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In our fifth edition of the Doctors of Running Sustainability Project, we spoke with Newton Running's Product Manager Laura Tingle and Founder Jerry Lee about the companies major investment into a sustainable future. Using a top-down approach to not only find ways to make sustainability a priority in their entire footwear catalog, they've also invested long term towards streamlining their processes and offices to hit their goal. This wide lens approach to tackling sustainability is what uniquely sets them apart from the rest, which is why we were excited to sit down and speak with them about how they made this happen.

How Newton Running is Leading the Charge on Sustainability in the Running Industry
Doctors of Running Sustainability Project, Volume 5

By Bach Pham, Content Manager

About the Doctors of Running Sustainability Project

In this series, we're talking with companies, researchers, and forward-thinkers on the subject of footwear sustainability. In 2019, it was found that over two billion running shoes were purchased in the calendar year. With running shoes as popular as ever, they bring a unique problem as far as waste is concerned. While clothing tends to have ways to breath new life through repair and reuse, footwear currently has a fairly definitive end-of-life. Even with reuse for things like yardwork, or thrift stores, there's ultimately is always an end point at the landfill for footwear beyond that point. Sustainability as a result has quickly become the focus of footwear brands in the past two years as more and more new materials and technology have entered the market in an effort to tackle the issue. It's our goal to unearth some of the progress being made and discuss the changes that the industry faces in the coming years.

Editor's Note

This discussion is not a sponsored piece with Newton Running. We approached Newton to talk about their visible efforts and better understand why they decided to make the decisions they have made to push towards being more environmentally friendly. We thank Laura and Jerry for sharing their time and information with our team.


Newton's Long Term Stake in Sustainability

"When we launched the company, it was to be social, socially aware, and socially responsible. That was certainly one of the key foundations," says Jerry Lee, co-founder and CEO of Newton Running.

Newton was founded in 2007. While sustainability has become a broader focus in the running industry recently as of the last five years, Newton has made it a central point of their work from the get-go. They were the first footwear company to be B-Corp Certified (this is a specific, highly rigorous to obtain designation that identifies that the company is dedicated to uphold their values around being socially responsible and centered around sustainable, eco-friendly development). Focusing their efforts in house first, they made their main offices 100% wind-powered and all in-house waste generated is 90% composted or recycled.

"I stepped away from the company for a little while and came back in 2017," says Lee. "During that timeframe, I was gifted with a granddaughter, and so as I started thinking about [sustainability], you know. Global warming became more present in the news of the day, and so forth. And you can start seeing it, you know, if you look, you could see it, and start thinking about her future, you know, what are we living, you know, we can do all these great things of donating money to to, for homeless shelters and food and so forth. But that's not solving the problem of what's happening in our environment. What's your future gonna be like, when she's my age? What are we leaving, because I grew up in a environment where there was no such thing as, as pesticides for spraying everywhere, you know, everything was thrown in the dump in the rivers and so forth. As a company, we sat down and asked, How are we [now]? How can we be sustainable? What materials are out there in the world we live in today that can, that can take our shoes, closer and closer to being a as much as 100% sustainability as we possibly can? And so we started researching."

Breaking Down the Process

When the focus on sustainability swapped to shoes for Newton, the first areas they targeted were some of the obvious areas many brands have also gone over the years: recycled uppers, laces. It was when they looked at their midsole which was petroleum-based, they started asking the bigger questions on what could be done to swap this essential part of the shoe.

In today's market, we've seen a variety of strategies employed, from midsoles made of bio-based products like sugar cane and corn to midsoles that have blended recycled materials. While these are good solutions to replacing petroleum based midsoles, they didn't necessarily solve the problem of what happens to the shoe after it is well-worn; even after someone obtains it from a thrift store and gives it another couple years of life, it still ends up ultimately sitting in a landfill.

This is where an additive called EcoPure came in. "It has to be in the right microbiome," says Laura Tingle, product manager for Newton Running.

"It has to be in a landfill environment to be able to feed the additive. We found that it doesn't impact durability one bit, unless you literally bury your shoes in a landfill inbetween your runs."

The idea behind EcoPure is that when the material it's embedded in is activated in the right chemical environment, it causes an acceleration of the biodegrading process. Something that could take decades like a running shoe is cut dramatically, in this case as little as 10 years in comparison to the 50+ it may typically take.

Long-term testing in all conditions throughout their network proved that the additive along with their foam compound provided to be durable. A unique pandemic FKT helped provide confidence in their testing when ultrarunning athlete Harvey Lewis ran the Badwater course after it's cancellation along with Mount Whitney for a 150 mile course record in one pair of their new Gravity+ model. It was the final proof for the company that this additive along with their new NRG foam hit the performance and sustainable measures they hoped to see.

Their footwear evolution in 2021 through 2022 has been an explosion of new methods to craft all of the components of their shoes. Their forefoot plate in their performance models is made of castor beans. Every single shoe in their running line utilizes four recycled bottles to craft the upper. Their shoe boxes are also fully compostable. It's this vigorous top down change in such a short period of time that's made their story unique.

"For us it's an "And" conversation, not an "Or" conversation," Tingle explains. "We see a lot of companies doing a sustainable model, but for us, every shoe we make has the same story. They have the same four recycled water bottles and is biodegradable. You don't have performance or sustainable, you don't have a durable shoe, or something that is good for the environment. For us it's "And." You have a durable shoe and it's sustainable. Just letting people know there aren't compromises in these shoes. We didn't sacrifice to make it sustainable. It's an addition that hasn't taken away from the performance."

Future Forward

For Newton, it has been a holistic approach to sustainability not just emphasized in their footwear alone, but company-wide. Whether internally at their central office to the partners they work with and their attitudes towards the future, Newton's emphasis on forward-thinking is why they've taken such a big leap in recent years towards rethinking how footwear is made, produced, and sold. They've even worked on ways to negate the carbon output they do produce.

"One other thing this year in 2022 is that we planted a tree for every shoe we sell," Tingle says. "It's been rewarding for us. We had a major fire here [Colorado] over the winter, which was sort of the catalyst for it. We were looking at nonprofits looking to plant trees here. We found One Tree Planted which actually has this one-to-one model. It's furthering our sustainability efforts in that it's not just the product, manufacturing and office processes; it's giving back the environment as well instead of trying to take as little as possible."

"I have the privilege everyday to finish the run by our office here," says Lee. "There's a wall painted, someone did a beautiful job of painting a young lady with a quote from Greta Thunberg that says "the eyes of the future generations are upon you." I really feel that is true. I've gotta do something. We can't be a company that has one sustainable shoe, we gotta be a company that all of our shoes meet that. We just gotta do it. We gotta do it. I'm just hoping that we are maybe a little bit of a leader, and maybe there will be some that follow."

Writer's Thoughts:
An Honest Push Forward

It's clear that of all the running companies that existed prior to 2020 and have moved towards sustainable efforts, Newton Running is far ahead of the game. Swapping all of their products to incorporate some kind of sustainability, whether recycled materials or the use of EcoPure is a major transition, one that no major running company has come close to replicating. Newton is smaller than the major running footwear companies and has more of a niche following due to their unique running philosophy and technology, but there's no doubt that they've been able to carryover better than anyone a one-for-one transition of their entire running line while also continuing to improve their footwear at the same time. We are very high on their Gravity+ and Motion+ models here at Doctors of Running and their performance chops, and see a lot of room for continued growth.

While other brands who have touted sustainability efforts, most have only release concept models without making bigger overhauls to their overall production. The fact that Newton decided to make such a wide commitment so quickly - in the span of essentially two years - while also improving their running line is a massive accomplishment worth recognizing.

It is also worth noting that Newton is a smaller company than say a Nike or Adidas which makes them more nimble at making a widescale change, but the effort is still impressive nonetheless.

Perhaps the most successful thing Newton has accomplished in the sustainability space is provide a a more definitive solution for the future. Other ideas such as recycle programs, plant-based footwear, and more have been suggested, but each have presented certain limitations in its current state. Newton has taken on the weight of the sustainability issue through EcoPure, which directly cuts the landfill issue down by a dramatic timescale. That's not to say this is the end-all, be-all solution, but it certainly is one of the most compelling ones we've seen and certainly sets one of the most viable blueprints of what the future of footwear could look like.


Thanks to Laura and Jerry for taking the time to chat with us about Newton Running! If you would like to talk with the team about the Sustainability Project, email Content Manager and Sustainability Coordinator Bach Pham at

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