In the center of gravity–a chat with Newton’s Ian Adamson

 In the center of gravity  a chat with Newtons Ian Adamson
Ian Adamson at Newton Labs

I’ve been a fan of Ian Adamson forever. For you young ‘uns out there who might not know who he is, let me spell it out: He is the most successful adventure racer of all time with seven world championship wins, 22 world championship podium finishes, 18 international adventure race championship titles and Gold, Silver and Bronze medals at the ESPN X-Games. He is a three time world record holder for endurance kayaking (262 miles in 24 hours.) Ian has competed internationally in adventure racing, triathlon, canoeing, kayaking, orienteering and sailing.

I used to watch him on TV during EcoChallenge coverage. So to say I was excited to sit down with him at Newton Running Labs while in Boulder, where he’s director of R & D, would be an understatement. I wanted to delve into exactly why Newton’s are all the rage–what are these shoes really all about? Ian answered all my questions and I left feeling enlightened (and ok, a little starstruck too!). Here’s snapshot of what I learned:

Newton doesn’t claim to be a minimalist shoe company. There’s still cushion in there, but not the kind of built-up nonsense (EVO foam) you find in traditional running shoes. What Newton does that sets it apart is provide a zero-drop shoe, meaning you won’t have a bigger heel height than forefoot height.

Why is this important? Because it will allow you to find your midfoot/forefoot when running. HOWEVER–putting on a Newton shoe will not make you a forefoot/midfoot striker. It can help, yes, but you’ve got to do the rest. As Ian said, it’s like buying a new golf club–it’s a tool but not a magic bullet.

I also asked Ian about the high price point of a Newton, often in the $150 range. He explained that Newton uses a two-step manufacturing process, which adds in a good deal of cost.The materials that go into a Newton shoe are also different from traditional running shoes. The foams or gels that most companies use are cheap by comparison to the lugs on the bottom of a Newton shoe, which the company claims delivers an energy return other shoes won’t.

What does Newton do with the profits it makes? In many cases, gives back to charities such as Trickle Up and One World Running. Newton also funds its share of studies, like one they’re doing with children afflicted with cerebral palsy, and others that deal with the role of shoes in proper running form.

Newton has also been a big proponent of proper running education. Just about any given weekend you can find a free two-hour Newton running clinic somewhere in the country (check the web site for more deets on one near you).

The bottom line–I look at Newton’s as an ideal transition shoe for people curious about natural running. It can also serve as a good race shoe for those who run barefoot or minimalist but don’t want to race that way. Dr. Mark Cucuzzella, owner of Two Rivers Treads in Shepherdstown, WV, and a 2:30ish marathoner at the age of 44, is a great example of this in action as you’ll always find him in Newton’s on race day.

Speaking of Mark, a big thanks to him for arranging my time with Ian; and thanks to Ian for taking the time with me. You made my day!

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Comments

  1. Jessica (The Pace of Me) says

    This is excellent! Thank you for the info on Newtons and the company. I have been so interested in these shoes and plan to try them at some point, probably after this marathon training since it's my first post pregnancy attempt. I just recently did a long run with a new friend who does Ironman's and he knows Mark at Two Rivers and was raving about him and his store. I plan to make a trip there some day soon (and get my Newtons!).

  2. Jeff - DangleTheCarrot says

    I was at an expo recently and Newton had these yet-to-be-release racing flat that looked amazing. They were like 5.1 oz or less?? Ridiculously light! Makes me want to try them out!

  3. Runblondie26 says

    Thank you for the further insight on Newton's.

    I tried on a pair at a recent running expo, but at that price-point I couldn't pull the trigger on something "experimental". I'm still lulling over the idea in my mind if I should give them a try or not.

  4. FLATOUT JIM says

    Loves me Newtons.

    They are pricey, yes, but this is the sport I choose to participate in, and it's a bargain compared to some of my friends hobbies.

  5. Penny says

    Thanks for all the info on Newton's. Have been wanting to know more about the Newton's. THis helped a lot.

  6. Jill says

    He sounds like an amazing guy, so glad you got the opportunity to meet with him. Love the charities he contributes to also!

  7. Marlene says

    I can see how this was right up your alley! Sounds like it would have been neat to attend.

    I had no clue about Ian – thanks for filling us in!

  8. funderson says

    I've got to get me a pair of these shoes. Too bad they're so ding-danged expensive..charities or no..sheesh!

  9. Tri-Living...Together says

    I'm still so torn about these shoes.. I actually sent them back for fear of my burning through them and the price tag!!!

  10. Katie Schmidt says

    Newton's are the best things ever! They are expensive, but I figure they are way cheaper than knee replacements. These shoes have saved my knees and allowed me to start running again. So yeah, I'm kinda obsessed with them ;)

  11. Mark U. says

    I've also met Ian at a Natural Running Seminar and Clinic a few months ago, which I thought was excellent. I agree the Newtons are excellent to help a runner transition towards more of a natural mid-foot strike. Additionally, I find Newton's claims of energy recovery from their shoes to be valid, as upon wearing them in my races two years ago I saw a distinct performance improvement (which I'll admit was not solely to Newtons' credit, since I'd simultaneously stepped-up my training volume). I too struggle justifying their premium price tag, but have found that I get ~20% extended mileage from them.

  12. Terzah says

    Must…get…to…their…workshop…….

    Trouble is, I'm always doing a long run (or recovering from one!) when they have it. I know…lame….

    Thanks for this info! It really cleared up what they are trying to do for me.

  13. Chris K says

    Tell Kovas and Funderson that they last twice as long so the cost is a wash. I met Ian in San Diego and also visited the Newton Running Lab last November.

    But, you knew this already Zipster.

  14. Richelle says

    Danny Abshire from Newton was giving running clinics at the Minneapolis Marathon expo. If I wasn't volunteering the whole day, I would have attended one of them.

    I've tried out Newtons before and my legs just weren't getting used to them. I may give them another shot after my goal races are all finished for the year.

  15. Jason says

    Damn….I thought this was about Fig Newton's….

    I was going to email you my thoughts about Ian but I will write them here: GREAT GUY!!!!!

    I enjoyed the 1 hour clinic I attended and never felt that I was in a commercial. He treated us to tips for training and strengthening our feet and legs. Proper standing that is truly natural and not the way we all stand and sit right now.

    I have to say that I have been applying everything he taught us in terms of putting on shoes one legged, standing hip width apart with feet pointed forward and a slight knee-bend.

    It was so enlightening and taught me a ton, but I just don't see me spending $150 for the shoes…..not yet anyway. I think I can get to the mid/forefoot strike by doing the drills and running barefoot up and down my street to teach myself how to do it.

  16. ownyourbackbone.blogspot.com says

    Reading Ian's bio made me want to be more adventurous in my little part of the planet. What a cool person. Some people just seem to have "it".

  17. dietitianontherun.com says

    Such an informative post! I was really hoping the run clinic for the conference would be held at the Newton lab – I'm in Denver and am now really itching to go check the place out :)

    Thanks for the extra info!

  18. Mark says

    Thanks for the great post on Ian. what is special about Ian is that he is always trying to figure out the answer and grow in and share knowledge. It is way beyond the shoe. He has come to our small town several times and is always willing to share with runners of all levels.

    The shoes are great too. The midsole is not soft…so complements the natural properties of human muscle/tendon function which responds to a stable surface on landing and one that has response in mid stance.

    Dr. Mark Cucuzzella

  19. ian2908a says

    Thanks for the kind comments all, and kudos to Dr. Mark and Miss Zippy! We're all on the same page with respect to running for longevity, efficiency and (in some cases) speed. Just a note on the cost of Newton Shoes, once you dial in your efficiency, mileage should more than double, although this may take a while if your habits are deeply embedded. Unlike EVA foam, the cushioning in Newton shoes does not crush out, so as long as the shoes hold together, they're good to run in. Many people make the mistake of ditching them too soon, but expect a much better wear mileage than regular shoes if your not scraping somewhere (inefficiency.) Current record: 4,150 miles (Distance model light weight trainer) by Steve Lyons of Cambridge MA.

  20. LGmedine says

    Here to support the Newton's. Have not run since high school due to a plastic knee. Got myself a pair of Newton's and gave it a shot. 6 months later still going and finally able to get back to one of the things I truly love without pain. They do take some getting use to but are well worth it in the long run. Great info, thanks for sharing!