June 30, 2013

Newton Distance shoe review

If you’ve seen Newtons before or had to try them on because their vivid rainbow colors called to you from across a crowded race expo, you know they’re not your ordinary running shoes. The first pair I ever tried on were my physical therapist’s. After telling me at our previous appointment about how she triple swears by them, she brought them to the office for me to check out, and even though they were a size too big, I was impressed by how light they were when I tried them on.

How light? The Newton Distance Lightweight Neutral Performance Trainers that I tested for this review weigh in at 6.8 oz. 

In addition to loving the feather weight, I was like, what the heck are these lugs under my forefoot? If you don’t notice how light they are when you first test drive them, you’ll definitely notice the lugs.

Sole: What are these lugs? Check out these pictures to see them. 

Newton dubs these lugs the biomechanical metatarsal sensor plate, and they say that the plate:
allows you to sense the ground better so you can stride more efficiently and with more stability -- some might even say more intelligently, the way nature intended. Some call this "neuromuscular" enhancement. The foot senses the ground and sends a message to the brain to tell the muscles what to do.
Here's a quick sample of what I looked like using that technology.

As with anything new, Newton wisely recommends that you take it slow with these shoes. In fact, they dedicate a lot of space on their site to educating you on proper running form. Plus, they include this info sheet with their shoes. 

Because I don’t normally run roads in shoes that have a low heel-toe drop and these Newtons are 2mm-drop, I decided to take it extra slow with these. I’m currently up to running about six miles in them, and this fall, I’d like to get up to a half marathon.

For me, the lugs (aka biomechanical metatarsal sensor plate) are the positive and negative of this shoe. They seem to help when running, and I especially noted the extra help on hills. But when I was just standing in them or walking in them, it felt uncomfortable and tended to make my feet sore. Newton addresses that here, by saying that your feet need time to strengthen the muscles, tendons and ligaments that you might not have used with your previous shoe.

Another place that I was surprised by the effect of the lugs was off road. Even though I have the road version of this shoe (they also offer a trail version), I was surprised by the lug reaction when I was on the shoulder of the road. Prior to testing this shoe, I felt like I would only like the road version because I thought the lugs might get annoying on trails. Who needs extra bumps on a trail? What I really found was that I didn’t notice the lugs at all while on the trail, proving wrong my theory that they would be disruptive on trails.

When I wear them: Currently, I am using the Newtons as part of my weekly shoe rotation. I am becoming a believer in rotating not just one brand of shoe but different brands of shoes to exercise your foot in different ways. I’ve noticed the benefit for me injury-wise (as in getting less of them) with rotating shoe brands and giving my foot a break from the repetition of the same foot strike again and again. With the Newtons you will definitely get something different from your other brands of running shoes, and I’ve liked working my foot in a new way.

My local running buddy got some about the same time as I did, and she already built up to running a half marathon in hers. When I asked her how they felt at the longer distance, she said she noticed that they helped her maintain her form, especially at the end when you’re most likely to let your form fall apart.

Width: Now to other aspects of the shoe, the uppers! Other than the fabulous colors that these shoes come in, I give these shoes a 10 out of 10 for upper comfort. My foot isn’t incredibly wide, but wide enough that some shoes (looking at you, Saucony) just won’t work for me. These give you plenty of room in the toe box, plus the material surrounding your toes (metatarsal stretch panel) has extra stretch. If you try them on, try spreading your toes out as far as possible so that you can feel how the material gives you extra stretch. Ahhhh, I love it!

Sizing: I ordered a half size up from my street-shoe size, and that worked well. If you’re near me in Birmingham, they carry the trail and road versions at Trak Shak, where you can go in and figure out your best fit. If you aren’t lucky enough to have a store near you (check here for locations) that sells them, look for their booths at expos.

Summary: I know a lot of people personally who swear by these shoes. They love how the biomechanical metatarsal sensor plates propel them forward and feel like that makes their long runs easier. I have definitely experienced the forward pull of the lugs, especially on hills, and will continue to build my mileage in this shoe. Newton wisely recommends taking it slow with this shoe in the beginning, particularly if you are new to low-drop shoes. Try this shoe if you are looking to experiment with a new shoe technology or if you are looking for a lightweight, zero-drop shoe that gives you extra width in the toe box.


  1. I wore these shoes for over a year and while I did love the lightweight feel of them, I ended up having more problems / injuries while wearing them. Mainly in my calf and achilles. My toenails also took a major beating in these shoes because they changed the way my foot hit the ground. I do think my running form improved because of them though. Even though I'm in a different shoe now, I run much more efficiently.

    1. Thanks for adding your input! I love hearing from people who have worn them for an extended period.

  2. I've always wanted to try Newtons! I'll hold off for now with my foot injury, but to back up Saucony.....I love their narrow shoes. I wear an 11/12 in women's and usually buy men's running shoes. I may have a long foot but it is super narrow. Saucony's are my fav!

    1. I've only tried a trail shoe with them, and my toes were numb before I even started running. My road friend complained about another shoe design getting wider from one version to the next--someone has to make shoes for the narrow feet!

  3. Maybe I will check out their trail shoes. I tried one brand and don't really like them (I can't even remember the name right now!!) but I think that the 50 mile I'm running in October is mostly trail so I need something.
    Thanks for the review!!

  4. Nice review. I currently use the Gravity shoes for Long and some easy weekday runs as part of my rotation. +1 to easing into them slowly. I am a natural forefoot striker so the adjustment wasn't too bad.

  5. I love Newton for both road and trail. I thought the same thing about the trail but found they are actually very helpful!

  6. I've been wearing Newton Gravity for speed work and distances up to 10 miles for about 5 years now. That said, I overdid it in the Lady Isaacs and ended up quite injured. Be careful and build slowly for sure.

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  8. I have worn two pairs of the Newton Motion completely out. I was using my first pair of newtons and rotating with my Saucony's but I loved the Newtons so much that I only use the Saucony's for gardening now. I have always been a forefoot runner and I have had constant bouts of shin splints for years. I would run for a few months and then have to take a month off.. run for a few months, take a month off. I have been shin-pain-free for about a year now with these Newton Motions. I am thinking of transitioning to the Distance U to see what the difference is now that I have to get a new pair. I didn't like the look of these Newtons in the beginning, but they feel so good that now I think they are absolutely adorable. I don't think I will ever switch brands again.


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