Newton Terra Momentus Review

Newton Running logoNewton’s first trail running shoe, the Terra Momentus, aims to fill a much needed gap in Newton’s shoe arsenal by combining their Action/Reaction lug technology to help runners perform with a more natural gait and foot placement with the rugged necessities of a trail shoe.

Newton states that the “Momentum is an off-road guidance trainer designed for runners committed to a more efficient natural running style. It provides intelligent control for all foot types on all types of terrain, from groomed bridle paths to technical mountain trails.” I tested this shoe over a wide variety of terrain running approximately 60 miles in the shoes during a two week period. Reviewer’s stats: I am 5’10” and 150 lbs and I typically run 60-80 miles per week, 90% of which are on trails. I have very average volume feet with mild pronation.

This review provides my first impressions, a series of terrain tests, the shoes pros and cons, as well as a summary.

Newton Terra Momentus instep

First Impressions
When the Newtons arrived I was instantly impressed with their good looks. Taste is subjective and mine just happens to lean, and possibly err, on the side of bold. I love shoes that adhere to simple primary color patterns, and Newton’s trail runner comes with a beautiful Kelly green upper with lemon colored accents. It says old school; harkening back to the days when shoe manufacturers would focus on solid eye popping colors.

Slipping on the shoes I was impressed by the snug and secure fit of the heel cup through the midfoot and the shoe widens towards the toe box to allow ample room. I have very average volume feet and I could see this upper being helpful to runners with high volume feet who need a wide toe box. The first impressions of standing and walking in the Newton’s are a bit strange, comparable to walking around in track spikes due to the protruding Activator lugs on the outsole of the forefoot. The shoes felt like they had plenty of cushion, and as a midfoot striker, I could tell that I would not be lacking protection in these shoes.

Newton Terra Momentum outsole  Activator lugs

The Newton Terra Momentus' outsole with Activator lugs in the forefoot.

Terrain Tests
Flat Groomed Crushed Gravel Path
I first ventured out with the Newton’s on a smooth, flat, crushed gravel trail for an eight mile run. Newton recommends easing into wearing their shoes and starting with as little as 10 minutes at a time. Newton cautions that the new wearer may experience excessive calf soreness from the new experience of forefoot striking. I could tell from about a mile in that these shoes were not interfering with my natural foot plant as a midfoot striker. The shoes felt well cushioned and surprisingly bouncy. As a mild overpronater I felt the Newton’s offered a nice mid-level amount of support that could be appreciated by neutral runners and overpronaters alike. Instead of building up the medial side of the shoe with motion control devices as most road shoes do, Newton built in a rearfoot chassis that acts as a stable platform. I never felt like my pronation was controlled, simply supported. These shoes performed brilliantly on this groomed surface and do seem like they could take a beating and last for a lot of miles.

Newton Terra Momentus rearfoot chassis

The Terra Momentus' rearfoot chassis.

Rolling Rocky, Sandy Singletrack
The Terra Momentus had a difficult time managing this more technical terrain. Due to the relatively high platform and thickness of the midsole cushioning, the Newton’s felt bulky and stiff on these types of trails. The most noticeable deficit came while running narrow singletrack terrain. The midfoot and rearfoot chassis in the midsole had difficulty adjusting to the often concave surface of a singletrack trail, and the shoe does not seem to flex or conform well to the contours of the trail. Any running on side-sloped hills also seemed to put undo stress on my feet and ankles.

Technical Mountain Trails
The Terra Momentus had serious difficulty managing this type of terrain. On a 12 mile out-and-back run with roughly 4,000 feet of elevation gain, the Newton’s felt like clodhoppers on the ascent. I thought this was very bizarre given that Newton is a Boulder-based company and the trails I tested them on emulate many of the steep, rocky trail sections that one can experience running up Green or Flagstaff Mountains in Boulder. Over any loose rocks or gravel in the trail the Activator lugs felt like they caused me to lose traction making the ascent even more difficult. The descent was fairly treacherous. I consider my technical trail descending abilities to be above average and I really felt that the Terra Momentus’ bells and whistles got in the way. Rock hopping in these shoes caused me to nearly roll my ankles, and the Activator lugs frequently kicked small rocks and gravel out in front of me into the trail. I nearly fell one time and I was perplexed by the Newton’s inability to “feel” the trail.

Pros
Newton Terra Momentus upperNewton got a lot of things right with the Terra Momentus, their first trail shoe. The fit was excellent out of the box. I wear a size 9.5 US in most trail shoes. The Newton’s I received were a size 10 and fit well throughout the foot with maybe a bit more toe room than I’m used to. The weight of the shoe is just over 11 ounces; not featherweight, but considering their cushioning and support features Newton did a nice job of keeping them light.

The upper on this shoe is fantastic. Besides looking retro, the upper felt supportive and protective from rocks, bushes, and the many cacti I encountered. I tested the quick drying properties that Newton advertises by running through a creek and the shoes did not get that squishy water logged shoe feeling. They were dry the next morning when I put them on. The gusseted tongue stayed put throughout all the runs.

The shoes are very well cushioned, offer great support for a varying degree of pronation, and they handle smooth, groomed trails very well. The Terra Momentus also seems very durable and it could withstand big miles from larger runners without breaking down.

Cons
Newton Terra Momentus midsoleThe Terra Momentus feels like a road shoe. It has difficulty handling technical terrain due to the thickness of the midsole. Shoe companies operate under the well-researched hypothesis that a higher platform makes a more stable shoe. This construction just doesn’t work very well for trail shoes. These shoes do not afford the wearer the agile feeling that comes from a lower profile shoe. I enjoyed the cushioned feeling of the Activator lugs, but they simply get in the way when running over loose rocks, going up stairs, traversing hill sides, and ascending mountains. Unless you’re running on groomed trails, this shoe gets in your way.

I made a trip down to my local running store to try on Newton’s Sir Isaac guidance trainer, a mainstay in their road shoe line. The shoes midsole and support chassis appears identical to that of the Terra Momentus. The Sir Isaac feels the same too, but I was not able to compare them side-by-side. The only difference that I could see was the trail upper in the Terra Momentus.

Summary
This being my first Newton shoe of any kind, I was impressed with the quality of the shoes construction, materials, fit, and feel. I appreciate that Newton is creating shoes with a low heel-toe ratio that facilitates forefoot/midfoot striking, something I feel reduces injuries in many runners. But, as a trail shoe, the Terra Momentus performs inadequately due to its high platform and stability components. I, for one, will trade agility and a low profile “feel” for the trail over premium cushioning and stability simply because I want to avoid face plants on the trail.

Possible changes for future updates that I hope to see are a lower profile, which will sacrifice cushioning and some stability. If Newton decided to make this change they could probably get the shoes down around 9 ounces, which would appeal to the rapidly-growing population of minimalist trail runners looking for light shoes. I also think that Newton should reduce the size of the Activator lugs on the forefoot in favor of a more aggressive outer sole for traction. But please, no changes to the color scheme or upper. Newton, you nailed that part!

The Terra Momentus will be available at retail late August with an MSRP of $139.

Call for Questions and Comments
If you’ve worn the Terra Momentus, let us know what you think about. If not, feel free to ask any questions you might have about this shoe.

[Disclosure: Newton provided is a pair of sample shoes for testing.]

Tom Caughlan

is iRunFar's Minimalist Gear Editor. Tom’s passion for trail running and specialty running retail experience shine through in all of his highly technical reviews, which do range outside minimalist shoes.

There are 14 comments

  1. Jeff Montgomery

    Kind of an odd result for a shoe company based in Boulder, with its steep technical trails. I need a low platorm and serious tread for things like 14ers and Green Mountain, where you run down 45-degree stretches with boulders, talus, log steps, sand and dirt. It can't roll and it's gotta stick.

    Still might consider their lighter road shoes.

  2. Ian Adamson

    This is a well researched an informative review, with associated and expected opinions, with which I shall offer some contrary views.

    My stats: 5'8", 158 lb, mild late stage over pronation. Lifetime trail runner (since 1973), ultra athlete and former professional adventure racer with Nike, Salomon and GoLite, 1995-2006. Home towns Boulder, CO and San Luis Obispo, CA. Just finished the Badwater Ultramarathon last week, 18th overall and 1st masters runner.

    In my opinion the Newton Terra Momentus enhances stability and feel for the trail. In contrast with Tom's perspective, I find the narrow stance and feel provided by the forefoot lugs gives more accurate sense for the running surface. Once the outsole is engaged, the individual lugs are pressed into the midsole chambers, lowering the platform and providing stability. Each lug tends to adapt to uneven surfaces, providing adaptive traction.

    One possible explanation for Tom's feeling of instability and catching rocks with the lugs, is that the forefoot is significantly lower relative to the heel than any other trail shoe (possible exception the Inove8 F-lite) and it takes some time getting used to. This is a matter of picking up ones feet a few millimeters more than usual – which is significant for most people.

    I routinely run the Chatauqua trails (including Green Mountain) and Mt Sanitas around Boulder and in comparison with shoes I used to wear (Nike Orizaba & trail shoes, Salomon XA Pro series) I have a strong preference for Newton Shoes. To be fair, I've been running and racing highly technical trails in these shoes since 2007, so I have adapted to the lugs and feel.

    The differences between Newton Running's Sir Isaac and the Terra Momentus are as follows:

    UPPER: closed, debris proof, fast draining, non absorbent upper with molded support strapping and gusseted tongue.

    MIDSOLE: Firmer EVA (10 points higher than Sir Isaac) for enhanced support.

    OUTSOLE: Single piece, closed heel rubber, more aggressive traction tread. Closed outsole rubber covering the Action/Reaction membrane (between each of the 4 forefoot lugs – prevents puncturing the membrane.)

    DISCLAIMER: I work for Newton Running and helped design the shoes. I also worked with the design departments at Nike and Salomon so I have a pretty good comparative understanding for how most shoes run on most surfaces. As an adventure athlete this included mostly off trail, which is an order of magnitude more demanding than the most aggressive trails. In my opinion, Newton Shoes provide enhanced afferent feedback (ability to feel the ground) and stability than regular trail shoes, even the most minimal. In addition, I'm extremely comfortable with the shoes off trail, e.g. orienteering, adventure racing and general bush bashing.

    Ian Adamson

    Dir. Research & Education

    Newton Running

    1. Ian Adamson

      According to the World Masters Athletics Association, Masters age groups are in 5 year brackets starting at 35, so by that criteria I was 1st male over 45+. Guess I should define which masters group.

      USATF is defines masters in 5 year brackets starting at 30.

      IAAF defines Masters runners as 35 and over. By this criteria I was 9th.

      1. Other Ian

        Didn't mean any disrespect. I also thought a masters running was 40+ years old.

        Also Pam Reed is 49 but I see you clarified that you were the top male over the age of 45.

  3. Tom

    Ian-

    I appreciate your reply and review, and the fact that you included your job title and previous work in the post. I live in the Colorado Springs area and did most of my testing on the trails in and around that area. Having lived in Boulder in the past I am familiar with the technicalities of those trails and I think that we're running similar terrain.

    I'm typically running in trail shoes with minimal heel rise, what people would call minimalist trail shoes I guess. Inov8 F-lite 300, Salomon Speedcross are my current daily trainers. I appreciate your posting with an alternative take on the shoes, and I do think that some runners will definitely like them. It is great to see individuals like yourself who are passionate and competitive in the sport designing trail shoes.

    Also, thank you for listing the differences between the Sir Isaac and the Terra Momentus. I stand very corrected!

    -Tom Caughlan

    1. Ian Adamson

      Tom,

      As you point out, Newton Running shoes are not minimalist, and the forefoot technology takes some getting used to.

      There is a definite learning curve for Newton Shoes on technical terrain, and some people may simply not like the feel.

      All the trail runners in the Newton office run with the performance shoes on technical terrain, but again, this all started before we had the Isaac and Terra Momentus.

      We will have a true minimalist shoe in 2011 which you may like better for all surfaces. This will be under 6 oz and the entire platform will be lower to the ground. I suspect many people won;t feel confident on trails with this shoes, similar to the F-lite 300.

      My encouragement for anyone seeking to have an efficient natural gait is to use a pair of minimalist shoes (Terra Planta, Inov-8, Vibram Five Fingers, etc.) for form training and include trail running to enhance proprioception. Ideally this would include minimalist shoes on technical trail. As you and I know there is an adaptation period to affect any change, and this may take some time for most road runners.

      Newton shoes are a good tool to allow folk to run on roads with a geometry under foot that is close to the shape and gradient of your foot, i.e. level to the ground, with enhanced cushioning, support and energy return. Another tool in the natural runners shoe box.

      Regards,

      Ian

  4. nick orford

    I hate to do this as my Newton sir Isaac's are the best shoe I have ever worn in almost every area.

    The terra momentus ……er, not so much.

    Easy even ground they were fine. The more technical, especially rock and root, I felt increasingly uncomfortable. The actuator lugs were the problem and made me feel very unstable and I have fallen more and bruised and injured my feet too many times. As I consider myself a reasonable trail runner who seems more comfortable the more technical the terrain becomes they have been a huge disappointment.

    Worse still, I only have one problem with them and its not that bloody awful green color.

    Its the lug technology, which frankly is the core of what makes Newtons Newton. That which works so wonderfully on flat, even road or trail just doesn't work for me…….5' 10, 166…..as the terrain increases in difficulty.

    Sorry Mr. Adamson et al at Newton Running.

  5. Anonymous

    Nick,

    No need to hate what you say or be sorry for your preferences.

    There is no question that the firmer support (extra rubber and denser peripheral EVA) has an effect. Most people like it, some don't. The lugs on the Momentus and Isaac are identical – we only use one set of molds for the technology in our guidance shoes, so I'm guessing it's the additional protection and support that is tripping you up.

    It appears you are a more evolved runner (in my opinion), meaning you are expecting a better ground feel so you can react to it. This is also my preference, so I know exactly where you are coming from. Most runners (at least 30 million of the 33 million regular ones) show clear preferences for a shoe more like the Momentus than the Isaac for "trail", which it turns out is most likely a gravel or dirt path, nothing technical.

    In your case it seems you are adapting to less shoe, so you may actually like our performance shoes more on trails. We are coming out with a sub 6 oz flat in the fall, originally designed as a light weight racing shoe and minimalist footwear, but found that it performs spectacularly on trails for those who like a thinner, more flexible shoe with good protection.

    We do have a black version if you don't like green …

    Ian Adamson

  6. Brian Perkins

    Ian/Tom/All,

    I've been deciding which Newton to buy… I've been a minimalist Trail Runner for 18 months after having gone through knee surgery for years of heel striking (6'2", 200lbs). I was training for the Tough Mudder, racking up 40 miles of trails/week (A lot for me) in my Vibram Spyridon (Whose tread I adore) when I tore my calf. I'm healed and back at it, though want to give Newtons a fair shake. I'm torn between the Momentus or your recommendation (Was it a lite trainer?). Please offer your suggestions. While I tore my calf recently after 18 months, I've pretty much eliminated knee pain and joint injuries since making the switch to fore/mid foot striking.

  7. Scott

    I've run a total of 5-7 times with these shoes, purchased in May 2012 at Lukes Locker, in Houston, TX on West Gray. Although the shoe held up well – in terms of durability – on dirt trails and roads in Texas, I noticed after 1 trail run in the Sandia mtns in ABQ, NM that the toe tread – not the ball tread – completely tore off one shoe during my ascent / descent of Embudo Canyon. I'm not a big runner – 5'11 159 pounds, US 9.5 size, so the shoe should not have broken down so fast. My old Asics 2170 held up much better in terms of tread durability related to trail running.

    Sadly, the Newtons about the most comfy trail running shoes I've used, but I plan on returning them to Newton. I don't know if mine are simply defective or if they aren't meant for rocky trail running. Scott

  8. Gerald Madler

    I would like to piggyback on what Brian Perkins wrote…

    I, too, am trying to figure out what Newton to buy. I am 6', 200lbs, and love trail running, almost exclusively. I have chronic achilles tendonitis in my right foot and ruptured my plantar fascia in my left foot. I am trying to change from being a lifelong heel striker and need to know whether the Momentus is the answer for me.

    I would appreciate any comments, insights, assistance.

  9. JP

    I completely agree with Tom's review and some of Nick's comments. Simply put, Newton's have their place on the road, or on even surfaces. I have been a Newton runner for two years (on the road). But, when it comes to the trail I prefer a more low profile trail shoe. One for which I can feel the ground, so I can respond appropriately. ie: Innov8. In my opinion Innov8 is the way to go if you are an advanced trail runner. I run with the bare grip, x-talon 190 and 220 ( I think?) and the F-lite for trails, all depending on terrain/weather/etc. I LOVE my newtons, and give them (partial) credit for making me a faster and more efficient runner. What Newton has done for my running form on the road has translated onto the trail. I am a much stronger runner for it. Newton: you guys nailed it for the road shoe, but just ditch the lugs and make an awesome low prof trail shoe! But, like Ian said 30million out of 33million prefer beef under they're feet. And, that, my friends equals more sales. And in the end, that's what it's all about. Consider this analogy: (if you run REAL technical trails, you'll understand) A professional tight rope walker isn't going to wear boots or a shoe with a thick sole during his high wire act. No. He wears slippers! That's how I view a technical trail, like a high wire. And the trail race is my high wire act. Running atop (rock hopping) rocks, roots, and trail junk. You have to FEEL in order to REACT. Think about it ;)

    1. JP

      With that being said I do own a pair of Terra Momentus. Because of they're large toe box, and durable contruction, they make for an excellent winter trainer! I can wear thick wool socks to keep the toes warm when the temps dip below freezing. It can get pretty cold in the Northeast, and some of us run in anything. So, My toes never feel scrunched because of the large toe box.

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