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Review: Newton Distance Running Shoes

by Dan Hinckley » on Jun 28, 2011 25

At first glance, the Newton Distances look nothing like a shoe that minimalist or barefoot runners would be interested in. However, I’m here to tell you there is much more to this pair of shoes than you’d expect. I’ve spent a few weeks with the shoes now and have a greater appreciation for the them. I also have a better understanding of what they’re designed for.

Danny Abshire, a co-founder of Newton Running, discusses in his book that he is a huge supporter of barefoot running as a method for training for longer runs.  Abshire also explains that while barefoot running is often ideal, there are also times when we find ourselves running on hard concrete or surfaces with sharp rocks and tiny bits of glass and running barefoot often isn’t ideal. To help solve this problem, he started making Newton Running shoes.

Newton’s are designed to help individuals run in a natural running form (as if they are barefoot) while providing high levels of protection typically found in traditional running shoes. Using Keith Olbermann’s faulty logic, he probably would have been better suited for a pair of Newtons than FiveFingers.

Even with thicker soles Newton believes their shoes are for minimalist runners. They describes minimalist shoes as:

Minimalism in its simplest form involves picking shoes that allow the foot to move more naturally than standard shoes allow. But not all minimal shoes are created equal. Newton Running shoes were designed to be an extension of the feet, enhancing ground contact without the jarring impact shock of the road, sidewalk or hard-packed trail below 1

The Newton Distance Light Weight Neutral Trainer

New Newton Distance

A New Pair of Newton Distance Running Shoes

Whether you agree or disagree with Newton about how to classify minimalist running shoes, the shoes do a great job of helping individuals run in proper form. For me, running in proper form is one of main reasons I started running in FiveFingers, and because of this I respect what Newton has done with their line of running shoes.

The Newton Distances are some of the lightest “Full sole” running shoes I’ve ever used. Their design and color scheme make them clearly stand out. When I wear them I often get asked about them and what their designed for, similar to the questions I receive while wearing FiveFingers.  It seems to me that the marketing teams at shoe companies must be working more closely than ever with the shoe design teams.

The shoes are very comfortable but feel more like a traditional running shoe when you put them on. I did not really notice a difference in them until I started running with them. The shoes are made up of a mesh material that helps keep the shoe light weight and breathable. It offers comfortable support around the rest of the foot.

Technical Specs and Sizing

The Newton Distance Feature the following Technical Specs:

  • Weight: 8.6 ounces
  • Minimal surface contact for Forefoot
  • Thick midsoles that help force impact to move from your heel to your midsole
  • Slip-proof laces

Newton Distance Sizes

Newton suggests that their shoes run smaller, however I traditionally wear a size 11 and their size 11 fit just fine for me. Newton Distances comes in Men Sizes 6 – 15. If your not sure about what size to get, I suggest getting the size you use for most your other shoes or maybe a half size larger. Having shoes that are too big can cause blisters and other problems with your running form.

Running in Newton Distance

The Newton Distances are made for running and they are great for it. I enjoy my runs in the Newtons as they allowed me to focus on my running form. With each step I would receive feedback from their midsole design letting me know when and where exactly I was landing with each step.

I tested the shoes on runs of 3 and 4 miles and never had any problems. I did have a bit of pressure in my arch that appeared to come from the midsole but this may be because I was focusing so much on how the Newtons impacted my running form.

I have yet to test these on longer runs but my guess is that they’ll perform the same way. The fact that the shoes are so light makes it easy to keep going with them because you don’t feel weighted down.

Who Should Buy The Newton Distance

In my opinion, the Newton Distances are prefect for runners that really want to focus on improving their form. Proper running form can help protect from injuries and should be a major focus of any individual that plans to run long distances continually. They’re great shoes for individuals that want to build up their foot and lower leg strength and to compliment those running in barefoot shoes that want to push into longer distance runs.

If most of your running is done on concrete or hard, rocky surfaces the Newtons may be a good option for you and help protect against ground pounding that other minimalist shoes do not excel at.

I would not suggest these shoes for everyone. If the feedback you get from feeling the ground with FiveFingers is very important to you then you will be frustrated with the Newton Distances. You just don’t get the same ground feel or feedback from them.

If you do mostly trail and dirt running then the Newtons also may not fit your needs and either Vibram FiveFingers or the Merrell Barefoot line may suit you better.

More Photos of the Newton Distance

Newton Distance Midsole

The Newton Distance have a thick midsole to help your running form

Newton Distance Sole

Newton Distance sole is almost level from the heal to the midsole

Newton Distance Front and Back

The front and back of the Newton Distance Running Shoes


The Newton Running shoes will be perfect for individuals looking to get the benefits of proper running form but live in city or locations where they do not have the benefits of running on natural and diverse surfaces and also want to avoid FiveFingers or other more minimalist/barefoot shoes. They can be extremely helpful to individuals working to improve their running form.

The Newton Distance may not be for everyone but they do what they’re designed to do extremely well. If they are minimalist enough is up to you to decide but don’t count out their value without taking a closer look.


Submitted Comments

  1. Mike says:

    Thanks for sharing. I really prefer the barefoot feel… but I am going to be moving into Chicago this fall.

    I may consider these as an option if the roads/paths are too rough on my feet.

  2. Mel says:

    These look pretty cool! Are they any good for walk around shoes, or are they just for running? Would they help me walk better for longer walks?

  3. Candice says:

    I don’t know if I agree with Newton on their definition of “Minimalists”.

    I think in its simplest form, minimalist = barefoot.

  4. Dan says:

    They do feel like they have an impact on walking with proper form. The way the sole is structured it feels like it forces you to spread the impact away from your heal which is nice.

    Personally, I feel these shoes are best for running though.

  5. michaelc says:

    just bought a pair tonight. have run in nike air shoes (air max 2011 until recently) since the 80s, (maybe not) coincidentally the time i became injured with bulging L4/L5 lower back discs.
    i thought minimal shoes might help stop the heel striking which may be the cause of my back pain, and voila, using the merrell trail glove and nike zoom streak xc 2’s the pounding on my lower back/hips mostly went away after a run/and next day…and lessened other times as well.

    however, i run in the city on concrete and asphalt, and my feet have become beat up running in these minimal shoes. the only shoe that offers hope now is the newton, i got the distance model with it’s 2mm heel/toe differential (merrells had zero differential, nike’s had 3mm)…while the merrell decimated my foot (still helped my back) and the nike just didn’t have enough padding at 20mm in the heel to save my feet, some 30mm in the newton i hope will fit the last piece in my puzzle so not only can my back not suffer any more from heel striking, but my feet don’t have to be pounded instead.

  6. Dan says:

    @michaelc I hope they work well for you. i enjoyed running in them and they worked great on the concrete/asphalt.

  7. Irene says:

    I got the Newton Distance this summer 2011 and they are very comfortable and lightweight. I have been running with the Oasics since first I started running 5 years ago, I am a 56 year old woman. Newton shoes are making me stronger and faster runner. I love them!!

  8. michaelc says:

    follow up on using the newtons…irene, now that my calfs and achilles tendons have adjusted to midfoot vs heel striking, i am with you. i have cut down my run times for 6miles from 11min to 10 min…something i never thought possible with my past injuries. the newtons remove most of the shock from lower vertabrae (coming in through the heels in the past) and i am seeing a pickup in speed in strength. i had just thought i’d be able to keep running my slow 11min miles, long and slow, in less pain…the added performance is really amazing to me

  9. Derek says:

    I bought a pair of Newton Terra Momentus as my first pair of “minimal” shoes to guide my transition to proper running form as I usually have to run on concrete/asphalt. I loved them at first but after a few weeks my left foot was quite uncomfortable in them. My right foot felt great and had no trouble adjusting. I took the shoes back to the store an had them confirm the fit. They said everything looked correct. A year later and I still have the same problem – my left foot feels uncomfortable in them and I frequently have minor pain in my left midfoot towards during my runs (3 miles or less). I really want to like these shoes but I’m stuck in a love (right foot) / hate (left foot) relationship with them. My left foot doesn’t appear to be shaped different from my right, so I’m wondering if I’ve got a defective left shoe? Anyone else experienced this?

  10. Dan says:

    Have you looked at the sole to see if they’re balanced? Maybe something about your running form has changed the way the sole is structured?

    You also could have a defective left shoe… weirder things have happened.

  11. Derek says:

    Yes, I check the wear on my shoes frequently. The wear appears to be the same on both shoes and matches the “ideal” wear pattern described on the Newton site with the front 1/3 of the lugs wearing down slightly. It’s a mystery.

  12. michaelc says:

    on your foot difference derek, when i started doing minimalist running i found out quick my left leg was less developed than my right. i’d noticed it a bit when doing calf raises in the past, that the left calf wasn’t as pumped, and strained a bit more.

    when i started the minimalist running i almost pulled my left calf, and felt weaker in that achilles tendon and foot. this happened when i went to the newtons. i started compensating using my right to pick up the workload, and then that foot/calf/tendon was more tender for a few runs.

    end of story was that the fluctuation from one foot to the next occurred for a few weeks until they both strengthened. i also helped by keeping up my calf raises to strengthen both calfes so there would be less strain on either side.

    it’s been a few months now and with both sides strengthened to handle running on the midfoot, i don’t hurt in either foot and my times have picked up over heel striking.

    you might try a new pair (especially after a year), and some calf resistance training, toes on a block…to strengthen both sides equally.

    when using the newtons/other minimalist shoes, i had the one side/other side hurting, but i feel strongly that was because i was finding out where long standing imbalances already were upon stressing the foot differently, rather than just letting my heel and spine take the pounding, masking the imbalance.

    hope that helps.

  13. Derek says:

    Thanks for the advice michaelc. I’ll try doing some calf resistance. That helped me quite a bit earlier in my transition to minimal footwear when my calves would start to burn after 1.5 miles. I’m planning to try out some new Newtons as well to see if they feel any better. My current pair only has 250 miles on them and I’m easy on shoes (168lbs). Hopefully I just got a defective pair.

  14. michaelc says:

    good luck. i’m about 7lbs heavier than you, so you should be able to adapt. the newtons offer so much cushioning for a minimalist shoe, i can only imagine anything else on concrete would make things worse.

    the interesting thing about midfoot striking vs. heel is that i was using the best cushioned shoes, airmax 2010’s, but forced into heel striking by their big heel. now, with the newton’s virtual no rise heel it’s much much less shock, and much more comfortable than the airmax’s ever were. and that’s with about 10mm less padding in the newton’s too.

    the calf raises should do well for you to equalize and give the strength to prevent injury. seated calf raises hit the soleus under the calf, standing hits the outer calf. together several times a week, with at least 50, up to 100 reps, should get rid of that problem for sure.

  15. Joe Smoe says:

    Obviously, you have a product to peddle. Keep peddling, peddler.

  16. Irene says:

    I just got a pair of these Lady Newton trainer shoes and they are fast! I have had them for three weeks and work well at short runs but I experienced severe knee pain after I ran a half marathon in them. Any thoughts?

  17. Dan says:

    I’m sorry to hear about the severe knee pain. I’m not sure if it’s related to the shoes or just from the longer run. Do you do long 10+ mile runs often?

    I know that my knees swell a bit after about 8 miles. They don’t hurt but they do swell up. Be sure to share with us if you find anything particular.

  18. Brad says:

    Just 40 miles on my Distance shoes with 2 long runs (10 miles+). My favorite training/long distance shoes in 30 years (gulp) of running. Highly flexible and light. I believe these shoes are a good bridge to “barefoot” and Looking forward to trying even more minimalist shoes. Note, I’ve found Newtons can cause shin pain, especially in transition from traditional shoes. I suggest working Newtons in slowly until they feel more “natural.”

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  22. michaelc says:

    well, i’m back…what i have to say after another year of newton distance and running more minimalist relates to brad here…his desire to go MORE minimalist.

    a worthy goal, which i have tried and just come up short. i used the barely padded new, new balance minumus 0mm drop and really liked the road feel once the bottoms of my feet adjusted, but what NEVER adjusted were my achilles tendons. the reason being i’m a city runner and my runs are 50% on concrete, and the other 50% on asphalt when i run at night and can encroach on the side of the road…still just too hard for true minimalist shoes.

    i did go to the amazing mv2 from newton, a true 0mm drop newton that really does give some resilience to the hard ground…but sadly after about 35 min of my 65 min run the hard ground gets to my achilles tendon, and the tendons just don’t heal up by my next run.

    i’ve been running about 2 mo.s in the new balance, and ran about a week in the mv2…would not go back to the new balance, the mv2 are great, but even so they can’t overcome the hard surfaces at over 35 min of running, and because of my sched i love running for an hour or more.

    so today i put my newton distance shoes back on and i can clearly distinguish between them and the truer minimalist mv2 and minimus. here’s the verdict:

    noticeably slower feeling, despite no more slowness in speed, just the feel of them. also more workout that my quad, hamstring to some extent, and calf get as i don’t use my foot and achilles tendon to absorb most of the hard surface contact…yet i do NOT get more pounding in my back or upper body…since i do have L4/L5 disc issues i would immediately feel that, and in fact after going back to the newton distance, my back is less sore after runs, as well as my entire body, especially my achilles tendon.

    believe me, as a lifetime runner, my form was excellent in the minimalist shoes, so much so that i came close to overcoming asphalt and concrete running, but in the end my 65 mins of preferred running did not allow minimalism to defeat concrete.

    even with less road feel of the more padded newton distance shoes, and the more work my full legs must now do as shock absorbers, i still get less pounding and soreness from running with the more padded newton distance shoes vs. the minimalist shoes.

    however, i will miss the light, quicker feel of the minimalist, especially the mv2, a great shoe…i really love the feel of less padding, a concept i could not have imagined had i not fully tried going all out minimalist.

    but the bottom line is the amount of body pain after a run. despite using the foot’s natural shock absorbing abilities as designed by God (or natural selection), the hard surfaces ate up my achilles tendons and transmitted more pounding to my body than the 8mm more of padding on the newton distance shoes…so i must go with being pain free (except for that which is normal for running, some tightness, etc) in the newton distance vs. real pain from the hard surfaces in the minimalist.

    if i was a 30 min run guy, or running on non-concrete/asphalt surfaces i’d definitely go full minimalist with the mv2, but i must compromise for my hard surface/longer time runs, lose some road feel, yet get the protection of the newton distance…tho still be a forefoot striker.

    hopefully i’ve kept the verbosity down, and given some info to decide which way to go. it is not so much philosophy here, but conditions which dictate. philosophically i’d have to go with minimalist, but the conditions of my run dictate a bit more protection…tho if newton came up with say a 20mm to 21mm zero drop shoe, i’d go down to that…since the mv2 almost did it for me at 17mm, and it’s strictly billed as a racer, there’s a spot in the newton lineup for a 21mm trainer vs. the distance’s 24mm…but until then, i’m back with the newton distance, which thankfully allows forefoot striking.

    if you run on hard surfaces, this might need to be your choice…OH, and the last needed info is that i’m a lean fairly muscular 175lb at 6ft, most probably the cutoff point for going over 35min on hard surfaces in a full minimalist shoe…if you’re lighter, you may be able to pull it off…or if not lighter, you keep your runs to 35 or so mins, you may be able to. whatever, hope this feedback helps.

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