Thursday, February 3, 2011

Newtons and Nikes

So I'm sitting here looking at my shoe rack (it occupies a spot of honor, right next to my bed) and it's occurred to me that I have a lot of shoes. Maybe I should seek some help for my apparent shoe fetish.

The best way to get shoes, of course, is to get them for free. This works out pretty well, if you're one of those special famous runners who gets sponsored, or maybe a well-known internet running personality who gets asked to test shoes. But since I am neither, I'm reduced to hoping one of those running testing programs finally calls my name (I'm looking at you, Asics and Brooks!). And failing that, spending actual money.

The problem with getting shoes at sports expos like the one I went to last weekend is that you are much more likely to have to spend your own money than find Brooks or Asics banging down your inbox there. And if you want to get custom shoes with your own colors and embroidery, you'll be lucky to find them at all at any price.

Those hurdles notwithstanding, I got both a new pair of Newtons (at the expo) and a custom pair of Nike LunarGlide 2s (via mail). First impressions below.

Newton Distance Racer

Newton is a company out of Boulder that has a unique take on running shoes. I've seen several people run in the model I got (which I've seen by a couple of variations of the same name; on the website they call it the "Neutral Performance Racer") in some of my longer races. I was drawn to them by their overall theory of forefoot/midfoot strikes for running. Their site has several tutorials on what they consider optimal running form (which match up neatly with what I think).

At the Chevron Houston Marathon expo this last weekend, I decided to try on a pair. They felt amazing in some cursory jogs, so I bought these:

Please ignore all of the dirt on them - that's from an earlier run. The top is a really open mesh that doesn't have a lot of structure to it (although still way more than my Kinvaras). The heel - see the yellow - actually is completely EVA and has no outsole at all. They sell a similar model they call the "trainer" that has a full outsole under the theory that most people don't run correctly in the shoe and still heelstrike after they buy it, or at least so I am told. As I can't heelstrike anymore at all unless I really think about it, I opted for the lighter (and cheaper!) version.

This picture of the bottom should really show you the special Newton feature (again, ignore the dirt and also my hand).

Do you see those four bumps right under where the ball of the foot would go? Those actually stick down about half an inch from the bottom of the shoe and retract (albeit only with a good bit of force, such as the weight of an entire human body) and then expand out again during the stride. The theory is that you get more energy return with that action, and the actuators (as they are called) help you lever onto your forefoot. They describe the action as land (on your midfoot/forefoot), lever (rolling off of the actuators), lift (lifting your foot off of the ground rather than pushing off).

I've only been on one run with them so far (another tomorrow) but they are easy to run in with my new form. I don't have an opinion yet as to whether or not I am actually seeing greater energy return but I have had these babies through a full range of paces, all the way from casual jog to faster than 5k pace, and results are favorable.

Nike LunarGlide 2

I generally hate Nike shoes. I love their clothing (my running shorts and most of my tops are Nike) and like that they've taken the lead on minimalism in some respects (see, e.g., the Nike Free line). I also respect the Bill Bowerman/Phil Knight running history. But I've never had a thing for their shoes. Always seemed just a bit off - until I got a pair of LunarGlides last year. I ran the WDW marathon in them and they were magnificent. I am changing my stride up right now and trying to scale back on shoes, but I still want to have a pair of shoes around with a bit of cushioning and support for days when I feel like I need it.

The really neat thing that you can do (if you're willing to weight a month and pay a bit more) is get your shoes totally customized with NikeID. That's what I did this time. I did this with my race jersey a couple of years ago and was very happy with the results, so I customized some sheos this time.

Pink is a major part of my race day gear, so it should not surprise anybody who knows me well that I used it as a major element in my shoes:

I also had the tongues of the shoes embroidered with my PR from the WDW marathon just because I could. I like these shoes quite a bit because they have a much more gentle heel drop than most cushioned shoes (making these much easier to midfoot strike in) and they provide just a hint of stability without going overboard. The upper has some structure to it but not so much that you feel like you are wearing a running armored assault vehicle on your food. I don't think I'll buy another pair as I'm trying to move to less cushioning and more response, but that doesn't mean I think they are a bad shoe. This is the shoe for those days on which I feel like my feet are tired from the new stride and need a break while I build up strength for the new form.

Full reviews of the feel in the Kinvara and the Newtons to come after I've logged a few more miles in them. The Nikes I already trust.


  1. I want a matching pair of the Lunar Glides. They look so cool.

  2. How funny, you can get tongues embroidered? I love it!