Newton 5th lug

Not long ago Newton released its new Mileage and Speed models, better known respectively as the Gravity III & Motion III, and the Distance III & Distance S III. With the release of this third iteration of these models they added a 5th lug. A 5th lug already existed on the Newton M2 and the Newton Energy, but the theme and reason behind the 5th lug is different in these new updates. In these models covered here the lugs compress in the foam material from the midsole and not, as in the models mentioned above, in hollow chambers separated by a membrane. Newton now calls this system P.O.P. 1, while the lugs as used in the Energy and MV3 are called P.O.P 2.

I’ve got a history in Newton shoes, having run in about 35 pairs, in all different colors and iterations and this has been – for my personal running – my predominant shoe brand for the past 5 years. I don’t just run in them, but cut them open to see how they work, what they are built like, material use, construction. I like to do this with shoes to understand why and how I can translate the differences from one model to the next.

In order to make a side-by-side comparison I chose a Distance model from last year and compared it to the new Distance (most of this comparison translates to the Gravity and Motion). Let's start at the bottom of the shoe, with Newton’s proprietary system of the lugs.

The new models have 5 lugs, but that’s not all. The new lugs are each about 6mm longer. And, they are placed just a little bit differently compared to the 4-lug models. The lateral-most placed lug is slightly more rearward, while the lug most medial remains in the same place.

Since there are now 5 lugs, the lugs span a wider distance. On the 4-lug models there were about 10mm of the shoe outboard of the lug; now that space is roughly halved, which gives the runner a broader base of support.

Where the old lugs had a completely smooth surface the new 5 lugs feature a pattern that may give them a bit more grip on wet surfaces. Finally, and importantly, the new 5 lugs protrude a bit less from the rest of the sole.

If we take a look at the rest of the sole there is a little difference between old Distance and new 5th lug Distance models. On the new models you'll find an outsole "strike plate" strategically placed to keep the heel from wearing too quickly. You might think that midfoot strikers – and that's what you're encouraged to be if you're a Newton customer – do not wear the heels of their shoes, but that is wishful thinking.

The Distance S and the Motion are supplied with what Newton calls E.M.B or Extended Medial Bridge. This is a small piece of extra midsole placed under the arch. This provides extra surface area for athletes with flatter feet or some degree of pronation that need some extra support. Does it work? It’s hard for me to tell. I'm one of these target runners and I'll test it, but if I subject myself to a blindfold comparison I cannot feel this feature. I'm not saying it doesn't or won't work, but the extra support seems very small. In the Motion and Gravity there is a similar technique used.

When you run in the old and new iterations of each model, back-to-back, you immediately feel the difference in cushioning, and how the new 5 lugs are less prominently felt. I like the cushioning, but some might find them soft. My guess is that Newton honors in these shoes the trend set by Hoka by adding just a bit more cushioning to make a line of shoes that can appeal to a wider range of customers than do their previous models.

The upper is re-done, and if I were picky I'd say these are 4th generation and not 3rd, because last year's models also had a very different upper than did their predecessors. Last year the upper had a different lacing system, starting further up, and overall the shoe was narrower. All the new 5-lug models are a little roomier, pleasantly so. The material that used feels soft and comfortable. Fewer seams are welcome and they just feel like spring from better materials. The same goes for the inside. What I like, since I run sockless, is the suede-like-feel on the inside of the heel.

Unchanged is the heel-to-toe drop. The Gravity and Motion are still made with 3mm of drop, the Distance models have 2mm of drop.

Newton has created a very nice line of shoes that will appeal to a broader range of customers due to the extra cushioning. However, in my view the neutral models and the supportive models are too similar. I would like to see more variance.

Images above:

Green = Distance S
Yellow = Gravity
Blue = Motion

[Editor's note: Our capable editor-at-large for footwear Jeroen van Geelen owns Total Running, one of the more important running and triathlon retail establishments in The Netherlands.]