New Balance MT1210 Leadville General Info:
The MT1210 is a trail shoe designed specifically for ultra distances with the Leadville 100 trail race as its inspiration.
New Balance MT1210 Leadville First Impressions:
I had looked forward to seeing production models of the MT1210 after getting to slip a pair on my feet at the New Balance booth during the 2012 Leadville 100, and my first impression from that initial contact remained intact.
Runners trying on the MT1210 at the store or out of the box will find an impeccably well constructed and comfortable shoe with a high volume upper designed to accommodate swelling in the feet which happens during an ultra marathon.
If the MT1210 were to be written off so easily as an ill fitting shoe the potential wearer would be missing out on a fantastic trail shoe.
New Balance MT1210 Leadville Upper:
New Balance did 3-D scans of mid-pack ultra runners during a 50k and found that ultra runners feet swell an average of 7% total volume in the toe area and on the top of the foot. The upper of the MT1210 was designed to accommodate this swelling which I found wasn’t fully appreciated until I took the MT1210 on a four hour long run.
FantomFit upper construction is utilized which eliminates seams which could be abrasive to the foot basically everywhere on the shoe. A welded and well padded tongue is gusseted high up on each side of the heel collar and also acts a great debris shield. I haven’t experienced any discomfort in this area of the shoe but a friend has experienced some discomfort at this upper most eyelet.
The fit of the MT1210 is remarkable in several ways. As I mentioned before the upper is rather high volume and the width throughout the foot can feel a bit roomier than what most of us are used to. I like to think that I have an incredibly average foot and I struggled a bit at first with this shoe on technical trails including my toes hitting the front of the shoe on technical downhills. One must remember that the MT1210 is not a trail shoe designed for a 10k through your local park preserve.
This is a shoe designed with 100 mountain miles in mind and once I started pushing the distance in the MT1210 I understood the design of the shoe a great deal better. Breathable mesh is reinforced by a durable toe bumper and the synthetic overlays throughout the heel and mid foot seem highly durable.
Furthermore a welded on webbing is added to the medial and lateral sides of the foot to increase support.
New Balance MT1210 Leadville Midsole/ Outsole:
This is where the MT1210 really shines in my opinion. I’ve never experienced such a great deal of cushioning in a shoe which weighs just over 10z in my men’s size 9.5US. Soft Revlite foam is placed directly underneath the footbed and it is bolstered throughout the shoe by New Balance’s N2 foam which is Nitrogen infused and extremely lightweight.
N2 was utilized in the forefoot to accommodate the shuffle gate of a mid to forefoot running which takes place in the later stage of ultra races. An 8mm offset from heel to toe is moderate and allows the runner to feel low to the ground but not overly tax the calves or achilles tendon.
New Balance designers also found that arches collapse during an ultra race, and they did their research during a 50k. One can only manage the degree of arch collapse during a 100 mile ultra, so NB placed a fairly minimal dual density foam medial post in the heel only. Pleasantly, this medial post went unnoticed and the MT1210 performs like a neutral shoe. A Vibram outsole is effective in providing traction but does struggle at shedding mud and clay at times.
I did find the outsole performed well in snow and the MT120 drains well when wet due to the combination of a porous and minimal upper and the water repellent properties of N2 foam. A lightweight but substantial rock plate allowed me to run on the sharpest of rocks without a second thought, and the 8mm drop combined with the wide platform gave me an extra sense of security on technical terrain.
New Balance MT1210 Leadville Overall Impression:
As I stated before, the MT1210 is a shoe which is both highly specialized for running trail ultramarathons in addition to working as a great everyday trail running and even road shoe. Although, it really isn’t truly appreciated until you’ve taken this shoe out for a long trail run past four hours and the feet start to swell and foot comfort starts to become paramount concern.
The attention given to upper construction and the footbed of this shoe become fully realized past the marathon distance on tough trails. I have also ventured out on several occasions in this shoe for runs that are over fifty percent on roads and the transition of the MT1210 is very smooth, perfect for an ultra marathon with mixed terrain like the Leadville 100. It would also make a great door-to-trail shoe for runners on a budget looking for one shoe to do it all.
It really is profound just how much cushioning and protection is combined in such a lightweight package and I can’t help but make comparisons to the underfoot protection of the Brooks Cascadia which weighs almost two ounces more per shoe.
Where the MT1210 is able to save weight is in the innovative upper construction and lightweight foams used by New Balance, and the combination is likely to appeal to the mid-pack runners this shoe was designed for.
The MT1210 will also work much better than the Cascadia for neutral runners who find too much stability in other fully featured trail shoes as the MT1210 performs and feels like a neutral shoe. In my opinion New Balance has set the new benchmark for what a fully featured trail running shoe should fit, perform, and feel like for the rest of the industry with the MT1210 Leadville.
We thank the nice people at New Balance for sending us a pair of MT1210 Leadville to test. This did not influence the outcome of the review, written after running more than 50 miles in them.