By Tom Demerly.
It’s pretty simple: Lighter shoes are faster. For 2012 Newton has released their new Newton MV2 racing flat, a shoe that merges the Newton Action/Reaction energy storage with ultra-lightweight and zero rise technology. The result is a specialty racing shoe that may make you faster if its design suits your build and running style.
Newton staged a bit of a revolution in running shoes in March of 2007 after developing their unique Action/Reaction technology. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you already know that Newton espouses a “Land-Lever-Lift” natural running gait for midfoot running efficiency, speed and injury reduction. The timing of Newton’s introduction in 2007 was perfect. Triathlon was continuing to boom and athletes were hungry for new running technologies. Even with a brutal recession the $150+ price tag of Newton shoes was more of a calling card than a road block.
In addition to the unique technology there is the impressive Newton customer service, no doubt built into the price of the shoes, but this writer will argue it’s worth it. As a retail consumer I’ve used Newton’s customer service after I purchased a pair of shoes to test. They exceeded the level of service of every other shoe brand I’ve interacted with. They had no idea I write about triathlon companies for a living.
At the same time Newton was the buzz on running and triathlon forums the barefoot/minimalist/low drop running craze was growing faster than you can speed dial your podiatrist. It seemed like a moderated, low drop, minimalist introduction from Newton would merge every relevant trend in running technology. Enter the Newton MV2.
The official Newton sales literature says the Newton MV2 is “engineered to be the lightest and most efficient Natural Running shoe ever produced”. In reality Newton has likely come very close to that goal. If you want to split hairs the Newton MV2 is absolutely not the lightest running shoe. Some specialty shoes like Brooks’ “The Wire” are a full ounce lighter- but are specialty track spikes. The key disclaimer in Newton’s claim is the two words “Natural Running”. This is a no-drop shoe “born to run” differently than a traditional geometry shoe.
In the case of the Newton MV2 “Natural Running” refers to the level sole profile; the forefoot is the same height as the heel. Most running shoes have a higher heel than forefoot, and the resulting difference is referred to as “drop”. You’re either a disciple of the no-drop movement or you aren’t. Newton’s others shoes offer different geometry that still promotes their innovation forefoot/midfoot strike but do not embrace the zero-drop ethos.
A cornerstone of zero-drop running is acclimation; getting accustomed to running with flat shoes. This is a gradual process and there will be some aches and pains along the way. Advocates of zero-drop running believe there is a reduction in injuries in the long term and change in running stride that is more natural and less dependent on cushy shoes that alter our natural running style. Newton does a nice job of explain how to acclimate to the shoes by emphasizing the gradual nature of the adaptation. You have to take it slow.
In addition to good advice on adapting to zero drop running Newton also included an interesting and simple way to help adapt to the MV2 zero drop shoe. A 3 millimeter closed cell foam lift is included with the MV2. You install the lift under the removable insole to raise the heel 3 millimeters. This is an acclimation tool and it appears to work well, gradually compressing over time as you adapt- then you remove it completely for the full zero drop geometry. How long does it take to adapt to an MV2? It depends on the runner. The closer your running style is to a higher turnover, natural gait the less time it will take. If you are 220 pounds and coming off the Brooks Beast, it will take longer.
Minimalist, zero-drop shoe designs rely on your feet being relatively strong and stable on their own. The midsole architecture of the MV2 emphasizes that. There is very little to it. It is light, laterally flexible and it doesn’t absorb much shock. There is no motion control in the traditional sense. Oddly, this isn’t an issue. One of the benefits of minimalist running designs is increased proprioception- your foot goes naturally to the best place to interact with the ground. While this adaptation takes time a case has been made for benefits.
Since the geometry of the shoe and the forefoot lugs effectively put you forward on your feet during footstrike you don’t need the heel much, and you don’t need a constructed, motion control heel. If you take the acclimation gradually it may be a running style that works for you.
I’ve had one question since the barefoot craze began: What’s the benefit to the average runner? In the case of the Newton MV2 a tangible benefit is a lighter shoe that does feel faster. That I like.
Does the Newton MV2 feel different than a traditional running shoe? Oh yes. Is it better? Maybe. If you put the time into acclimation or, if you are already an experienced barefoot runner I think you’ll find the front end Action/Reaction design a benefit- and Newton are the only guys doing it on a zero drop shoe. That could make this one of the best choices in a fast pace barefoot race shoe. Newton does point out that the MV2 can be used by acclimated runners as an everyday shoe, but I’ll suggest that would be for the very well acclimated barefoot runner who is also fit and not overweight.
Newton should be credited with a thorough design approach to their zero-drop offering since the MV2 required a redesign of their Action/Reaction forefoot construction. The MV2 uses second generation Action/Reaction lugs. These new lugs are more responsive for a quicker turnover and designed to operate at higher footstrike frequency. Their geometry is also beautifully tuned, with a rounded leading edge on the lugs as opposed to the squared off lugs on the other Newtons. If you have been a Newton runner from the beginning (I have, on and off…) you know the leading edge of the Newton lugs tends to “round out” or wear down after a couple weeks then achieve its own best geometry. Once you get the leading edge of the original Newton lugs rounded off, the shoes seem to run better. Newton did this for you on the MV2.
What is it like to run in the MV2? The shoe fits snug. Newton says you buy the same size in the MV2 as you would in other Newton models. I agree but you should expect a more moccasin-like fit, almost like a heavy sock. The shoes feel faster. Way faster. There simply isn’t much there. If you just put them on and go for a run they will feel oddly “bare” at first. Remember- you have to adjust to this design and it takes time. In previous Newton models I saw faster times at comparable heart rates using just the Action/Reaction technology. When you through in the zero drop geometry and the ultra light weight it’s easy to understand why you’ll likely have faster run splits in these. You do need to be aware of where you’re going in these shoes though, although they will work in a moderate tail setting.
If you are already a Newton customer and have also dabbled in zero drop running the Newton MV2 should be at the top of your shoe short list- take a run in it. I wager you’ll be impressed. Another incentive is a lower price for the MV2 than most other Newtons by about $30. Additionally, because the shoe does not rely on gas-filled foam for midsole cushioning and emphasizes a natural forward footstrike these won’t wear out in three months like a traditional running shoe.
I was a Newton believer from their introduction and the new MV2 merges running trends with proven Newton technology to provide something truly unique. If you like running fast and enjoy innovative running technology this shoe belongs in your quiver.
See it! Like it! Share it!