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Hands-on Gear Review
New Balance Leadville Trail v3 - Women's Review
Cons: No rock plate, lacks protection
Bottom line: This traditional trail runner does best on groomed surfaces and less technical terrain.
Standing out for its traditional design and versatility, the New Balance Leadville Trail v3 is named and designed for the notorious Leadville 100 race, this shoe is designed for both mountain trails and road running. The Vibram outsole provides decent traction on non-slippery surfaces while the traditional design actually feels low profile. This shoe is quite stable but lacks foot protection in the form of a rock plate in the forefoot. It has a wider platform, a more responsive midsole, and a rock plate. That said, it is best suited for groomed single track and dirt roads.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Women's Trail Running Shoes for 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Leadville Trail v3 is a traditional shoe that is versatile enough for both roads and mountain trails.
The Leadville Trail v3 by New Balance provides decent protection in the way of cushioning underfoot and a well-knit mesh overlay that keeps out pesky debris and particles. Scoring a six out of ten in this category, this shoe has an average level of foot protection. Because it lacks a rock plate which makes long distances on rocky terrain a little painful after about mile ten. That said, on most trails it did a great job of keeping our feet protected.
Fitted with a Vibram outsole, the Leadville Trail v3 does a great job on most surfaces. Like most shoes in this review, it's perfect for single track and hard surfaces. It earned a six out of ten in this category because the outsole doesn't do well on absolutely everything. On wet or super sloppy surfaces, the Vibram outsole is slippery. If you're looking for something the performs well on slippery surfaces, check out our Editors' Choice, the inov-8 Roclite 305 GTX that does well in wet weather and wet surfaces.
Overall, the Leadville is perfect for well-groomed surfaces and mountain trails. We felt it did well on most technical terrain, but suffered when it got a little wet outside.
Scoring a solid seven out of ten, we thought the stability of this show was a little above average. Fitted with an 8 mm drop, this traditional shoe actually feels low profile. The wider toe box provides room for toe splay, while the outsole isn't too thick. The shoe doesn't feel tippy on the trail while the flexible midsole does a great job at conforming around trail hazards. If you're in search of a shoe with foot protection and great stability (that scored a nine out of ten), be sure to look at the La Sportiva Bushido - nimble, protective, and quick!
If you're looking for an ultra-stable shoe with a little more sensitivity, check out our Top Pick for Flexibility, the Salming Elements.
Comfort & Fit
Featuring a well-engineered midsole filled with 28 mm of REVlite foam, we were psyched on the responsive ride the Leadville Trail v3 offers. The heel is stacked higher than the forefoot, providing additional cushion while running down hill.
The toe box is wide, accommodating both wide and narrow feet while the heel doesn't slip. In addition, this shoe has a minor amount of arch support which locks the foot in for all terrain. We also loved the breathability of the shoe, making it a great warm weather option.
Overall, the fit is quite similar to the Saucony Peregrine 7 - Women's, except the Peregrine has a little less cushioning in the heel and a lower heel-toe drop.
This traditional trail runner is perfect for forefoot and heel strikers alike.
At just 9.90 oz, the Leadville feels light and breezy on the trail. The additional cushioning adds a little weight that you won't find in the Salming Elements. When wet, it holds only 3.1 oz of water making it the least absorbent shoe tested! On trail, it also does a great job wicking away water. That said, it did take a little longer to dry (~ 3.5 hours) in our air dry tests. All of this considered, we thought it did well during stream and river crossings.
Since this shoe lacks a rock plate, the sensitivity of this shoe is above average (hence the eight of ten rating). You can feel rocks and roots on the trail which provides you with confidence to go fast. In addition, this shoe is nimble (with the lower weight) allowing you to dodge any trail obstacle. That said, this shoe isn't as sensitive as the Salming Elements or the La Sportiva Bushido.
This shoe is best for all terrain over shorter distances. It has the ability to really go anywhere; however, if you're planning on running for a long time over sharp rocks or scree, be sure to break your feet in first. If you're just looking for an all-around versatile traditional trail running option, this is a great choice. Take it with you from the mountains to the dirt and pavement roads.
At $125, we thought the price was great! Not too expensive, but not cheap either. If you're looking for a shoe with similar features but for less, check out the ASICS GEL-Kahana 8 instead. Or if you're looking for a truly high-value option, check out the Saucony Peregrine 7, our Best Buy award winner!
The Leadville Trail v3 stands out for its traditional comfort that feels like a low profile ride. It does a great job as both a cross over and trail runner.
— Amber King
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