NEW BALANCE LEADVILLE 1210v2
Named after trail running’s most famous race, the Leadville 100, immortalised by writers Dean Karnazes and Chris McDougall, the attractive New Balance Leadville 1210v2 arrive looking like a chunky skate shoe. Out of the box and into a swift 5km run, and we couldn’t wait to get them off again; they felt like shackles restricting our every stride (refreshingly New Balance acknowledge the 1210v2’s lack of short-course appeal in their marketing). Double that distance and more, however, and the benefits become clear. These offer a firm and stable ride, yet surprisingly one with enough feel for the trails below. In terms of cushioning, you certainly don’t feel like you’re running on John Prescott’s midriff, but there’s enough foam here in the 280g construction for ultra long run comfort. The heavy duty and studded Vibram sole was satisfactory in terms of grip, but we’d want more nimbleness for technical descents and root-strewn dusk runs.
Verdict: Stable and comfortable mile-munchers, but not for swift sojourns or truly technical territory, 82%
SAUCONY NOMAD TR
Saucony have long ridden high in this tester’s household for the continued brilliance of their Kinvara road shoe creation. Lifting the lid on the Nomad TR, however, and the first response is horror, with the blood-splattered design like something from a Tarantino movie set. Visually things don’t improve on the outsole either, with a mass of 11cm wide orange rubber looking more like a boat than a serious provider of grip. Looks can be deceiving, though, and out on dry and fast off-road runs the 279g Nomads are exhilarating. The 4mm heel-to-drop propels you forward, but plenty of cushioning was provided and the sock-like fit was the most comfortable on test. We did have misgivings about the dimpled diamond grip, as these were the only shoes on test where we slipped on mud, but they coped ably on granite and gravel. There’s a definite lack of protection in the outsole and toe-box, though, and we have serious reservations about the durability of the former.
Verdict: Comfy, innovative, an eyesore… a bonkers and, at times, brilliant shoe, 77%
HOKA ONE ONE STINSON 3 ATR
As our daily wear of dated Pearl Jam tees testifies, we’re not overly concerned with fashion. And yet the 289g Hoka were still last out of the testing bag, even though we’d love an extra inch or three in height. But the brand has long escaped being a fad, gracing the feet of more athletes than Nike and Puma combined at the 2014 Ironman Worlds. The Stinsons come in with a bumper 32mm heel height, but it doesn’t take long at all to feel normal in them, hitting a sweet spot at 12km/hr pace. The touted forward propulsion due to Hoka’s rocker and 6mm drop encourages a midfoot strike on flat trails, and downhill running is an unbridled joy. Anecdotally, our recovery time also seemed swifter in these. That heel stack definitely made us lose some nimbleness on tight turns and rocky descents, though, and grip was only adequate and quick to clog up. They were also the only shoe on test that gave us nasty blisters, which seem a common Hoka theme, especially in the toes and arch.
Verdict: Some flaws and a sky high price, but comfortable and enjoyable on the flats and descents, 79%
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