Newton Distance IV Review

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The Newton Distance has Newton's unique lugs under the forefoot, which are intended to improve Running Economy. The Distance shows some evolution of the earlier Newton designs, and the five lugs under the forefoot are a big improvement over their rather unstable 4 lug shoes. However, a shoe with as radical an approach as the Newton involves a number of compromises, and I'd urge some caution in adopting the Distance too quickly to prevent foot injuries. Overall, I rate the Distance as "Worth Considering" as I think it's better than a traditional high-drop shoe, but I'm less convinced when I compare it to a more optimal design. (I use The Science of Running Shoes as the basis of how I test running shoes and what you should look for in a running shoe.)

Newton Distance IV top
Newton Distance IV bottom
Newton Distance IV inside
Newton Distance IV outside

1 The Forefoot Lugs

The unique feature of Newton shoes is the "lugs" that they add to the bottom of the forefoot. These lugs change the Newtons from a fairly traditional shoe to one with relatively low drop and a rather unusual feel. These lugs are solid rubber protrusions that sit on an elastic membrane that has empty chambers behind each lug (see image below). As the shoe lands, the lugs press up into the chamber and stretch the elastic membrane for cushioning and subsequent rebound.

The Newton Lug system. You can see the red lugs sitting on an elastic membrane with the empty chambers above them.

The Newton lugs make them different to other shoes in a number of ways:

  • The Newton has a lower drop than a traditional shoe. In the case of the Distance, it's only 5mm unloaded and 3mm when worn. If you're used to a low drop shoe, this aspect of a Newton shoe will be quite familiar.
  • The cushioning provided by the lugs uses a different approach to most shoes that rely on EVA foam. However, the forefoot cushioning of the Distance feels quite similar to shoe of the same drop that use standard EVA foam. Running with a Newton Distance on one foot and the Brooks PureCadence on the other, the forefoot cushioning was nearly identical. In fact, I felt like the Brooks had a little more rebound than the Distance.
  • There is some research comparing a Newton shoe with the lugs to the same shoe with the lugs ground away. This shows the lugs improve Running Economy in spite of being slightly heavier. However, it's not clear if this is due to the lugs, or simply indicates a lower drop is more efficient.
  • Early Newton shoes had only 4 lugs, which made the forefoot contact patch rather narrow and created some side-to-side instability. It was a bit like running on a narrow ridge, creating extra stress on the ankle. The Distance (and some other recent Newton shoes) have 5 lugs that solve this problem nicely. The 5 lug shoes have the lugs spread across nearly the whole width of the forefoot as you can see in the pictures.
  • The lugs mean that when the foot is on the ground, it is only supported at the forefoot and heel, not in the middle. I'm a strong advocate for avoiding shoes that push up under the arch of the foot, as an arch is a strong structure unless pressure is applied under the middle. However, the human foot normally has support and contact along the outside edge, and it's here that I find the Newton creates some unusual stress. I'm a little concerned that the Newton could cause problems for the outside bones of the foot (lateral metatarsals). This might be solved by gradually adopting the Newtons rather than simply swapping to them for all running.
  • I find the shape of the lugs means there is no support under the toes, which means there is no real "toe off", which I dislike. I did have a bit of an issue with my toes feeling numb with the Newtons, possibly because the forefoot bends the other way from other shoes. In most shoes your toes bend up as you toe off, but with the Newton they bend down due to the lack of support. This issue is more noticeable at faster speeds where toe off becomes more important. So at 9+ minute/mile pace it's a minor annoyance, but at sub-7 minute/mile pace it's far more of a problem. It's possible that as the front of the lugs wear down, then toe off will be regained, but that might take some time.
  • The way the lugs provide cushioning means they should last much longer than EVA foam. I've run a few hundred miles with no noticeable wear.
  • The lugs can act as a stone trap, and when they do it can be quite painful as the stone is right under the forefoot. I found this was a rare occurrence, but it did happen.
  • The Newton is even stranger when walking than running, so I'd not choose to use them for a run/walk workout.
  • There is some talk of the Newton encouraging a "barefoot gait", which I think is true. However, I believe that this comes simply from the lower drop, not anything special about the lugs.

2 Characteristics

  • Cushioning . The Distance is well cushioned, though as noted above, the cushioning from the lugs is a little different to other companies' shoes. The cushioning-to-weight ratio is not as good as the best shoes, but it's still respectable and better than most.
  • Drop. The Distance has only 3mm of drop, which is close enough to zero-drop that you probably won't notice.
  • Structure. While there is the complexity of the lugs, the overall structure of the Distance is nice and simple, without any attempt to interfere with natural foot movement.
  • Flexibility. The Distance is not especially flexible, but the inflexibility manifests itself as springiness rather than rigidity.
  • Outsole. The forefoot lugs are hard wearing rubber, and there is some further hard rubber along the outside rear of the heel and the forefoot in front of the lugs. This is a little hard to see in the pictures as it is the same color as the midsole.
  • Shape. The shoe is does not match the shape of the human foot, so the toe box needs to be cut open for comfort. (I recommend cutting open the toe box of virtually all running shoes, with the exception of a few shoes like some Altra shoes. When you have some worn out shoes, you should try cutting open the toe box. I've found that it's a big improvement, allowing my toes to move naturally and engage for toe off, as well as reducing the possibility of blisters.)
  • Upper. The upper is an extremely open mesh in the forefoot, thin and unpadded in the midfoot, and nicely cushioned in the rear. This is a nice combination for breathability and comfort. The padding around the ankle opening is thin but adequate.
  • Tongue. The Distance has a traditional tongue with tabs for the laces to hold it in position. There is no padding in the tongue but there is some reinforcement that spreads any pressure from the laces out.
  • Lacing. The laces are slightly rounded, but I had no problem with them coming untied.
  • Heel Counter. The Heel Counter is quite firm, but it's small enough that it shouldn't dig in unless you twist your ankle.
helping-hand.jpg

3 Comparisons

Here are some direct comparisons with its potential competition.

3.1 Newton Distance and Saucony Kinvara

The Distance and the Saucony Kinvara are quite similar, though they do things in different ways. The Kinvara is minimal drop by simply having a thicker forefoot rather than the Newton's lugs. Overall, I prefer the Kinvara, which feels more natural and creates less stress on my foot. However, the lugs on the Distance may last longer, reducing the overall cost of ownership.

Newton Distance IV top
Newton Distance IV bottom
Newton Distance IV inside
Newton Distance IV outside
Saucony Kinvara 6 top
Saucony Kinvara 6 bottom
Saucony Kinvara 6 inside
Saucony Kinvara 6 outside
helping-hand.jpg

3.2 Newton Distance and Brooks PureCadence

The shoe that I found that's closest to the Distance is the Brooks PureCadence and I spent some time either swapping between them on runs or even running with one of each type on either foot. I was surprised by how similar the forefoot cushioning felt, as I was hoping that the lugs would provide a little more spring than the EVA foam of the Brooks. The big differences come from the lack of support under the outside edge of the midfoot and under the toes. I found I really missed the toe off with the Distance, and I had aches and pains in my feet with the Distance I've not had in any other shoe.

Newton Distance IV top
Newton Distance IV bottom
Newton Distance IV inside
Newton Distance IV outside
Brooks PureCadence 3 top
Brooks PureCadence 3 bottom
Brooks PureCadence 3 inside
Brooks PureCadence 3 outside
helping-hand.jpg

3.3 Newton Distance and Hoka Clifton

The Hoka Clifton is the one of the better shoes that runners should be looking at. The Clifton is far better cushioned for the same weight, as well as feeling far more natural. If you're after a really well cushioned shoe, then chose the Clifton.

Newton Distance IV top
Newton Distance IV bottom
Newton Distance IV inside
Newton Distance IV outside
Hoka OneOne Clifton top
Hoka OneOne Clifton bottom
Hoka OneOne Clifton inside
Hoka OneOne Clifton outside
helping-hand.jpg

3.4 Newton Distance and Asics GT 2000

I tend to compare shoes against my benchmark "normal running shoe", the Asics GT 2000. The GT 2000 is over engineered and these features go against The Science of Running Shoes, causing more problems than they solve. The GT 2000 represents the shoes I expect many runners to be transitioning away from; it's a lot heavier, but less well cushioned. The GT 2000 has a high heel and various densities of foam in an attempt to manipulate your stride. The lower drop and better cushioning makes the Distance a far nicer shoe to run in. However, the Distance's lack of contact under the midfoot and toe is also a little odd, though not as much of an issue for me as the GT 2000's high heels.

Newton Distance IV top
Newton Distance IV bottom
Newton Distance IV inside
Newton Distance IV outside
Asics GT2000 top
Asics GT2000 bottom
Asics GT2000 inside
Asics GT2000 outside

4 Cushioning and Shoes

It's intuitively obvious that the cushioning in a shoe will reduce the impact on your body when running. However, The Science of Running Shoes indicates that the reality is rather more complex. While slight cushioning may reduce the effort needed to run by improving your Running Economy, most scientific research indicates that more cushioning does further improve Running Economy. In addition, cushioning does not generally reduce impact and may actually increase it. This is counterintuitive, but is likely to be due to the way a runners mind and body adapts to softer cushioning. Unfortunately, the scientific evidence is far from complete and it's hard to give clear recommendations. I believe that some runners will prefer more cushioning, while others prefer less, and typically those running further have a fondness for greater cushioning. I also believe that a shoe should be as light as possible, and a shoe should justify its weight with the cushioning it provides. My advice is to decide what level of cushioning you're looking for, and then find the lightest shoes that also fit well and are comfortable.

5 Visualizing the Attributes of the Newton Distance

How Newton Distance compares showing rearfoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How Newton Distance compares showing forefoot cushioning against the performance penalty of its weight. Upper right is better.
How Newton Distance compares showing the price against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.
How Newton Distance compares showing the loaded drop against the benefit (cushioning/performance penalty). Upper left is better.

6 A Comparison with other Recommended Shoes

For a more detailed comparison of these shoes see the Recommendations for Best Running Shoes. This table lists the key attributes of What to Look for in Running Shoes. For more detailed information, on the shoes see detailed shoe comparison.

Full Review Name Rating Recommended
price
Benefit Weight
(oz)
Penalty
(sec/mile)
Forefoot
Thickness
Heel
Thickness
Loaded Drop
mm
Cushioning Flexibility
Asics 33-DFA Review 33-DFA Worth considering $90 5.7 10.6 16.5 27 27 0 6.1 5
Saucony Type A6 Review A6 Highly Recommended $100 8.2 6.1 9.5 17 21 4 5.0 7
Adidas Adios Boost 2 Review Adios Worth considering $140 4.7 8.6 13.4 17 27 11 4.0 6
Merrell Bare Access Bare Access Review Pending $95 5.0 7.2 17.8 15 12 -2 3.6 7
Hoka Bondi 5 Review Bondi Recommended $150 6.1 11.6 18.1 38 42 5 7.1 2
Hoka Clayton Review Clayton Best of the Best $150 8.8 8.3 12.9 26 30 3 7.3 4
Hoka Clifton 3 Review Clifton3 Best of the Best $130 9.1 9.8 15.3 34 38 3 8.9 5
On Cloudracer Review Cloudracer Worth considering $130 5.7 8.2 12.8 19 27 5 4.7 7
Hoka Conquest Review Conquest Worth considering $170 5.0 11.9 18.5 28 34 5 6.0 2
Saucony Cortana 4 Review Cortana Worth considering $150 4.4 9.9 18.7 22 28 5 4.3 4
Mizuno Wave Cruise Review Cruise Worth considering $120 6.6 5.9 12.5 17 20 7 3.9 6
Newton Distance IV Review Distance Worth considering $155 7.5 9.1 14.2 26 31 3 6.8 5
Asics Gel DS Racer 10 Review DS Racer Worth considering $110 8.2 7.0 10.9 21 26 6 5.8 5
Mizuno Wave Ekiden 8 Review Ekiden Worth considering $115 5.7 5.7 14.6 13 18 6 3.2 8
Saucony Endorphin 2 Review Endorphin 2 Review Pending $115 7.4 5.5 10.2 15 13 -1 4.1 8
Adidas Energy Boost Review Energy Worth considering $160 7.2 10.0 15.6 20 30 7 7.2 5
Altra Escalante Review Escalante Best of the Best $130 9.1 8.7 13.5 28 25 -1 7.9 6
Puma Faas 100 R Review Faas 100 Highly Recommended $90 8.4 6.1 9.4 15 20 1 5.1 8
Saucony Fastwitch Review Fastwitch Highly Recommended $90 9.5 7.1 11.1 20 22 4 6.8 7
Topo Fli-Lyte Review Fli-Lyte Highly Recommended $100 6.0 9.4 14.6 23 24 4 5.6 5
Nike Free 4.0 Review Free Recommended $120 5.3 8.2 13.6 24 30 6 4.4 5
Saucony Freedom Review Freedom Recommended $160 5.4 10.7 16.6 25 29 3 5.8 6
Asics Gel Lyte 33 3 Review Gel Lyte Not recommended $90 8.0 7.3 11.4 17 24 4 5.8 9
Skechers GOmeb Speed 3 Review GOmeb 3 Worth considering $120 6.9 8.1 12.6 20 24 4 5.5 8
Skechers GORun 4 Review GORun Not recommended $100 6.1 7.5 11.7 15 23 3 4.5 7
Skechers GOrun Ultra 2 Review GRU Worth considering $90 7.5 10.0 15.6 28 34 8 7.5 4
Skechers GOrun Ultra Road Review GRU-R Worth considering $105 6.5 11.3 17.6 30 40 6 7.4 6
Asics GT 2000 Review GT 2000 Not recommended $120 4.8 11.2 17.4 28 35 5 5.4 2
New Balance Hanzo S Hanzo Review Pending $110 7.6 6.9 10.7 21 19 2 5.2 5
Hoka Hupana Review Hupana Recommended $115 6.1 8.9 13.9 31 36 7 5.4 4
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 7 Review Hyper Speed Highly Recommended $75 10.9 6.3 9.8 22 26 5 6.8 6
Altra Instinct 3.5 3.5 Review Instinct 3.5 Recommended $115 4.9 9.3 15.2 24 23 0 4.5 5
Altra Instinct 4.0 Review Instinct 4.0 Worth considering $120 6.0 9.8 15.3 29 25 -1 5.9 5
Asics Tarther Kainos 3 Review Kainos Worth considering $130 10.0 6.9 10.7 17 27 9 6.8 6
Saucony Kinvara 8 Review Kinvara 8 Review Pending $110 9.3 8.6 13.4 26 31 3 8.0 5
Nike LunaRacer 4 Review LunaRacer Recommended $90 9.9 7.0 10.9 22 30 7 6.9 5
Nike LunarSpider R5 Review LunarSpider Recommended $125 6.9 6.7 10.4 17 21 3 4.6 6
Hoka Mafate Speed Review Mafate Best of the Best $170 7.6 11.9 18.5 39 40 4 9.0 1
Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 v2 Review N0 Highly Recommended $100 7.9 6.5 10.1 14 20 4 5.2 8
Saucony Nomad Review Nomad Review Pending $110 4.3 10.5 17.2 25 27 2 4.5 4
Hoka Odyssey Review Odyssey Highly Recommended $130 8.5 9.4 14.6 37 45 5 8.0 3
Altra Olympus Review Olympus Highly Recommended $130 5.4 11.8 18.4 27 27 3 6.4 3
Altra One 2.5 Review One Highly Recommended $100 8.5 7.1 11.1 22 25 2 6.0 7
Altra Paradigm Review Paradigm Highly Recommended $130 6.4 9.9 15.4 25 25 1 6.4 2
Asics Piranha SP 5 Review Piranha Recommended $100 10.1 4.2 6.5 11 15 3 4.2 9
Brooks PureFlow 5 Review PureFlow Worth considering $110 6.0 9.7 15.1 26 29 5 5.8 8
Salming Race Review Race Worth considering $130 6.9 6.5 10.1 16 19 4 4.5 6
New Balance RC1600 v2 Review RC1600 Highly Recommended $110 8.8 5.6 8.7 15 21 5 4.9 8
New Balance RC5000 Review RC5000 Best of the Best $125 12.2 3.4 5.3 13 17 3 4.2 8
New Balance RC5000v2 Review RC5000v2 Best of the Best $125 14.2 4.0 6.2 13 21 6 5.7 7
Skechers GoRun Ride 3 Review Ride Worth considering $85 5.9 8.5 13.2 18 28 6 5.0 8
Inov-8 RoadXTreme 220 Review RXT-220 Worth considering $120 5.2 8.0 18.2 14 17 3 4.2 8
Topo ST-2 Review ST-2 Highly Recommended $90 8.2 7.3 11.4 20 18 0 6.0 7
Hoka Stinson Lite Review Stinson Highly Recommended $160 7.3 11.6 18.1 35 40 6 8.5 0
Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 Review Streak LT Best of the Best $80 8.8 5.4 8.4 16 21 4 4.8 5
Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Review Takumi Sen 3 Highly Recommended $160 7.7 6.6 10.2 17 21 4 5.1 5
Altra Torin 2.0 Review Torin Worth considering $125 5.8 9.6 14.9 28 25 -1 5.5 4
Hoka Tracer Review Tracer Recommended $130 7.2 7.4 11.5 21 24 2 5.3 5
Merrell Trail Glove 3 Review Trail Glove Best of the Best $100 2.9 6.9 24.7 11 11 0 2.0 8
Topo Tribute Review Tribute Recommended $100 5.9 7.3 11.4 20 18 -1 4.3 6
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 Review Universe Highly Recommended $125 10.7 3.1 10.6 9 12 1 3.3 9
Merrell Vapor Glove 2 Review Vapor Glove Highly Recommended $85 2.1 6.1 27.6 6 5 0 1.3 10
New Balance Vazee Pace Review Vazee Pace Worth considering $110 6.0 8.6 13.4 18 24 6 5.2 5
Asics TartherZeal 3 Review Zeal Worth considering $140 10.9 6.3 9.8 17 27 9 6.8 6

It's not a running shoe, but I love the Hoka Tor Ultra hiking boot and I've tested the Altra Lone Peak Boot.
Older shoe reviews: Saucony Hattori Review, Mizuno Cursoris Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, Hoka Clifton Review, Saucony Virrata 2 Review, Brooks PureCadence 3 Review, Brooks PureConnect 3 Review, Brooks PureFlow 3 Review, Skechers GO Bionic 2 Review, New Balance 980 Review, Brooks Transcend 2 Review.
Reviews of shoes that are not worth including on the table: Hoka Huaka Review, Patagonia EVERlong Review.