Touted as a “crossover trail shoe,” the New Balance Nitrel v3 is good for easier trail runs without a lot of technical sections.
While it can work on light mud and some wet terrain, as well as sections of pavement and small gravel, it does best on dry single-track trail.
For your money, you are getting a decent trail shoe that you can just put on and run because they are fairly lightweight (8.1 ounces) and decently cushioned. They also have an 8mm drop, for those who don’t like a flat shoe.
As someone who normally wears HOKA on road and on trail, I’m sometimes surprised when I like a more inexpensive shoe with medium cushioning.
But with the NB Nitrel v3, for your money, you get a decent shoe that delivers more than an average entry-level performance.
It’s the type of shoe you can keep in your car for those times you just want to get in an impromptu trail run on single-track trail without really having to think about how it will do.
I was able to put my arch support insoles into the shoe and just run. Since my insoles are a little thicker in the heel, it may have changed how well the heel of the shoe was originally supposed to fit.
But I didn’t find I got any blisters or rubbing in the heel area when I used my insole. The heel cup is not really made for a narrow heel, but I’m sure there are ways you can get around that.
I did find that the midfoot was a little loose for my narrower foot. However, when I tightened the shoe just a little more than I normally do, it worked well enough to short runs comfortably.
If I didn’t tie them tight enough, though, my feet tended to feel like they were sliding forward on downhills.
One issue I did notice was that after running through water or mud puddles, the shoe stayed too damp for my liking. I like a shoe that drains and feels like it dries quickly.
The upper on this shoe seems to keep moisture inside more than I would like. Even sweat didn’t seem to air out easily, but it’s not a deal-breaker.
The sole is pretty soft, so it’s not as comfortable on large gravel and rocks. But it worked great for easy, dry trail without a lot of sharp rocks and roots.
I found it was comfortable at different speeds, as well.
I was able to trust the tread on hills, for the most part, but I did find that the tread wasn’t enough for mud that’s more than an inch or two deep. It also wasn’t great on wet leaves and wet, flat rocks, but (again) it’s great on dry terrain.
A couple of other reviewers commented that the toe box was on the narrower side, and I agree. But, again, it wasn’t a deal-breaker for shorter, easy runs.
I even used these shoes for a trail half marathon, and they still hold up well.
The toe box is a little narrower than I’d like, but it didn’t bother me much. The toe is reinforced and works well to keep you from feeling the stumbles and stubs as strongly.
It’s just an added bonus on a decent, inexpensive trail shoe, and I never felt like the toe was going to tear or split. I definitely put the toes to the test.
I would say that this is a durable shoe for the price. It’s pretty straightforward as a good entry-level shoe and does what it is meant to do. I don’t think I could wear it on very technical mountain terrain.
I also don’t think I would wear it for ultra distances because it doesn’t seem to have a rock plate to reinforce the sole.
That would make it difficult to spend hours and hours on rocks and roots. However, shorter distances are good in this shoe.
As far as wear and tear, I didn’t notice any problems.
I definitely put them to the test by purposely dragging them on rocks and roots and through mud, but I never felt they were falling apart or lacking in the durability department, especially not for the price.
Responsiveness & Speed
While I was unable to test them on snow or sand the Nitrel v3 worked quite well on dry dirt trail and light mud. There is just enough cushioning for me, and they are lightweight and handle speed well.
I could see these shoes working well on a faster, less-technical course.
The softer sole isn’t heavy, so it helped me feel like I wasn’t losing speed when I was really pushing the pace. I never felt like my feet were heavy.
The looser midfoot maybe didn’t help, but it didn’t detract enough for me to consider it a “con.”
Comfort and Fit
The softer, medium cushioning in the sole feels like it works for most dry trail terrain, and it’s comfortable.
The fit seems to be true to size, despite the narrower toe box. The shoe is lightweight and never felt heavy or thick.
The midfoot is a bit lose for me, but tightening the shoe helps. I liked the cushioned ankle area and tongue.
My feet are quite bony, so I sometimes get hot spots when a shoe isn’t cushioned as much in the tongue area. This shoe never gave me hot spots on the top of my foot.
Overall, I liked the New Balance Nitrel v3! It had a few minor drawbacks that might be a deal-breaker in a more expensive shoe.
However, for the price, you are getting a decent, entry-level (or a spare) trail shoe. It’s affordable and comfortable enough for shorter daily runs, and even up to a half marathon on dry, single-track trail.
We purchased a pair of New Balance Nitrel v3 from Zappos using our own money. This did not influence the outcome of this review, written after running more than 50 miles in them.
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