Shoe Showdown: Newton Distance vs. Brooks PureConnect

My last Shoe Showdown post featuring Newton Gravity and Nike Free 5.0 shoes seemed to be a big hit, so I thought I’d follow it up featuring the two newest pairs of running sneaks in my lineup. I bought my Brooks PureConnects with a Groupon at City Sports in late October just when I started physical therapy, so it was awhile before I actually got to go running in them. My brother and his fiancée surprised me at Christmas with a new pair of Newton Distance kicks. They give great gifts!

Here’s how they stack up…

Newton Distance 2012

Just the Facts:
$155
Women’s Size 8
6.8 oz.
2mm heel-to-toe drop

How They Lace Up:
I said trying on my Newton Gravity shoes was love at first step, and the Distance model somehow managed to feel even better. Lighter and an even smaller heel-to-toe drop than the Gravity model, the Distance shoes felt like I barely had anything on my feet. The blue and orange colors are bright, fun and make me smile every time I look at them. The mesh makes them very breathable, which will come in handy when it heats up here. It’s already been nice to see how quickly they dry after some snowy and rainy winter runs.

Similar to the Gravity model and all Newtons, these feature their trademarked Action/ReactionTM technology and a biomechanical metatarsal sensor plate. The sensor plate lets you run more naturally since it allows you to sense the ground better making your stride more efficient and more stable. The lugs while still providing cushioning, give you a very engaging and responsive feel, making you more efficient and costing you less energy with each step.

I haven’t gone further than 7 miles in these yet, so I don’t know how they’ll hold up to high mileage of marathon training or if I’ll have to switch back to the Gravity for that. I plan to train for and run a half marathon in April in these anyways, so that shouldn’t be an issue. These are great for neutral runners and really encourage a midfoot strike. The shoes are snug, but my toes have a lot of wiggle room, and I’ve never had any blister or discomfort issues wearing these. The lower heel-to-toe drop and lighter feel makes these feel real fast, and I can’t wait to test out my speed outside of a track or treadmill in an actual race.

Brooks PureConnect

Just the Facts
$90 original price, currently $59 on BrooksRunning.com
Women’s Size 8
6.5 oz.
4mm heel-to-toe drop

How They Lace Up:
The Brooks PureProject was released last year to a lot of fanfare, and the PureConnect is a sharp-looking shoe. Obviously you can tell I like bright colors. These neutral shoes are incredibly light giving you a barely-there feel, yet somehow still manage to feel like they have some cushion. They’re also very breathable and flexible. They feature a split toe groove that extends through the forefoot that is supposed to allow you to better connect with and feel the ground, but I didn’t really notice a difference with this.

I love these for cross training. They’re great to wear when I’m biking, hitting the elliptical, cranking out burpees or suffering through single-leg squats. I wanted to love these for running too. I really did. Unfortunately, I don’t. They fit nice and snug which I like through most of the shoe, but the toe box is very tight as well. When I was finally cleared to run in these I found that my toes started rubbing and feeling really uncomfortable after just a few miles. I think sizing is the main issue causing this and wish I hadn’t been cross training in them for a couple months before taking them on a run or I’d try to return them. I’d recommend going a half size up compared to your usual size. I wish I’d used my Groupon on other gear and gone to one of the many awesome specialty running stores around here (Pacers in Clarendon is my favorite) to ensure the right fit instead of getting sneakers from a salesperson busy waiting on five other people at the same time.

My only other issue with these shoes is after experiencing the 2mm heel-to-toe drop, it’s amazing how much of a difference a couple of millimeters can make. I wish they’d taken this one a little lower, but I still think (if bought in the correct size) they would be a great way to transition to minimal running.

Showdown – The Verdict
Given that I can’t run more than a few miles in my Brooks PureConnects, it’s pretty obvious that the Newtons win out in this showdown. I standby the Brooks shoes as great cross-trainers,  but would have to see if the 8.5s fit better before putting them at an equal level to my Newtons. The Newton Distance really kicks it up a notch with it’s low heel-to-toe drop and extremely light shoe. I feel like I can fly in them and love the feedback I get when running in them. I can instantly tell when I slip into a heel strike where I’m reaching my leg out in front of me, and it’s almost as if they force or guide me into more of a midfoot strike underneath my body.

Newtons have won my heart for now and will be my primary race shoe for 2013.

I’d love to hear if others have had a better experience with the PureConnects. All Newton wearers out there – have any of you tried the MV2 model? I’m thinking of treating myself to these after my first goal race for my speed sessions and shorter races.

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