by John Schrup
So the other day I got this crazy idea. No seriously. Come back. I want to talk about shoes. Cool. Ok, sit down.
Have you heard of Newton? Yeah, no, the shoes. The running shoes. Super flashy colored things? Triathletes wear? They got the lugs there on the bottom, on the outsole? Anyway, they’ve been around for a few years, and they’re getting some attention. I think there was an article about them in Runner’s World a few months back. Anyway, Newton are kinda popular in areas where tri is big, and they’re now bleeding over into run specialty a bit. The triathletes like them because they like anything that is expensive and will make them faster, or at least, look faster.
The truth is that triathletes are much more likely to accept something that is new and innovative, whereas I still wear cotton t-shirts when I run. I also have several pair of socks that are from, like, ’02 or ‘03. Runners tend to be a more conservative lot, at least when it comes to their shoes. I know of several people, myself included, who will stock up on an old fave so we aren’t forced to buy something new. Yeah, that’s changing a little bit. The new breed of runner is much more tech savvy, buying GPS watches and shit. Some of the spreadsheets I receive from people I coach are pretty impressive, if you are one of those types that becomes mildly aroused when someone mentions Excel or PowerPoint. Right, Mr. Jones? Anyway, I’m not aware of any of the people in my group who go so far as to record their heart rate when they eat the wild salmon vs. the farm raised salmon, but I’m sure there are those out there in the run community.
So it was a wise move for Newton to get the jump start in triathlon. Triathletes are more open to newer, techier things and they have more expendable income. Recently, I saw a report that the average competitor in Kona earns, like, Sultan of Brunei1 cash. Loaded. Rich rich. Think about it: Just to participate, there’s the airfare, the hotel, the fees—triathlon registration fees are absurdly high, like, obscene high—the bike, the wheels, the whatever else they can think of. Shitload of money, just to race. So the average tri guy isn’t going to be afraid to drop $150 or more on a pair of shoes, which is pretty much low end of the price spectrum for a pair of Newtons.
Newton has done a really, really good job of marketing themselves. Brilliant stuff. And they were wise to start with triathletes, since the marketing dollars go much, much further in triathlon than they do in run specialty. And these days, far fewer people are just pure runners; they do a tri here, a charity bike ride there, a few halves then maybe a full. So it was only time before Newton made it to the run. And then, as the running market broadened with the introduction of the barefoot/minimalist thing, Newton was practically already in, using the natural running pitch that just about everyone is doing, in one form or another.
So, these lugs on the bottom. What’s the dealio? Well, um, er, ah…I don’t really know, except what the Newton people tell me and what I read In the literature. To note, the lugs are called “actuator lugs” and they’re attached to this membrane in a recessed pocket under the ball of the foot. The idea follows Newton’s Third Law and Order, which talks about actions, reactions, and equality or some shit like that. It’s supposed to be more efficient or something. But, do they work? That’s what I want to know. You know how I don’t like bling, or gimmicks, or, ahem, “technology” in my running shoes. And neither should you. All the science bullshit is bullshit. Do they work? That’s what I want to know.
I don’t know. I don’t have a pair. Yet. Now, three or four years ago I was seeded a pair by the fine folks at up there at Newton, in the hope that we would bring the line to Rogue. At the time, I was three or four years younger, which may surprise you, and so was considerably less likely to produce well-thought out, you know, ideas. So Newton sent me these shoes, three or four years ago, and I put them on my ancient-socked feet and went for a run down E. 5th. They were light. Real light. And I remember thinking at the time that they were perhaps the best fitting shoes I’d ever had on my feet.
I made it down to, I think, Waller and was done. Nope. Nuh uh. The actuator lugs made me feel like I was running in clogs, or had big, I don’t know, nine volt batteries or some shit taped to the bottom of my shoes. Did not feel good. Certainly there was nothing even remotely natural about them. So, after maybe three minutes, tops, I was over it. And that meant that it would be a cold day in Hades before we added Newton to the wall.
So, yeah, the Newtons have been selling pretty well. Much better than I thought. Also, it’s a little chilly up in here.
At the moment, I’m waiting for my new seed shoes that Jordan over at Newton has agreed to send to me. I can’t remember which model he said he’d send, but I’ll let you know next time. He’s told me that they’ve fixed the lug issue—you can still feel them, though they’ve relaxed the membrane a bit so the lugs don’t feel so…invasive. And, for some reason or another, people seem to like them. Lots of people seem to like them. They ask for them. It got pretty annoying, actually. And, dig this: Our man, Chuck, who is never one to restrain himself from opinion, and who welcomes himself into a room with things like, “BOOM! Chuck’s in the house!” So the dude is real subtle. And when we talked about bringing Newton in, he was adamantly2 opposed to it. We’d sold out! They’re gimmicks! That’s bullshit man! This aggression will not stand, man! Chuck wasn’t real pleased about that, let me put it that way.
Well, Chuck done drank the koolaid. He just returned from some symposium up in Boulder, hosted by the Newton people, and now he’s got, like, eleven pair and a backpack and a ball cap and he’ll tell anyone who’ll listen that Newton are the shit! So, if our man Chuck could convert, which is sorta like some genteel Southern Baptist woman going, Hm…you know, I kinda like that Mohammad man, then maybe, just maybe I could be a little more open minded myself.
So in a couple of weeks, Chuck, Amish-James and I will head up to Boulder to pay a visit to the Newton people. We’ve been invited up so they can teach us more about the company and the product. And by teach, I mean waterboard with Koolaid. Each of us will write about the experience and we are thinking of a sort of documentary to go along with it. Stay tuned.
1Two words: Jeanne Kirkpatrick. The Adolphus Hotel. Slip ‘n’ Slide. Wait. That’s like four words. Five words? Who’s counting? You know what I’m talking about, Jeannie.
2Anyone remember Adam Ant? Adam and the Ants? 80’s guy? Don’t drink, don’t smoke? Saw him at Six Flags. Got trampled. Lost my third nip. Shaved right off.