I was on the hunt for a pair of shoes that would offer me what I needed to get through 171 miles of rugged terrain in the Kalahari desert as part of the KAEM that I am going to be running in October. Pre-requisites were grip, cushioning, comfort and of course colour & style! The New Balance Leadville’s appeared to fit the bill according to the website description. They were designed for the infamous Leadville 100 after all!
Tech spec from New Balance
“Strap on the hydration pack and make sure the dogs are fed, because the New Balance Leadville 1210 ultra trail-running shoe won’t give you any excuses to head back early. The official shoe of the legendary Leadville 100 race, the 1210 offers N2 cushioning, a REVlite® midsole and Vibram® outsole to cushion and protect you during your run. Plus, its limited seam internal construction, synthetic/mesh upper, flexible overlays and medial post give you the lightweight support, fit and comfort you need when you’re far from home.
TYPE:Stability
WEIGHT:229 Grams (8.1 oz)
Features
8mm drop: due to variances created during the development and manufacturing processes, all references to 8mm drop are approximate
Debris free construction
Flexible overlays in optimal areas
Limited seam internal construction
Medial Post consists of higher-density compression-molded EVA, located on inside edge of shoe, to help prevent over-pronation
Synthetic/Mesh upper”

Retailing at £99.99 they are not the cheapest shoe on the market, or indeed in New Balance’s repertoire, but the challenge at hand did not call for cheap.

New balance straight out of the box
New balance straight out of the box

At first viewing, fresh out of the delivery box, I was impressed; the colours are bright without being ridiculous; they felt remarkably light considering there is a fair size sole on them with solid looking grip, and on the first try on they felt very comfortable on. I had bought these in a half a size bigger than usual to allow for foot swelling in the heat, but they didn’t feel uncomfortably large or loose.

Always cautious for the first outing, I thought I wouldn’t go crazy and test them out at Adidas Thunder Run (so pleased I didn’t, as the heavens opened and they would have got caked in mud! No-one wants that on the first outing!). I decided to take them out on a 10 mile mixed terrain run instead.
They felt comfortable from the offset, quite a bit more cushioning than I usually wear, so I felt like I was an inch taller. The cushioning came into play heading up the crag of Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, running up very mixed terrain with a mixture of big smooth rocks, sharp little jagged rocks to sand and grassy paths. Happy to report that they felt great in all conditions, and I certainly didn’t feel the sharp points of the rocks.
Absolutely no sign of any blisters at the end and my feet felt comfortable, not tight or pressured, which I sometimes find on the first couple of runs in new shoes (this could be down to the extra half a size of room too).
Overall I found them to be a comfortable & functional shoe. I think they will bode me well across the desert (stay tuned for a further review afterwards), I wouldn’t choose them for a short road race as I prefer a more minimal shoe for that, but in terms of trail and endurance, either separately or together, they get a big thumbs up from me!