Thursday, April 25, 2013

Shoe Review: Newton Distance

Posted by CheapRunnerMike

I am a bit of a shoe geek and I am constantly looking to see how new shoes will perform. With that in mind, I have been scoping out Newton’s lineup for the better part of a year now. I had really wanted to try out their shoes but that $155 price tag was really holding me back (I am supposed to be a ‘Cheap Runner’ after all…). Well, my waiting paid off as the 2012 Newton Distance went on clearance at Running Warehouse for $116.88, and I had a discount code for an additional 15% off, taking the shoes all the way down to $99.35, including free shipping. Now that I can handle. Here’s a CheapRunner tip for you, never be afraid to buy a previous year’s model of a quality shoe…at a discounted price point it can be a great way to try out a shoe you wouldn’t otherwise consider.

First, the stats. Running Warehouse lists the Distance at 7.9oz in a Men’s size 9. I ordered mine in a 10.5 and they came in at 9.2oz according to my kitchen scale. Slightly heavier than my Kinvara 3’s (8.2oz in 10.5) and almost 3oz heavier than my New Balance Minimus Road Zero’s (6.3 in a size 10).

I am a big fan of lo/no-drop shoes and the Distance fit right in with a 3mm heel-to-toe drop. This is right between my Kinvara’s 4mm drop and NB Minimus and Saucony Virrata’s 0mm. Many runners complain about calf pain when switching to lower drop minimal shoes, but I never really went through those growing pains…I had the foresight to walk on my tiptoes as a kid which resulted in much pointing and laughing, but also helped to produce some mother-calves. Pain is something to be aware of when running in low drop shoes though as you will most likely be using muscles you simply aren’t used to while running. Newton has even been kind enough to supply you with an instruction sheet for your new shoes (they call the Newton’s 10 Laws of Better Running…clever).

Once out of the box the first thing to strike you is the bold colour combination…I ordered mine in Lime/Orange/Yellow. I think they look great, but I am colour blind. I guess you can take a look and decide for yourself.

The shoes feel good once you slip them on. There is plenty of wiggle room in the toebox while the heel and midfoot holds snug, exactly what I look for in a running shoe. The shoe does feel pretty ‘flat’, the 3mm drop is not all that noticeable, but this shoe does not feel like you are connected to the ground like some of my other minimalist shoes. There is considerable cushioning throughout the foot and you can certainly feel those lugs up front (I’ll get to those guys later).

When I got to take them out for a test drive I figured that I was best to not go too far…these are advertised as a different type of shoe after all and I was only a couple weeks away from running my first half marathon. I ended up doing a pretty easy 5K in them and they felt real good. The out portion of the run is a pretty tough hill climb that always slows me down and had me up on my toes right away. As I crested the hill the headwind took over but my legs felt spry even after the long climb. I sailed back home and called it a day. About a week later I pulled the Newton’s out again and decided it was time to give them a proper test and went for a 14K run through Springbank Park. I was already dealing with some mild knee pain at this point and wondered if the Newton’s might help maintain my form. This is where the front lugs come into play.

These lugs are supposed to help get you off your heel and promote a midfoot strike. I always thought I was doing this already but I could really feel a difference now. The lugs are made of something Newton calls ‘Action/Reaction’ technology instead of the more common EVA foam found on most shoes. This is meant to transfer your energy more efficiently from foot to road and I found it almost acted like a spring…to put it another way, you can feel some real bounce in your step. It did take a little while to get used to the lugs as they do protrude quite a bit (I measure about an eighth of an inch) and it is most noticeable while taking corners…to give you a better idea of the size, here’s a pen between the lugs.

Whether or not the lugs actually work in transferring your energy or are just a marketing gimmick is something that you will need to decide for yourself, but on my third run in the Newton Distances I had a new PR over 10K (41:35, a 4:09/km pace). That did it for me, I was liking these shoes! I wasn’t quite ready to put them into my everyday rotation due to my race schedule (2 half marathons in a 3 week span, also happens to be my first 2 HM’s ever), but once I finish the second half these will be added to my regular rotation. On top of that they will receive serious consideration for my first full marathon in October. If a shoe itself can help encourage good form and improved times then that is something I would love to take advantage of. I feel my form is pretty good already, but it certainly breaks down over longer distances…I am hoping this is where the Distance will help out the most.

I prefer to run without socks but haven’t had a chance to do so with the Newton’s yet due to the cold weather we’ve been getting here in Southwestern Ontario. I can say that they should be a good sockless runner though as there doesn’t appear to be any issues with seams in the liner and the outer is very breathable (you can see right through).

***Update*** I had a chance to run 11K sockless, my first sockless run since the Fall (5 months or so). A blister started to form on my right arch just after the 10K point, but that could just be due to my wimpy feet and the reliance on socks lately. The only rubbing issue was on my left foot at the bottom seam of the tongue, which probably could have been solved by a simple adjustment or relacing. No hotspots to report and very breathable…air flows through the material very freely.

There is flex to the shoe, and here is the obligatory scrunched up shoe pic, but it is stiffer than most of my other minimalist shoes. Less flex than my New Balance Minimus Zero’s, Saucony Hattori’s and Virrata’s, comparable to my Kinvara 3’s I would say.

I will try to post a follow up after I’ve had a chance to get some more runs in with the Newton’s, especially some good long runs when I start my marathon training, so stay tuned. Bottom line here is that I definitely think a lot of this shoe to considering I am going to give it the first shot as my marathon shoe. I love my Kinvara 3’s and see the Newton Distance as a great complement to them.




  1. Update - I did a half marathon distance training run today in the Newton's...wore Pro Compression socks. My legs feel really good, calves are a bit sore but no other issues to report.

  2. Very good recap. I just dove head first buying these from some heel-striking Nike shoes.
    I was already at 10k+ distances training for my marathon when I decided to switch two years ago.
    Just bough my second pair today and can't wait to break them in. I ran in the 2011 version and just bought the 2013. I hope they are just as smooth in the cadence turnover.
    Look forward to your next post

  3. Thanks Joseph...and way to dive into the deep end before getting rid of the water wings! Nike's to Newton's just like that, good for you. Obviously the transition went well if you're onto another pair!

  4. As a runner Mom, age 44, I too LOVE these shoes due to over used knees and some early on-set arthritis. The shoes and different running form have worked together to mprove my full marathon PR by 20 minutes in 2012 and by another 3 mins this June. On 4th pair of Newton Distance to run the Omaha marathon tomorrow and hoping to continue ticking away those PR minutes little by little. Good luck to you in October!!

  5. Wow, sure seems like these shoes work well for you Victoria! 20/23 minutes is a HUGE improvement, that's awesome. I'm sure I know the answer, but I take it the transition to more 'natural' running has been a Godsend to your knees?
    Best of luck at the Omaha on Sunday, maybe you'll shave some more seconds off your PR, but the main thing is running strong and healthy :)
    Thanks as well for the October well-wishes, and thanks for commenting!

  6. Thanks for the tip on running warehouse. I just picked these up for 29 bucks minus 15%!!!!!!

  7. Wow, what an awesome deal! They have some great sales but that might be the best I've heard of...hope you like the shoes.