and overall very comfortable.
When I returned to the office I thought it funny that my coworker said "Nice, where'd you get those ninja shoes?". I guess the initial impression I had is a common one.
I have now had a chance to log more miles in the Pure and not much has changed from my initial impressions. Every time I put on the shoes and I nail my running form I am surprised by how quietly I can move. The extreme minimalism continues to intimidate me a bit but I appreciate how light and flexible they are - those of you who have already developed feet strong enough to run barefoot or near barefoot will feel more confident wearing these than I do. Lately I've enjoyed wearing the shoes for easy runs where I think about form and am not concerned with target paces. However, the shoes do feel fast and I have started to end my runs in at a park with strides through the grass at a fairly fast pace over a short distance and really enjoy it.
The assembly of the shoe is of a high quality. The Sole Runner website showcases the German engineering that went into the brand and I would agree that they feel like a well designed and well made product. It's unclear how long the sole will last, but I believe on the feet of a gentle, biomechanically efficient runner the fairly tough sole will hold up well.
Lastly, it's also worth mentioning that the shoes feel great for day-to-day wear. Had I sized them correctly (to allow a better fit with a thin sock) I would be wearing these to work on a regular basis. I believe with careful use the Sole Runner Pure will help me develop stronger feet and would especially recommend them to people who are looking for a near to barefoot experience.