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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Newton's Sir Isaac Shoes: First Impressions

Newton is a company that has long-fascinated me.  They have associated themselves with the barefoot running movement, but seemingly produce shoes that have little do to with barefoot running.  The theory behind Newton shoes is both simple and complex.  The simple explanation- the shoes are cushioned trainers designed for a midfoot landing.  The complex answer- look here:

My First Impressions

I received these shoes on the same day I received Terra Plana VivoBarefoot's EVO.  The difference between the shoes could not be greater.  The EVOs are a true minimalist shoe with a 4mm sole.  The Sir Isaacs look like a traditional cushioned running shoe.  They felt heavy.  The sole looked like it was REALLY thick.  My measurements put the sole at about 30mm.  I couldn't believe these shoes were being marketed as shoes that "will make your feet think they are barefoot."  For those that have been reading this blog for some time, you will know I am VERY annoyed at marketing claims any shoe is close to or better than barefoot running.  Needless to say, I was skeptical of Newton's claim.

It took a about a week before I actually tried the shoes as I was infatuated with the EVOs.  The first time I wore the shoes, I was seriously questioning why they sent this shoe.  This particular shoe was designed to help shod runners learn to run with a forefoot strike.  As a long-time barefoot runner, I've been using a forefoot strike for years.  Furthermore, my ideal shoe would be the exact polar opposite of this shoe. 

My ultimate shoe needs a wafer-thin sole to provide good ground feel.  My greatest complaint of the EVO and Vibram's KSOs are the soles are too thick (about 4 and 3mm respectively.)  The Sir Isaac sole is 30mm. 

My ultimate shoe also must allow for good toe articulation which allows for toe splaying.  The Sir Isaac has a thin, restrictive toe box relative to my other shoes. 

My ultimate shoe must be somewhat flexible, the Sir Issac is stiff as a board. 

My ultimate shoe must be light, the Sir Isaac feels like lead weights attached to my feet. 

My ultimate shoe must be free of any cushioning, the Sir Isaac is like walking on pillows. 

What does this mean?  I may be the worst possible reviewer for this shoe.  Realizing I could not objectively review this shoe based on my running history and minimalist shoe bias, I solicited the help of others with more Newton experience.  This shoe was designed for people that wanted to adopt a midfoot strike but keep their cushioned trainers.  My fellow runners provided valuable feedback that will help in my full review. 

So far, I've used the Newtons for two shorter runs.  I do not like them.  The lack of ground feel and cushioning is far too distracting for me.  When barefoot, I do not have to think about my form... my brain can simply rely on muscle memory and reacting to the sensations under-foot.  When wearing these shoes, I have to consciously think about every step to maintain good form. 

HOWEVER, they do perform as advertised.  The design appears to be sound.  I was able to use a midfoot strike without a single problem.  The heel-to-toe drop is minimal (2-3mm.)  These shoes seemingly accomplish what no other cushioned trainer does... it allows you to use a midfoot strike.  I'm planning a longer run today to really test the shoes. 

Early returns- I would not recommend this shoe to barefoot runners.  Right now, I think I would recommend this shoe to individuals that are not interested in going the barefoot/minimalist route but still want to use a midfoot strike.  The POSE and Chi crowd that isn't willing to go minimal may find this shoe very useful.

I will be posting a full review within about a week or so.

What are your experiences with Newtons?  

This shoe was provided by the manufacturer.


  1. NOT suitable for "the Pose crowd"! Pose recommends a light shoe with thin soles and no cushioning at all:

  2. Wow. How frustrating! silly marketing. Thanks for the review; hopefully others won't be sucked in by it!

  3. I havnt tried the Newtons. I have my V5s when I am not barefoot. I found a pair of Saucony Shay Flats that are very flexible, thin sole, and light, and they are only 60 bucks. I have only ran in them 3 times so far. Not too bad.

  4. I've been intrigued by Newtons b/c they are getting so much positive word-of-mouth. Interesting to hear your take on it.

  5. I have used Newtons for a couple of years. Interesting that when they first came out, they were viewed by the "establishment" about the same as the establishment now looks upon the minimalist movement -- like "WTF"?

    Compared to the mass marketed shoes for the heel strike crowd, they are a big improvement. That said, the model that you were sent is probably their heaviest and least minimalist shoe. Probably a better shoe to have tested is the neutral racer which I had been wearing until transitioning to VFFs and now EVOs. The Racer still isn't minimalist by any means, but at a little over 8 ounces, only racing flats are lighter I believe....the EVOs weigh about the same as the Racers.

    True, you don't get the ground feel using Newtons that you get with EVOs and, obviously, VFFs, but, hey, they get you running on your forefoot which is the first step, right?

  6. great shoes! love the style and design of them.
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