New Balance Leadville v3 Review

There is a type of trail shoe that I refer to as a battleship: those durable all-day cruisers with enough cushioning and protection for 100 miles. The long-term mainstays include shoes like the Brooks Cascadia and the Montrail Mountain Masochist. Newcomers include Pearl Izumi’s N2/M2, Nike’s Wildhorse 3, Altra’s Lone Peak, and the Montrail Bajada. These shoes are all a mainstay at any 100 miler in the U.S., and they seem to be favorites of the veterans with drawers full of buckles. When I review a shoe like this, I expect fantastic durability, a moderate amount of cushioning and protection, and a smooth ride that can be on my foot all day without blisters or fit issues. The New Balance Leadville v3 ($125) has become a shoe that fits these criteria perfectly.

The aptly named Leadville v3 improves on its predecessors by adding a bit of stack height while retaining its middle-weight status at 10.8 ounces. Otherwise, New Balance has essentially stuck with what has worked for them with this shoe in the past but with some material simplifications.

New Balance Leadvile v3

The New Balance Leadville v3.

Upper

The fit of the past MT1210s is retained in the Leadville, and New Balance has tried to strike a balance between the use of laminates versus synthetic overlays which are much more durable. The Leadville has a more breathable mesh upper than past versions, and the aforementioned laminates are eschewed in favor of a more durable rand around the entire upper. This acts as a toe bumper and provides protection from rocks and low-lying vegetation as well as additional insurance against blowouts.

The tongue is amply padded and gusseted without feeling bulky against the top of the foot. Sausage laces are effective and stay tied, and the ankle collar is highly padded. I would describe the fit of the upper as roomy throughout which may turn off some runners looking for a more locked-down feel. However, I never experienced my foot sliding forward on steep downhills. Fast lateral movement and side trailing did cause my foot to feel a bit unstable, though. The Leadville has a wide forefoot with ample toe-box height and plenty of room throughout the upper to accommodate swollen feet, which is a regular problem in most ultra races beyond 50 miles.

I have read on some retail sites that perspective buyers should size down 1/2 size to get a good fit in the Leadville v3, and it all depends. As someone who likes a little bit of extra toe room in front of my toes, I was fine with my true size. But, if you like a bit more of a snug fit, size down.

New Balance Leadville v3 lateral upper

The New Balance Leadville v3’s lateral upper.

Midsole

This is really where the Leadville shines, as the midsole provides a smooth and unobtrusive ride from heel to toe off. Being a mid-foot striker that craves forefoot cushioning, I found that the Leadville provided plenty for long runs in excess of 20 miles. When inadvertently heel striking going downhill, the Leadville again feels sublime without ever crossing the line into the unstable feel of excessive or mushy cushioning. I was really pleased at the ability to run on concrete, dirt roads, and technical trails all in the same run, with every surface feeling smooth and protected.

New Balance uses both N2 and Revlite cushioning and medial posting consisting of higher-density EVA foam is utilized to decrease overpronation. What I like about this degree of stability is that it doesn’t feel like it interrupts a neutral gait, and it seems to work great with both early and late-stage overpronation. Even the most neutral runners have been shown to have some overpronation tendencies at the end of the 100-mile distance when one’s form breaks down, and I think this can be a valuable protection in a true ultra-distance shoe.

Revlite foam especially continues to impress, and the amount (29mm heel, 21mm forefoot) feels semi-firm and responsive without ever feeling dead throughout a longer run. The platform is also fairly wide resulting in a stable ride that allows for proprioception as well.

New Balance Leadville v3 medial upper

The New Balance Leadville v3’s medial upper.

Outsole

While nothing new here is employed, New Balance sticks with what works. What surprises me about this Vibram outsole is the effectiveness of the low lugs. While trail shoes this year have all seemed to jump on the bandwagon of super-deep lugs, the Leadville’s lugs are approximately 2mm of very sticky Vibram rubber that shed mud and clay better than most soft-ground shoes I own. While that isn’t to say that they have better traction, the spacing and lug height seem to be really effective in all kinds of conditions, from mud, to hardpack, to snow. The Vibram outsole also shows absolutely no wear throughout all the winter/spring torture I put it through.

New Balance uses their Rock Stop midsole, which is surprisingly flexible for a shoe this burly. In fact, I had initially guessed that this shoe didn’t have a rock plate at all prior to doing any research. This rock plate is effective without getting in the way of the ride, and the material used is not so rigid that it feels hard on very rocky terrain.

New Balance Leadville v3 outsole

The New Balance Leadville v3’s outsole.

Overall Impressions

If I were looking for one shoe to wear for a season of ultrarunning, in different types of conditions and terrain, the New Balance Leadville v3 would be a leading contender. Its not a flashy shoe that screams of speed or tech features, but it is simple and effective. Most of the time when folks are having difficulty in ultras, it seems that they change into these battleship type  shoes and eschew the lightweight sexy shoes that they fantasized they could wear to the 100-mile finish line. The New Balance Leadville v3 is not one that will wow you out of the box or on the showroom floor. It’s the kind of trail shoe that sneaks up on you and ends up in your drop bag at mile 50. Something predictable, dependable, and durable to get you to the finish line.

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Have you run in this shoe? Did you find it to be as multipurpose as our reviewer did? What was your overall impression of it?
  • Do you have any questions about the New Balance Leadville v3? Fire them off in the comments section!
Tom Caughlan

is iRunFar's Minimalist Gear Editor. Tom’s passion for trail running and specialty running retail experience shine through in all of his highly technical reviews, which do range outside minimalist shoes.

There are 21 comments

  1. Mike

    I’ve had several pairs of these shoes and have run in them in many trail marathons comfortably. I have wide feet, and you can get these nice and wide. I run on dusty Sierra trails in the summer and the gusseted tongue keeps out dirt and other detritus; that said, dirt does come in through the mesh in the toe box, but it’s tough to stop that. The thin tongue doesn’t feel like a pillow on top of your foot, as some do, making the shoe feel less bulky than its weight would suggest. I have a wide pair that I wear with heavier socks and shoe covers for running in the winter in Fairbanks Alaska, and the shoe still performs well in those conditions and has plenty of grip in the snow. The shoes last about 400 miles but really “die” quickly after that…don’t try to extend their cushion lifespan.

  2. Woodie Hopper

    Love these shoes. I used to run in Mountain Masochists but these are my new stand-by. I am a pronator and have bilateral partial achilles tears so I wanted something with a little more motion control. I started with these and had Hoka Challengers in my 75 mile drop bag at this year’s Bear 100. I didn’t change shoes (or socks) and had no blisters, foot or achilles pain/soreness afterwards. Sure glad I gave these a try!

  3. Lisa M

    I have just started my second pair of v2’s as I loved my first pair so much. I live in New Zealand and the trails around here during summer are as hard as concrete and rocky (rough on shoes) so I was looking for something a little forgiving and durable, but didn’t want to loose ground feel. This shoe is perfect! Just raced 85km in them in the weekend and my feet came out perfectly. I have done 650kms in my first pair and a lot of those were very rough and rocky, and the sole has lasted very well. I am a fussy shoe wearer and I love these. Can not fault them.

  4. tahoediver

    I wore V1, V2, and am now getting well into V3. I had initially opted for a more “minimal” shoe when I started running longer distance events but then found these bad boys maybe three years ago. I don’t know how many miles I’m supposed to get from them but each pair has lasted well beyond a thousand. I’ve run 50ks, 50ms, and a 100k in these (various versions). They drain very well and feel light on my feet, even though they’re battle ship shoes. I like that NB doesn’t make major changes from version to version. I’ve been able to put them on right out of the box and go for a run and, after a little break in period, they’re like butter (if butter had Vibram lugs…). And they come in wide, which is great. Regarding sizing, I sometimes where a 10.5 but in these it’s a 10EE. Awesome shoes.

  5. Justin Andrews

    On a recommendation from a good friend of mine who is a sales rep for NB (mind you, I haven’t worn NB at all in 17 years of running til last year), he said they’d do well for my 100k debut. So after only 3 days of running 10km road runs in them, I laced them up for my 100k (Vibram HK 100k) just this past January. Without a blister or hot spot, I was able to transition from stairs and concrete to beaches and technical single track without a problem. Have since worn them for a 50k again with great impressions. They are heavier than most the shoes I train in, but I don’t think an ounce is much for the comfort they provide in longer races. These will continue to be my go to shoe for the foreseeable future.

    1. Justin Andrews

      Oh and I should mention that these are perhaps the widest forefoot shoes I’ve used (besides Altras that I’ve only tried on in-store). I have Morton’s foot (3rd toe same length as 2nd so it’s impossible for me to wear Salomon’s, i.e. except for their made in China 2014 Sense Pro version–a shame they switched production to Vietnam and now it’s narrower by 3mm or so). Very comfortable up front while still offering enough stability throughout the foot.

    1. Bryon Powell

      A quick blog check shows Dom Grossman and Katie DeSplinter still as NB ambassadors. Liza Howard no longer has NB listed on her sponsors list. I can’t tell either way for Brandy Erholtz.

  6. andy gracie

    having recently moved from the muddy terrains of northern spain to the harder and drier trails of catalunya i picked myself up a pair if these. they are supremely comfortable and supportive but one rainier day i went out in left me slipping and sliding about more than i would have liked. keep them for a dry day when there is little chance of mud.

  7. Jody

    I’ve wore the V2’s all last season and they were wonderful. Roomy toe box that could accommodate good splay and swelling without being too big. I have no complaints. I ran a 125km race in them and the only reason I changed them was due to my voluntarily running through a raging river (trail on the side that I didn’t see) and they got wet:( Had they not been wet I could have run the entire race in the one pair.

    I have now moved into the V3’s and they are similar with a couple of slight differences. First, the tongue is slightly longer which is nice. Second, it feels more cushy but remains stable. Lastly, the toebox is more narrow than the V2’s but not in a bad way. Still room for splay and swelling as the upper will stretch with it but not too roomy that you feel your foot moving around. With respect to sizing. I always size up by 1/2, did so with these. I haven’t run a true distance where my feet will swell just yet but I personally wouldn’t get my true size as I feel they might be on the smaller size when my foot swells. That being said, it could also be the narrower toebox I have to get used to….

    I agree with Andy, I don’t feel as confident in these shoes running in slippery conditions as I do running in dry conditions. Super grippy in dry, not so much in wet…

  8. David

    I have worn out dozens of pairs of NB shoes during more than 20 years. After developing a severe metatarsal issue as a result of the inner sole of NB 1080 pounding out while in Cuba (no replacement NB shoes there), I bought V1 Leadville shoes. The V1 lasted very little time before the cushioning pounded out, again under the metatarsal bone. I then tried a pair of Leadville V2 shoes. Within 50 km, they had the same deep hole under the forefoot. What finally worked is aftermarket insoles, more rigid and substantial than the stock insoles. That spread the weight of my foot and allowed for recovery. Please use better insoles, New Balance!! Now looking at a pair of Leadville V3.

  9. David

    I should add that, while a pair of 1080s appeared to cause the metatarsal issue, a pair of Minimus shoes aggravated it considerably, after returning home. A lesson that I should learn is that, when it hurts bad, stop running before doing more damage. Even though the metatarsal issue has cleared up, I still take out the stock NB insoles in new shoes. Here in Canada, the LIFE brand insoles (sold by Shoppers Drug Mart) work very well. With these insoles, the shoes are so much more comfortable and last much longer without developing premature depressions in the forefoot area. I long loved NB shoes, at least partly because they come in my width (4E). A good insole makes a good shoe even better. Counting the V3 – that will be the fourth pair of Leadvilles in less than a year; I must like them.

  10. Ignacio

    I’m curious as to what other brands/models have similar medial posting as the Leadville. Seems like a good idea and would love to see what the options are.

  11. Tony G

    As I am new to this long distance running lark, I have suffered with all the usual injuries us newbies get. On recommendation I purchased a pair of V3’s they don’t look much but they work! Wide toe box allows for plenty of splay and the fit is comfortable out of the box. Did a 15 mile early run first time out with no blisters or hotspots. Only downside would be that they don’t seem to confidence giving on sloping/ cambered paths – but I might get used to that. Have clocked about 200 miles since new and they dont seem to have compressed at all. Would be interested to hear peoples opinion on how long these last before needing replacement. Other downside is the price in the UK they are retailing for £105 a pair.

  12. Philip Townsend

    I’ve just started long distance trail running and am looking for a shoe that will perform well on hard rocky paths as well as going through mud. I was initially drawn to the NB Leadville V3 and Pearl Izumi N3 Trail but they don’t seem to perform particularly well in muddy conditions from the reviews that I’ve read. Any suggestions as to what would best suit my needs?

  13. jetguat

    can someone share their views on the D vs 2E width? I was reading somewhere that 2E usually means that there is just slightly more material in the upper to allow more vertical volume, but the outsole is the same same, so the “width” is not actually different. I am used to Altra’s and their toebox, but I need to move away from zero drop. I’ve tried TOPO, but I think I will move on. they are just to stiff, and the cushion is a bit rigid in the terraventure. I tried on the leadville at the time I bought the terraventure, but they were likely just D width. I might revist these now they I know they have a 2E, but I’ve ..never.. had or tried a 2E shoe

    1. Joe

      I’ve got wide feed and have mostly been running in NB shoes as they offer extra wide shoes. I’ve been running in the 2E version of the Leadvilles and have absolutely loved them. Never had a single blister and I’ve done just under 800K including an Ultra here in Iceland in them, used them in snow, mud and hard packed tracks and always had a good run. With regards to the sole being wider or just more material on top, I’m not quite sure, the sole doesn’t feel too narrow at all. I like my shoes quite wide in the toebox and these fit the bill. I do have other NB shoes in 2E and 4E width that I have wondered whether that might be the case, but the Leadville have never felt tight.

Post Your Thoughts