The Newton racing flat is one of the most unique shoes we've ever tried on and that makes it a very mixed bag. Its Action/Reaction landing platform seems like a sound mechanical theory, but put into practice under a foot, the theory seems to lose its shape. The feeling is one of falling forward, which can be uncomfortable or destabilizing for some, but surely there is a cadre of runners out there where leaning way forward is comfortable. Despite this, the shoe has a lot of redeeming qualities worth examining. Ultimately, we felt that their landing made them too niche and experimental to earn a top score or a broad recommendation, especially at its price. If unique design and high performance are the motivators, we believe the On Cloud, our Top Pick for Lightweight Racing Flat, will more than meet the expectation.
Newton Running Distance VI Review
Cons: Pricey, on the heavy side of racing flats, design features make it very awkward, toebox design uncomfortable for long second toes.
#13 of 14
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Lightweight racing flats are really tough to nail because the field is so competitive and the shoes don't typically last as long as other styles of shoes, which means that there's a premium on putting out lighter, faster, better-engineered products faster than in other lines. Tried-and-true is not the mantra in this field. Enter Newton and its Action/Reaction™ lugs (P.O.P 1 lugs) in the forefoot landing platform. It is certainly one of the most unique designs we have ever tested, and though it's not for every runner, the shoe is pretty cool and earned high marks in most of our measures. We think it's worth it to go through its attributes to see how its new design compares to the rest of the lineup.
The extremely unique design of the landing platform was meant to add to the propulsion and kickback, but we felt that it fell short of that goal. The lugs flexed too much and the ledge they created on either side of the platform made for an uneven distribution of force that bogged the foot down.
We think Newton can work through this design a little more and create a more uniform platform that will keep some of the design elements, but improve stability and responsiveness. But this performance is pretty standard for racing flats. The On Cloud did better in this measure and also ranks near the upper edge of the lineup. If responsiveness is a must, we suggest looking at the HOKA ONE ONE Arahi, which won our Top Pick for Stability award.
This measure is particularly difficult because of the wide range of running styles and gear preference. These shoes have a pretty strong following, so there are clearly a lot of people out there who love the way they feel. The Action/Reaction™ midfoot platform consists of a series of protruding rubber lugs (with the P.O.P 1+ design) that act something like a trampoline. The midsole is primarily high-rebound EVA with other additions thrown in, like a biomechanical metatarsal sensor plate, which Newton suggests is meant to help create a more natural (that is, firm) surface that will not collapse over time like EVA foam or other cushioning, leading to metatarsal issues.
The theories behind the design sound fantastic, and as we said, there are a lot of loyal followers and big fans of the shoe, but we had a difficult time seeing that translate into performance. The lugs created something like a cantilever effect, causing the foot to rock onto the toes, which interrupted the natural, comfortable stride. We found the uneven landing forced the runner to lean forward or pull back to counteract the landing - we expect that in the high-heeled stability clodhoppers, but not with a model that's supposed to have just 2mm of heel-to-toe drop.
The rest of the racing flats tended to do much better in this measure. We suggest looking at the Best Buy winning Pegasus 34 or especially the Editors' Choice winning PureFlow 6, both of which topped the measure. It's also worth mentioning that the Distance VIs work to help transition runners into a more minimalist style, so if that is on your radar, consider giving the Minimus 10v1 a look too.
These kicks come in at 20.4 ounces in a pair of men's 11. They have a sleek, stripped-down upper made of breathable mesh with minimal overlays or other structures. The bulk of the weight comes from the Action/Reaction design features and dense rubber and foam cushioning in the midsole, moving it up to the second-heaviest racing flat, just behind the Pegasus 34 whose soft, highly cushioned midsole is somewhat anathema to the Newton theory.
Given the Newton's cousinly relationship with minimalism, we think you should consider the lightest offering in our lineup, the Minimus 10v1 which comes in at just 17.2 ounces in a men's 11. If you're not quite ready to jump into the minimalist movement, the 17.3 ounce Top Pick for Lightweight Racing Flat winning On Cloud should meet your expectations. And if those are too radical for you, take a look at the 17.6 ounce Saucony Kinvara 8.
These do about as well as expected for a lightweight racing flat. A seamless upper with mesh and a bit of overlay present the opportunity for future tears and glue wear, but no more than the typical light shoe in our lineup. On its outsole it uses s.h.a.r.c. (super high abrasion rubber) on the forefoot and high abrasion rubber on the heel, which will extend the life of the outsole.
The most comparable long-laster is the Minimus, which hits the top of the measure with its tougher mesh upper with multiple layers of threading and sturdy rubber along the entirety of the outsole. The next comparable model is the Pegasus 34, which is not quite as durable as the Minimus, but more so than the Newton. Its outsole is fully lined with thick carbon rubber and its upper has multiple layers of mesh and structural support.
We really liked the open toe box and flex/stretch feel there, but the heel and midfoot were a little more rigid, giving something like a boot feel. We recognize that a good deal of runners appreciate the locked-in feel, though it is typically more of a stability design, so we factor that positively into the score. The liner is a bit rougher than we would like, but it is no worse than the average shoe on the market. That being said, there were a number of shoes in our lineup that offered exceptional comfort and it would be remiss not to mention them. Both the Pegasus 34 and PureFlow 6 had thick collar padding to help mitigate the heel counter, smooth sockliners, and uniform, natural upper fits, which put both of them up at the top of the measure. We suggest taking a look at the PureFlow 6, which picked up the Editors' Choice award for a reason.
This is an area where these trainers really excel. Their upper is unencumbered by excessive padding and broad layers of overlay. Not just that, but their mesh is thin with a wide gauge, lending itself to great airflow. They stand on their own here, but there are a few other choices that offer a little edge in this measure. The On Cloud, New Balance Minimus, and PureFlow 6 all had just a bit less in the way of coverage, exposing more of the foot to a thin outer mesh and therefore scoring just above the Newtons.
This shoe is best suited to flat road surfaces, maybe even just tracks.
Retailing at $155, this shoe is definitely something that needs to be taken out for a spin before making the final call, so buyers should be sure they have a solid return policy or check them out in the store first. We think engineer-types will be able to justify the retail price, but for that money you can buy much better performing shoes like the Brooks PureFlow 6 or shoes with interesting designs and great performance like the On Cloud.
For all its unique design and sleek appearance, we think these kicks need a little redesigning. Surely there are runners out there who would love to run in them and appreciate their function, but we found them to be awkward and uncomfortable and didn't find that they improved performance. We hope Newton is able to release another more stable version in the future because we liked the base model and see its potential.
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: August 22, 2017
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