by Bill “Guru of Shoe” Lorenz
How can one shoe be so dominant? How can so many people like this one model? Should we be concerned if the upgrade of this one model (due in January) doesn’t live up to the reputation of the current model? What to do, what to do?
I’ve been on a quest to find a worthy challenger to the amazing Brooks PureFlow 2 and the closely related Brooks PureConnect 2. Try as I might, everything I’ve brought in thus far has been close but no cigar.
One model was actually lighter, a little less supportive, and a little firmer. They sold quite well when we first got them in. Then an employee literally shredded a pair in about 100 miles. Not good! I immediately returned the remaining stock to the company. They still aren’t very happy with me.
Another brand/model even resembles the PureFlow a little, is nice and light and flexible, maybe even a little lighter. They have been selling relatively well, but when I bring them out for someone who likes the PureFlow, the PureFlow wins more than 80% of the time. If shoes had a batting average this player would be solidly stuck in the minor leagues.
ASICS has a model I think might be competitive, but it won’t be available until January… January? Come on, ASICS, step up your game! The last ASICS model we tested to compete with the PureFlow was rejected by all three testers I had try them. Tough crowd or crappy shoe?
Saucony Cortana 3
With all this in mind, I’d like to introduce you to the Saucony Cortana 3. The Cortana has been around for a few years, but has been lurking way in the background of most runners' consciousness. Why would I bring this shoe in now you may ask? The simple answer is I’m desperate… desperate for a shoe that can compete.
Acting on a hunch, I asked for a sample pair, ran them on our treadmill, wore them all weekend several weeks ago, and had several others run in them as well. From a comfort, weight, and flexibility perspective they made the cut.
Patrick Davis, my most reliable tester (after yours truly), had this to say about them:
I have been a hardcore believer of the PureFlow since it first came out. The wide footbed, 4 mm drop, and cushy but responsive feel had me sold. The price is right and the durability is okay compared to more traditional high-mileage shoes. I classify myself as a mid-mileage runner, and depending on the pair, I have gotten between 200 and 400 miles per pair of PureFlow shoes.
As a customer-centric store, we like to offer customers variety. After a short chat about goals, mileage, and injuries and a quick gait analysis, we encourage customers to try on as many pairs of shoes as fit with their needs. When we throw any of the Pure line into the mix, we do not have another shoe to directly compare them to. So here is where the Saucony Cortana 3 became an option. But like Bill will ask, is it worth the extra $$?
My first impression of the Cortana was very positive. Out of the box, these have a more traditional shoe look with hints of minimalism. The styling and outward features make the Cortana stand out more than the PureFlow. Once on, I noticed the toe-bed is not quite as wide but still in a comfortable range. The shoe wrapped my foot very comfortably and could tell it had more of the "traditional" shoe feel.
The first test was about a mile on the treadmill in the shop to make sure this was a shoe worthy of really putting some miles onto. The 4 mm drop was spot on and very conducive to a mid-foot strike. They are a bit heavier than the PureFlow but not enough to take them out of the "lightweight trainer" category. The ride is quite comfortable with the right ratio of cushioning and response.
Later on, I put in 12 miles on the Saucony Cortana and was quite pleased. No blisters or weird numbness from odd tight points as can sometimes happen in new shoes. Right off the bat it felt like they were broken in. These were not fast miles, so I'm excited to see how they react during a tempo or track session.
Pros: Comfy and responsive ride, seem to be built more durably and I will hopefully get more miles out of them (time will tell), felt great right out of the box
Cons: Tighter footbed than I would like, price
So I placed an order and here they sit in the stockroom awaiting your feedback and your credit card. But I have to be honest with you, there is a problem. The PureFlow 2 cost $100. (The PureFlow 3 will be $110) These bad boys are $150! Can they compete with a $100 (soon to be $110) PureFlow? We’ll see.
We have the Saucony Cortana.