Running Gear, Thoughts from the Road, Wine and Beer (some other things too...)

Running Gear, Thoughts from the Road, Wine and Beer (some other things too...)

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Gear Review: Newton Distance (2012)

Gear Review Time, gang -

In a future post, I'm going to unpack my relationship with shoe brands and their proprietary propulsive/absorption systems, but since I've taken the dive into the Newton brand for road running, it was probably time that we go over my impressions of my personal favorite and hoof of choice for the bulk of my road miles.

After a close inspection of the most of the Newton 2013 line-up, it seems that the differences from 2012-2013 are very minimal versus the changes in the lineup from 2011-2012.  I actually have 2 pairs of the Distance.  I have the 2012 model and the 2011:

If you do a quick scan of the shoes, you'll notice a very generous mesh upper.  Maximum breathe-ability and takes weight of the shoe down pretty low, making the shoe itself feel very quick and light under foot.  The 2012 model also decreases the heel-toe differential from 4mm to 2mm.  In all seriousness, it's really hard to feel that little of a difference, unless you possess some freakish 'princess and the pea' amount of sensitivity.

The next thing I noticed, having expected the look of the actuator lugs in the forefoot, is the complete absence of outsole rubber on the heel of shoe.  This is worth noting because this is not a typical 'out of the box' shoe.  There is an adjustment period (a well-documented one, in fact) - it's worth noting at this point that most people that report calf/achilles/heel issues have most likely done too many miles in the shoes too quickly.

The single most differentiating factor with the Newton, are the actuator lugs under the forefoot.  The design is simple and remarkably effective in returning the runner's energy back to the runner.  I've run 15+ miles at a time in these shoes a handful of times now, and they'll be the ones that will be on my hooves for a marathon in April.  Admittedly, if you're not running, they feel goofy - I wouldn't look at them as shoes that will graduate to street kicks upon retirement ;)

Under the umbrella of proper adjustment time to a natural running gait, these shoes are fast.  More correctly stated, in my opinion, they are fast in long, straight lines.  Now with 140 miles on each pair, the biggest complaint I have with the Newton Distance - in fact, all models I've put miles on (Distance, Sir Isaac, and Momentum) are really unstable on curves - sharp ones specifically.  I've noticed that quick sharp turns require much slowing than in other shoes I've worn or at the very least it's very hard to stay aligned and in proper body position - frankly, running is more fun when you're really cornering, like in a fast car...the Dodge Neon is very practical, but very few would say 'fun to drive.'

Having said that, this shoe does provide the most noticeable energy return of any shoe I've ever run in.  They literally feel like I was hoping the original Nike Air Max would've felt like when they horked "Revolution" by the Beatles.  In my experience that single positive outweighs virtually every negative of the shoe - of which there aren't many.  Overall, things I like:

  • Shoes are fast and light - 7.8oz
  • Noticeable energy return and protection to forefoot/midfoot strikers due to the forefoot actuator lugs.
  • The 2012 mesh upper is softer than 2011's and previous albeit a bit more aggressive in terms of size
  • You get noticed in a pair of Newtons - the look sweet, and the team out in Boulder, CO really seems to be able to enter the mind of the runner from a performance perspective; also from a look perspective.
Things I don't like:
  • The Distance is very sloppy at higher speeds when cornering (Feels like I'm describing a Dodge Neon when I say that) - again, this is a problem systemic to each shoe in the Newton lineup.
  • I've found that lacing the Newtons is challenging in terms of consistency.  I find that I lace either too tight or too loose more often in these shoes versus others I've run in.  
  • Be prepared to size up at least a 1/2 size for the actuator lugs to hit in the proper spot under foot.  This also effects the inconsistent lacing pressure.
Overall, a great shoe.  My favorite shoe and shoe that gets the bulk of my training miles.  Feel fast, look fast, run better.

Full disclosure:  I've owned Distance (2011 & 2012), Terra Momentus, and the Sir Issac.  I returned the Sir Issac after 40 miles or so, and the Momentus is meant for more rugged terrain.  The sloppiness is absolutely noticeable off road and on the trails, especially on more technically demanding runs.

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