New Balance Leadville v3 ReviewJune 29, 2016
- Seamless upper
- Roomy toe box
- Grippy, durable outsole
- Comfortable, responsive midsole
- Unobtrusive but effective medial posting
- Thin tongue
- Some heel slip
- Relatively slow to break in
- Runs about a half-size large
The New Balance Leadville v3 is a durable, comfortable off-road shoe designed with long-distance trail running and ultramarathons squarely in mind. The combination of RevLite and N2 foam in the midsole with sock-like FantomFit upper makes it stand out among the competition as supremely comfortable, while the Vibram outsole performs well under a variety of conditions. Although some reviewers experienced issues with heel slippage and the relatively thin tongue, overall, this is a very successful update to the already-great 1210v2 and serious contender for Best in Category.
Named after the legendary Colorado 100-mile race, the Leadville v3 is the third iteration of New Balance’s entry into the quickly-growing trail ultra-running market. With smart revisions and no major changes (beyond the name, which finally drops the numerical 1210 designation), the Leadville v3 continues to be a solid choice for long, challenging off-road events. Despite some minor issues with fit (many of which can be resolved by going down a half-size), our wear-testers had very positive impressions of this shoe. As one noted, “ the traction on the Leadville v3 packs a big punch and definitely ranks at the top of the trail running shoes coming out in 2016. Comfort and stability of the Leadville v3 were great and I can see myself logging many happy miles in these shoes.
The FantomFit seamless sockliner is comfortable straight out of the box, with wear-testers commenting specifically on how soft the heel collar and inner liner feel. Some wear-testers noted the relatively thin tongue, which is undeniably less plush than the heel. The N2 foam and RevLite midsole is soft without being spongy, and the upper (particularly the toe box) has enough volume to be comfortable without being sloppy. The generous forefoot volume also accommodates the inevitable swelling that comes with long, hot trail runs. As one wear-tester noted, the Leadville v3 has “plenty of real estate in the toe without being too roomy, and a cushioned sole that made my feet happy.”
Our wear-testers reactions were mixed, with some reviewers praising the shoe as fast and others calling it a bit sluggish. The Leadville v3 is designed specifically with long-distance ultramarathons in mind, however, so New Balance’s decision to trade some snappiness for comfort, softness, and room to accommodate swelling is appropriate. The Vibram outsole is aggressive without being obtrusive, which makes the shoes feel stable under a variety of conditions.
Security of Fit
Our wear-testers almost universally commented on some heel slip right out of the box, although most felt that this issue diminished after 20-30 break-in miles. Although the midfoot and forefoot were laterally secure, there were also concerns with the thinness of the tongue, which could use some added padding in the next iteration. Runners with narrow heels may find the rear quarter too wide, and the lack of an extra lace hole eliminates the option to address it by lace-locking.Going down a half-size appears to be an effective solution to all of these issues, however. New Balance ships the Leadville v3 with sausage laces, which virtually never came untied on the trail, even with single knots.
The Leadville v3 isn’t a featherweight at 10.7 oz (for size 9), but it’s right in the middle of the weight range for this category of trail shoes and feels lighter and more agile than its peers. Likewise, the comfortable upper and well-designed outsole make it feel agile on a variety of trails, and the midsole offers great protection without sacrificing groundfeel. Traction was solid under a variety of conditions, including wet trails, ice and snow.
While some responsiveness is sacrificed for durability and protection, our wear-testers felt like New Balance found an ideal balance of stability and responsiveness with this model. One of the standout features of the Leadville model has always been the stability provided small medial post and asymmetric heel counter. It’s a subtle, thoughtful use of minor stability features that prevent breakdowns in form late in long races without feeling obtrusive for runners who prefer neutral shoes.
With a relatively thick midsole (28mm heel/20mm forefoot), rockplate, and Vibram rubber outsole, the Leadville v3 has some admirable protection and durability features. Although some wear-testers thought break-in took longer than expected, there was agreement that they could run confidently and comfortably even on technical terrain. As one reviewer noted, the shoe, “soaks up the major trail obstacles to keep the comfort rolling mile after mile.” The gusseted tongue and dense multilayer mesh also prevent the intrusion of dust and pebbles.