Newton Terra Momentus Review

An in-depth review of the Newton Terra Momentus trail running shoe.

By on July 26, 2010 | Comments

Our Favorite Trail Running Shoes

To learn about our current favorite trail running shoes, check out our Best Trail Running Shoes article.

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.

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.

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.

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

Tom Caughlan is a part of the iRunFar gear review team. Tom has been testing and reviewing trail running shoes and gear for over 10 years. Based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Tom has been running since middle school and enjoyed competing in college for the University of Michigan. Tom is a psychotherapist by trade and works for the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.