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May 3, 2010

Newton Gravity 2010 Running Shoe Review

"No great discovery was ever made without a bold guess."
- Sir Isaac Newton, 1643-1727

When I reviewed their original Gravity trainers last September, I made reference to the fact that Newton was barely a three-year-old business founded by a pair of guys with very little industry experience prior to entering the high-performance running shoe game. The company was named after a historic scientist, and offered a product whose design flew in the face of all the conventional wisdom of the day. Newtons were some of the most expensive shoes on the market, and required athletes to abandon the running form most of them had used all their lives.

In other words, success of the concept was something of a bold guess.

However, as another scientist of some renown – a fellow by the name of Albert Einstein – once explained, everything is relative: motion, space, and even our notion of time. In fields of different gravitational potential, time actually moves at different speeds; gravitational time dilation, as it’s called, predicts that clocks will run more slowly when they’re closer to the center of a field with massive gravitational pull.

Now before you press rewind ‘cuz I blew your mind, let me put it this way: sometimes, four years is a very long time to be involved in something – especially if that something is an area (or field, in our analogy) that new players have been moving towards (gravitational pull) in increasing numbers with every passing month. And that’s exactly where Newton finds itself nowadays: right smack in the center of this whole “natural running” supernova that has emerged, where four years is a relative eternity compared to all the other companies rushing to develop something similar.


Newton Gravity

From the outset, the Gravity has been Newton’s flagship model, a top-of-the-line performance trainer that has attracted a large number of elite athletes - triathletes in particular – as well as amateur runners who want the biomechanics of barefoot or minimalist running without actually giving up the comfort and performance aspects of a standard running shoe. Most of its features like actuator lugs, action/reaction technology, and land-lever-lift technique have already been explained in my previous review, so rather than re-writing them here, I’m giving you the link above to check it all out.


8mm actuator lugs protruding under midfoot

This is also a good time to make a certain disclaimer: hardcore barefoot runners and minimalist proponents tend to dislike Newtons. The shoes are too heavy, too high off the ground - 26mm in the heel, 23mm in the forefoot - and, well … just too much shoe to accurately mimic barefoot running. While all of those points are well taken, it’s also worth noting that Newton doesn’t claim to make minimalist shoes; their main selling point is replicating the mechanics (and therefore, nearly all the benefits) of barefoot running while incorporating advanced technology features to improve comfort and performance.

Newton has a lot of science on its side, and contracts third party researchers to compare factors like decreased impact forces and improved energy return between its shoes and the most popular cushioning or performance trainers currently on the market. If you’re going to claim that your shoes help people run faster, you’d better be able to back it up; thanks to ongoing lab testing and comparative analysis, Newton does.

Anecdotally, I can attest to the fact that Newtons make it easy to run fast. I’m currently in a high-mileage buildup for the spring and summer, and probably 90% of that mileage is either barefoot or in minimalist shoes (typically Soft Star, VivoBarefoot, or Vibram). Given the rough, hilly terrain I frequent, and the length of the runs I’m doing, most of my mileage tends to be the slow and steady variety. However, once or twice per week, I lace up my Gravity trainers for a tempo run or track workout, and I can still keep a 6-minute pace for a handful of miles.

Best of all, when wearing Newtons, I don’t have to sacrifice the midfoot/forefoot gait pattern I’ve developed in minimalist footwear simply to run fast. Although the heel and midfoot are both elevated, the difference in heights is a mere 3mm, which is the flattest platform you’ll find in a standard trainer. My posture, footstrike, and muscle recruitment are all the same as when I’m running barefoot; the only difference is that my feet are a lot more comfortable.


Improved high-durability outsole

The 2010 version of the Gravity generally has the same style and fit as its predecessor, with a few tweaks that I would mostly call improvements. One change in the wrong direction is that this version is slightly heavier – 10.3oz compared to 9.4oz last year. Everything else is for the better: a more durable outsole, a higher-rebound EVA midsole for improved energy return, and, most noticeably, a more subtle blue option to make up for the screaming reds and oranges of models past. The upper is still incredibly open and airy, with plenty of room in the toe box for your toes to function independently and naturally.


Light, airy uppers

Another aspect that remains the same is the price point of $175, which remains the biggest barrier to entry for many users. Last fall, I argued that the high ticket price helped ensure a commitment to practicing midfoot running form. Now that I’m a more dedicated minimalist runner, I’ve come to appreciate the value of Newtons a lot more than I used to.

I love having a “standard” shoe option that I can wear for days when I want to hammer out some fast miles, or when I want to get another 15-miler to finish the week when my legs and feet are thrashed from the 60 or 70 they’ve already done, without having to revert back to a forward-sloped high-heeled cushioned trainer. (And if I ever wanted to race a marathon again instead of running just for fun, I would definitely use Newtons to help me do it.) In that regard, they’re fairly unique among all other shoe companies, with the possible exception of the $225 ECCO BIOM – so by comparison, the Newtons seem like something of a bargain.

At this point, it’s pretty clear that Newton’s bold guess to promote unconventional running form has been a success. The extensive experimentation and study of barefoot mechanics they've applied since the company's inception are now drawing in consumers and competitors alike, as more and more people are discovering the advantages of midfoot running. If you’re happy in your peripheral orbit of traditional footwear, there’s probably no reason for you to try these. If, on the other hand, you’re finding yourself pulled toward the expanding field of natural running, you’ll probably be quite happy giving in to this particular force of Gravity.



*Product provided by Newton Running
**See other product reviews on sidebar at right. If you have a product you’d like reviewed, contact me at
info@runningandrambling.com.



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12 comments:

Spokane Al 5/3/10, 10:17 PM  

8mm actuator lugs - that sounds like something Jack Bauer would be looking for - Find the 8mm actuator lugs or people are gonna die!

The BIG E 5/4/10, 5:21 AM  

Nice write up. My minimalist movement began about 8 years ago with POSE method. At that time I tried POSE and thin soled shoes and was constantly getting hurt. Just too much change to fast. So I gave up. After watching Craig Alexander finish second at Kona a few years ago running the fastest on a wild new shoe called Newton I had to try them. The rebirth of my move to bareboot began. I was an early adopter, ran through many pairs of Newtons. Though I have since moved to more minimalist shoes, Newtons were a WONDERFUL transition shoe. They were fast but more important really helped me get a away from the slight heal strike that would cause slight running pains. At the Hood to Coast last year they helped to run leg 1 (downhill) at a 5 min/mile pace. Thanks Newton!

Makita 5/4/10, 7:05 AM  

I read Born to Run and after reading your posts on your transition ... I bought a pair of VFF. I haven't run in them yet, but I wear them all the time. I love being able to continue walking around town, etc. barefoot just as I've always done at home. I'm slowly transitioning and loving every moment. Thank you for the inspiration! :)

RD Jim 5/4/10, 7:33 AM  

Why can't men of shoe science stop designing just short of picking the shoe color? You let the carpenter build your house but you don't let him pick your wife's dresses. So why can't these geeks of the feet just hire a consultant who's not color blind to pick the shoe color?
These have got to be some of the ugliest shoes I've seen in a while. Good luck wearing them out in public - oh that's right, you live in California. ;)

Michael Shane Helton 5/4/10, 8:17 AM  

Hmmm...

I can't believe I am saying this, but after reading this review I would give the Gravity a try.

Not that I am jumping up and down to spend that kind of money, but I would consider it.

Lindsi,  5/4/10, 9:05 AM  

I'm currently saving up for my second pair. Just ran a half in them and felt great. AS far as the color choices go, yes, they're a little... bright? And at first I was really offended that I had to wear shockingly pink shoes just to get the footwear I wanted (the yellow were out of stock in my size). But they've actually grown on me and were really useful in helping my friends and family find me in the mass of runners. Just look for the retina-burning pink blur!

Gretchen 5/5/10, 12:50 PM  

Huh. I have been in a hate/hate relationship with my road shoes for at least a year now. (Have I already told you this??) Given all the things I am working towards in PT, it seems like these shoes would make perfect sense. Why does that make me so uncomfortable?? I really don't want to like them. Sometimes I am such a pain in my own ass, it kills me.

On the other hand, hating my road shoes has kept me 100% on trail. (Well, I do wear my trail shoes on the track. Yes, I do. Don't laugh.)

Hagrin 9/6/10, 5:21 AM  

I absolutely second buying a pair of Newtons. I'm on my third pair now after having put approx. 2300 miles on my last pair. With the durability and improvements in my times, Newtons definitely have worked for me. I actually wrote up a different type of review here - My Newton Review.

Alex 2/22/11, 9:55 PM  

Question: I read your blog all the time and i see you review so many different kinds of shoes. Do you find VFF, Evo's, and other shoes compliment the Newtons even though the ground height is so different?

Donald 2/23/11, 7:58 AM  

Alex: I think that Newtons do complement minimalist running nicely from a biomechanic standpoint. Obviously you give up your ground feel and add a bit of weight compared to minimalist stuff. You also have to pay closer attention to your form in Newtons, because it's easier to cheat and start landing on your heels.

Thanks for reading!

BoostGear.com 3/31/11, 4:53 PM  

Probably picking up a pear of Newtons for the 2011 season. Hopefully this experiment works.

chemrat 4/30/11, 11:38 PM  

I have run pain-free in Newton Gravity shoes for over two and a half years, with no orthotics, after 10 years of problems with plantars fascia and 20 years of general running pain, no matter what shoe and "extra support" or cushioning options options I tried. Old style raised heels and running are, in my mind and for my feet, like oil and water. Great blog!

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