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NB Leadville v3 - Wear Test Review (Spring 2016)

1 year 11 months ago #3668

The below is a consumer report and is not an official Gear Institute Review. To read more of the Gear Institute's official trail running shoe reviews, check out this link .

The New Balance Leadville v3 is a responsive, weight-conscious update to what was already one of the best trail ultramarathon shoes on the market. With a new seamless sockliner, the same plush N2 and RevLite midsole, and New Balance’s roomy ultramarathon-specific fit, the updated Leadville is comfortable, versatile, and reliable for long miles on the trail.


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 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.

The highlights of the model haven’t changed. The N2 foam and RevLite midsole is plush without preventing good groundfeel, the upper (especially the toe box) has enough volume to be comfortable and accommodate swelling, the asymmetrical heel counter and small medial post give just enough support to address late-race breakdowns in form, and the Vibram outsole is sticky and durable.

While New Balance kept the bones of the Leadville the same for this version, the minor upgrades they made were welcome. The updated seamless sockliner improves the fit, a new lug pattern improves traction, and the revised model name and new graphics (which resemble a topographic map) are more attractive than previous versions and more consistent with the shoe’s function.


The Leadville v3’s FantomFit seamless sockliner is comfortable straight out of the box, and the relative light weigh (10.35oz for size 9.5 according to New Balance) keeps the shoes from feeling clunky or unwieldy. While the heel collar is soft and plush, the tongue is relatively thin and only lightly padded. The generously-sized toebox is one of the Leadville’s standout features. It’s roomy in both width and height to accommodate toe-splay and late-race swelling, but not so oversized that it feels sloppy. Note that the shoe does fit a half-size large and the thin tongue makes it uncomfortable to ratchet down the laces too tightly, so runners between sizes should go down to the nearest half-size for the best fit.


With a relatively thick midsole (28mm heel/20mm forefoot), rockplate, and full heel counter, the Leadville v3 feels a bit stiff for the first 20-30 miles. As the shoes break in, however, the toe-spring increases and the feeling of your heel lifting out of the back of the shoe decreases. 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 will resolve some of this.


The Leadville v3 was rock-solid and dependable on challenging technical trails. The Vibram outsole is sticky and durable, and the 4mm lugs grip well on everything from scree to slick flatrock. With a 28/20 stack height (8mm drop), there was enough cushion to feel comfortable without losing feel for the trail. 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 gusseted tongue and dense synthetic mesh upper, I had no trouble with water or dirt intrusion. At the same time, the shoes dried relatively quickly after getting wet, and the outsoles stayed grippy even over damp rocks. Runners who want extra protection would want to wear gaiters to prevent pebbles and dust from getting in.

Last Edit: 1 year 5 months ago by jordandee. Reason: Editorial Adjustment

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1 year 10 months ago #3698

The Leadville v3 is named after one of ultramarathoning's most iconic races, and it brings plenty of features that may allow you to cross the finish line of that great race. New Balance has included a vibram sole and a great design that catches the eye, but there is a feature or two that didn't sit right with me.

The Leadville is a comfortable shoe, for the most part. It does have one incredibly minor flaw that I just couldn't overlook. In spirit of crossing the line of a 100 miler, the tongue has a belt buckle shaped icon on the tongue. Given the tongue is very thin, the icon makes for an uncomfortable run. I tried thicker socks, taller socks, etc. I just didn't get around the feel of the icon on the tongue. It bothered me enough that I wanted to include it here. Other than that, and the thin tongue, the shoe is very comfortable. Plenty of real estate in the toe without being too roomy, and a cushioned sole that made my feet happy.

The adage that more miles can be run with a tempered pace is thrown out the window with this shoe. It touts an 8 mm drop, but has the look of something you'd find a trail 1 miler. It is a fast shoe once you've broken it in (took me about 28 miles or so), and it is a shoe that I'd race in on short courses with flat, non-technical terrain.

After multiple lacing strategies, different socks, and different courses I couldn't get this shoe to jive with my foot. The heel cup wasn't deep enough to really bring my foot into a place where I felt like I could really run without slipping. My heel just wouldn't lock down, and I could really feel it in uphill sections and technical terrain where the foot rolls and slips. My heel felt like it needed another quarter inch of vertical space to really get locked into place. I feel the heel cup is just too shallow.

Really, any shoe named after Leadville has to be tough. The Vibram sole is aggressive without being obnoxious. The sole plate protects the foot, as does the clean toe guard. The upper cuts out all unnecessary frills, and is a seamless construction.

Had my heels stayed put, these shoes would've been near the top of my list. They are very responsive to the foot, especially after a few runs. Initial runs revealed a rigid rock plate, but after a couple runs I was able to really get the shoe to move where I liked, for the most part. If runner's are able to get a quality fit I'd say they'd have great success in this shoe, especially in the agility and response category.

Overall, there are a few minor changes that could make the shoe more practical. Move the icon from the tongue to the heel, where the competition can see it. It'll improve comfort too. Look at making the heel cup deeper to keep heels locked in. Any shoe worn for 100 miles needs to have as much comfort as possible. I'd like to see a more padded tongue as well.

I'm interested to see what other tester's experience was with this shoe.

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1 year 10 months ago #3812

• Comfort – 8
• Speed & Agility – 6
• Security of Fit – 8
• Responsiveness – 7
• Stability – 9

The Good
• Stable and secure fit in all conditions
• Comfortable and durable
• Improved traction

The Bad
• Somewhat sluggish
• Less responsive on technical steep terrain

The Verdict
New Balance upped the game with their long distance trail runner in the Leadville v3. Built on a solid base, the Leadville v3 delivers stable and secure contact with the trails while staying comfortable. These perks come with at a modest weight gain again other shoes on the market and slightly less raw speed feeling on the open trails.

Full Review
New Balance has been improving their trail running line for the last few years and the Leadville v3 tops the charts. After putting the shoe through its paces with hard-packed technical trails, icy and muddy singletrack and snow covered paths; I was thoroughly impressed with the Leadville v3.

The Leadville v3 delivers the right amount of traction on moderately technical terrain. I felt confident keeping my speed navigating my way up steeper rocky trails. The soles did pick up a hefty amount of mud when entering some wetter sections of the trail but they quickly shed almost all of it after striding out on drier sections. I was also somewhat surprised at how the Leadville v3 handled the packed snow sections of the trail with minimal slippage.

Turning the Leadville v3 back downhill, I was able to stay at my normal pace but kept the sharp turns to a minimum. I felt the shoe lacked was lacking a bit speeding through the more technical downhill terrain. While definitely not a heavy training trail running shoe it is also not for those weight watcher runners out there. But the added weight and heel counter structure provide solid durability to the shoe.

Overall, 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.

Comfort – New Balance did a good job making the Leadville v3 comfortable while still maintaining a solid and firm base. The Leadville v3 utilizes N2 cushioning and a REVlite midsole and soaks up the major trail obstacles to keep the comfort rolling mile after mile.

Speed & Agility – While coming in at 10.35oz for a size 9.5 the Leadville v3 comes in the middle of the pack for weight. This increases the durability and comfort but slightly sacrifices the speed and agility of the shoe. My opinion - I’d take durability.

Security of Fit – I like the heel counter and extra midsole support that are I find are lacking in most trail running shoes out there right now. This provides the Leadville v3 with a secure fit and inspires confidence when entering more technical terrain.

Responsiveness – As mentioned previously, the “beefier” nature of the Leadville v3 means it’s not as quick and responsive as the lighter weight shoes out there but I can’t knock the shoe too much because it delivery in almost every other category.

Stability – The Leadville v3 provided stable and expected contact with the terrain over a large variety of conditions. For me this was the shining quality of the shoe and one that I will undoubtedly hold other shoes against from now on.

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1 year 9 months ago #3909

I'm not sure I was as impressed with the NB Leadville v3 as the previous reviewers. This is most likely because I am still trying to break the shoe in. I did not think it was that comfortable out of the box. Oddly enough, the upper fits my foot pretty well. It is wide enough (without being too wide) with a moderate amount of volume in the forefoot. Plus, the heel counter is pretty plush, albeit somewhat wide. Regardless, I had no issue with heel slippage. In addition, I did not find any issues with the tongue lacking any padding to tighten the laces. The uncomfortable part of my first couple runs came from the midsole. It felt clunky, stiff, and created a couple hotspots in random spots in my foot. This has never happened to me? Unfortunately, I haven't been able to pinpoint what was so different about this shoe.

Regardless, I think this shoe is an upgrade from the previous year. I think (hope) that once the midsole is broken in, this shoe could be a good candidate for longer outings on less technical terrain. Similar to its slightly overweight predecessors, I didn't find the shoe to be particularly fast or agile. Again, I will ask for the "skinny" version of this shoe to test next year (hint, hint NB!). I thought the upper gave me a pretty secure fit combined with a nicely padded heel. However, this security was under-utilized because I wasn't a huge fan of the Vibram traction and wasn't inspired to really push it on the technical terrain.

Comfort: 4
Speed: 6
Security of fit: 9 I was most impressed here because even after my feet were wet from snowy, slushy trails, I had no issues with any lateral or forward movement within the shoe.
Agility: 6

Overall: Similar to its namesake, the Leadville v3 is good for non technical long runs. The midsole cushioning is firm and responsive without being too "squishy" like some other maximalist shoes. This, of course, is assuming that the midsole is broken in after several runs. I have 3 runs and almost 20-miles on them and they still aren't totally there yet, but I can tell its getting better. With so many shoes on the market, I don't feel like I need to "break in" shoes like a pair of mountain boots. This was the biggest downfall for me with the LV v3. However, it sounds like other folks didn't have the same problem as I did.

The following user(s) said Thank You: justin

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1 year 7 months ago #3994

I wonder if your experience of the firm, stiff midsole had to do with the temperature of your runs. I noticed you mentioned snow. In 50-60 degree weather, it felt loose to me right out of the box.

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