It seems that I am constantly in a place of transition when it comes to footwear. A few months back I found myself unsatisfied with the longevity of my Altra Lone Peak 2.5 trail runners. My girlfriend had recently gone through a similar situation and was looking for a trail runner with a higher drop then the Altras. She found the New Balance Leadville V3 on sale and decided to give them a try. After hearing her positive experience I decided to experiment with them. Keep in mind that this was the first running/hiking shoe I had worn in a few years that had a drop of more then 6mm. I waited to officially review the shoes till I got more then 50 running and hiking miles on them.
Initial Thoughts- The New Balance Leadville V3s are a lightweight (for the stability category) trail runner that is designed for long miles. The name isn't just derived from the iconic race, but rather was a guideline for the burly build quality. Starting from the ground the Leadville is build on a aggressive tread pattern Vibrarm outsole. The lugs are standard depth for a trail runner. Moving up the midsole is made of New Balance's Revlite material. Supposidly it is designed to resist breakdown better then traditional EVA. To the touch it feels the same as other midsoles. Both the toe box and heal cup are protected, The toes are partially wrapped in rubber, while the heel cup uses a thicker, more stable upper material. The remaining upper is constructed of fine mesh. The best thing I noticed when unboxing was the shoelaces. Alot of the shoes coming out aren't using the cringle style laces like these. They have always held a knot better then any other lace available. Going along with the orange theme to my outdoor gear I really loved the bright color pattern. One surprising thing about the shoes are the weight. Although they are solidly built, they are insanely light. Overall my impressions of the shoes were good, but my biomechanics had more to say about them.
Thoughts During Use- As mentioned earlier, I did a mix of trail running and hiking in the New Balance Leadville V3s. My mileage to date in these just exceeds 50 miles; primarily of dirt; but with some road running tossed in when traveling out of town. From a hiking stand point they are a improvement over my Altras on the trail. Because the Leadvilles use a fine mesh upper they do not allow sand to find a way in. The outsole has excellent traction when running on mixed Arizona surfaces, but lacks grip on wet rock. When running in the rain the outsole performed well on all other surfaces. In their defense, I am yet to find a trail runner that does this adequately on the local trails. The upper is not as cool as my Altras but the added warmth was appreciated during a few 20 degree runs in Atlanta. Currently the shoe shows very little wear. The laces do a great job of holding a tight knot; even when soaking wet. During my time running in these I developed lower back pain. My only reason for this is probably due to going from zero drop footwear to a 8mm drop. The problem is less noticable while hiking, but there is still some irritation.
Final Thoughts- The New Balance Leadville V3s are a solidily build trail runner designed for the long distance trail whores. For me the 8mm drop and stability features were too constricting for me, and they didn't work out. For most runners the drop will be unnoticable and the shoe will most likely become a favorite. The outsole and upper design are perfect for dry desert trails, but can handle mild wet conditions if needed. Although I will probably not be logging more miles in these I would recommend you try them for yourself; unless you have been wearing minimalist style footwear for some time. If you would like to find out more about the New Balance Leadville V3s or their excellent minimus line; visit their website.
*These shoes were purchased for testing.