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New Balance Leadville Trail v3 - Women's Review

This traditional trail runner does best on groomed surfaces and less technical terrain.
New Balance Leadville Trail v3
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Price:  $125 List | $61.73 at REI
Pros:  Lightweight, quick to dry, water resistant, stable, wide toe box, versatile, super flexible
Cons:  No rock plate, lacks protection
Manufacturer:   New Balance
By Amber King ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  May 26, 2017
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68
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Foot protection - 25% 6
  • Traction - 25% 6
  • Stability - 15% 7
  • Comfort and Fit - 15% 7
  • Weight - 10% 9
  • Sensitivity - 10% 8

The Skinny

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.

Product Discontinued
New Balance discontinued the Leadville Trail v3 in 2018. Head over to our Women's Trail Running Shoe Review to see which current styles lead the pack!


Our Analysis and Test Results

The Leadville Trail v3 is a traditional shoe that is versatile enough for both roads and mountain trails.

Performance Comparison


The Leadville shoe is a great trail runner perfect for hard packed mountain trails and dirt roads.
The Leadville shoe is a great trail runner perfect for hard packed mountain trails and dirt roads.

Foot Protection


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.

The toe cap is hard  providing great protection for stubbed toes.
The toe cap is hard, providing great protection for stubbed toes.

Traction


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 the current line up in our up-to-date trail running shoe review.

The lugs are deep enough to grab the trail  but not deep enough for seriously sloppy surfaces.
The lugs are deep enough to grab the trail, but not deep enough for seriously sloppy 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.

Loaded with lots of lugs  this shoe grabs going up and down the trail.
Loaded with lots of lugs, this shoe grabs going up and down the trail.

Stability


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 to 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


Comfort

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 downhill.

Fit

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.

The breathable overlays and shoe frame provides a nice fit. We also liked the many shoe lace eyelets for different lacing options.
The breathable overlays and shoe frame provides a nice fit. We also liked the many shoe lace eyelets for different lacing options.

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.

An internal look at the breathable overlays.
An internal look at the breathable overlays.

This traditional trail runner is perfect for forefoot and heel strikers alike.

Weight


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.

This shoe weighs in at 9.9oz  light enough for long days on the trail.
This shoe weighs in at 9.9oz, light enough for long days on the trail.

Sensitivity


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 features a flexible outsole  but not as flexible as our Top Pick for Flexibility  the Salming Elements.
This shoe features a flexible outsole, but not as flexible as our Top Pick for Flexibility, the Salming Elements.

Best Application


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.

Running Bear Creek trail in the San Juans of Colorado is a great trail for the New Balance Leadville shoe.
Running Bear Creek trail in the San Juans of Colorado is a great trail for the New Balance Leadville shoe.

Value


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!

Conclusion


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 crossover and trail runner.


Amber King