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.

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

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

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

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


If you're looking for "the best of the best" running shoe, here are my top picks. Of course, the answer will depend a little on what you're looking for, so I have recommendations for various categories.

  • Best All Round Shoe. The Altra Escalante is my current all-round favorite. It has plenty of cushioning for its weight, it has a very springy midsole, it lasts well, and it has a shape that's closer to the shape of a human foot than most shoes. It's a great shoe for any runner, including those Starting to run. It's also a fairly easy shoe to find due to its popularity.
  • Best Maximalist Shoe: If you want something massively cushioned, then I'd recommend the Saucony Kinvara 8. It's remarkably light and remarkably cushioned, beating Hoka at their own game.
  • Best Optimal Shoe: For those looking to trade cushioning for speed, the Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 was my top pick, but the latest version (LT 4) falls short of it's predecessor. There are lots of great optimal running shoes, which provide just enough cushioning with light weight and minimal frills, but all have their weak spots. Probably the best option at the moment is the Altra Vanish-R, which offers great cushioning for just over 5oz/150g.
  • Fastest Shoe: If you really want speed, then check out the Nike Vaporfly 4%. It's light, massively cushioned, and has a carbon fiber plate. Nothing comes close, not even the now defunct New Balance RC5000‏‎ or New Balance RC5000v2‏‎. There are a number of caveats; it's really expensive, it's really hard to find, and there's a significant injury risk.
  • Best Minimalist Shoe: Merrell Trail Glove. I recommend the trail glove for road running in spite of the 'trail' moniker. It's not a fast shoe by any means, but it's comfortable and will last well.
  • All Terrain Shoe. For trail running, I've become a fan of Altra, and I think their best shoe is the the Altra Timp, though the Altra Lone Peak is really close.
  • Honorable Mention: It's not really a running shoe, but the Vivobarefoot Ra is comfortable, minimalist and can more or less pass as a dress shoe. I've worn mine to weddings with a suit and they've not looked out of place. You can run in the Ra, but the leather means it doesn't breathe well.

For a more detailed on running 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

Brand Name Rating Recommended
Benefit Weight
Loaded Drop
Cushioning Flexibility
Saucony Type A Review Saucony A/A7 Recommended $100 6.0 6.7 12.1 19 22 1 4.1 7
Saucony Type A6 Review Saucony A6 Highly Recommended $100 7.7 6.1 9.5 17 21 4 4.7 7
Saucony Type A8 Saucony A8 Highly Recommended $90 7.1 6.2 9.7 19 20 -1 4.4 7
Adidas Adios Boost 2 Review Adidas Adios Worth considering $140 4.4 8.6 13.4 17 27 11 3.8 6
Hoka Bondi 5 Review Hoka Bondi Recommended $150 5.7 11.6 18.1 38 42 5 6.7 2
Hoka Clayton 2 Review Hoka Clayton2 Highly Recommended $150 8.6 8.3 12.9 23 28 1 7.1 5
Hoka Clifton 4 Review Hoka Clifton4 Worth considering $130 7.2 9.3 14.5 30 35 10 6.7 3
ON Cloudflash Review On Cloud Cloudflash Worth considering $180 4.2 8.3 14.6 19 26 7 3.5 6
On Cloudracer Review On Cloud Cloudracer Worth considering $130 5.4 8.2 12.8 19 27 5 4.4 7
ON Cloud X On Cloud CloudX Review Pending $140 4.3 8.3 16.3 21 27 7 3.6 7
Mizuno Wave Cruise Review Mizuno Cruise Worth considering $120 6.3 5.9 12.5 17 20 7 3.7 6
Newton Distance IV Review Newton Distance Worth considering $155 7.1 9.1 14.2 26 31 3 6.4 5
Asics Gel DS Racer 10 Review Asics DS Racer Worth considering $110 7.8 7.0 10.9 21 26 6 5.4 5
Mizuno Wave Ekiden 8 Review Mizuno Ekiden Worth considering $115 5.3 5.7 14.6 13 18 6 3.0 8
Saucony Endorphin 2 Review Saucony Endorphin 2 Worth considering $115 7.5 5.1 9.6 15 13 -1 3.8 8
Adidas Energy Boost Review Adidas Energy Worth considering $160 6.8 10.0 15.6 20 30 7 6.8 5
Altra Escalante Review Altra Escalante Best of the Best $130 8.6 8.7 13.5 28 25 -1 7.5 6
Saucony Fastwitch Review Saucony Fastwitch Highly Recommended $90 9.0 7.1 11.1 20 22 4 6.4 7
Topo Fli-Lyte 2 Review Topo Fli-Lyte2 Highly Recommended $100 6.4 9.1 14.2 24 26 3 5.8 5
Reebok Floatride Run Review Reebok Floatride Worth considering $150 7.2 9.6 14.9 28 34 10 7.0 5
Saucony Freedom Review Saucony Freedom Recommended $160 5.1 10.7 16.6 25 29 3 5.4 6
Skechers GORun 4 Review Skechers GORun Not recommended $100 5.7 7.5 11.7 15 23 3 4.3 7
Skechers GOrun Ultra 2 Review Skechers GRU Worth considering $90 7.1 10.0 15.6 28 34 8 7.1 4
Asics GT 2000 Review Asics GT 2000 Not recommended $120 4.5 11.2 17.4 28 35 5 5.1 2
New Balance Hanzo S Review New Balance Hanzo Worth considering $110 7.1 6.9 10.7 21 19 2 4.9 5
Hoka Hupana Review Hoka Hupana Recommended $115 5.7 8.9 13.9 31 36 7 5.1 4
Asics Gel Hyper Speed 7 Review Asics Hyper Speed Highly Recommended $75 10.2 6.3 9.8 22 26 5 6.4 6
Altra Instinct 4.0 Review Altra Instinct 4.0 Worth considering $120 5.7 9.8 15.3 29 25 -1 5.6 5
Asics Tarther Kainos 3 Review Asics Kainos Worth considering $130 9.4 6.9 10.7 17 27 9 6.4 6
Altra King MT Altra King MT Review Pending $140 4.1 10.7 20.8 19 21 -1 4.4 5
Saucony Kinvara 8 Review Saucony Kinvara 8 Best of the Best $110 8.8 8.6 13.4 26 31 3 7.5 5
Altra Lone Peak Altra Lone Peak Highly Recommended $120 4.9 11.4 17.7 23 25 -2 5.6 4
Nike Zoom Streak LT 3 Review Nike LT3 Best of the Best $80 8.3 5.4 8.4 16 21 4 4.5 5
Nike Zoom Streak LT 4 Review Nike LT4 Recommended $90 9.2 5.5 8.5 15 21 5 5.0 7
Nike LunarSpider R5 Review Nike LunarSpider Recommended $125 6.5 6.7 10.4 17 21 3 4.3 6
Hoka Mafate Speed Review Hoka Mafate Highly Recommended $170 7.1 11.9 18.5 39 40 4 8.5 1
Pearl Izumi EM Road N0 v2 Review Pearl N0 Highly Recommended $100 7.5 6.5 10.1 14 20 4 4.9 8
Saucony Nomad Review Saucony Nomad Worth considering $110 4.1 10.5 17.2 25 27 2 4.3 4
Hoka Odyssey Review Hoka Odyssey Highly Recommended $130 8.0 9.4 14.6 37 45 5 7.5 3
Altra Olympus 2.5 Review Altra Olympus Review Pending $150 6.9 11.8 18.4 34 34 2 8.2 3
Altra One 3.0 Review Altra One Recommended $100 5.8 8.8 13.7 23 23 0 5.1 6
Asics Piranha SP 5 Review Asics Piranha Recommended $100 9.5 4.2 6.5 11 15 3 4.0 9
Brooks PureFlow 5 Review Brooks PureFlow Worth considering $110 5.7 9.7 15.1 26 29 5 5.5 8
Salming Race Review Salming Race Worth considering $130 6.5 6.5 10.1 16 19 4 4.2 6
New Balance RC1600 v2 Review New Balance RC1600 Highly Recommended $110 8.3 5.6 8.7 15 21 5 4.6 8
New Balance RC5000v2 Review New Balance RC5000v2 Best of the Best $125 13.4 4.0 6.2 13 21 6 5.4 7
Skechers GoRun Ride 3 Review Skechers Ride Worth considering $85 5.6 8.5 13.2 18 28 6 4.7 8
Nike RN Distance 2 Review Nike RNDist2 Worth considering $120 7.6 9.2 14.3 25 28 4 7.0 7
Inov-8 RoadXTreme 220 Review Inov-8 RXT-220 Worth considering $120 4.9 8.0 18.2 14 17 3 3.9 8
Salomon Sense Ride Review Salomon Sense Worth considering $120 8.0 10.0 15.6 24 29 3 8.0 4
Altra Solstice Review Altra Solstice Highly Recommended $90 6.6 8.1 12.5 23 25 1 5.3 6
Topo ST-2 Review Topo ST-2 Highly Recommended $90 7.7 7.3 11.4 20 18 0 5.7 7
Hoka Stinson Lite Review Hoka Stinson Highly Recommended $160 6.9 11.6 18.1 35 40 6 8.0 0
Altra Superior Altra Superior Review Pending $110 5.4 9.9 15.5 23 25 0 5.4 5
Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Review Adidas Takumi Sen 3 Highly Recommended $160 7.3 6.6 10.2 17 21 4 4.8 5
Altra Timp Review Altra Timp Best of the Best $130 5.4 11.6 18.1 28 31 2 6.2 3
Altra Torin 2.0 Review Altra Torin Worth considering $125 5.4 9.6 14.9 28 25 -1 5.2 4
Hoka Tracer Review Hoka Tracer Recommended $130 6.8 7.4 11.5 21 24 2 5.0 5
Merrell Trail Glove 4 Review Merrell Trail Glove 4 Best of the Best $100 3.2 8.4 23.8 13 13 0 2.7 10
Topo Tribute Review Topo Tribute Recommended $100 5.6 7.3 11.4 20 18 -1 4.1 6
Mizuno Wave Universe 5 Review Mizuno Universe Highly Recommended $125 10.1 3.1 10.6 9 12 1 3.1 9
Altra Vanish-R Review Altra Vanish-R Recommended $100 9.7 5.3 8.2 19 21 0 5.1 8
Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Review Merrell Vapor Glove 3 Highly Recommended $85 2.0 6.1 27.6 6 5 0 1.2 10
Nike Vaporfly 4% Review Nike Vaporfly Best of the Best $250 9.8 7.2 11.2 25 37 8 7.1 2
New Balance Vazee Pace Review New Balance Vazee Pace Worth considering $110 5.6 8.6 13.4 18 24 6 4.9 5
Asics TartherZeal 3 Review Asics Zeal Worth considering $140 10.3 6.3 9.8 17 27 9 6.4 6
Saucony Zealot 3 Review Saucony Zealot3 Recommended $130 8.4 9.5 14.8 29 32 4 8.0 6
Nike Zoom Fly Review Nike Zoom Fly Worth considering $150 7.8 8.7 13.5 29 36 8 6.8 3

It's not a running shoe, but I love the Hoka Tor Ultra hiking boot and I've tested the Altra Lone Peak Boot, the Hoka Tor Speed 2, and the Inov-8 Roclite 325 hiking boots
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, Hoka Huaka Review, Patagonia EVERlong Review, Asics 33-DFA Review, Hoka Conquest Review, Saucony Cortana Review, Puma Faas 100 R Review, Saucony Fastwitch Review, Nike Free Review, Asics Gel Lyte 33 Review, Skechers GOmeb Speed Review, Skechers GOrun Ultra Road Review, Nike LunaRacer Review, Altra Paradigm Review.