Posted by: Joe English | December 20, 2010

Product of the Year — Newton Running Neutral Performance Racer

running-advice-bugRunning Advice and News is pleased to announce our pick for 2010 Product of the Year. This is the product that most captured our attention and represents continued innovation in running products for 2010. Our pick is the Newton Running Neutral Performance Racer running shoe from Newton Running. We congratulate Newton Running for pushing the envelop of running technology with their innovative designs and thoughtful approach to re-evaluating the running shoe.

Background

Newton Running Neutral Performance Racer

In a year when everyone seemed to be looking to barefoot running and the Vibram Five Fingers barefoot running shoe as the next direction in shoes, it was the approach taken by Newton Running that caught my eye. While barefoot running and the Newton Running approach share something in common — moving the runner to a more forward and natural running position — Newton has found a way to protect the foot from the pounding of the pavement while putting the runner in a position that will foster more speed, agility and fluidity in their form. While both approaches require a retraining of the runner and changes to the runner’s position, I feel that runners will fare better in a cushioned shoe that places them in a more natural position, than exposing their feet to direct pounding on pavement.

Newton Running’s approach is to build up the cushion under the fore-foot and give the foot a stronger push from the shoe on take-off. The heel height is also reduced to varying degrees based on the particular model of the shoe, because the runner impacts less on the heel in this forward position and moves the runner farther forward onto the balls of their feet. As with barefoot running, running in a more forward position does require greater strength in the calf muscles, feet and Achilles tendons, but it places the runner in a position that allows the legs to work in a more natural way to propel the body forward.

My test of the Neutral Performance Racer started in June after buying a pair at the Rock N Roll Marathon race expo. I was attracted to the shoe because as a fore-foot runner the shoe promised more cushion and support in the fore-foot area. At the time both myself and Coach Dean Hebert briefly tested the shoe. As I noted in my first review of the product, Coach Dean did not like the shoe due to his history with Achilles Tendon problems and the stress that the shoe can put on the Achilles due to its lower heel angle. And as I pointed out in that initial review, I had reservations about the shoes applicability to some runners.

Over the past six months, I’ve worn through two pairs of the Newton Running shoes and have found that the product performs well under many different running conditions — from dirt to the track to the road and in wet, dry or hot conditions. But I have also found that the adaptation caused by the shoe has had overall benefits for my strength as a runner. In early testing, I noted that I often needed to warm-up in a more traditional shoe, because the forward position was fatiguing when running slowly. Over the course of the first few months, this fatigue disappeared completely. As my feet and legs became stronger, the forward position of the shoe felt more and more natural at all speeds.

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