With the Leadville 100 kicking off in little over a weeks time, I thought I’d pay homage to the great race with a review of the New Balance Leadville 1210 shoe. The 1210 is NB’s nod to the famous Colorado 100 miler – a shoe created for, and inspired by, the legendary Race Across The Sky.
The New Balance Leadville 1210 © New Balance
With the iconic ultra in mind, the shoe is, no doubt, a rather major step away from NB’s recent tinkering with all things minimal. As that book’s barefoot mantra becomes but a distant mumble amongst the die-hards, the rest of us can enjoy the beautiful diversity that the post ‘zero or nothing’ trail shoe landscape offers us. Make no mistake, it was a fun trip and our’s and the manufacturers minds have been forever enlightened; a downward glance at any start-line with clarify that as a kaleidoscope of vibrant shoes of various drops, heights, shapes and materials sparkle back at you. It seems like the age of ‘wear-anything’ is well and truly among us.
So where does the 1210 fit into this eclectic mix? Well,upon first glance, I’ll admit that I thought the 1210 looked somewhat chunky, heavy and old-school but this turns out to be nothing but an illusion, a cunning sleight of hand. The truth being that the 1210 packs some serious new-school, minimus-inspired, trickery into it’s ultra-ready arsenal.
Firstly, the weight. Pick the 1210 up and it’s a surprisingly lean 292 grams (10.3 oz), a Brooks Cascadia 8, for example, weighs in at 340 grams (12 oz). The 1210 feels light in the hand and, importantly, it feels light on the foot too. Then look at the upper, it utilises NB’s phantom fit process – rocking a one-piece, seam-free construction that gains it’s support from a web of laminated overlays. That combined with the cushy padded foam tongue make for a pretty luxurious fit. It’s an upper that pampers your foot and who doesn’t like just a little foot-pampering on long mountain runs?
The illusion continues through the midsole. The substantial stack-height of the 1210 had me pulling figures like 12mm drop and 15mm drop out of the air but it turns out it’s only 8mm. Its a REVlite midsole too – which is NB’s much-admired, lightweight foam that gives that oh-so-sweet responsiveness. The marriage of the foam with the drop delivers a really nice ride – it gives a sensation of being lower to the ground that it actually is and it’s cushioned but with a little firmness. There’s a small medial support in the heel too for those that may need it.
Damn, that’s a hot-looking outsole © New Balance
It’s good to see New Balance embracing the outsole once again – I mean a proper, full-coverage, toe to heel outsole. Look at it, it’s a thing of simple beauty – ok, so there’s the little peep-show cut-outs under the ball of the foot, but I can live with that. The simple fact is that exposed mid-soles and mountain trails don’t get on, never-have, never-will. Call me old-fashioned but, please, put the mid-sole away, I don’t want to see it – cover yourself up, your making a show.
So, here we get a fantastic Vibram outsole sporting, deep, multi-directional lugs for gecko-like grip and a rubber compound thats durable enough for long days on the trail. Leadville by name, Leadville by nature. Hallelujah.
So in the 1210, New Balance have embraced the ultra-running masses and for that they should be applauded. They listened to what those runners wanted and delivered a shoe to satisfy those needs – with a signature dose of NB razzmatazz. That said the 1210 isn’t for everyone. Personally I prefer a lower-to-the-ground ride, but that’s the cool thing about the market today – we have choice, boy do we have choice. The 1210 is an interesting, worthy and beautifully executed addition to the mix.