New Balance Leadville 1210 Review

When we look back at the minimalist trend that has been on the forefront of the running shoe industry for the last several years we will most certainly point to New Balance as being a driving force in that movement. Great, what does that have to do with a “normal” trail shoe? Thankfully, a lot. The trend to lower and lighter has forced many a designer to stop and rethink the tooling of traditional trail shoes. The New Balance Leadville 1210 ($125) is an example of applying the knowledge and material used in minimal shoes and pushing them toward a shoe that is focused on the masses and built specifically ultrarunning.

The Leadville 1210 is neither a lightweight nor a heavyweight at 10.3 ounces in a men’s size 9, though it fits a 1/2 size large, so it really is a smidge lighter. It features a 8mm drop, which seems to be a happy medium for getting lower to the ground without overworking those Achilles. You can see some common styles with the Minimus line with the waffle mesh along with laminated overlays to add structured support to the upper and outsole is provided by Vibram. The shoe has all the features you have come to expect from a standard trail runner: low-profile lugs, toe bumper, rock plate, along with a small fatigue post to help in those later miles when form falls apart.

Below we cover off on New Balance’s first targeted ultrarunning shoe. Give it a look and tell us what you think.

[Editor’s Notes:

  1. While we were unable to update our video review, we’ve updated the transcript below to clarify a mixup regarding the use of N2 and REVlite in the shoe.
  2. During last year’s Leadville 100, we interviewed Bryan Gothie, Senior Product Manager at New Balance, about the New Balance Leadville 1210’s features.]

[Click here if you can’t see the video above.]

New Balance Leadville 1210 Review Transcript

Hey and welcome to Trail Trials, the video review section of iRunFar.com. My name is Travis Liles, and in this video we’re going to take a look at the New Balance MT 1210 Leadville.

The New Balance MT 1210, the “Leadville,” is New Balance’s first shoe that they’ve really positioned as an ultrarunning shoe. You see it in their marketing and online. You also see it just in the name of the shoe—the Leadville. This is really positioned to be an ultrarunning shoe. How this differs from what New Balance has done over the last several years is that this is not a minimal shoe. This is a shoe for the masses.

New Balance Leadville 1210 - lateral upper

The New Balance Leadville 1210

What we see are a lot of great features that have been taken from that minimal line, so it’s not just a road shoe with some beefed up tread. It really is a shoe that they’ve taken some time and some effort to build a shoe that is trail running specific while taking some of the heritage of that minimal line and applying it to a shoe that is definitely in the middle of the road in terms of cushioning and support and those sorts of things. To give you some quick specs, the Leadville is a 10.3oz shoe with an 8mm drop and a slight bit of pronation control. With that said, let’s get up close and personal and see what we think about the MT 1210 Leadville from New Balance.

Outsole
Let’s start off by looking at the outsole of the Leadville. We can see from the branding on the side of the shoe as well as the bottom that this is a Vibram outsole. That means we’ve got some durable rubber that is going to hang around for awhile, which is the reputation of Vibram. These shoes have forward-facing and reverse-facing lugs. We can see the forward-facing lugs being on the front so that going uphill they give us traction. Then as we transition from the midfoot and back to the heel we move to a rear-facing lug so we can break going downhill and have traction. Then there is a full-on heel break as we go all the way to the outer back part of the heel where generally we would sit back on if we were trying to avoid sliding.

New Balance Leadville 1210 - outsole

The NB Leadville’s outsole.

In the middle of the shoe, we have a very consistent triangle or skewed yield sign-type of lug all the way across the bottom. I found these to clear out mud relatively easily, and I think a lot of that has to do with the tread depth. We don’t have an overly aggressive trail sole. We have a general-purpose sole. If it’s really muddy, these aren’t going to do as well as a shoe that has a large oversized lug or a spike, but these are going to do great as far as overall general trail running and being able to provide traction on a wide variety of surfaces.

If we look in here, we have a cutout that exposes some of [correction:] the N2, a nitrogren-infused TPU our trail plate. [The N2 foam is made to be a little more durable and not quite as spongy as some of the foam that is used on the road shoes by New Balance. The N2 is described as a lower profile-type of foam which is fitting for trail running.] I can push my finger in and get my fingernail to push into that material. It’s not a hard plastic. Overall, we don’t have a really twisty and flexible type of shoe. Over time, these will break down and be more flexible, but it’s a relatively stiffer shoe compared to what we’ve all seen in the last several years in the Minimus line and the New Balance trail shoes. Overall, it’s a nice outsole that provides a package that will be very good across lots of different conditions with low lugs that tended to clear mud well. We’ve had a really rainy season in my neck of the woods.

Midsole
[This section has been updated and corrected.]
Next up, we’ll transition to the midsole. We have what’s called this “Revlite.” You can see it exists from the heel all the way up to the front of the shoe on that outer (lateral) side of the shoe.

New Balance Leadville 1210 - medial upper

The NB Leadville’s medial upper showing the midsole.

As we transition from the back and move our way to the inner (medial) view, you can see we have a post. We have the REVlite continuing and then this dark grey foam. This dark grey foam, by pushing on it, you can feel it’s slightly more dense than the red foam. What I like about this post is that it’s not a post that is going to be really intrusive. If you’re a neutral runner, you may not ever even use it. But if you’re someone like me who maybe later on in a race or you’ve got a lot of miles during the week and your form might start to slip a little bit, this is helpful. It’s not something that is always there and affecting your stride; it’s there when you need it.

Because it’s farther back in the heel and doesn’t extend into the arch area, you’ve got a post that is probably more relatable to a “fatigue post” than it would be a true pronation-type of device. That’s there for when your form gets a little bit rough, but I like it because it’s not overly aggressive. My form can break down and I can have some type of support, but I don’t have a road shoe-type of post that is going to push my foot back and potentially cause an issue when I’m out trail running (sprained ankle, that type of thing). So overall, it’s an 8mm drop shoe which tends to be a good sweet spot for a lot of trail runners out there. Having a little bit of stability is going to make this shoe more accessible to a lot of folks than say something like the Minimus or similar types of New Balance shoes that are out there.

Upper
Next up, let’s transition to the upper. The upper is one of those places you can see some of the feedback that they’ve gotten from their ultrarunning team on cutting down and getting a little more minimal on the upper than some of their previous trail models. Let’s start off by talking about the tip of the shoe. You have a toe bumper here right at the very apex. It’s not overly hard rubber, but it is there and it’s going to add some protection.

As we move towards the sides, we have sort of a slick type of leather here. What’s interesting is this same material is all over the shoe, but up here at the front there’s even another layer that is kind of a plastic or rubbery type of overlay. I would say that’s probably for when you’re running in wet grass or those sorts of things so that it’s not going to soak into that. It’s going to be more water-repellant.

As we move around the back, we start to move away from that suede-type material and we move into a mesh. This mesh overlays, if you really look close and in tight, a sort of waffle pattern that we’ve seen on the Minimus-type shoes. So it’s a waffle pattern with mesh overlay. We have a very similar pattern here with a smaller waffle pattern and a little bit thinner-gauge mesh. That’s going to provide structural support of the shoe and keep debris out. I did find that this did a fine job of keeping out debris. As we move across the rest of the shoe, we see a bit of this laminated silver/chrome color support.

This is what’s known as “Phantom Fit.” So instead of taking overlays and placing them all over the shoe, they’ve done a lightweight mask that’s on top of this fabric. There’s not stitching on this which is something you’ll notice throughout the shoe. There’s not a lot of stitching on this shoe which is great for avoiding hotspots. We have that laminate on both sides adding some structure. We can see it somewhat goes up into the laces. So when the laces are pulled, it sort of creates this tension across this mask or this phantom fit, which is going to provide a much better and more secure fit.

As we move around to the sides, we can see this top shoe anchor to this piece of felt or overlay that exists on both sides that is again going to help cinch that up when we pull the laces tight. It’s going to add an anchor point to enable us to get a good cinch in the heel.

As we move to the heel we can see that while there is a bit of structure in the heel and in terms of the heel cup, it’s pretty lightweight. In fact, there’s not a lot to it as it collapses. But if you feel in there, there is a piece of plastic or something in there that is helping keep the shape of that heel. We have a nice padded heel collar that for me was really not as locked down as I’d like it to be. You can see with these laces that I’ve laced them all the way up and I’ve done that heel-lock type lacing. This shoe did not hold my heel as well as I had hoped, but I’ve got a narrow heel. Someone with a more normal heel may not have a problem with that. This is just an FYI—it is a bit of a wider foot in the back. So if you need that, it’s there; if you’re a more narrow heel, you may have to futz around with the lacing like I did.

Speaking of the lacing, we have a very standard lacing here that I talked about being able to anchor the foot in. Lastly, we come to probably my only real ding on this shoe—the tongue. The one great thing about the tongue is that it is gusseted all the way up. In terms of being able to keep out debris, we’re all the way up to this top eyelet where that tongue is at. So where it’s nice is that it creates a nice fit. Your foot fits in there nicely. It has a good slipper-ish type feel when you put your foot in here. The downside is that heel, and what sort of compounds that problem for me is that this tongue is not very tall. So you can see with the lacing style that I used, I’m almost at the top (of the tongue) in terms of the laces and because it doesn’t have a lot to it, I found sometimes when I was going downhill my laces would slide back behind the tongue and add a little pressure. Again, that is an issue that is specific to me, so if you don’t have that type of issue, it could obviously be a really great fit.

Lastly, we’ve got a removable insole. This used to say “the Leadville” and have a bit of a picture just like we have on the tongue here with the mountain range. I’ve worn that off, but you do have a removable insole that you can take out and use orthotics if you’d like.

In closing, the Leadville really brings something new to the New Balance line that hadn’t been there for awhile, and that is a real trail running shoe that is specifically designed for trail running. They haven’t mocked up a road running shoe with some trail features. This is its own beast, if you will. Good tread, average type tread with its positioned lugs. It’s in that midweight range with that 10.3 ounces. We have a much lower than normal (in terms of road shoes) drop at 8mm. They add a little bit of pronation control here without going overboard and making it unsafe. They’ve really reduced the uppers and overlays by doing some of this netting. My only ding on it is the tongue is not quite tall enough if you’re going to be using these back-end laces because maybe you’ve got a narrow heel and you need to cinch that up. I had a problem with that, but if you’re someone with a wider heel, it may be not an issue.

With that said, any comments or questions, please leave them below the video. Thanks for watching. We’ll catch you next time.

Travis Liles

resides in Portland, Oregon where he is a husband, father, Race Director for the Mark Twain 100, and a technical specialist for a software company. In his spare time, he is exploring his new home in the Pacific Northwest, getting more vertical but still not living in the thin air, while producing "Trail Trials with Travis Liles" video gear reviews for iRunFar.

There are 29 comments

  1. Emil

    Nice review. Very thorough. I had the same experience with the heel and tongue. I also have a narrow heel and foot. As much as I liked the Leadville, they had to be returned. I'm also not a big fan of the cut-outs in the outsole. In my experience they almost always lead to pre-mature breakdown around the area and the rubber begins to peel back.

  2. Ryan

    Great review. As a very satisfied owner of the MT1210 (in 2E width, like all my other New Balance shoes), I will start off by saying that the MT910v1 (available on New Balance website and runningwarehouse), while also touted as an ultra shoe, has MAJOR durability problems. After about 6 miles of break-in on the trail, I wore them for a 20 mile run on the Appalachian Trail. By the end of the run, most of the lugs/tread near the forefoot had completely cracked off or sheered off. I'm not a heavy or clumsy runner, so this is completely unacceptable. And these shoes were returned.

    The MT1210, on the other hand, is great. While I "revamped" my running career a couple years ago wearing the New Balance MR890 lightweight road trainer (in its original 12mm drop version), I quickly drank the minimalist Koolaid and wore the MT110/MT1010 for the next year (for a trail marathon and related training), and eventually developed some achilles issues that I couldn't shake. Wanting a more substantial trail shoe that came in 2E width, I went with the MT910v1 (see above) and then the MT1210.

    The MT1210 feels surprisingly more nimble to me than it looks. It looks like a NB version of the Hoka in pictures. It feels like a minimal shoe in some respects. The liner is smooth enough that I wear the shoe without socks (I've haven't run in socks in the last 1.5 years….live in GA).

    I DON'T believe you should size down 1/2 size. I think this shoe is intentionally made to fit a little loose to give you the wiggle room you need to avoid blisters during a long run. I wear my shoes a little loose and initially thought that the heel slipped too much. After break-in, I think these shoes fit great and I appreciate the extra room. Though many would argue with my perspective, I think that too many are looking for a glove-like fit in a shoe when the reality is a slightly loose shoe allows your foot to flex a little more naturally. However, maybe running without socks gives my feet the the ability to "grip" the shoe a little more and not feel as sloppy.

    Doesn't grip as well as the MT110, but that is probably mostly due to the fact that "ground feel" is not as great. The opposite side of that same coin is that the shoe provides a hell of a lot more cushion and protection. After 20 miles, my feet are no where as beat up.

    I still wear my beat up MR890 12mm drop for some training, as well as 4mm drop MT110 and MT1010. Not surprisingly, the MT1210 8mm drop feels like a good medium between the two. I was actually surprised how flat (drop wise) the shoe felt initially, though I have not had the achilles irritation that sometimes comes back when wearing 4mm shoes. Is 8mm my perfect number?

    Overall, great shoe. Thanks for the review!

    1. Craig

      I have a very difficult time following New Balance's line of shoes. Every time I find a shoe I like from them it is no longer for sale a year later, and because of my wide feet (2E) , I have not found many other choices than New Balance. Since no running stores ever carry wide shoes in stock, buying trail running shoes online is a bit of a guessing game.

      Has anyone tried the 610, 710, 810 or 910? I just bought and returned a pair or 710's because the heel was too wide for me. The fit was much different than the 110/1010 (NL-1 last), which I really like a lot.

    2. Travis Liles

      great feedback, thanks! These run a 1/2 size large for me. I wear all of my shoes a little big for swelling, etc and the 1210 in a 9 was easily a 1/2 size larger than my go-to Mountain Masochist II's which offer plenty of wiggle room. For me, I think 8mm is the sweet spot. Low enough to keep stable with enough lift to not overly fatigue me. Hopefully more shoes go to this drop.

  3. Drew Gunn

    I found the same issue with heel slip and the short tongue, and I have a fairly wide heel. I also thought the heel felt chunky for "only" 8mm. I'm glad New Balance is looking specifically at trail ultras to design a shoe, and I've enjoyed a few of their other models. A few steps in the right direction for sure, but the heel fit was a deal breaker for me. I would be happy to take a job as a shoe tester to avoid these problems in the future!

  4. KenZ

    All I can say is: Thank the lord they've also broken with the recent tradition of (almost all) shoe manufacturers making the ugliest shoes ever. These are actually reasonably normal/attractive.

    1. STEVE

      Hahaha, my buddies and I have been saying that exact thing. There are some very ugly shoes out there. I know it is just aesthetics, and we buy shoes based on comfort no looks. However, there is a point where the colors are just flat out ridiculous.

  5. art

    For those who do such things, the short tongue issue is easily fixed by simply sewing on a one inch extension at the top of the tongue (at least until NB comes to its senses and corrects this).

    I just ordered a pair of 1210's and that's probably what I'll do.

  6. Jamie

    I got the chance to demo these a little bit ago (early April?). Overall I loved the construction and feel of the shoe, but I had a huge issue with the lower section of the tongue, where it is attached to the upper, biting into my toe.

    Sadly not the shoe for me, but keep in mind I have freakishly long toes and so shoes tend to break oddly across them. The rep said that nobody else reported that problem, so maybe it's just me.

  7. Casseday

    Great review Travis (as always). I just got a pair of these last week and I really like them. They are a great all-around trail/hybrid shoe. Thanks for the detailed review.

  8. patrick t.

    Does anyone have any insight on these shoes' durability? That is my biggest issue with NB shoes in general. Every NB shoe I've had falls apart 2X faster than every other companies' shoe (I've had the NB mt1010, mt100, mt101…I didn't buy the mt110 after seeing several photos of blown-out uppers around the blogs).

    I think I'll wait a bit to see how these shoes age before I buy them. There's too many other tempting shoe options in this weight class.

  9. Melanie Michalak

    Thanks for the incredibly detailed review. After putting a few weeks into my 1210's I can put myself in the camp that is not bothered by the short tongue length. My major concern has been how warm the shoe feels in hotter weather, due to its impressive degree of padding in the heel cup and tongue. I personally find it's an excellent recovery run shoe, or later-in-the-race shoe if you are one to switch shoes during a longer race.

    Also, while this might be obvious to any regular New Balance wearers, the review above repeatedly calls the shoe the MT1210. Just to be clear, the WT1210 is the same shoe, just with women's sizing and different colorways (a silver with purple and a rather unsurprising 'diva pink'). It comes in at 8.1oz for size 8.

  10. Davide

    Hi Patrick

    I also had issues with MT1010, but both pairs of MT110 I had passed the 600 miles mark with no problem to the upper. I was also a little bit scared about durability, but they worked out for me, and I usually run really rocky trails and screes.

    I just got the 1210 as an exchange for the 1010: first 50 miles on them and ?m quite pleased. Not too heavy, not too low, some beef under the foot. Solid.

  11. brandon

    Just wanted to chime in about heel fit, sizing, and tongue length. I only have a two runs on these shoes (11 miles and 19 miles) and these runs served as the break-in period for the shoes. I wore them in my office for an hour or so before my first run. I was very worried about heel slippage because, in my office, my heel was slipping. But then on the first run there was nothing, no slipping. Weird but I'll take it. I was also worried about sizing as I'm normally a 10.5 2E and I bought a 10 2E. Even the 10 felt a little sloppy before my first run (and I like sloppy). But during the run and on my second run the sloppiness was just right, allowing room for my toes and a comfortable amount of room for swelling, etc. This brings me to the tongue. My other "trail" shoes are the Kinvara 3 (road, 10.5 2E) and I typically take a less is more approach to shoes, liking a barley there feeling but also with some decent cushioning. So the ND tongue design felt a little weird at first, kind of thick and seemed a bit short. But the thickness accomplishes what it's supposed to (keeps your laces from pinching when your foot swells, or if you tie your shoes a little too tight and are too lazy to stop and retie) and, since I haven't experienced any sliding-down of the tongue, the length seems just right. So far I really like these shoes. I bought them to have something for longer runs, a weekender shoe for me, and I'll continue to use my beloved Kinvaras during the week. I definitiely recommend these shoes for this kind of purpose, or maybe, as Melanie said, a recovery shoe. Good luck!

  12. Dominick Lanting

    This is a great review! I would like to try these shoes before I will join a tune-up race. Let me see if it's really that great. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Mike

    Can these NB 1012 trail running shoes be used for walking? or is their biomechanics fit only for running? Currently I am rotating NB 990s, NB 1012s, NB 1123s, and NB 1540s on my daily 6 – 8 mile walks – all types of surfaces, any day of the year.

  14. Orelando

    Does anyone have any experience with New Balance MT910v1's? I mean other than Ryan above who said his started falling apart quite quickly.

    I was on my way to buy these 1210's today until I saw the MT910v1's have just launched here in South Africa. From what I can gather they are similair to the 1210 but for lower mileage.

    I am going to be doing decent mileage but not more than about 35 miles so not quite in the ultra category just yet. Trying to decide whether to go for the 1210s or hold out for the 910s.

  15. trailrunner76

    Hey gang. I love this shoe. I have not one complaint. I have worn these on many runs and ran a 50miler a month ago. I like them exactly the way they are. My feet feel nice and snug. I ordered my normal size and am happy. So far there have not been any problems with durability. My last two pairs of New Balance fell apart and where warrentied, but these are good so far.

  16. trailrunner76

    yes, but much more progressive and almost 2 ounces lighter. Also the extra support feels nice after many miles.

  17. Jason

    I just returned my MT 910v1s because after four runs i noticed tears on the toe box, lugs coming of the outsole, cracks in the hel cushioning and de-laminating of the to of the sole! Trying the 1210s now.

  18. Orelando_G

    Thanks Jason, I ended up going with the 910s but also not happy with them. I have taken them past the point of return but also have noticed way too much wear for the mileage that I have done. Also glue issues on the toe. I am quite loyal to New Balance but have not enjoyed this shoe. May give Inov8 a go.

  19. @thomassauka

    Hi I bought some Leadville 1210s and wore them on a 18 mile very rough trail run and got some bad blisters on the inside of my feet. I'm now gonna wear them more to try to break them in. hope I can. Any comments

  20. davespencernj

    Thanks Travis. I enjoyed your review as I learned some new things. How did you find the toe box? After all that I have read, I rule out shoes without a wide one. Thanks again.

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