Review: Newton All-Weather Trainer

The worst of the rainy season may be over (let’s hope) but there are still plenty of wet, muddy months left in the year that make it unappealing to lace up the kicks and get out the door for a long run. It’s all the more unappealing if you have a pair of high-dollar running shoes that you don’t want ruined plodding through the muck and the mire. Enter these All-Weather Trainers from Newton. Lightweight, supportive and exceptionally high tech, they’re also designed to ward off the worst of the wet and cold.

Before we get to how the shoe is winterized, let’s look at the underlying technology. Newtons are designed to encourage runners to land barefoot style — with a fore or mid-foot strike — rather than landing on the heels and rolling forward. It’s the most efficient way to run. Running with a forefoot strike conserves your forward momentum, which translates into faster race times with less effort. The problem with a forefoot strike is that it’s not the way most people tend run naturally due to a lifetime of running in cushioned shoes. Most of us have to learn it, and it also can be uncomfortable or downright injurious to land on your forefeet without adequate support. Newtons try to help you make this transition via some fancy footwork on the bottom of the shoe.

Rather than foam, gel or compressed air cushioning, the soles on Newtons have a series of “actuator lugs” just below the ball of the foot. The lugs are designed to help encourage you to land on your forefoot, to protect that part of the foot, and (best yet) to propel you forward. When you land, the lugs push into hollow chambers in the midsole. This cushions your landing, and helps make it comfy to land midsole or forefoot rather than on the heel as you might be accustomed. As your foot moves forward, these lugs then essentially lever out, and as you lift your foot, they return the energy by pushing up and out in the same direction as your stride. Newton claims it makes them more efficient than traditional foam or gel soles that simply absorb energy but don’t return it.

A note on support. If you’ve purchased a pair of running shoes in the past 10 years, you’ve doubtlessly heard much about neutral shoes or motion control for runners who roll their feet. While I have a neutral stride, Newton claims all of its shoes are designed for all types of runners — neutral, pronating and supinating striders. It claims that supports in the shoe guide the foot down the center of the shoe, promoting a neutral stride for everyone. Because I already have a neutral stride, I wasn’t able to test this claim.

To test the shoes, I ran in them for two months over approximately 200 miles of terrain. For the past few years, I’ve been struggling trying to achieve a forefoot strike. While I’m still not quite where I’d like to be, after two months I have moved from my heels to my midfoot/forefoot. I’m definitely running a bit faster, and feel like I’ve got more energy to go longer. Of course, some of this is likely psychological: By being made more aware of the lugs beneath my feet as I run, I more consciously try to move my stride towards the front of my foot. However, either way, I’m running more efficiently now and have managed to accomplish something in a couple of months that I had not in the previous two years. The shoes do take a few runs to get the hang of. Newton says it takes about 25 miles to get used to the shoes. I’d put it closer to 35.

As to being all-weather runners, they’re good but not perfect. Most lightweight runners tend to have mesh uppers to conserve weight. This of course lets in water and cold air. These kicks have a water and wind-resistant upper with a gusseted tongue (think connected to the shoe) to keep out the worst of the wind and the rain. While I ran with them in the rain, and managed to keep my feet relatively dry, if you land in a deep puddle that covers the top of the foot or stay out for any length of time in a downpour, your feet are going to get wet; they aren’t waterproof. They do, however, do a great job of keeping the cold wind at bay.

One area where they performed poorly, however, was on the trail. Newton doesn’t make any claims that these are trail runners, but given the “all weather” name, you could be forgiven for lacing them up and taking them out on a muddy path. Big mistake. Not only do they lack enough lugs over the entire sole to hold your foot steady on sliding surfaces, the actuator lugs, because they extend so far below the rest of the shoe, can get hung up on junk in the trail — roots, rocks and the like. I busted my ass multiple times trail running in these, nearly pulling my groin on one occasion, and, well, smashing it in a most uncomfortable place on another. Yet on rain-slicked streets I never had a problem. They also held up well on fire roads and gravel. They’ll keep you on balance as long as you stay off the single track.

In short, these are an exceptional, if expensive, pair of running shoes. While designed for winter, spring, and fall running conditions, they’ll work year-round as they are breathable, though I’m not sure I’d want to run in black kicks in 90-degree weather. They won’t keep you dry in a deluge, but they will prevent a soaking in wet conditions (like the day after a rainstorm or in a light sprinkle) and unlike some more delicate high-end running shoes, they’ll stand up to the abuse you throw at them in the rain and mud. If you’re a distance runner looking for a pair of all weather shoes to train in year-round, these make a great choice.

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