Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Newton Distance Review

While I meandered around the 2012 Wipro San Francisco Marathon expo, I came across a Newton Running booth. This was the first time I had seen them in the flesh, and while I find them at nearly every expo and at our local running stores now, I had yet to get a good look at their products. I had read about this shoe, I had heard great things about the shoe, and well both my wife and I were intrigued. Speaking for myself, I had run races of one mile road race to full marathon in minimalist shoes. I had dabbled in the Vibram Bikila for my shorter runs (always felt fast in these), regularly ran in the Nike Free Run + on the road, and the Merrell Trail Glove on the dirt, and I was looking for a shoe that might offer a tad more comfort than the Nike shoe for longer road based runs while maintaining the minimalist ideal.
Perhaps it was a case of I’m running a race tomorrow energy, but we stopped, through the
Men's 2012 Distance seen here.
shoes on, ran a few steps and both ended up in a pair (and two free hats, a pair of free socks, a water bottle, and a reusable bag). Since we both had worn and were wearing flexible, minimal shoes, they urged us to purchase the Distance, claiming it was lightweight, semi flexible (more on this later) and the most comparable shoe to what I was racing in the next day, the Nike Free Run + 2.

Initial Impressions:

  • A flashy set of shoes. Newton Running embraced the neon, bright colors revolution that we see in running shoes today, and they did so early. All of their shoes are bright, distinctive, and easy to spot.
  • The shoe was not extremely flexible. In order to be a natural running shoe, I feel that the shoe must bend and allow the foot to move the way it wants to. Not all shoes do this on day one, sometimes a few runs are needed, and that was my hope. Being a forefoot lander (this fact has always been true), I need the shoe to move.
  • I sized at a 12 at the direction of the Newton rep. I wear an 11.5 Nike and an 11 Skora, my primary shoe now. The fit was tight on the top of the foot, but the toes seemed to be loose. The heel, felt loose as well, the shoe didn’t seem to grasp as well as I hopped during the early miles. I question whether I should have sized at 11.5—perhaps I would have had a better, more accurate fit and thus a better experience.
  • The lugs on the bottom of the shoe feel odd, especially when walking around. I felt tall, but a tad unstable.
Running in them:
Upon returning to Florida, I set about trying the Newton Distance, incorporating it into my shoe rotation, trying them out mostly on concrete. My first post marathon run came in these shoes, thus initial results were hard to gauge with residual discomfort. That said, I used them around two times a week from August to November, running around 200 or so miles. I used them for speed and recovery, runs usually averaging 5-8 miles. Here are my thoughts.
First off, these are loud shoes. Since I had converted to a more minimal shoe, I had grown used to soft, controlled steps. These steps had vanished with the Newtons. I heard my feet—in fact I can now call Newtons out when I race by sound, a distinctive hollow clap. Sound aside, the shoes remained rigid—they never gained flex and always felt as if they were rejecting and not accepting my foot. The ground feel that is evident in the Nike Free, Merrell Trail Glove or Road Glove, and the Vibram, seemed distant, and thus kept me from taking these on a trail for fear of suffering a serious injury.
While the shoe advertised comfort, I never felt it; they seemed to react as a rigid platform that dispersed energy at their will. My legs, especially my upper shins and the top of my ankles would develop odd pains. While they could counter with the adage that this pain was due to strengthening, this pain was not strengthening pain—I had been running in minimal for quite some time. This pain reminded me of the standard shoes I had left behind when I grew tired of being hurt for no reason. They took my wife out of one training cycle, tendonitis in the upper ankle, and she shelved her pair after only about 40-50 miles.
While running in them I had to work to land on my forefoot. The lugs wore oddly, if at all, for I The Thunder Road Marathon in November. At times I felt fast in these shoes, at others I seemed to have an abject reaction, removing them in favor of finishing a run unshod or taking them off right upon my finish to cool down in my socks. While I try to run a couple miles a week at the end of runs without shoes, I had never before removed shoes out of distaste or the mental need.
Newton Distance at 200 miles
seemed to land more on my toes and then to struggle to bring the midfoot down since it was reluctant to bend. I always felt as if I was over striding in them, and as a result, I developed a pain in my left hip—a first in 19 years of running. The pain would come mid-run and be there for multiple days, almost preventing me from running
In the end, I have moved on from this pair. I gave them a try, but we were not a fit. I almost contacted the company to use their 30 day guarantee, but I didn’t out of principal—I had paid for them, so I kept them. Perhaps they will work for you, the masses seem to love them more and more, but I, at least for now, am not a believer.

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