Hello and welcome to my New Balance Leadville v3 review. I’ve put the Leadville v3 trail shoe through some tough conditions, including The North Face Endurance Challenge GORE-TEX 50 mile race (TNFEC 50) and the second half of the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 mile race (MMT 100).
During the TNFEC 50 and the MMT 100, the New Balance Leadville v3 faced miles of thick mud, small sharp rocks, and large pounding boulders. It faced hard packed trails and the occasional paved road. It faced tough steep climbs and punishing descents. It was even fully submerged during a few stream crossings.
Overall, the New Balance Leadville v3 performed very well in these conditions and was a real pleasure to run in. However, while there are many things I like about the Leadville v3, there are also a few things I don’t like and think could be improved upon.
Before going into what I like and don’t like, below is a summary of the shoe specs from runningwarehouse.com.
- Weight: 10.8 oz (size 9)
- Stack Height (Heel): 29 mm
- Stack Height (Forefoot): 21 mm
- Category: Mild stability
Notice that this shoe is in the stability category. It does have a medial post on the inside edge of the shoe to provide some support for overpronation.
What I like
(1) WIDE forefoot
The New Balance Leadville V3 is a very wide shoe. The wideness is especially nice in the forefoot. There is plenty of room and height for toes to splay and wiggle.
However, some may need to go down a size in this shoe. I considered it, but since I planned to use these for several ultras, I went with my standard size to ensure that I could wear thicker socks when needed and leave room for my feet to swell.
(2) Soft cushioning
Like many of New Balance’s shoes, the midsole is composed of REVlite. However, this is the softest REVlite I’ve run in. It’s perfect for long slow runs and races 50 miles and above. Both the forefoot and heel are soft, but the heel even more so. In my opinion, the soft heel helps make the transition smooth while running and also makes the shoe comfortable to wear as a light hiking shoe or whenever the miles are ticking off slowly.
I think the black and toxic color scheme looks great, even when not out running on the trail. It looks great with shorts and jeans and I was even planning to use this as an all around and light hiking shoe on an upcoming vacation. It’s comfortable to wear all the time and won’t get you strange looks when you leave the trail.
(4) A touch of support
As mentioned above, the Leadville v3 has a medial post located on the inside edge of the shoe to provide a little bit of pronation support. However, if you normally wear neutral shoes, which I do, don’t let this extra support scare you off. I didn’t notice the medial post at all. But even if it wasn’t noticeable when running, I thought the mild support might be helpful towards the end of long runs when form starts to break down.
(5) All around comfort.
In general, the most important factor in choosing a shoe is how it feels on your feet. To me, the New Balance Leadville v3 was very comfortable. With the wide forefoot, plush ride, and the breathable mesh upper, which actually drained quite well, my feet felt happy and well protected. The Leadville v3 also has a gusseted tongue to help keep debris out, a rock plate to protect against sharp rocks, and toe protection for those hidden roots and rocks. It’s comfortable to wear all day both while hiking, walking around, and running through the trails.
What I don’t like
(1) Questionable durability
There are a couple things about this shoe that make me question its overall durability. First, the upper is showing some early signs of fraying on the sides. To be fair, this is after some tough race conditions. Second, the extremely soft midsole makes me question how long the cushioning will hold up before feeling flat and dead. I have my doubts it will feel as good after 300 miles.
(2) Midfoot and heel are a touch TOO wide.
As I mentioned above, the Leadville v3 is wide overall. While this is nice in the forefoot, it results in a less than secure fit in the midfoot and especially the heel. During the first couple runs, the heel did slip some, but this lessoned slightly as I put on more miles. However, it hasn’t gone away completely.
(3) Lace eyelets
As a follow-on to the above item, when a shoe is sometimes too wide around the heel, one option is to use a lacing technique to provide a more secure fit. However, the lace eyelets on the Leadville v3 aren’t the most conducive to using the standard heel lace locking technique. It would be nice if they moved the last eyelet a little higher and then put one additional eyelet lower and closer to the ankle. As it is now, the last eyelet is kind of in a random no-man’s land location.
(4) Traction is not great for soft ground or mud
The Vibram outsole is nice and sticky for rock hopping and hard packed trails. The rock plate and soft midsole are also great for those small sharp rocks. But the lugs aren’t aggressive enough for overly soft ground and mud. I was slipping and sliding all over the place during the muddy parts of the TNFEC 50 and MMT 100. However, its impossible to design a shoe that is perfect for every situation, so it really just depends on what you want to use it for most. However, it would be nice if the lugs were a tad more aggressive, either by changing the lug pattern or increasing the size.
(5) Cushioning may be too soft for some
I hesitate to mention this because it really just depends on preference and what you want to use this for. This is not a go-fast shoe. It doesn’t have the best responsiveness for blazing down the trails or making sharp turns. To be fair, that’s just not what this shoe was designed for. If you’re looking for something to help you set PRs, check out the New Balance Vazee Summit. However, as mentioned above, the Leadville v3 is perfect for those long slow runs and ultras 50 miles and above. This shoe can carry you the distance. However, I would prefer the cushioning to be a touch firmer. To me, it feels a little sluggish, but I generally prefer a firmer midsole.
Would I recommend this to a friend?
Yes, if you’re looking for a trail shoe with a wide forefoot and soft cushioning to use for those long ultras where you’re on your feet for hours, then the New Balance Leadville v3 is a great choice. However, if you’re looking for a highly responsive shoe for those shorter faster races or work-outs, you’ll likely want to add another shoe to your arsenal. The Leadville v3 is built for a specific purpose and serves this purpose very well. There is nothing wrong with having different shoes for different types of runs. And for those long trail runs and ultras, its hard to go wrong with the Leadville v3.
As always, comments are appreciated. Let me know of any thoughts or questions below. I hope you found this review useful. Thanks for reading.