Thursday, December 13, 2012

Shoe Comparison Test: Brooks PureCadence 2 vs. Saucony Mirage 3

This is the first time that we here at Maine Running Company have put up a comparison test, and for good reason: this process is an entirely subjective one. This comparison test is not going to say that one shoe is better than another. Instead, this comparison test will instead let you know how I, your faithful reviewer, felt in these two shoes that compete in the same category. This will just let you know what I prefer out of the category, versus the winner being a better shoe. You could line-up 20 people with my feet, tell them to go run in these two shoes, and I'm sure you'd get varying responses as to the winner.

That being said, I think it's useful to compare two shoes in this manner, as after all, it is this same kind of head-to-head process that leads to someone choosing one pair of shoes versus another. We don't always get the experience of testing things out for countless miles before deciding on a pair. (Well, with our Personal Fit Guarantee here at Maine Running Company, if you have a problem with a pair of shoes, you can always bring them back.)

So, what exactly are we talking about here?

Brooks PureCadence 2 (image courtesy of Brooks Sports)

Saucony Mirage 3 (image courtesy of Saucony)
The Tech Babble
The Mirage and the PureCadence live in the realm of "natural" running shoes. By that, we mean that the shoe features a lower heel-toe offset than your traditional models. In this case, the Mirage and PureCadence both feature a heel-toe offset of 4 millimeters. This is a 66% reduction in offset versus your traditional shoe, so the first word of caution: if you're going to think about switching into either one of these shoes and you've been using more traditional models, you're going to have a relatively extensive transition period. 

However, if you're like me, and have had extensive problems in traditional models, it might be worth exploring changing your body positioning in a running shoe. The one thing that changing your heel-toe offset will not do is change your running style. You can still very much heel-strike in a shoe like this, and I'm a prime example. The point, however, is that this body positioning suits me better than having more elevation of the heel.

Both of these shoes are also the respective "stability" models in their product lines. You'll note the use of quotations around the term stability, and that's because they don't feature traditional medial posting. To break each shoe down further, we'll separate the rest of the Tech Babble section.

Brooks solves the problem of not having a medial post by changing the durometer (firmness) of the midsole. They tuned the lateral side to be a bit softer than the medial side, rather than going with a standard midsole durometer and then adding a stiffer section to the medial side. It solves the same problem of pronation rate adjustment with a slightly different answer.

Typically, Brooks uses two cushioning systems in their shoes: a primary one of their proprietary blend of EVA called BioMoGo; a secondary cushioning system called DNA that provides a different level of impact absorption and firmness based on the stress put on it. For the Pure line of shoes, Brooks blends DNA into the midsole foam itself, rather than it being separate. The result? A much lighter weight shoe versus one with traditional tooling.

Additional features on the Pure Cadence include full-ground contact under the midfoot, allowing the shoe to lose the traditional shank you'd find in the midfoot, as well as a band over the midfoot section to really keep the foot engaged with the platform. The lacing system is asymmetrical on the shoe as well, with the idea that it creates equal engagement with the medial and lateral sides of the foot. 

In a men's size 9, the Cadence weighs in at 9.3 ounces. Of course, in my size 13, we'll need to take that with the entire shaker of salt.

Saucony, on the other hand, goes about their stability by implementing a plastic bridge in the middle part of the foot. It's arguably more traditional than the method that Brooks implements with the Cadence, but it has the same effect regardless. 

The Mirage utilizes both Saucony's blend of EVA along with a ProGrid insert. ProGrid acts much like the strings of a tennis racquet: it bends down to receive you, before springing you off of it with more energy return than a more passive system. Saucony also added some deeper flex grooves in the forefoot of this iteration of the Mirage, which should have two results: increased flexibility, but also further compression of the materials giving a slightly softer ride characteristic.

The upper on the Mirage adopts some of the features from it's neutral brother, the Kinvara: a FlexFilm upper that eliminates seams on the forefoot and gives a more accommodating fit; full ground contact under the midfoot eliminating the need for plastic there as well. This also reduces weight on this iteration of the Mirage down to 8.7 ounces in a men's 9. Unlike the Cadence, the lacing system is more traditional.

The Run: How Do They Stack Up?
Well, I love both of these shoes. But for very different reasons. And it's for those reasons that results in the final evaluations here:

2nd Place: Saucony Mirage 3
If the Mirage were competing against any other shoe in the category, I think it'd have won. It's a really great option in the category. 

The initial try-on is unassuming: you put your foot into it, and notice that the upper just shapes well to your foot. Big credit to the Saucony crew, here, as I'd been so disappointed with the fit in the forefoot on the previous version of the Mirage that I'd given up on it entirely. FlexFilm works to give your foot an excellent combination of support and freedom.

The arch is a touch higher in this version of the Mirage. Saucony's switching to producing their own insoles, and with it comes a slightly higher arch and deeper heel. It gives a slightly softer initial try-on feel as well.

As you start putting your first foot in front of the other, an initial fear hits: is this going to be enough shoe to run in? It feels firm, much firmer than the Cadence. For someone who is making a transition into the category, this might be a bit jarring. But after a couple of minutes, that fear starts to fade away.

The shoe really feels great after that warm-up and as you get into the meat of your run. The responsiveness gives way to some fantastic energy return. It feels very, very easy to pick one foot up and get into your next stride. The shoe, foot, and leg all seem to respond as one.

I think that this would make a fantastic racing shoe for somebody in this category. I went out for a few runs in this shoe, and just felt faster in the Mirage. It was easy to put tempo in and just go. But, there's a price to be paid: it's that responsiveness. I love that feeling, but I think that it might be best reserved for those faster workouts. It's on the borderline of being just enough and not quite enough. And, in my opinion, the purpose of training is being able to get to the start line. And for me, I thought I'd better be able to do that in the Cadence.

1st Place: Brooks PureCadence 2
I didn't want to like these. I'd had so much success in the Mirage before that I didn't want something to shake that idea to the core. I didn't want to change things up.

Well, credit to you, Brooks: you converted me over.

The initial try-on process reveals a luxurious step-in: the whole upper feels like a premium experience. (At $120 a pair, I'd hope so.) The band over the foot keeps you in contact with the insole, which has a nice, high arch to it. The whole shoe is really a testament how Brooks has taken a stand on the natural running model; to call this shoe minimal (and the Mirage, for that matter) is doing it a complete disservice. They feel substantial while being light, versus the Mirage, which just felt light.

As you start your run, you feel the cushioning start to come alive: the shoe gives a good cushioning property to it without feeling squirmy underfoot. Then, as you start picking up the pace, the shoe starts to firm up a little bit to match up. This is a result of that blending of BioMoGo and DNA: as you put more force on the shoe, it actually firms up a little bit to match. 

I did multiple runs in the shoe of varying distances and paces, and the shoe was completely up to task for all of them. Not a single blister, either. The shoe really just responded well to anything you threw at it. It's because of that versatility that the PureCadence emerged the winner.

In reality, I'll find myself racing more in the Mirage, but training every day in the Cadence. Not a bad problem to have.

To be the judge yourself, head on in to one of our store's to see if one of these shoes is for you. (Note: the Mirage 3 does not launch until February 1st).

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the very informative comparison. These are 2 shoes I'm looking at when my current shoes are due for replacement.