A couple of years ago, after finally getting a 4-year-old injury properly diagnosed and treated, I decided I needed to work on improving my running form. I was a heel striker and, much as I had tried to become a midfoot striker, I couldn’t seem to break the habit. So I got a hold of the Evolution Running DVD by coaches Ken Mierke and Joe Friel. Watching the DVD was kinda painful – movie-making is not Ken or Joe’s strong point – but the message was clear: you cannot change running form through running alone; you have to perform drills that isolate each aspect of the form and train your legs so your feet land underneath, not in front of you, using the calf muscle instead of the bony heel and thereby triggering the elastic recoil that propels your leg forward for the next foot strike.
The drills had me practicing keeping my heels off the ground while making small hops, then high knees, then butt kicks. Then I would practice the pendulum swing, the backwards foot scrape (thinking of a horse helps…) and finally put it all together.
It was surprisingly easy. After every run I performed the drills, and my running form naturally changed. I became a midfoot striker. I paid attention while running and could feel the difference. My quads were no longer tired after long runs because I was using the elastic recoil action, not my quad, to bring my leg forward after landing. My calves were a little tighter because they weren’t used to doing the job they were designed to do, but that didn’t last long. And…I got faster.
Newton running shoes are designed to harness the midfoot running form. Newton claims that the shoes’ Action/Reaction Technology™ absorbs and returns energy back to you. I’ll leave the science (not my forte) to them, but it’s interesting that this energy return thing is exactly what Ken and Joe taught in Evolution Running. I bought a pair of Newtons when Potomac River Running was getting rid of inventory for $75 a pair. I figured it was a good time to try them out.
The shoes are very comfortable to wear sockless, which is great for triathlon. They’re extremely light and breathable…great for hot summer days when your feet start to feel like they’re on fire. I’ve worn them on the track, on tempo runs, and races up to 10K. I don’t notice the “actuator lugs” under the forefoot at all. The only time I remembered they were there was when I hopped over one of those concrete ledges at the front of a parking space during a warm up for a race, caught the lugs on the concrete and almost went flying.
Note that Newtons are not designed for heel strikers. In addition, they won’t turn you into a midfoot striker. In fact, running in them if you’re a heel striker is possibly a very bad idea. There’s no real heel protection – the heel is very light and made of some foam-type material, whereas the heel in a traditional running shoe is more rubbery and protective. So if you’re really interested in trying Newtons – which I do recommend – be sure you’re a midfoot striker first.
I think the best thing I can say about the Newton is that I really don’t notice any difference between this and other lightweight trainers. For me, it’s another shoe in the short race/tempo run arsenal. And it doesn’t hurt that it looks cool.
Neither Evolution Running nor Newton paid me to write this review or gave me free stuff…I should be so lucky. The opinions are my own and my interpretation of the science may be shaky. Gimme a break, I was an English major!