Wednesday, September 01, 2021

Newton Running Gravity+ Review

Article by Michael Ellenberger

Newton Gravity+ ($190)

Newton has one-upped itself for 2021, introducing a new flagship trainer: the Gravity+ (or Gravity Plus; I’ll use the shorthand). Anchored by a #1 overall finish in the 2021 Badwater 135 Ultra (Harvey Lewis), the Gravity+ is pitched as a faster, lighter, and more capable Newton - and, crucially, built around a more renewable platform. In what the brand cheekily calls one of Newton’s laws, the Gravity+ is constructed of recycled materials that remove more than 4 water bottles from the waste chain per pair, and is formulated to biodegrade 75% faster than standard shoes. 

And, of course, there’s that other thing. As with my review of last year’s Newton’s Distance 9 and Fate 6, I’ll just get it out of the way here - Newtons, as you likely remember, have a lug system underfoot. Best I can tell, this signature cushioning platform is not going anywhere, so if you are not a fan of it, in practice, then best I can tell you is that this shoe isn’t for you. We approached this shoe wholistically, as best we could, and as I’ll detail below, I think this is perhaps the most capable Newton yet. But - it still has lugs, and if that’s a dealbreaker for you (as readers consistently tell me it is!) then so be it. 

For the rest of you - onwards!


Official Weight: 8.6 oz / 244g

Stack Height (Running Warehouse): 32mm heel / 29 mm forefoot

Drop: 3mm

Price: $190. 

Available: Now, including from our partner Running Warehouse.

Upper and Fit

Love or hate the lugs underfoot, Newton has consistently churned out high-quality uppers, and the fit and finish on the Gravity+ is superb. The material is breathable (even in the constant swamp we call Chicago), lightweight, comfortable, and supportive. Newton calls it a “3-D engineered air mesh,” but whatever it is, it’s one of the more comfortable uppers I’ve used in recent past - if you’ve run in some recent model ASICS, like the Kayano Lite or GEL-Cumulus 23, I think you’ll see some familiarity here - it’s a tight-knit mesh that is just a joy to run in.

Size-wise, I also found my 8.5s to fit true to size. As with all Newtons, the toebox here is plenty wide - the idea is that runners should have room to spread their foot over the metatarsal lugs - and even wide-footed runners shouldn’t have too much trouble in the Gravity+.

Midsole and Outsole

We see a lot of shoes coming through the RTR labs that have a hybrid midsole and outsole (see my recent review of the Atreyu Base Trainer v2, for example), so why treat the two as one review “unit” here? Well, it’s impossible to talk about the midsole cushioning without talking about the lugs… and it’s impossible to cover the outsole without covering, you know, the lugs! So I’ll do my best to handle both together here.

First, let’s cover some technology improvements over previous iterations of the Gravity line (and over the Distance and Fate, which I ran in last year). For the flagship Gravity+, Newton has introduced both its new NRG+ Foam, and an XPS+ Plating System (made from environmentally friendly castor beans). That’s a lot of letters, but ultimately, there’s a new midsole compound (the NRG+ Foam, a large-cell foam composition) and midsole cushioning setup, the XPS+ system, which is an interactive improvement over the older, non-plus variant.

The NRG+ Foam is both more biodegradable and more modern - a cushioning material that feels more like a modern compound than its predecessors. It’s still not quite as energetic as, say, Hyperburst, but it’s more than adequate. I’d put it on a tier with Brooks’s BioMoGo DNA and the new midsole compound with saw in the Atreyu base model v2. It’s not spectactual, but it’s an improvement.

The XPS+ “plate” system is a bit harder to pin down, when it comes to improvement over its predecessors. Newton, as noted above, uses lugs that recede into air-filled chambers, which provide a responsive and fast underfoot feel, and give cushioning under load. While the lug system definitely works - more on that in the Ride section, below - it doesn’t feel markedly differently, technology-wise, from its predecessors. It’s a nice, well-placed setup to be sure (provided you’re a forefoot striker), but I don’t think the lug setup here is considerably different from what I’ve used on previous Newtons. 


As my fellow reviewer Mac Jeffries noted, “what the lugs attempted to accomplish, the Vaporfly and EndPro achieved brilliantly.” Newton has always been on the forefront of efficient, forefoot-centric running, and the Gravity+ really successfully blends the line between cushioned and fast. Unlike the Newton Distance - which I think you could go race a marathon or half-marathon in, if you wanted to - I don’t think the Gravity+ is necessarily road-race-ready for most of us. But (as the results have shown), I think the Gravity+ is a terrific long run and ultramarathon option, and a stellar shoe for runs when you start easy, but want to really get rolling by the end.

Let me elaborate. As the photos below show, the shoe really shines when under load. The toe-off (the second photo) is relatively traditional - except that you have the lug setup to facilitate a faster, more propulsive toe-off. It’s kinetic, natural (well, natural once you’ve got it - think riding a bike!) and often a lot of fun. The Gravity+ does this as well or better than any Newton I’ve tried.


Once again, I’m at the conclusion trying to describe why a shoe that - while certainly not for everyone - is a really great option. The upper? Terrific. The midsole? Fun, poppy - even explosive, when loaded correctly. 

But look, if you’re already a Newton fan - or at least, Newton-flexible, then I think the Gravity+ is worth a look. There is one more thing I should raise: they’re $190. That’s a lot - probably too much for many - and expensive even in a world of expensive running shoes. To the customer’s benefit, there is a lot of technology loaded here. You don’t feel like you’re paying an uber-high price for a no-frills ride. But if you’re a budget runner - or something who just doesn’t think running shoes warrant a near-$200 spend - then you’ll have to look elsewhere, Newton or otherwise. For everyone else, know that you’re getting the best Newton money can buy.

Michael’s Score: 9.1/10


ASICS NovaBlast 2 (RTR Review)

The NovaBlast 2 is a hyper-fun update to an already terrific shoe. The ASICS also has a similarly propulsive (if slightly wobbly!) toe-off. As with last year, it makes for a close call - but I think the NovaBlast 2 is overall a more fun and compelling shoe, especially for its price of $130.

ASICS GlideRide 2 (RTR Review)

Both shoes are built around a forward momentum platform, with differing technologies to get you on that forefoot. The distinction here is clear - if you want the most extreme implemental of that idea, go with Newton. If you don’t, go for ASICS. I think the Gravity+ (in something like its 11th iteration) is a little more polished - it feels more premium, to be sure - but both have their merits. I do think the ASICS feels slightly faster, for what it's worth. 

ASICS Magic Speed (RTR Review)

For get-up-and-go running without a true racing platform, it’s hard to beat the Magic Speed, but both the ASICS and the Newton are moderately aggressive, efficiency-encouraging options that can cut their teeth on tempo runs or long intervals. Between the two, there’s no question in my mind that the upper on the Gravity+ is superior, and I think I actually like the midsole compound on the Newton slightly more (it’s a little more dense). But, if you’re a competitive runner who wants the most capable workout-specific option, I think the Magic Speed is a better buy. It’s only if you’re looking for a singular, do-it-all shoe that the comparison becomes closer, and perhaps tips towards the Gravity+.

New Balance FuelCell Rebel v2 (RTR Review)

I’ve been crushing on this shoe lately, so I figured I’d throw it in here as means to differentiate between two really different flavors to a poppy midsole. The NB is bouncy, almost trampoline-like, and uber soft. The Newton is a little more traditional, more firm, and has a roll as opposed to bounce effect. I prefer the Rebel, but your mileage may vary! 

Newton Distance (RTR Review)

My review gives it away, but if you’re skipping to the Comparisons first, I’ll just say it - the Distance is good, and the Gravity+ is great (actually, they’re both quite great, and it’s a matter of degrees, but that’s a bit less succinct). The Distance is more compelling if you’re looking to race in the shoe, just as a matter of weight, but I think the Gravity+ is a better overall trainer.

Saucony Endorphin Speed (RTR Review)

I’ve not been the biggest fan of the Endorphin Speed (though the Endorphin Speed Run Shield is changing my mind) - primarily because I found the toebox overly narrow, and the run just a little harsh to make it a true, everyday, fast-paced trainer. In that regard, I do think the Gravity+ is a more competent and overall more attractive everyday option… but, as the Saucony’s name suggests, the Endorphin Speed is a shoe built to run fast, and if I was gearing up for key workouts, or targeting something on the track, I think the Saucony is a better buy.

Michael is a 2019 graduate of Northwestern University Law School in Chicago and is a patent and intellectual property attorney. Prior to law school, he competed collegiately at Washington University in St. Louis (10,000m PR of 30:21). He recently finished 2nd at the Chicago Half-Marathon in a PR of 67:43, and was the top Illinois finisher in the 2017 Boston Marathon (2:33:03, 82nd overall). He also has a 2:31 marathon PR from the 2018 Austin Marathon. 

Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposespurchases. RoadTrail Run has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.

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Michael said...


MK said...

Hi Michael --

Thanks for the review.

At this price point, durability really matters in assessing value. Do you have a sense of how many miles you expect to be able to put on these?

Michael said...

Agreed, and a good question. In the interest of transparency, I only put about 35 miles on my pair. I handled a couple easy runs (one where I switched shoes midway), a long and moderate treadmill session (about 15), and an outdoor progression run with strides. There was no visible wear at all, absent just dirtying of the white element on the outsole. Considering also that I'm a relatively small-framed and light runner (approximately 130#), I would expect these to handle 400-500 miles pretty readily. In my experience with Newton's lugs, they really do not wear down quickly - even those that don't have the blown rubber lawyer on top of them.

Curt said...

Hey Michael! Any idea which of their models have the least intense lugs? I tried a pair back in the day, but couldn't get over the "rock under forefoot" sensation. Thanks!

Michael said...

I haven’t tried it, but they have a new shoe called the Catalyst that seems to be pretty “traditional” (though still with lugs). Otherwise, the Fate line (that I tested last year) is a little more gentle, in my opinion.