Stepping away slightly from their minimalist trail shoe efforts, the New Balance Leadville 1210 trail running shoe is definitely a lot more shoe. Inspired by the iconic Leadville Trail 100 Mile race, the Leadville 1210 is a trail running shoe specifically designed for running ultra distances. This is a shoe designed (via 3D scans taken of ultra-runners’ feet) for runners, running trail distances in excess of 25kms. The real benefit of this shoe will only be experienced once your feet are starting to scream for comfort at around the 25km mark with about 25km more to go BUT that being said, the Leadville 1210 is also very well suited for a slightly heavier footed runner who needs that extra bit of cushioning around the edges.
Out of the box
As I took this shoe out of the box, the only thought I could come up with… WOW. Even if you are not a fashion fundi, this colorway, design and overall look on this is very impressive. The blue/green colour of the shoe steps away from the normal black/grey combinations of other shoe manufacturers and provides quite a funky looking shoe. At first impression the shoe looks HEAVY, it weighed in at around 292g, compared to the Salomon XT Wings 3 (±340g), its not actually that heavy taking into account the amount of cushioning on the shoe.
Leadville 1210 Upper
The upper on the Leadville 1210 uses the New Balance’s Fantom Fit construction which basically means the upper construction is seamless, thus eliminating seam irritation on the foot which in turn will probably save your life on a long run.
The Leadville 1210 has a very well padded gusseted tongue made to provide comfort as the foot swells during long runs and also claims to provide debris free construction. One of the first things you notice on the upper of the Leadville 1210 is how roomy the inside of the shoe actually is and again the reasoning behind this is to provide comfort for the ultra runner whose foot will swell at around the 25-30km mark. The roominess of the shoe takes some getting used to and is quite tricky to gauge at first use. The inside feels sloppy and loose but again the moment your foot begins to expand the sloppy feel will disappear. Unfortunately I constantly felt my heel slipping inside the shoe and this made me doubt my footing at times.
The toe box is wide and provides plenty of space for the toes to move and feel comfortable in. The synthetic/mesh upper is quite well ventilated and we all know what that means…. it drains well, but also collects dirt very well. The toe cap (or toe protect) is constructed out of a softish durable rubber (compared to the XT Wings 3) and it protects the front of the foot very well. I was quite impressed with toe protect material, I hit some gnarly rocks and the material is very durable.
Leadville 1210 Midsole
Looking at the midsole of the Leadville 1210, the New Balance designers did their homework. The cushioning on this shoe is unbelievable, it literally felt like running on clouds. The extremely SOFT REVlite foam sits directly underneath the footbed and is supported throughout the shoe by N2 foam.
The softness of the N2 foam is a slight concern as mine was well scuffed from flying over (through) some technical trail whilst testing… but if you don’t worry about the condition of the foam, then don’t worry about it. If your foam is not scuffed, you are running to many golf course “trail” runs! The Leadville 1210 has an 8mm drop from heel to toe, so the Leadville 1210 would sit comfortable for (most) runners. The design team at New Balance also (and very wisely) included a small medial post in the shoe to assist with tired arches, the cool thing about this is that most runners won’t even notice it. So if you are a neutral runner.. don’t fear the medial post. You can thank New Balance at around the 40km mark.
Leadville 1210 Outsole
The Leadville 1210 is constructed from Vibram® rubber, so you know that the outsole will be durable and grip like a vice. The outsole has a slick lug pattern with a forward-facing/reverse-facing design helping you ascent/descent with confidence.
The lugs are spaced very well and sheds mud very easily. The lugs on the outsole are the perfect balance for an all round trail running shoe, perfect for a well balanced trail run! Finally with the addition of a flexible rock plate, the Leadville 1210 outsole is of very high quality, personally I felt very confident with some fairly tricky descents, the outsole has grip, protects and is fairly flexible.
Although the overall quality of the Vibram® outsole is excellent I noticed that the outsole started to pull from the shoe on the toe, yes you can fix it easy enough with some Shoe Goo but for the price of the shoe you would expect it to keep intact a bit longer.
The Leadville 1210 will probably make the minimalist crowd frown with disbelief but to get straight to the point, if you are running FAR or for multiple days the amount of cushioning on this shoe cannot be disregarded, it will save your feet, mind and ego. The Leadville 1210 might even qualify as a cool looking shoe, with its funky detailing and brightly-coloured options, the 1210 is certainly easier on the eye than the standard monotone coloured trail running shoes in the market. The Leadville 1210 is available in Blue with Green/Grey with Red & Green (men’s version) and Purple with Diva Pink/Silver with Purple (women’s version) colourways, so bright and colorful!
The Leadville 1210 was kindly provided by Allan Smith from New Balance South Africa.
Fit: D/2E (men’s version), B/D (women’s version)
Sizes: 7–12, 13, 14 US (men’s version), 6–11 US (women’s version)
Colour: Blue with Green/Grey with Red & Green (men’s version), Purple with Diva Pink/Silver with Purple (women’s version)
Weight: 292 grams (men’s version), 229 grams (women’s version)
Suggested Retail: R1,299.00