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Newton Motion III Review: Five Lugs Are Better Than Four

Posted on April 23 2014

2014-01-22 15.42.12One of the most frequent complaints that I’ve heard over the years about Newton shoes is that the forefoot lugs compromise mediolateral stability, particularly when turning. This issue arises due to the fact that until recently, Newton shoes had only 4 lugs under the forefoot, and these lugs did not extend to the edges of the sole. With the lug row being narrower than the sole base, there was a tendency to rock back and forth over the lugs, leading to a sensation of instability.

I’d asked Newton about this in the past, and apparently there were some manufacturing associated with building a 5 lug shoe. I’m not sure what the difficulty was, but Newton seem to have solved the problem and their shoes are now all migrating to a 5-lug design. This is a positive step, and the 5-lug Newton Energy was one of my favorite shoes from last year (the Energy was an entirely new shoe for the brand and was designed from the ground up on a 5-lug platform).

In the past few months Newton sent me pairs of the Motion III and Distance III to try out (Disclosure: both shoes were media samples provided free of charge for review purposes). I’ve now run about 40 miles in the Motion III, which Newton describes as a “supportive” trainer. Have not yet run in the Distance III. I should also note that I have not run in previous versions of the Motion, so I cannot compare to those – this is a new shoe to me.

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Overall I’ve really enjoyed running in the Motions. I’ve done several easy runs, a hill workout, and yesterday I did a 10 miler in them. They have done the job on all occasions, and I’d put them in that hallowed class of shoes that disappear on my feet.

2014-01-22 15.39.53In typical Newton fashion, the Motions fit me really well. Snug through heel and midfoot, with a nice, roomy, high-volume forefoot – they fit true to size on me. No points of abrasion, no blisters, just comfort. The upper is well made and seems to be of high quality. The mesh is of a type that doesn’t seem like it will tear easily. The forefoot is breathable, the midfoot less so due to extensive overlays, but my feet have not felt excessively warm while running in the shoes. Enough about the upper though, the sole is really the part we need to focus on.

In my opinion, Newton was wise to move to the 5-lug design. These shoes feel plenty stable, and I have not experienced any of the cornering issues I occasionally felt in my old pair of Distance Racers. The heel is moderately soft, and the forefoot lugs compress nicely. I can’t say that I feel any extra pop from them, but they provide good cushion under the front of the foot. At a reported 3mm drop (25mm heel, 22mm forefoot) they are in my sweet spot, and they just work really well with my stride. And at 9.4oz in my size 10 they are also reasonably light for a shoe with a lot of rubber underfoot.

Speaking of rubber, my wear pattern on the outsole of the Motions is typical of what I have seen in other Newton shoes. I tend to contact and scuff on the heel but load mainly through the midfoot and forefoot, and I see abrasion on the outer/lateral heel, and the front of the second and third lugs under the forefoot are a bit worn – nothing more than what I would expect after 40 miles (compare upper and lower images below):

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My overall impression is that the Motion III is a shoe that I’d be perfectly content to use for eating up miles. It’s not a shoe I’d choose for speed, but it’s a shoe I’d be more than happy to use for running long. It just works.

Now the big question – is this shoe worth the MSRP of $175? Here’s where things get tricky. Personally, I would say no. There are plenty of shoes that sell for under $100 that I would be just as content to use for eating up miles. The Newton Energy at $115 costs $60 less and works just as well, if not better. Newton would argue that their shoes cost more to make, and that they are more durable than most other shoes. I still find the durability argument debatable – sure some people can get 1000 miles out of a pair, but others may wear the lugs or heel outsole down in far less. And there are people that can get 1000 miles out of a much cheaper shoe. So for me, this is not a shoe I would buy for myself (and I will be donating my pair as is my practice with most media samples after a review is complete). But if you are a fan of previous versions of the Motion and are intrigued by the 5 lug design, I can highly recommend it. Great shoe.

See also Thomas Neuberger’s review of the Newton Motion III.

The Newton Motion III is available for purchase at Running Warehouse, Zappos, and Outside of the US they are available at Purchases made from these sites support the work done here on Runblogger and help keep reviews like this coming – thank you for you support!

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