In the world of trail running, the discontinued New Balance Leadville was an undeniable stalwart, a reliable companion that cushioned every stride and conquered varied terrains with unwavering resilience.
Its discontinuation left a void in the hearts of avid trail enthusiasts and those with super wide, finicky feet, who found solace and support in every step thanks to the Leadville’s roomy and robust construction.
However, every setback paves the way for new discoveries. Today, I bring you exhilarating news that will rekindle the spirit of trail runners worldwide. I’ve unearthed two exceptional alternatives that promise to fill the void with equal gusto.
Let’s dive right into and talk about what I think are two great New Balance Leadville alternatives…
New Balance Leadville Replacement
Hello fellow runners. My name’s Eric Barber and I’m here today to give you what I think is the best New Balance Leadville replacement although there’s a difference in drop.
Following the discontinuation of the Leadville, many trail runners sought solace in the early versions of the Brooks Cascadia, especially the Cascadia 9. Renowned for its decent support and width, it initially proved a comforting alternative. However, with the Cascadia’s evolution towards a narrower design, a shift occurred among trail enthusiasts.
Interestingly, as runners distanced themselves from the more constricting options, a promising alternative emerged in the form of the Topo Athletic Terraventure. Now regarded by many as the frontrunner, the Terraventure has stepped into the spotlight, offering the support and comfort that trail runners once found in the Leadville and early Cascadia models.
Make sure you read our comparison of Altra and Topo for a better understanding of both brands.
Topo Athletic Terraventure 3
For the past five years, I’ve used a variety of other shoes including the Lone Peak, the Timp, and the Olympus. I’ve had no problems with comfort and the shoes fit great, but my biggest gripe has been Altra’s newer toebox fit, durability, and customer service.
At some point, I was barely getting 200 miles out of a pair of $180 shoes and the Altra warranty didn’t always cover their supposed 300 to 500 mile guarantee as it would be considered normal wear and tear.
Enter the Topo Terraventure 3…
Now, shoe recommendations are extremely hard to give, considering the uniqueness of everyone’s feet. It’s wise to approach advice, even from experiences like mine, with a grain of salt. However, I’m very confident to recommend Topo Athletic footwear, especially if you’re in the market for a dependable substitute for the now-discontinued New Balance Leadville.
The Topo Athletic Terraventure 3 features a subtle 3mm drop and a stack height of 25mm in the heel and 22mm in the forefoot. This stands in contrast to the Leadville’s 8mm drop, 28mm heel stack, and 20mm forefoot stack, so it’s essential to be mindful of these differences if you’re making the switch.
Coming from a zero-drop shoe in the Altra Lone Peaks, adapting to the Terraventure 3 proved to be a minor adjustment for me. Notably, I observed a shift in my running style, moving from a pronounced heel strike to a more balanced gait while wearing the Terraventures.
The 3mm drop is still pretty shallow in the world of athletic footwear, but I’ve found that the 3mm drop particularly resonates with my calves starting out cold.
So, if you’re seeking a fresh alternative to the Leadville, the nuanced design of the Topo Athletic Terraventure 3 might just be the subtle shift your runs have been waiting for.
Here’s our Altra Lone Peak vs Superior comparison.
In my journey with Topo Athletic, I discovered that the toe box room was even more accommodating than that of Altra—a significant relief for me, considering my perpetual struggle with a little toe that always felt cramped in conventional shoes.
However, it’s worth noting that there’s been a slight narrowing of the toe box in the transition from the Terraventure 2 to the Terraventure 3. I find it perplexing why shoe companies tend to go this route. They’ll have a fantastic trail runner that allows your toes to breathe and spread out comfortably, only to gradually narrow the design as it evolves.
Now, I get it, nobody wants to sport clown shoes with an excessively wide toe box. Yet, for me, comfort on the trail takes precedence over aesthetics. Call me Bozo the Clown if you must, as long as my feet are happy.
Rest assured, though, the Terraventure 3 still boasts plenty of room through the toe box. It might pose a concern for those with exceptionally wide feet, but for the rest of us seeking that perfect balance between comfort and style, it remains a reliable choice.
The upper of the Terraventure is crafted from a remarkably nice mesh, effectively keeping sand and other debris off while allowing water to effortlessly pass through.
What caught me off guard, in the best way possible, was the surprisingly quicker dry time of the Terraventure compared to the Lone Peak. It’s a small but significant detail that adds to the overall appeal.
When it comes to padding, the Terraventure doesn’t skimp. There’s a noticeable increase in cushioning compared to the Lone Peak, providing that extra bit of comfort during those long runs.
As a personal touch, I opted to enhance my experience with lock laces—a simple piece of shock cord and a cord lock. I have an aversion to re-tying my shoes while hiking. However, the stock laces on the Terraventure, though flat, did an admirable job. They hold well, making the addition of lock laces more of a preference than a necessity.
Soles & Rock Plate
The Terraventure boasts a robust construction, featuring a rock plate and a Vibram sole that adds a substantial layer of sturdiness and protection against rocks and roots.
The rock plate masterfully reduces the feel of walking on pointy rocks while still allowing me to feel the trail without compromising on protection. The balance achieved with this feature is truly commendable. I appreciated this characteristic in the Terraventure 2 as well—they struck a perfect balance between cushioning and rigidity, safeguarding my feet on road walks without sacrificing trail feel.
Coupled with the Vibram rubber outsole, the lugs do grip well in mud, snow, and both wet and dry rocks. However, in my experience, I found that the traction isn’t the best on wet planks of wood that you’d expect to find on trail bridges and bog boards.
But despite its rigid and protective design, the Terraventure maintains a surprising lightweight feel.
Comparing the Terraventure 3 to its predecessor, there’s a slight decrease in cushioning, but they still outshine the Altra Lone Peaks in terms of comfort.
For those intrigued by a zero-drop option, Topo Athletics Runventure is worth considering. While less cushioned than the Terraventure 3, it offers more protection than the Xero Terraflex or the Altra Lone Peak.
The only drawbacks I encountered with the Terraventure 3, in contrast to the Altra brand, revolve around Topo Athletics’ proprietary gaiter attachment system. These gaiters, seemingly bulkier and heavier compared to simpler alternatives like the Dirty Girl gaiters I’ve been accustomed to for years, stood out as a notable inconvenience.
To address this, I resorted to my usual fix of gluing Velcro directly to the back of the shoe—an effective but somewhat makeshift solution. It’s hard to overlook the convenience offered by Altra, who includes this feature in the shoe design. It would be a welcomed improvement if Topo Athletics could consider a similar integrated approach, streamlining the user experience.
After logging over 200 miles on the Terraventures, they’re still holding up exceptionally well compared to my experience with the Lone Peak. However, a minor issue arose around the 200-mile mark—the toe cap started to separate, albeit just barely.
It’s a bit puzzling why manufacturers don’t opt to stitch through the front of these shoes to prevent such issues. Nonetheless, it’s a manageable inconvenience, and I’m hopeful that future models might address and rectify this minor flaw.
One noticeable absence on the Topos is the mud flap, a feature commonly seen on Altras. Personally, I despised this addition when Altra introduced it, as it seemed to have a talent for incessantly flinging mud and debris to the back of my calf—a source of constant irritation.
Interestingly, I observed fellow hikers resorting to taking a pair of scissors to cut off this flap, underlining its annoyance for them as well. In my perspective, simplicity is key when it comes to hiking shoes; unnecessary bells and whistles can often be more of a hassle than a benefit.
However, again, I wouldn’t mind seeing a small Velcro attachment in the back, a practical addition that could enhance the user experience without introducing unnecessary complexities. So, here’s hoping that Topo Athletics keeps it simple while addressing subtle improvements that could make a meaningful difference.
All in all, in my extensive experience with the Topo Terraventure 3, these shoes have proven to be a commendable replacement for the discontinued New Balance Leadville. The 3mm drop and well-balanced design provide a comfortable and protective trail-running experience, with the only notable downsides being the proprietary gaiter attachment system and a slight toe cap separation issue.
If you value simplicity and are willing to address minor inconveniences, these shoes are a reliable choice.
But, for those desiring extra cushioning, the Topo Athletic Ultraventures are a viable alternative worth considering.
Let’s dive right into it…
Topo Ultraventure 3
I found the Ultraventure 3 to be quite a pleasant surprise, ticking off several boxes that might pique the interest of ultra runners. The spacious and comfortable fit of the wide toe boxed upper felt like slipping into a cozy glove, offering durable protection.
Positioned on a slightly thicker midsole layer, the Ultraventure delivers just the right amount of cushioning for those extended efforts. With a Vibram outsole in play, the Ultraventure 3 emerges as a noteworthy trail contender deserving of your attention.
What I like about the Ultraventure
Midsole & outsole
I’ve had an enjoyable experience with the Ultraventure 3, especially appreciating its similarities to the Mountain Racer. The ZIP foam midsole performs admirably, offering a nice combination of cushioning and resilience. Surprisingly, the grip surpassed my expectations, and the upper provides an exceptionally comfortable feel.
However, one aspect that leaves room for improvement is the midsole’s bounce. While the Zip foam midsole is soft and responsive, the shoe lacks the propulsion and bounce on the back end that I desire. It excels at absorbing shock but doesn’t quite deliver the energetic return I’d hope for.
On the positive side, the Vibram outsole and lugs ensure reliable grip across diverse conditions, showcasing the typical excellence we expect from Vibram in the traction department.
Topos, renowned for their accommodating toe box, continue to impress with the Ultraventure 3. The wide forefoot is a standout feature, allowing ample room for toe splay. Beyond this, the overall fit of the shoe is exceptional.
Despite the accommodating design, the shoe excels in minimizing excess foot movement. Once you’ve secured a lockdown fit, it remains firmly in place. Personally, I appreciate the thoughtfully shaped design of Topo shoes, especially the forefoot, which strikes a perfect balance between allowing natural toe splay and ensuring a snug lockdown.
Quality & Comfort
The Ultraventure holds its ground well in terms of both quality and comfort. While the midsole may lack a bit in the bounce and propulsion department, it compensates with excellent shock absorption and adequate underfoot cushioning, particularly beneficial for longer runs. The materials used in the upper exhibit impressive durability, contributing to an overall solid build quality that promises longevity.
Despite its softness, the Ultraventure maintains a balanced feel, offering protection without veering into excess absorbency or sloppiness. It strikes a harmonious blend between comfort and functionality, making it a reliable option for the long haul.
Now, here’s what I didn’t like about it…
What I don’t like about the Ultraventure
Despite the commendable features of the Ultraventure, there are a couple of aspects that fall short of ideal. One notable drawback lies in the lug design, which, unfortunately, features bevels on almost all angles.
While this design choice aids in certain scenarios, it becomes a hindrance in situations where extra traction is crucial, as the low and beveled lugs can make the shoe a bit slippery. A potential improvement could involve either deeper lugs or sharper edges for enhanced grip.
Another downside is the shoe’s moisture management. The Ultraventure doesn’t dissipate moisture as quickly or efficiently as some other shoes I’ve experienced, potentially attributed to the fabric choice. This aspect, though not a deal-breaker, is worth noting for those who prioritize quick moisture dissipation during their runs.
The Terraventure and Ultraventure emerge as commendable alternatives to the discontinued New Balance Leadville, each offering unique features tailored to different preferences.
The Topo Athletic Terraventure 3, with its slightly less cushioning and wide toe box, mirrors the Leadville’s legacy of support and agility, ideal for those seeking a more responsive trail experience.
On the other hand, the Topo Athletic Ultraventure 3 steps up with enhanced cushioning, providing a softer underfoot feel for those prioritizing comfort during long-distance runs.
Both models maintain Topo’s signature wide toe box, catering to those who appreciate ample room for natural toe splay.
Whether you favor a more minimalistic feel with the Terraventure or seek extra cushioning in the Ultraventure, these options ensure the spirit of the Leadville lives on in a new generation of dependable trail companions.