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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Shoe Showdown: Newton Gravity vs. Nike Free 5.0

I LOVE running shoes. They’re one of my favorite things to buy. I think most runners would agree – you can never have too many in your closet! I currently have six pairs in my rotation. Two of them are probably ready for retirement, but sometimes it takes me a little too long to throw them out. I know this isn’t good for my legs, but sometimes I get attached!

I’ve been wearing my Newton Gravitys and Nike Frees for the longest, so they’re my back up shoes right now. I leave the Nike’s at work in case I forget my sneaks and want to go for a run at lunch or at the end of the day. I left my Newton’s at home after Christmas so when I visit – especially when I fly – I don’t have to stuff a pair in my carry-on.

Here’s how they stack up…

Newton Gravity 2012

Just The Facts:
$175
Women’s Size 8
7.6 oz
3mm heel-to-toe drop

How they Lace Up:
Putting on my new Newton’s was love at first step. I got to try them out in a series of four Friday 5ks wear Newton reps showed up with tester pairs, but it only took 2 weeks – and 2 PRs – to win me over. They’re incredibly light and breathable. Like all Newtons they feature their trademarked Action/ReactionTM technology and a biomechanical metatarsal sensor plate. Check out the lugs on the bottom that make them so unique and while still providing cushioning, give you a very engaging and responsive feel making you more efficient and costing you less energy with each step. 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.

These shoes are prefect for neutral, midfoot strikers like myself. They can also help encourage a midfoot strike if you’re looking to transition, but you should definitely take it slow and only run a couple miles at a time in them until you build up and strengthen the different leg muscles you’ll engage.

Newton’s bright colors are super fun, and combined with their patented technology they make me feel like I have an extra bounce in my step. I ran my fastest 5k ever in them, and yet they also were supportive enough to carry me through a marathon (also a PR) and all the long training runs along the way to it.

Nike Free 5.0

Nike Free 5.0s

Nike Free 5.0s

Just The Facts:
$100
Women’s Size 8
7.4 oz
7mm heel-to-toe drop

How They Lace Up:
The Nike Free’s are super light and feel like there is barely anything on my feet. They’re also incredibly flexible. I think they’re a good first step into more minimalist shoes. Most of my runs in these shoes were on a treadmill since they were my back up pair at the office for when I’d fit in runs at the gym there. I was stuck doing most of my runs for that training season on the treadmill though, including three of my 20-milers (ugh!) so they saw plenty of miles.

After wearing heavily cushioned shoes for years, I was warned to ease into these, but I loved the light weight barely there feel right from the start. Again, these are best for neutral runners. The heels don’t have a lot of cushion either, so if you’re primarily a heel striker these might not be a good move.

Showdown – The Verdict:
Both shoes were great to me, so this is a tough call, but the Newtons win out. Both were pretty breathable, but the open air mesh upper of the Newtons dried a bit faster. The Newtons also force you to focus on your form a lot more. It’s easier to slip into a heel-first strike with the Nikes, which isn’t easy on the foot with their lack of cushioning.

While any specialty running store would lecture me about not choosing a shoe based on color, the Newtons fun, bright colors are definitely a plus! Sometimes it just comes down to feel and my Newtons felt great on every run, gave me support without weighing me down and most importantly – made me feel fast!

Crystal Run 5K Friday Take 3

This Friday marked my sixth weekend in a row of racing and my third Friday heading
over to Crystal City after work for the Pacers 5K Friday series. I got there early again to
help out with bib pick-up before the race and was happy for another night of my favorite
race weather. It was warm and sunny, but not too hot.

Sporting my new Newtons that I bought last week (after just a week of running in them,
I’m already in love!) I didn’t need a test pair from the Shoe Lab this week, but did get a
cool free tee when I stopped by to say hi after the race! Race shirts for series entrants
were also available this week. I’m a fan of this year’s design. Pics below.

It was my slowest race of the series, but still almost a full minute faster than I was
running 5Ks last year, so I was feeling pretty good after the race. My 21:51 finish was
good for 136th of 1,381 overall, 20th of 724 females and 14th out 336 in my age group.

Last week I did a good job of keeping a steady pace, but after getting caught weaving in
and out a little bit at the start, I started pushing the pace thinking I had to make up time
and ended up hitting the first mile mark in 6:40. I wasn’t able to maintain that however,
running my second mile in 7:03 and the third in 7-flat. With just one week left, I’m hoping
for another good outing next weekend.

I followed Friday’s race up with a long run Saturday morning with the DC Road Runners
who I ran with for the first time last week. Getting up by 7:30 on a Saturday might be
normal for a lot of people, but is no small task for me, so I was pumped I was able to get
myself up again and out the door in time to run with the group.

As I mentioned in last week’s post, running with a group really helps me pick up the
pace and push myself to run faster. One of the other cool things is learning new routes
I had never ventured on before. The downside I learned this week is that there are a
whole bunch of people around to see when you take a spill along a trail. Yea… that
happened. On the plus side, I wasn’t hurt at all – except for maybe a bruised ego!

New Kicks and a New PR to Kick Off the Friday 5Ks

I love the Crystal City 5k Fridays race series. It’s such a fun race; is a nice, relatively flat course; and Pacers does an awesome job with it. I was able to run 3 of the Friday 5ks last year, and set my PR for the distance with a 22:50 finish.

I know I’m a cold-weather wimp, but I don’t think I’d be the only one to say the weather for most of last year’s races was not too fun. Last Friday was perfect, however. Sunny and close to 60 – I was in my element. My boyfriend was in town for the weekend too, so I was very excited he was going to get to see my race, cheer me on and take some pictures!

Pacers is doing a cool thing at the series this year called Shoe Lab where Mizuno, Newton and Brooks have test shoes you can try out for the race. After turning over my Nike’s and my ID as collateral, I had a pair of Newton’s racing flats on my feet. I’ve never worn racing flats so I couldn’t believe how light they felt.

I’ve been running hard lately and running a lot, so I hoped to set a new PR at this race with a goal of breaking 22 minutes by the end of the series. Well, I was pleasantly surprised with my performance and now have to readjust my goals to make them a little tougher as I blew away my old PR by 1:10 finishing in 21:40! Maybe it was the shoes?!

For some reason the first mile of this course always seems to take forever in my mind so I thought I’d gone out slow, but saw my watch read 6:46 at the one-mile mark. I slowed down a bit for mile two passing the marker in 14 minutes even, and picked it back up to a 7 minute pace for the third mile. The 6:59 pace is my first-ever sub-7 minute race pace!

The 21:40 finish was good enough to put me in 137th overall out of 1,253 finishers, 19th out of 652 females, and 12th out of 268 in my age group!

I’ve wanted to try out some Newtons since I went to a seminar they put on at Pacers in Clarendon last October. While I loved the speedy Newton flats, I’m going to give their regular performance trainers a test run this week since those would probably be a more practical purchase for the distances I’ll be running in training for the 2012 Marine Corps Marathon.

I’m already looking forward to this Friday’s race – such an awesome way to kick off the weekend. I’ll be volunteering at packet pick-up before the race so stop by and say hi if you’re there!

(Lots of pictures: courtesy of Ian Gallagher – check out his food blog for an entry on our post-race dinner date!)