This may not be of any value to many here, but I figure I would post my thoughts on this shoe for some that may have been interested in this....
I've been running in neutral trail shoes for several years now and have been less than monogamous in my relationship with off road footwear. There have been few that enthralled me and had me believing there could be no other- the New Balance MT100 and MT101 was one such shoe. The MT100/101 was the first minimal trail running shoe for me that opened the door to other moderately flat and simple trail shoe options. Since the MT100/101, I have run in a few other shoes, including the New Balance MT10 Minimus Trail for a period of time , which is an excellent near "barefoot" tool for stimulating the feet and working lower leg muscles differently, but they lacked the dampening and protection in the upper that I wanted in a daily trail shoe for me running 5-6 days a week. Seeking out a more robust shoe for an upcoming 50 mile trail race back in Oct. '11, I stumbled upon the Saucony Peregrine, which strikes a very good balance as a trainer/racer trail shoe. The Peregrine has been a solid trail shoe for me, both nimble and fast, but offering adequate protection for technical trails and a solid locked in fit with a relatively snug upper. The only real knock for me with the Peregrine is the slightly aggressive taper as you move toward the front of the toebox- small blisters developed on the tips of my toes in the Peregrines during my last ultra run- this was due to the toebox forcing my toes together in response to the repeated pounding and not accommodating for foot swell over the distance. Is this a problem? Only outside of my regular weekly running volume and distances. I haven't eliminated the Peregrine from my quiver. Moving on...
My unfaithful tendencies with trail running shoes has led me to the more recent Brooks Pure Grit, which is Brooks' first foray into the neutral/flat and "minimal" side of the shoe spectrum. Brooks has been clever in their marketing to not tout their Pure Grit line as a "barefoot" shoe, which it clearly is not, rather they are maintaining a certain amount of neutrality in their approach to this line in an attempt to not polarize this line of shoes into one camp of users. The Brooks Pure Grit is an amalgamation of different attributes currently found in minimal trail running shoes. It has a very wide one piece outsole that is broader than the upper that rests upon it- slightly atypical. Brooks forgoes the thin hardened rock plate in this shoe which has become common place in most trail shoes and they rely on a slightly more substantial midsole paired with a solid one piece rubber outsole to provide the necessary underfoot protection and traction required for running varying trail conditions on any given run. It seems Brooks did not have one specific surface in mind when designing the outsole tread pattern for the Grits, or flip that thought, maybe they had every possible surface type in mind when designing the outsole? The outsole appears slightly over designed and stylized, as if some Brooks designer ran some intense CAD models one late night- some form over function perhaps? I've run on my local desert trails and surfaces in the area in the Brooks Pure Grit, such as: slick rock, sandstone, arroyos, limestone, assorted gravels, volcanic tuff, mud, rough pavement, snow...... etc. What do I think? Well I haven't been slipping around out there on the trails so I guess the outsole is working just fine for me. How's that for qualitative data! The durometer on the outsole is unique, it is neither unwaveringly firm as is found on the MT101 and Saucony Peregrine, yet it isn't as soft as some blown foam outsoles found on extremely cushioned shoes. It is a generalist outsole in many ways, it doesn't excel exceedingly well at any singular surface, but does handle most conditions I have thrown at them over the last 8 weeks well enough to fade far away into the background of my runs and not be of any concern. One thing I have come to learn from using different trailrunning shoes is that deliberate foot placement and technique can often make up for any lack of traction related to an inadequate outsole.
I have roughly ~300 miles in the Brooks Pure Grits and have been more than pleased with the shoe. The Grits are a relatively durable shoe considering the lightweight materials used and despite my initial reservations of the design- they have proven to be a very comfortable neutral trail shoe that I can throw on for everyday running, much like I can with the Saucony Peregrines. Where the Pure Grit also shines is in the toebox for me. Users of the MT101 with average volume feet may find the Pure Grit offers more in the toebox, at least this is the case with my experience and my foot shape. Tactile response underfoot in the Pure Grit is dampened due to the midsole, but not to the point of numbing proportions. I can still respond to sharp rocks mid strike and adjust on the fly in the Pure Grits without feeling compromised. However, don't expect to feel every detailed undulation of the trail underfoot in this shoe, not going to happen- if this is something you're looking for then run barefoot or make huaraches. Cushioned midsoles are the "epidurals" of the minimalist running world, but for runners who are going out for long runs on rocky trails a supple midsole can be a godsend, especially as distance and time on the feet increases. In this case I have found the ample midsole cushioning in the Pure Grit to be welcomed and have not noticed any deleterious effects on my form as a runner. Out of the box the Pure Grits felt awkwardly raised and elevated, this lasted through the first few runs, before proper settling of the footbed occurred. After this small break in period I found the shoe nimble and responsive underfoot.
Things that just flat don't do anything as far as I can tell:
Nav band across the top of the foot- too loose and is only good for serving as a signal flare to overhead aircraft or tucking laces.
Split toe- this has to be the single biggest gimmick on the shoe, it just isn't noticeable as far as I can tell. Maybe that is a good thing.
Now how would the Brooks Pure Grit serve as a backpacking shoe? YTBD- I haven't had a chance to wear these with a pack and probably wouldn't reach for these as my first, second, or even third choice for a multi-day backpacking trip. Why? For one the price of the shoe is costly, there are less expensive options that would suffice for hiking. Due to the open mesh design in the upper, long term durability would also likely become an issue if you gravitate off trail for extended periods of time while backpacking.
Enough words, here are some photos: