Today we’re going to be reviewing the New Balance Leadville 1210v2 running shoes. If you’re not familiar with the Town of Leadville Colorado, you should probably pick up a copy of Born To Run. Leadville is the site of one of the most famous ultra-marathons in the United States, and that book by Christopher McDougal really highlighted the race.
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These days the race itself has become a kind of a mecca and it’s actually now presented by New Balance. So since their name is laying on the label for this race, they thought that it would probably be a great idea to come out with a shoe that can withstand the rigors and the challenges of such an amazing ultra-marathon, and now they’re in version 2 of the Leadville 1210.
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New Balance Leadville 1210v2
As always, the first thing we’re going to take a look at is the outsole of this shoe. As you can see there are a set of 19 triangular lugs right in the middle. They’re about 3.5mm in depth and they’re surrounded with a green area consisting of 18 directional lugs. The ones in the front are oriented pointing backward while the ones at the rear of the shoe are oriented pointing forward. This obviously is going to account for when you’re going uphill it’s going to grip and when you’re coming downhill it’s going to grip depending on the type of terrain and the direction you’re headed. The rubber itself on the outsole is a Full-contact Vibram rubber (yellow Vibram label) with no specific cutaways except for the spaces in between the lugs that you can see there.
The trail that I like to test my shoes quite often is a place called Rabbit Mountain here in Colorado, and the great part about that trail is the wide variety of terrain that it offers. It offers groomed single tracks, but it also offers things like pebbles and a little bit of sand and some open space that’s just grass and totally no trail at all. I really put these shoes through a lot of terrains because we’re in the spring right now.
The New Balance Leadville 1210v2 did quite well on snow but no so much on ice. Unless you’re running on a studded shoe, nothing is going to really handle spectacularly on ice. Once that snow started to melt and I was on a little bit of muddy terrain, that was one of the places where I was really curious to see what would happen.
A lot of times, you’ll see that mud just sticks to a shoe especially with shoes that have deeper lugs because the mud would get stuck in between those. Since the 1210v2 doesn’t have the deepest lugs in the world that mud really shed very well and the shoe is actually quite flexible, so I was not really carrying around a ton of mud, and when I did pick up some mud, I could just whack my foot on a rock and it cleared out very easily.
Now once that snow melted and dried out and everything was kind of back to its normal Colorado trail type of feel, this shoe really did exceptionally well on that groomed type of trail that is not super technical. These lugs are not the deepest thing in the world, so when you get in to looser terrain or steep and loose terrain, sure on the descent it’s fine, but going uphill you’re not really going to grab quite as well as something else might do with a longer lug.
From a durability standpoint, I really expect the outsole to do quite well. What I would expect to see first is the rear lugs wearing down a little more quickly than the rest of it. That said, I don’t think that the triangular sections on the forefoot are going to wear particularly quickly and I think you’re going to get a good amount of miles on this shoe especially since it’s considered to be a trail shoe.
The midsole of the New Balance 1210v2 is constructed primarily of New Balance’s RevLite Foam which is a much lighter foam but still has a lot of resilience. It’s essentially just a modification of EVA compound. Another thing that New Balance has used in this shoe is the N2 technology and that is actually a different kind of foam. The yellow part on th eoutsole is the N2 technology and it’s actually part of the rock plate system and what New Balance have done is they put a more resilient but little more kind of impact resistant foam in that area. This is going to block out the rocks and that is effectively acting as a forefoot rock plate.
Another thing on the midsole that’s kind of interesting is the lighter gray section which is a little bit of rearfoot medial posting. Well, some wearers of this shoe refer to it as a “stability” shoe and I’m not so sure I agree with that. The reason I’m saying this is because I don’t run in stability shoes and whenever I do I can tell immediately that I’m going to get in trouble as my knee starts to bother me. So in this shoe, what the gray section in the midsole is going to address is some early stage pronation. So if you are landing on your heel and really crashing that ankle inward, that might be what that addresses. For me, I tend to be a very forefoot midfoot runner and I didn’t really notice any impact of this little feature at all.
Something that I like to bring up with this shoe is that it’s considered to be an ultra-marathon shoe. But to be honest, I don’t necessarily think it’s an ultra-marathon shoe, and I think calling it that is a little limiting to some people. I guess a part of the reason it’s considered an ultra running shoe is because there’s a little more stack height with 28mm in the heel and 20mm in the forefoot for a net drop of 8mm. I don’t really feel that that drop really adds a whole lot to it except for maybe deadening the ground feel a little bit, which if you’re running a particularly technical and rocky terrain it might actually help not bust your feet up so badly. A lot of people like myself like to fall under that 6mm drop area, but this shoe doesn’t really feel like that.
One of the other things I really like about the 1210v2 is it’s very very comfortable for just walking around. This is a really comfortable walking around shoe. So, if you’re in a race where you’re going to be probably doing some walking like the Leadville 100, this is a very comfortable shoe for that. It’s not like you’re feeling propelled like a running shoe, so that’s actually a really good thing.
As with the outsole, the midsole and everything, you’ve got to have a durable shoe put together for something it’s named after the Leadville Trail 100, and the upper of this shoe really holds up to that. The mesh itself is a dual-layered mesh which is kind of open on top to add a pretty amount of breathability. On the inside, there’s a finer mesh that actually moves with the foot quite a bit. This is a nice little feature that a lot of shoes are adding these days because it’s going to cut down on friction and hot spots in key areas. New Balance is referring to this as their debris-free construction.
As for the support structure, New Balance has used their Phantom Fit which is a series of welded or bonded overlays that are laid out on top of the shoe. There’s actually a kind of really thick webbing that goes over the shoe, which I really like as a lot of times you’ll see a kind of minimal structure, but in this they’re really not joking around. Every thing in the midfoot from the lacing all the way back to midsole is very locked in with this webbing of support. The heel counter you can see kind of a lot heavier TPU overlays that are bonded as well. These are going to be much more structure into the rearfoot and keeping everything nice and solid.
Also, the tongue of the shoe (this is a weird thing to love but I do really love it) is gusseted to about two-thirds the way up. It’s also wonderfully padded but not overly padded and feels really great on the foot. Also, you don’t feel the laces digging in your foot at all even over longer more technical runs.
Great toe bumper
Rounding out the upper is a great toe bumper which is kind of a rubberized pleather material that goes all the way from the first metatarsal head to the fifth metatarsal head. This toe bumper is really fantastic as I have kicked stuff like crazy with it and it doesn’t really even show a scratch – pretty impressive.
Moving around to the rear of the shoe there’s quite a bit of foam through the Achilles insert area in the back side of the collar. The collar is a little bit overly stuffed for my taste but that’s not a huge deal breaker. The shoe features a really robust heel counter that forms a nice solid heel cup that’s going to be really able to respond to a lot of more agility.
The last thing I’ll mention about the upper is the New Balance’s Sure Laces which are like sausage links. These are kind of like that bubble tech where the lace is going to lock into one another really tight. I don’t like to double knot my shoes just in case you get burrs and things in there and it becomes that much harder to get them undone. So this helps with that and not once did they come untied.
One of the interesting things about this shoe is that if you look at some of New Balance shoes in the past 12 months you’ll see that they were having a bit of an issue with “pointy toe syndrome”. With these pointy toes the shoes would really come to a point and if you’re running downhill for instance your toes really get crammed. In the Leadville 1210v2, New Balance seems to have eradicated that and it is awesome. The toe box fits very well and offers plenty of rooms for toe splay making it a great option for Morton’s Neuroma sufferers.
2E and 4E width
Moving back into the midfoot, because of those gussets there’s a lot of play for the shoe to get wider and things like that. This shoe does come in 2E and 4E width which is really tough to find. So if you’re a trail runner or an aspiring trail runner who’s got a 4E width foot, this is definitely going to be something you’re going to want to check out.
Moving into the rear of the shoe, like I said the heel cup is really nice and very rigid, but I do wish again the foam is a little less thick.
As far as sizing goes, these are size 11 which is what I always wear and they fit spot-on.
One of the things I was concerned about was that stack height. The higher a trail shoe gets off the ground the less stable it can be in certain situations. Fortunately, this was really great. It played well for me and I didn’t have any problems and I think that’s largely because the midsole and the outsole extend well beyond the frame of the upper, so that’s kept things nice and stable.
The other thing I was interested to see is the ground feel. Because this does not have a huge amount of stack and features that N2 technology I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to feel anything, and that’s kind of a “yes” and a “no”. I was very aware of what’s was going on under my foot in terms of the camber and angle of the terrain. However, I did feel I was a little bit protected and shielded from feeling finer things like rocks and stuff like that, which is actually quite good for me as I like to feel the ground a lot.
I felt myself extremely comfortable running in this shoe especially over more rocky and technical flat terrain where those rocks would normally be poking into the foot quite a bit. But, if you really want to be shielded from the finer points of the ground this is going to be a really a great step into that.
Also in the ride, this is actually a pretty peppy shoe as it has a decent amount of flexibility from the midfoot forward. The rear isn’t so flexible which is a good thing as it offers good support in the midfoot area.
This is a reasonably priced shoe. One of the things I would say to that is consider how durable it is and how versatile.
I think it’s a mistake to call this an ultra-marathon shoe and leave it at that. This is a shoe that’s comfortable on very short runs and in fact the longest run I did was maybe 8 miles. I was actually very comfortable as I didn’t feel like I was overly pushy or heavy.
This is all I can say about the New Balance 1210v2. I hope I was successful enough in my review. Feel free to leave any comments below.