Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Gear Review: Newton Kismet

Newton Kismet in the color I've been testing. Image courtesy of Newton Running.
It's been almost a year since my last product review, which was the Skechers GoRun Speed. In the time since, I've had the unfortunate experience of #OopsIBrokeMySpine and the long road to recovery coming back.

As part of that recovery, it was also peak time for a new pair of shoes. My good friend Seth had opened up Granite City Running this past winter. As part of his opening, he had Newton Running come to the event with some demo pair of footwear. After chatting with their rep, as well as Seth talking up the Kismet, I decided to try a pair on.

I immediately knew that I was going to need to take a pair for a long-term test. I bought the orange pair that you see above in April from GCR and have been piling on the miles in it over the last two months.

The Tech Babble
The Kismet was a new model for Newton during 2014, as part of the year-long switch from the original four-lug platform to the new five-lug shoes. Part of this was due to advances in manufacturing tolerances; Newton had always wanted to be able to do five-lugs, but couldn't ensure the quality of the manufacturing to ensure the lugs would actually stay on the shoe when they were pushed out to the edges of the outsole.

In the image above, you have an old Newton Distance S; underneath, a Newton Tri Racer. As you can see, the five-lug pattern pushes out to the lateral edges of the midsole, whereas the old four-lug placement required a decent amount of offset from the edges.

The Kismet is part of the "P.O.P 2" family in the Newton line. Newton divides the line-up into the three distinct ranges:
  • P.O.P. 1: These are the classic shoes in the Newton family: the Gravity, Distance, and Motion ranges. They feature the lowest drops, most exposed lugs, and the classic Newton responsive ride.
  • P.O.P. 2: Referred to as the "Core" models, these shoes have a slightly higher drop than the P.O.P. 1 shoes. The lug pattern is also slightly less obtrusive, while also featuring slightly more cushioning than some of the P.O.P. 1 shoes.
  • P.O.P. 3: The most "traditional" of all Newtons, the lugs barely protrude from the outsole. These are designed to get people used to the feel of a Newton before transitioning into one of the other two families of shoes.
Now, I hear your question: why should I care about the lugs?

It's not so much the lugs that you should be worried about, it is the membrane that the compress into. This Action/Reaction membrane is compressed upon impact and then provides energy return. This is what gives Newton their snappy feel and has led to the claims from runners that they simply run faster in a pair of Newton's than anything else.

The Kismet is Newton's stability shoe in the P.O.P. 2 line. Newton takes a non-traditional approach to stability these days; rather than putting in a medial post to try to slow the rate of pronation, Newton fills out the shoe under the midfoot for maximum ground contact. This creates a more stable platform for the entirety of the foot to land on. Newton found during development that this approach provided a more stable and natural experience for runners with higher pronation rates.

The Kismet weighs in at 9.7 ounces in a size 9, with a 4.5 mm drop. Naturally, I have to take these published weights with the whole shaker of salt in my size 13 boats.

The Run
Running at Ragnar! Photo Credit to Kelly.

One of the primary things I noted when I slid my foot into the demo pair of Kismets back in December was what I didn't notice:

  • No annoying overlays in the wrong place.
  • No obtrusive feeling out of the lugs.
  • No feeling the shoe; it simply felt like an extension of my foot.
In other words: damn, this shoe feels like it fits my foot really, really well.

I've put about 200 miles on the shoe thus far and can say that, for the most part, those initial feelings continue to hold true. Unfortunately, the Newton logo attachment on the medial side, coupled with an overlay, tends to bunch up a little bit on the side of the foot over time; I've blistered a few times over in this spot.

That said, though, the ride of the shoe has been a revelation. I had a pair of the original Newton Motions, which I found the lugs to be overly obtrusive and the ride too harsh for long runs. Newton has finally found the feel balance: well cushioned yet responsive enough that you really feel the snappiness of the shoe when you pick up the pace.

A note: be prepared for the shoe to sound a little slappy, especially on some downhills. Don't be alarmed; it's just the AR membrane compressing in the heel. It took me a minute to figure out what the sound was, but it has not impacted overall performance of the shoe at all.

The beauty of this shoe is that it is light enough to race long distances in, while still retaining the cushioning and feel of an everyday trainer. It is an excellent swiss-army knife to add to your running arsenal, assuming that you need that touch of stability on offer here.

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