We’ve been longtime fans of Newton shoes because of their unusual design and the company’s efforts to appeal to runners with a midfoot and forefoot landing. But, despite Newton’s “natural running” message, the shoes have never been truly minimal, with most models weighting over 9 ounces (like the Newton trainer we picked for the 2013 Buyer’s Guide).
In June, a new tuned-up, ultra-light-weight Newton shoe hit stores to fill in the gap. At just 5.4 ounces per shoe, the MV3 pours all the Newton natural running technology into a radically spare design.
For starters, the shoe has Newton’s patented action/reaction system, a series of peculiar-looking lugs that cover small air channels under the forefoot. The channels are designed to compress during impact and release energy during push-off, offering a peppier step and presumably more PRs. The raised lugs also create a nice lever effect for the push-off part of the running stride that makes the shoes feel fast.
We have to admit it was difficult to notice the effects of Newton’s energy return system in the barely-there MV3s. We liked the well-padded forefoot when running repeats on a rubberized track, though the sense of spring we've felt in Newton's beefier training shoes was missing. When racing a fast 5K on roads, the MV3 simply felt like a fast racing shoe with good protection up front and a better transition to push off of.
We were less impressed with the flexibility of the shoe. Newton claims that the MV3 forefoot flexes across the metatarsals to give you a better feel for the ground. But in tests, the forefoot didn’t feel as flexible or ground-hugging as, say, a Nike Free 3.0 or New Balance Minimus Hi-Rez.
Compared with its ultra-light, PR-chasing peers, the MV3 is actually slightly heavier (the Asics Blazingfast and Mizuno Wave Universe both weigh around two ounces less), but there is a difference in emphasis. The Newton MV3 has a zero drop between the forefoot and heal, making it a more barefoot experience, while the competitors stack around 6 millimeters in the heel. And unlike almost every other racing shoe on the market, the MV3 puts all the cushioning and attention to ride up near the toes, a bonus for front-running forefoot strikers.
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