We are going to try something new with this week’s gear review. In an effort to provide more information not just about products, but about the companies that create them, you will notice that this review includes a large section that focuses on the company story. This will become a more common practice with the gear reviews I write because I always value knowing where a product comes from, and who I’m supporting when I purchase something. Feel free to let me know what you think of this new format in the comments section! Ok, onto the review:
The smell of new shoes is on the same level as new car smell for me. I’ve been a sneakerhead since I was in middle school, but I’ve graduated from wanting to rock the newest colorway of Air Force Ones to simply enjoying the feel of new running shoes.
Recently, I had the honor of trying a pair of Newton Running’s third generation trail shoe: The BOCA AT 3.
Newton is a great running company based out of Boulder, Colorado, and they are doing some innovative things in both the road and trail running space. One of the things that I really admire about Newton is their drive to do good. They are the first running shoe company to become a certified B Corp, defined as “for-profit companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency”. This certification is very hard to obtain and I find that to be an amazing accomplishment.
One of the other awesome aspects of Newton is their dedication to giving back. They are partnered with a handful of awesome organizations, including their Ignite Program with the Soles4Souls non-profit. The Ignite program has opened the door for Newton to work with 6 low-income schools across the country to provide students with shoes for their spring track season. They have hopes to expand this program over the upcoming years.
I love the way Newton is leveraging their influence and expertise to make a difference in the lives of kids. So cool to hear of organizations not only creating great gear but doing great things in connection with their gear!
Knowing all this backstory about Newton, I couldn’t wait to give the BOCA AT 3s a try. If you’ve been following my last few posts, you know that I’m training for a 50k, so in the past three weeks, I’ve been able to put about 50 miles on these bad boys. Now for some thoughts on the Newton BOCA AT 3’s themselves…
Fit and Feel (4/5 stars)
The first thing I noticed about the BOCA AT 3 was the midfoot “lump” from the Action/Reaction technology. What is the Action/Reaction technology you ask? Newton has done something fairly genius by designing the lugs on the bottom of the shoe to create an energy return in your stride. The EVA material used in the midsole is designed to give an almost trampoline effect so you can generate more forward momentum. The Action/Reaction partnered with a minimal drop (3mm) and cushioning across the entire shoe is all designed to help you maintain proper running form. The BOCA AT 3 uses what is called their P.O.P 2 version of their Action/Reaction, which uses a beveled lug in the mid/forefoot which creates slightly less abrupt change to your running style.
All the cool tech aside, this was a weird first experience. It really felt like with every step I was rolling over something with my forefoot. You get used to it fairly quickly, but fair warning for any first time Newton users, this is intentional – there isn’t something wrong. I’ll explain more later, but the experience morphs from “what is happening?!” to “I like this” as soon as you go from walk to run.
When it comes to sizing, I rock a men’s size 9 in most trail shoes, and that holds true for the Newtons. Overall, the shoe felt a bit snug, which is typically something I’m not a big fan of, but it worked with the Newtons. I credit that to the anti-friction and antimicrobial liner that has an almost neoprene feel to it, so it still felt like my foot could breathe.
In Use (7/10 stars)
The BOCA AT3 is a fun shoe to run in. It is stable, well cushioned, and provides great grip on all terrains. If you happen to take this shoe on the road, you’ll notice the Action/Reaction right away, but like I said earlier, it goes from an unusual distraction to welcome addition pretty quickly. The Action/Reaction creates the feeling of a distinct pivot point under your foot when you’re running that definitely helps you maintain a midfoot strike. I also felt like it naturally encouraged a shorter stride length and increased cadence on my runs.
On the trail, the BOCA AT 3 was nimble and felt light on my foot. On a rocky run in Garden of the Gods, there was ample support and protection. The shoe’s platform provided great stability and I felt confident hitting some of the sketchy sections of the trail without needing to slow down. I did find myself stopping to mess with the lacing pretty frequently on runs, though. The liner on this shoe is really comfortable, but I felt like my foot had a tendency to slip around. After the first mile or so down the trail, I needed to pull over to tighten up sections of the shoe to keep my foot from sloshing around.
One of the only issues I’ve had with the BOCA AT 3 is that they went from comfortable, to somewhat straining on the long distance runs. I don’t think this is a product flaw, but likely more a flaw in my stride and form. It is typically at about the 10-12 mile mark that my form starts to break down and I begin to land with more of a heel strike, which doesn’t mesh well with a Newton shoe. The Action/Reaction midfoot reminds me that my stride is breaking down, and I could feel a strain on my calves down into my achilles. For the two days following my high mileage training runs, I had fairly intense muscle soreness in my calves.
Although the BOCA AT 3 is a great shoe for mid-distance, I would like to have had a little more cushion for longer distance running. There is a comfortable amount of underfoot cushion, but for a larger framed runner like myself, I could feel the distance in my feet after a while.
Overall (11/15 stars)
Newton has put together a great trail shoe with their BOCA AT 3. Although they aren’t known for their off-roading products, I personally am becoming a fan. I would love to see more shoes like this from Newton, especially because I really enjoy what they do as a company. I felt faster running in the BOCA AT 3, and I’ll continue to put miles on them over the next few weeks, so be sure to check back for an update in about 1.5 months!
That wraps up this review, so until next time, be sure to get out there an unleash your adventure!