Sunday, July 7, 2013

Newton Gravity Review

If you've read my previous blog posts, you know that I've struggled with finding the right shoe. I haven't reviewed two shoes of the same brand on this blog. Adidas, Brooks, Skora, they all have their benefits, and their drawbacks.

Newton has become synonymous with triathlon. If you've been to a triathlon, any triathlon, you've invariably seen athletes sporting these bright, ostentatious shoes. And, if you've asked, the invariable reaction is "these shoes are awesome." Triathletes love to talk, particularly about their gear, and I'd argue that Newtons are one of the most talked about pieces of kit. At Kansas 70.3, it was like talking to a thousand roaming Newton salesmen. The Newton "cult" (for lack of a better term) is a very dedicated following. Recall the "Sh*t Triathletes Say" video that went semi-viral thanks to YouTube and the line "Crowie runs in these." Craig Alexander has some serious ethos amongst endurance athletes, it's hard to ignore that every win in Kona has been while wearing Newton shoes.

Gravity has a blown rubber outsole, as opposed to the EVA on the Distance. Note the lugs. Photo: Newton Running

Bright is an understatement. Crowie wears Distance S for longer races, MV2 for shorter. Photo: Newton Running

I first encountered Newton when I first got into running, two years ago. At the time, the obnoxiously high $175 price tag put them out of reach. But after a few more miles under my belt, a coach's personal recommendation, and the promise that they would last far longer than any other minimalist shoe (Newton refuses to refer to themselves as such), I caved and purchased them.

Newton's big claim to fame is their "Action/Reaction" technology, in other words, these lugs on the bottom of the shoe, right under the ball of the foot. The lugs basically force you to run on your toes, basically a constant reminder of form. In any event, these lugs compress into a small space between them and the actual midsole of the shoe and then spring back, hence the name "Action/Reaction." In addition to providing some cushion, they also put a spring in your stride, a little bounce. It's tangible on the road, which is nice. It also absorbs a lot of the shock, which is part of the reason I picked these shoes. As a midfoot striker, a big thing I've struggled with is having the cushion for longer road runs. The minimalist is wonderful for a midfoot strike, but not having the cushioning there when I'm pounding the pavement means that my body has to absorb the shock. In addition to opening the door for injury, it also means that I'm not as efficient a runner as I could be, since part of the energy goes toward absorbing shock, and not moving forward.

The proprietary lugs can be found on all Newton shoes. Photo: Newton Running
A look at the action/reaction technology from the inside out. Photo: Newton Running

Does this mean I'm shelving my Skora Forms? Absolutely not. I think of the Gravity as a compliment to the Skoras, not the competition. For shorter runs, or ones where I find myself on a trail, Skora is still my go to for minimalist comfort. For longer runs and pavement, though, I've found myself reaching for the Gravity. It's quickly become a do-it-all shoe, and I've pared down my closet of shoes to three pairs (add the Adidas Adios 2 for racing).

At 9.1 ounces (claimed for size 9), it's not a horribly cumbersome shoe, but I'd consider going to the Distance model in the future. They're similar, the blown rubber heel is replaced by EVA in the Distance, and the heel-toe drop is 1mm less, from 3 to 2. The weight is what I'm more thinking of, the Distance is a svelte 7.8 ounces.

The conclusion: It's not a minimalist shoe, but the Newton Gravity has become my go-to for long distance runs. When fatigue sets in, the lugs are a friendly reminder to keep the form up to standards and keep on keeping on. The shoes aren't for everyone, they're polarizing in a way, but someone once told me, "If the shoe fits, buy it."

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