Review: Newton Running EnergyNR
[DISCLAIMER: I (Brandon) worked for Newton Running until May of this year. While I normally go out of my way to imbue my reviews and articles with my personality and good nature, this review will be mostly void of that so as to not rub anyone the wrong way. Enjoy!]
The latest offering from Newton Running is the EnergyNR. It is a shoe that many people have said was missing from the Newton lineup since its inception in 2007. Even with their introduction of the Sir Isaac in 2009 there was thought to be a lack of a “step in and go” shoe. With the EnergyNR Newton hopes to address this by making what they hope their most approachable shoe to date.
When Newton introduced its racing flat, the MV² (and it’s follow-up, the MV³) they diverged from their original “action/reaction” setup. Original Newton technology has a lug system in the forefoot which features four rectangular lugs that sit under the metatarsal heads. These lugs lit atop a rubber membrane which is on top of a hollow chamber. The “action/reaction” or spring that is supposed to take place comes from the lugs pushing upward into the hollow chamber, loading the rubber membrane with potential energy and allowing for that energy to be released when the foot leaves the ground. In the MV², MV³ and now the EnergyNR, the lugs and the membrane are molded together and sit atop a chamber that is filled with a resilient polyurethane foam.
Another carryover from the MV² & MV³ that the Energy uses is the five lug setup instead of the four lug setup that is in all other models of Newton shoes. Many users of the shoes have asked why this is the case since most people have five toes and hence, five metatarsal heads. At least part of the answer in the past lay in cost of manufacturing as well as engineering challenges which I won’t go into here. New on the EnergyNR is a midfoot “plate” that adds a midfoot connection to the ground as well as an easier transition from heel-to-toe for those who need it.
The addition of the five lugs will likely be very exciting to many people. It offers a wider contact base with the ground and as such makes for a more laterally stable feel. The outside lugs are wider than the inner three lugs and take the need for stability to the edge of the shoe on both sides of the forefoot. The midfoot “plate” truly does give a whole foot ground feel and though I don’t think it adds any stability or traction, I think the placebo effect on some will be a welcome addition.
The midsole of the EnergyNR is much softer than that of other Newtons (though I’m not sure of the actual durometer). While this is going to be exactly what some people want, long-time Newton runners may have a bit of trouble adjusting to the feel and how the foot reacts to it. The drop height in the EnergyNR falls just inside of what is considered to be the breaking point of a “natural” running shoe and a traditional running shoe at 6mm (with the sockliner in). With the sockliner removed however (which is how I tend to run), the drop goes down to a more Newton-esque 2-3mm drop. It’s important to point out that the sockliner, being made from EVA foam, will compress over time thus bringing that drop heigh down a bit as the shoe wears. [NOTE: I have been told that the midsole is a bit more firm in a more recent manufacturing run]
The upper of this shoe is a another departure for Newton. It’s made of a very breathable mesh that offers a plenty in the way of stretch where it’s needed. While there are still some stitched on straps, some of the strapping takes advantage of welded on strapping which is lighter and adds a cleaner line to shoes. The heel counter while certainly present, isn’t overwhelming and rigid. The midfoot and forefoot fit nicely with a present, yet not too constricting “hug” of the foot.
The ride of the EnergyNR is a new one for experienced Newton runners. The lugs, while still prevalent in the design, aren’t as front and center. This is largely due to the fact that the lug/foam setup gives less of the “pop” than many will be used to. The whole ground feel of the midfoot plate is one that puts a much more solid ground feel underfoot and I wouldn’t be surprised if it makes its way into other models. The softness of the sole of the shoe did leave my feet feeling a tiny bit beat up after ten miles or so but it could simply be that I was adjusting to a new shoe.
For me, this shoe is one that if I were to go from road to trail and back, would be a good companion. The wider lug setup does provide more stability if there isa need to run over or around things. I’d like to see a more firm midsole (and will offer an update if some come my way) because I feel like while the connection to the ground is improved by the addition of the midfoot plate, some of the true ground feel is diminished by the softness of the midsole.
I think that this shoe is one that will allow many people who were skeptical of Newtons to try on a pair. Long time Newton runners may want to stick with their, lighter, more “poppy” shoes. Newton co-founder Danny Abshire has done a good job with listening to what people want and responding accordingly.