Newton’s 2020 women’s Gravity 9 ($175) include the company’s patented propulsion cushioning that … [+]
I spotted my first Newtons at the YMCA recently and had to get a pair. In a sneaker world dominated by Nikes, Adidas, New Balance and Asics, I was fascinated to discover a young couple on the elliptical machines wearing matching running shoes I’d never seen before.
To learn more—and also because my wife is from Newton, MA (though there’s no relation)—I checked in with the company co-founder, Jerry Lee, to hear what it’s like being a little Newton apple in a forest of running-shoe giants.
Newton Running was founded in 2007 and stood out with its brightly colored shoes, propulsion lugs under the ball of the foot, and its pioneering efforts in online-only sales. The company is headquartered in Boulder, Colorado.
I recently got my first pair of Newtons. I swear, the shoes literally put a spring in my step. There’s a trampoline-like push you get as you walk or run. What’s the technology behind that?
Jerry Lee is the co-founder of Newton Running
Jerry Lee: Ha. Well, we have our patented action/reaction technology in our shoes. Newton’s name comes from Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Carbon plates are a buzz in the running industry right now, but we have been putting plates in shoes since we launched in 2007. Our shoes are built on the premise of how people run when they are running barefoot- how we are intended to run. If a person is running barefoot, they will be landing initially on their mid-foot, not their heel. This is why we put the majority of the technology under the forefoot, but we still put care into creating a comfortable and cushioned heel that varies by model. We have something for everyone, and for every running style.
The running shoe business is dominated by behemoths. What’s your secret to surviving as an independent manufacturer? Are there advantages to being small and indie?
Lee: We are nimble and have the capability to move quickly. Everything from donating more than 2,000 shoes to hurricane victims immediately following the disaster, making a custom pair of wedding shoes for one of our ambassadors, or pioneering new avenues in biodegradability and sustainability, we aren’t held back. We were the first athletic footwear company to be B-Corp certified, and have a number of initiatives we are excited to tackle in regards to our product and manufacturing practices that continue to push environmental sustainability and social responsibility to the forefront.
What’s ahead for Newton Running Shoes? You’ve stayed lean and mean as far as your selections, sticking to a few high quality shoes for men and women. Any plans to expand or new shoes on the horizon you can discuss?
Bottom’s up. The key to Newton’s success are the patented propulsion lugs at the ball of the foot.
Lee: We are continually striving to make our best work even better, all the while we are gradually expanding our product line. We have a women’s specific shoe line rolling out in May, and that will continue to spread through all of our women’s shoe models by early 2021.
We have a new shoe coming in the back half of 2020 that will help make Newton technology more accessible to a wider audience. The goal is to make the transition to a more natural running experience smoother.
At the other end of the spectrum, we are always looking to make our fastest shoes even faster by continually refining our technology. For 2021 we have a huge focus on creating a shoe that is substantially better for the environment than anything ever tried before. These things really matter and we can all do better.
Viva la difference! Newton aren’t like those other swoosh-y shoes.
Anything else you can say about what sets Newton apart from its competitors?
Lee: We might be small, but we take pride in what we do and the differences we can make. When shoes were black and gray, we weren’t afraid to make them outrageously bright colors. We weren’t afraid to take on conventional wisdom and foam shoes with our technology. We are on a mission to make a better shoe, to make a difference in underserved communities and to strive to create footwear that will only help future generations, instead of creating problems for our children’s children to deal with. We are looking to create solutions now.
Currently, we make a shoe that is the pinnacle of both fast and durable. Races ranging from the Ironman World Championships to Badwater have been won in Newtons. We see many more victories to come for our innovative footwear.
Lastly, we have been able to use our shoes to serve a greater purpose- we launched a TAPs shoe in 2019 and donated $50 from every pair to Tragedy Assistance for families of service people who were lost while serving in the military. We have also created shoes for Team Challenge (for Crohn’s and Colitis support), and been closely involved with the Kyle Pease Foundation. Last year we were able to donate over $100,000 to these organizations, and we are just getting started.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.