Newton Shoes — Standing on the shoulders of giants

There are two kinds of people in this world…

One of my favorite geek jokes is “There are 10 kinds of people in this world, those that understand binary and those that don’t” (if you don’t get it, google it).

Well, a “two kinds of people” moment happened to me yesterday.  I received my “Newton Distance” shoes  in the mail, laced them up, and broke them in for the next hour or so.  The neon green/yellow almost glows in full sunlight.  Every single person I saw said something to the likes of “Whoa, bright shoes”…”Hey nice shoes” (sarcastically)…or better, my mother-in-law says “What in the world are those?!”   An hour later, I headed to the track for a workout and the first person I see says “Hey, nice Newtons!!!” with 100% sincerity.  So, the same joke applies — “There are two kinds of people in this world, those that know Newtons and those that don’t”.

How Newton usurped my Vibrams

For those who are in the “don’t” camp, let me bring you up to speed.  There is a faction of athletes who believe we have been running all wrong for decades.  These people believe that landing on your heel first when running is the cause of most running injuries, that nature just didn’t build us to run with big padded healed shoes, and that running as close to barefoot is the perfect solution.  Thus enters a whole new industry in the running shoe universe, which has been quickly filled by some excellent newcomers and by the old stodgy staples (do you think Nike has ever been called “stodgy” before).

As with every new revolution (or fade), there is an explosion of books, videos. blogs…  If you want to learn more, here are a few of the more famous books:  Born to Run by Christopher McDougall, Chi Running by Danny Dreyer,  Pose Method of Running by Dr. Nicholas Romanov.  Or just google it and you’ll find about a bazillion sites.  The Newton Running website is also a great resource, especially the Run Better section.

Vibram is probably the most recognizable newcomer to your running shoe store (and actually they have been around forever making some of the best soles in the industry).  The “Five Finger” shoe stands out like no other, with its individual toes and absolutely minimalist design.  Being a “track guy” and already being a toe runner/midfoot runner, these screamed out as perfect for me.  I don’t run much mileage and when I do it’s on the beach, so I wasn’t scared of jarring my knees and back against the concrete.  So, these became my default warm-up (usually on grass) and beach shoes…and I loved them.

But last week I was at the running store and saw the Newtons.  Being in the “know Newtons” group already, I wanted to try them on.  This store had a treadmill, so I hopped on for a bit and immediately fell in LOVE.  Newton Running came at the minimalist “revolution” from a different angle thanVibram.  Instead of just giving your barefoot a tough sole, Newton tried to engineer a better midfoot running solution.  So, they added what they call “LUGS” under the balls of your feet.  These lugs press into a highly resilient membrane that absorbs impact and returns energy back to you with every stride.  And I really believe this is true (of course independent tests also show it to be true).  They just felt better than any shoe I’d ever worn.

Now remember, I’m already a midfoot/forefoot runner, so they felt ultra-natural on my feet (if you’re wondering why I keep saying midfoot and forefoot, it’s because I truly run both ways….the faster I run, the more forefoot I run).  More than likely, you’re not…so they are going to feel weird.  And this is where learning to run like a Kenyan or Tarahumara (highlighted in Born to Run) comes into play.  To me, the Newton is perfect for anyone just getting started.   It still has a heel, so if you do strike it, you’re not jarred 100%, but the lugs give you biofeedback immediately, telling you if you’re landing heel, midfoot, or forefoot.  So, these shoes are a perfect transition shoe…as well as a perfect destination shoe.  The Vibrams are definitely harder on the newbie.

One more thing, these are not walking around shoes.  First, they are SOOOO loud, you can’t hear yourself think (not all the styles, but the one I got).  And second, the lugs are not that comfortable for walking.  Or maybe I’m just not used to them.

So, are my Vibrams headed for the trash?  No, I’ll still use them for my beach runs.  And actually hiking steep boulder-filled trails is pretty fun…because you really use your toes.  But these Newtons are now my go-to shoe for EVERY other time I lace up to run.

Read more on the Newton website: http://www.newtonrunning.com/home/

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