Wednesday, March 31, 2021

New Balance FuelCell Lerato Multi Tester Review: A Classic Reimagined. FuelCell and Carbon Powered Deluxe Cruiser!

Article by Ivan Luca Corda, Jacob Brady, Derek Li, Jeff Beck, Adam Glueck, Renee Krusemark, and Sam Winebaum

New Balance FuelCell Lerato ($225)


Introduction

Jacob: The Lerato is brand new release in New Balance’s FuelCell line which uses the same soft, light, midsole formula as in the RC Elite and Rebel v2, and it includes a carbon plate! Exciting stuff. The Lerato is dramatically different from the plated FuelCell TC and RC Elite as well as every other shoe in the FuelCell line. 

The Lerato is a highly stylized, luxury-style, maximal trainer. It is a high-quality running shoe, but not a performance-first shoe. The Lerato blends New Balance premium construction and classic style of the daily wear 990 with a modern foam and leg-saving carbon plate leading to quite a unique shoe. How does this fashion-meets-performance shoe run? Let’s get into the details.

Derek: The Lerato is the one shoe I don't see any rumblings on the net about. That’s quite hard to do these days. It is what I consider New Balance’s attempt at a sort of premium trainer with an incorporated carbon plate. 


As Jacob says, it is very different from the other 2 carbon plated trainers in NB’s lineup, though not necessarily in a bad way. It has a lot of stylistic cues that smack of classic trainers that now double up as streetwear sneakers, like the Nike Monarch. Of course, the big question is how it performs as a running shoe. Let’s dive in! 


Adam:  The Lerato is a carbon plated shoe featuring New Balance’s highest end Fuel Cell foam (which I found wonderfully bouncy in the Rebel v2 and RC Elite 2), fully intended for training.  It looks like a modern incarnation of the 990 “Dad Shoe”, with the finest materials and top quality construction. This is very much a modern reimagination of a classic running shoe with the intention of using cutting edge foams and plates to make running more comfortable rather than just faster.  

Ivan: As my fellow reviewers all have pointed out, there is no doubt that this is the New Balance version of a premium trainer. Quality all the way around and a modern take on a classic look, which I really like in this case. There seems to be a trend of heavier trainers/sneakers going on, but this is the first time I’ve tried one with an incorporated carbon plate. I can’t wait to give it a go.

Nils: I really was excited for this one. I’m a big fan of the New Balance 1080 but never had the pleasure to run in anything with FuelCell foam. I always thought it might be too soft for me as I need some stability in my running shoes. But by implementing a plate in this luxury trainer I hoped that the New Balance Lerato would provide exactly that: A bouncy plush ride with all the stability I need. Let's find out if that’s true!

Sam: The 990 was I believe the first run shoe to be priced over $100 when it launched way back in 1982.

Source: New Balance, High Snobbery 


Packed with comfort, the latest tech, and cushion it became as much a “status symbol” as fine deluxe running shoe according to this article and my recollections. 


This quote from a High Snobbery New Balance sponsored content  article at least partially sets the scene for the Lerato:

“While the OG 990's triple-figure price tag indicated how New Balance wanted to market serious tech to serious runners looking to invest in a better shoe, the cost also cemented the shoe as a status symbol. Not everyone was interested in reducing their mile time, and—like a designer luxury piece—the 990's monetary inaccessibility would make it even more desirable. Being casually spotted on the sidewalk with a pair of 990s said something about you: either you were an avid sneakerhead willing to invest in your shoes or your finances were on the up. “

I never ran a 990 but an older good friend, a very accomplished entrepreneur, swore by them in the 1990’s and it was all he ran road or trail. 

Source: New Balance

The 990 is still around, still a classic.  They are still “Made in the US” with 70% US value with the 990v5 available at New Balance for $175.  Notice almost 40 years after launching we are only at v5!


Time has moved on and with the evolution of materials it was time to “update” the concept of the ultimate deluxe gray trainer. 

And that is exactly what New Balance set out to do with the Lerato and let’s be clear, and as their marketing says: “because, not every day is race day..don’t work too  hard ”. 


Many of the same totally state of the art materials as in their RC Elite 2 racer and Rebel v2 are here: and most particularly a very light, bouncy high energy return FuelCell foam and a carbon plate.

Pros:

  • Luxurious, plush comfort above and below the foot  Sam/Jacob/Derek/Ivan/Nils/Jeff/Adam: 
  • Extremely stable at the heel, smooth and easy Sam/Jacob/Derek/Ivan/Nils/Jeff/Adam 
  • Pleasant, smooth, easy-going ride Jacob/Derek/Renee/Sam
  • Wonderful walking shoe. Ivan/Nils/Renee/Sam/Jeff
  • Soft, bottomless (but never bottoming out) cushion, bouncy midsole Jacob/Ivan/Sam
  • Warm upper for the winter Adam/Jacob/Sam 
  • Stabilizing rubber and heel ciip, soft cushion, gentle carbon impulse Sam/Adam 
  • Should last darn near an eternity.  Sam/Jeff: 
  • Massive amounts of reflectivity Nils/Sam
  • Likely the ultimate, on the concrete all day, trade shoe Nils 
  • Favorite insole ever Ivan


Cons:

  • Heavy at 11.78 oz /334g men’s US9, 9.98 oz /283 g women’s US8 Sam/Jacob/Derek/Ivan/Nils/Jeff/Sally/Adam
  • Clearly deluxe and spectacular looking but does intricate detailing of upper and copious rear stability from high collars and rear clips as well as extensive rubber add to cost and weight? Adam/Renee/Sally/Sam 
  • Upper not that breathable Ivan/Jeff
  • Rapid wear on heel collar/inner tongue material of pre production test pairs Jacob/Sally/Renee/Jacob/Nils:
  • May run half to quarter size small. Mesh a bit rough and stiff over toes Sam/Ivan 
  • Turnover: I run 5 steps per min slower in Lerato compared to the 1080. Nils Adam

Stats

Estimated Weight: men's  11.78 oz  / 334g (US9)  women's 283g /9.98 oz (US8)

Samples: 

men’s 339g / 11.96oz (US9.5), 364g / 12.84oz (US10.5), 11.78 oz  / 334g (US9)

women’s 283g/9.98oz (US8)

Stack Height: measured 37mm heel, 27mm forefoot (IAAF landmarks)

Available June 2021


First Impressions and Fit

Jacob: When I first learned about a totally new carbon-plated FuelCell shoe from NB I was of course quite excited. I’ve liked the soft and bouncy FuelCell design in all its deployments and am big fan of plated shoes for long runs and racing. I hadn’t seen a tech sheet or any details when the Lerato arrived for testing, so upon opening the box I didn’t know what to expect—and I was quite surprised by the stylized, big, heavy, gray shoe! 


The Lerato looks premium and feels high quality both in aesthetic choices such as the graceful curves, faux suede, animal-print-inspired patterning, shiny silver (some reflective) accents, and in materials, which are soft, supportive, and seamless. It has a thick, nearly full coverage outsole and is very heavy. 


At 383g / 13.5oz in my US12, it is the heaviest road shoe I’ve tested, taking the title from the Saucony Triumph 18 by about 10g. It is in a wholly different realm from it’s sleek, race-weight, performance companions, the TC, RC Elite, and Rebel v2. Hidden on the inside of the upper we read “be iconic”—New Balance is going for it here and I’m into the fun.


On foot, comfort and fit is excellent. It is soft, secure, and ideally sized for my medium width foot in length and width. Underfoot the cushion is deep and soft, adding to the comfort and plush feel. Lace up is easy and pressure is well-distributed. The high weight is certainly noticed but everything else is top-class and I’m excited to experience it on the run.

Derek: There is a lot of grey in this shoe. A lot. So don’t expect it to be very eye-catching on the run. It is one of the most nondescript shoes I’ve tested of late, and I started testing his shoe at roughly the same time I was testing the ASICS Noosa Tri 13, so the contrast was just amplified. 


The fit is true to size for me. Step-in feel is great with a very luxurious fit. The overall fit is quite straightforward with a simple easy-fitting upper that didn’t require a whole lot of tinkering to get the lockdown right. The shoe actually feels a lot lighter than the scale says once you lace it up and start running. The feel is pretty indistinguishable from e.g. ASICS GlideRide once you get going. The ride is quite different from other carbon-plated shoes I’ve tested recently. Going to need some miles to make up my mind about the ride.

Adam:  The Lerato is a very gray shoe- featuring at least three different shades of grey.  I think the best way to describe it is luxurious.  It uses a high end foam and carbon plate but is among the heaviest shoes I own.  That weight comes not only from the stack height but from the dense, padded upper, the big and externally stabilized plastic heel counter, the high collar, and the thick outsole with good coverage.  


Fit is true to size athough not a particularly flexible fit due to the bulk of the upper.  Step in feel is a perfect balance between cushion and stability.  I never felt like I was going to roll my ankle or pitch over, yet it does an excellent job isolating you from the ground.  Walking around and standing in the shoe felt amazingly comfortable, as it’s the perfect mix of support and cushion.  I found myself wearing it less for my long or fast runs and more casually.  It’s understated, immensely comfortable, and easy on your feet.  As a bonus, there are a bunch of reflectors on the Lerato which is always a good idea for nighttime visibility. 

Ivan: Let me just put it out there. I like grey. Yes, I said it. Here in Scandinavia most of us like all combos of grey. We have to! Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to handle the weather around here. When it comes to running shoes, I do like some splash of colors though. This is the one time of day, I get to go out and have my own little party. With that being said, I actually think it looks understated, luxurious in an almost retro kind of way. The shoe fits true-to-size for me, but slightly on the tight side. Wouldn’t recommend sizing down though. Walking around at home felt amazing. 

No doubt that this is one incredible walking shoe, but I was eager to find out how it works for running. Despite being fairly narrow and soft/lively under foot, it sure feels very stable. I’m sure the carbon plate and rigid heel counter takes a lot of credit for this.


Nils: There are some shoes that just fit. And the New Balance Lerato is one of them. The well (but not overly) padded upper and luxury all around it holds my feet and especially the heels safely in place. 


It fits true to size for me with the toebox being just wide enough. It could be a tad wider for me though. Design wise the Lerato makes an excellent casual shoe. If you want to bring one shoe to a business trip or to a sales show - the Lerato is it. Even if you don’t plan to run it might be the best shoe you can get for standing all day in an exhibition hall!


Renee: My first impression of the Lerato was confused. At 10 oz in a women’s size 8, the Lerato is my heaviest road shoe and close to the same weight as my heaviest trail shoe (Saucony Peregrine). On foot, the tongue and heel collar/heel counter come up high, reminding me of a hiking shoe. Is the Lerato a running shoe? A walking shoe? Both? That’s the confusing part. What is not confusing is that the Lerato is a luxury shoe with an overall comfortable feel for me. I wore a women’s size 8, my typical New Balance road shoe size. In other models/brands, I can wear a size 7.5. For runner’s between two half sizes, I suggest choosing the longer size. 

Jeff: You don’t see many brands compete with themselves as effectively as New Balance has done with the Lerato. Because in broad terms, it’s the luxury version of the Fuel Cell TC, with the focus on the runner enjoying the experience far more than hitting any PRs are putting any serious training in the mix. I try to weigh shoes only after I’ve gotten a few runs in them, if only so the number on the scale doesn’t influence my impression of a shoe - lots of shoes are heavy on the scale but not so much on the foot. I was blown away by just how heavy the Lerato felt on the foot, though I think it is as much as reflection on how overbuilt the plastic heel counter is. Most shoes don’t have much flex there, but this feels more ski boot than running shoe in that regard. I didn’t find any sizing problems, my 10.5 fit me perfectly. One final thing, make no mistake with the looks and build, this is the premium Dad Shoe of 2021.

Sam: Exactly as Jeff says. This is clearly, so far for me 2021’s super premium very run able Dad (and corporate exec) Shoe. With its more sober conservative colors this shoe will fit in anywhere with just enough visual pizazz to say you are not a bore in your comfort trainers. 


That out of the way, this is a totally runable and very pleasantly so trainer with the very latest of materials underfoot. It is put together to maximize run comfort, durability, security and stability while delivering plenty of the very latest (as in NB’s top top performance) FuelCell bounce and acarbon plate impulse of the more toned down variety. 


Others have referred to its weight and yes it is heavier at 11.78 oz  / 334g (US9) than most of my trainers but not out of the realm of heavy duty premium trainers such as the Mizuno Wave Sky Waveknit or the same weight Saucony Xodus 10. At it considerable lighter than the adidas Ultraboost 21.

The detailing of differing mesh, dual carbon and plastic heel clips, tons of reflective gray elements, and visually appealing cord highlights around the eyelets makes one want to pick up the shoe and examine it very closely. And New Balance told us indeed the visual depth and detailing is intended to do just that in store and I guess virtually online as well.

Looking at the mesh part of the upper closely we see tremendous zonal detailing. 

The “N” has a translucent overlay filling it for support but also creates a subtle contrast while the knit collars and tongue add a darker contrast. 

The midsole is two tone in color masking the 37/27 max cushion grade stack height (as measured by Derek) making the silhouette appear more conventional, traditional and lower profile and in some ways similar to the more “current” 990v5.

My half size up from my normal were a bit large but still totally secure.. While those collars are high, the foot slides in easy with a resounding thunk once set, reassuring. Walking in them, the heel stability is clearly felt as is the soft pleasing midsole foam. The carbon plate is barely noticed as a subtle small rise just behind the ball of the foot followed by a mild final toe off. Very different from other carbon plated shoes where the plates tend to be highly noticeable “at rest” and which are barely walkable. Not so here. We all agree they also make a fantastic walking shoe.

 I was a bit surprised by the dense almost trail shoe-like front mesh as it is not particularly soft for a road shoe, even though lined, with the combination of length and over the toes mesh feeling a bit short, rough and low. For intended more casual run and other uses I would flip a coin as to sizing up as I am or not.


Upper

Jacob: The Lerato upper uses a blend of several materials for support and style. The primary mesh (the light gray) is a dense but thin plastic-like material that holds its shape well. 

This material is the exterior mesh only, the entire midfoot and forefoot has an inner thin stretchy bootie, so the stiffer outer mesh isn’t touching the foot. The mesh isn’t too breathable, but that has been a great positive for Northeast US winter running and has caused me to pick the Lerato just for its warmth many times this winter.

The Lerato’s heel has several reinforcements. It has a plastic cage that wraps around the heel from just behind the midsole on both sides, a carbon plate which is visible on the external of the shoe at the heel and flares up to cradle the heel (black above just above the white midsole) , and a more classic semi-rigid heel counter directly at the back. 

Together these features lead to a stable, locked in, and comfortable heel feel. The heel is cupped securely, snaps into place, and stays with plenty of plush padding and without pressure.

The soft and dense tongue does a good job adding to the plush feel and easy lace-up without being bulky and in the way. 

The laces contribute to the style and high-end feel as well with seamless molded plastic aglets and reflective stitching. The Lerato is a professional, luxury shoe with top-notch comfort and fit.


While the primary mesh is abrasion resistant and durable, the soft fabric on the heel collar and inside of the tongue is showing wear for me after less than 100 miles in the Lerato. It is functionally not an issue, but for a shoe with a big style component and otherwise durable construction, it is too bad to see this early wear. New Balance was notified of this wear a few months ago, early in our testing, and is working hard on the problem for the production pairs for the June release. As soon as we have any modifications to test we will update the review prior to release with the final results.

Derek: Jacob has done a great job discussing the materials so I won’t re-hash that. The upper works decently well. Despite appearances, the shoe’s upper is fairly breathable, which is always nice as they often tend to be on the warmer side when it comes to heavy duty trainers. I found the heel counter to be quite firm, but fortunately the cup is shallow enough that it doesn’t cause any heel irritation. The heel padding is also thick enough to make heel fit fairly comfortable. In addition to the rigid internal heel cup, there is also an external plastic clip that helps reinforce things. I’ll go more into this under the midsole section. I did find that heel volume was a little bit on the high side, and I needed to use heel lock lacing to prevent slippage. This is something I think people with low volume heels may want to be aware of. The rest of the shoe’s volume is fairly middle-of-the-road and you should just go with your usual size for a NB shoe.

Adam:  Jacob described the materials very well, and I agree with Ivan on the plushness.  Personally I’m a fan of extremely minimal and lightweight uppers (Matryx on the Salomon S/Lab Pulsar is my current favorite), but the Lerato’s upper fits the character of the shoe.  


It’s tight enough fitting that you have good control over the shoe, but so padded and soft that it is still extremely comfortable . Heel hold is solid and the toebox gives me room to wiggle my toes.  It’s warm, which I appreciated as I did a majority of my test miles in the winter, but I could see this being a drawback in summer months.  Although the upper is very padded, it doesn’t feel overdone and while it adds some weight, it compensates with plushness.  Despite the stack height, this upper delivers excellent stability.  

Ivan: This has got to be one of the most plush uppers I’ve ever experienced. Softness from all sides without feeling sloppy in any way. It runs a bit tight without being narrow. Not much volume in the toe box. Especially above the toes. Good lockdown around the midfoot and easy lace-up. Fit around the heel cup was perfect for me with no slipping or achilles issues, which I tend to sometimes experience . 

The firm plastic cage around the heel didn’t bother me and probably helps with the overall stability. The very plush and fairly thick upper combined with secure/tight lockdown does make it run hot though. It hasn’t been a big deal in cold Scandinavian weather, but could become an issue in the summertime. I’ve done about 70 miles in the shoe so far and no issues with durability so far. It still looks like new.


Renee: I found the upper overall comfortable. The toebox is amble for me (and I like a wide forefoot/toebox) and the heel hold is solid. However, the height of the tongue, heel collar, and heel counter were a bit too high on my foot for my preference in a running shoe. For a walking shoe, this was fine, but the height did deter me from having a light, nimble foot landing. The upper looks to have some water resistance, but it does not. I ran several times through the snow and had plenty of moisture entering. The upper looks warm, but it has breathability. Like the entire shoe, the upper looks and feels like luxury. That said, like Jacob, I have wear on the tongue and heel collar, which happened well before 50 miles. As a high-priced, luxury shoe, the wear is problemati and I hope New Balance resolves this for final production pairs.

Nils: I jump on Renee’s comment about the height of the shoe entrance (tongue, heel collar and heel counter). I experienced the exact same and additionally I had some weird pressure points around my ankle caused by the tongue. I think it was actually too wide for my feet. The pain disappeared after 2-3 runs but needs to be mentioned nonetheless. Other than that I can’t say any bad about the upper of the Lerato. 

It’s comfy all around but still not too plush for my liking. There are others on the market that overdo it sometimes with the padding (looking at you, Saucony) but not so the Lerato. 

I really enjoyed the lacing scheme which helps the shoe to be tied easily but still holds everything in place in a very secure manner. The sturdy heel cup enhances the stability of this neutral trainer which is something I am happy to see as a slight overpronator. And last but not least there are tons of reflectivity everywhere on the shoe - even the lace have reflective yarn worked into them! I never felt safer going out on a dark winter evening - well done New Balance!


Jeff: With so many voices on this review, I won’t beat a dead horse too hard. Reflectivity is off the charts, tongue is definitely high (not quite ASICS Evoride 1 levels of high, but close), and the toebox is...adequate. 


The width up front is pretty good, not incredible, but there is not much height to the toebox, and there’s very little stretch or give. 


I think the plastic frame around the heel is a little much for me, but I completely agree with Nils, and could see runners that want more stability and structure not complaining a bit about it.

Sam: Lerato has an upper worthy of its deluxe premium run shoe calling. Detailing, fit, comfort, security are all top notch. I will particularly call out the heel stability and high rear collars. Each foot strike is eerily and pleasantly totally stable and secure in this upper.

As touched on in my First Impressions the visual depth, while in muted colors, is let’s just say deep!  


So deep that some functional details escaped my first examination.

For example the “decorative” cord reinforcements around the lace up area are for visual appeal but also are functional as while the laces run through holes for the first 3 eyelets they run through cord loops for the front two. I assume to provide a bit more give where the foot flexes towards the toe off.

Also of note both visually and functionally we have a sewn strip of gray reflective material that not only completely wraps the rear of the shoe but extends completely around the eyelets material up front. There are also reflective patches at both sides of the toes. A tremendous safety feature that ties in with the visual design very effectively  

Are the rear (collar heights, plastic and carbon clips, super stiff and high heel counter) overbuilt and contributing to weight? Very likely. All of it for sure says hold, stability, security at the rear picking them up or seeing images but overall I wonder if achieving the same could have been done with a more svelte design to reduce weight as after all the Fuel Cell foam used is New Balance's lightest least dense compound yet we check in at 11.78 oz here.

I do also puzzle about the choice of the dense not particularly pliable trail shoe like toe box mesh. While it ties  into the visual design magnificently, it is rougher on the top of the toes with no real stretch or give than I would except for such a deluxe offering. On the flip side, I expect it to prove very durable. 


Midsole

Jacob: The Lerato uses a high stack of super-soft midsole foam. It is the same supercritical autoclaved EVA/TPU blend as in the RC Elite v1 and v2 as well as Rebel v2. 


The midsole is a two-layer design with a carbon plated in between two slabs of foam. The plate is visible from the exterior of the shoe in the heel as it forms a cup under the heel. The plate’s position throughout the length of the shoe is apparent from the division between the two (white and gray) midsole colors. The plate is positioned closer to the foot in the heel and closer to the ground in the forefoot—a typically propulsive configuration. The plate is not overly stiff and the Lerato flexes smoothly and consistently. On foot the cushion is bottomless and bouncy. It feels really fun and pleasant to have on foot.

Derek: This is your typical carbon plated midsole in that you have a relatively soft midsole foam with a carbon plate sandwiched in the middle. There are a few aspects to this that readers should be aware of. First, The plate is not very stiff. There is some flex to the plate and you do get a fairly natural flex through the toebox when you run. I’d say the flex is closer to what you get in the Puma Deviate Nitro and is even more flexible than the fairly flexible FuelCell TC.  

Second, the plate apparently is not as curved as it is in the RC and TC. The curvature is quite shallow, and combined with the lower plate stiffness, you get much less rocker perception in this shoe. 

In fact, the shoe runs like more of a heel-spring than a forefoot rocker. What this means is as you land, there is a very perceptible bounce forward as you load the heel, but you don’t get any assistive feel as you transition through the forefoot. 

Third, we come to the heel construct. The heel construct has a lot going on. The big feature I would like to point out is a stabilizing plastic clip at the heel. It runs externally around part of the heel cup and midsole and appears to merge with parts of the carbon plate that extends into the midsole below the heel. The heel for all its midsole spring is incredibly stable, and I believe this little device is responsible for that. It really makes me wonder what it could do to improve the heel stability of the likes of the TC (which I think a lot of people love, but don’t necessarily have to biomechanics to handle it). Bottomline, the shoe is very cushioned, with a distinct springiness to the shoe (mostly felt at the heel for me) but also with really good heel stability that doesn’t have the drawback of feeling “clunky”. 

Adam:  Jacob and Derek describe the construction and behavior of the Lerato midsole very well.  It’s unlike any other carbon plated shoe I’ve tested. The supercrital EVA/TPU blend from the RC elite V1, V2, and Rebel V2 shows up here again and is remarkably bouncy and plush. 


The plate behaves much differently than the plates in the Endorphin Pro and RC elite V2 due to its flex and placement.  The plate is visible in the heel, and you can feel how it forms a cup around the calcaneus that stabilizes the foot.  You can land at any angle you want and the lerato remains stable.  It’s definitely the most stable heel I’ve ever had on a carbon plated shoe, and it makes the Rebel V2’s heel stability look like balancing on a giant marshmallow.  As Derek said, the Lerato feels more like a heel spring. 


In contrast to shoes like the Endorphin pro at low speeds, you never feel like you’re having to get up over a plate to rock the shoe from heel to toe.  The Lerato does not reward midfoot or forefoot striking, and feels best at a lower pace.  It doesn’t get the full springy benefit of most other carbon plated shoes, but also doesn’t have the drawbacks of feeling unstable and overly rockered at low speed.  The plate + foam combo does a very good job insulating you from the impact with the ground resulting in a feel of bottomless cushion that remains responsive rather than collapsing or harshly impacting.  Running in the Lerato seems to make me less sore than in any unplated shoe. 

Ivan: I think that the build-up of the midsole has already been explained very well and I won’t get too much into details. The softness of the sole is very noticeable in hand and on the run, but the plate, the substantial heel cup and reinforcements secures that the ride and it doesn’t feel mushy and unstable. I also noticed the aggressive nature of the plate with a distinct propulsive geometry as described by Jacob. Stability is great and some flex from the plate helps transition staying smooth during all types of runs. 


Last but not least, it is worth mentioning that this is the best insole I’ve ever come across. Fairly thick and kind of springy in a really comfortable way. I’m tempted to throw this insole into all of my running shoes that lack a bit of cushion.

Renee: The details of midsole are well described by the others.  The midsole is luxurious: soft, comforting, with the carbon plate in the mix to propel and save energy. The midsole is a great balance of comfort and responsiveness. I agree that the midsole creates a soft ride but not a mushy or unstable one. 

Nils: I can just repeat what’s already been said. It’s a fairly soft midsole setup which gets guided by the plate and especially the heel clip. I really appreciate that as I wouldn’t be able to run and enjoy such a soft midsole sensation without those stabilizing features. 


Jeff: Part of me wonders if New Balance opted to leave the heel portion of the plate visible, because it is so subtle during the run. Derek is spot on, the lack of curve (compared to its two plated brethren RC and TC) is conspicuous in its absence. Which makes sense in a way, this isn’t the plated NB you put on to get a nice spring in your step, this is the pair you bring with you on vacation when you think you might get one run in.


Sam: New Balance set out to create an underfoot platform that combines their softest, highest energy returning low compression set, autoclaved (yup all of that)  FuelCell foam with a carbon plate. Yet while incorporating race shoe oriented components, the combination here has a very different purpose and as always we must consider the outsole and its effect on cushion and ride.


The resulting feel is one of bottomless soft bouncy cushion that is never mushy or sloppy in feel thanks to the combination of  the carbon plate, rear clips, and outsole.The cushion feel is soft but never bottoms out. 


The plate helps stabilize the very soft foam at the heel and give the heel nice spring and bounce at all paces even walking paces! and also provides a very gentle smooth rocker to toe off. 


It is kind of surprising that this smooth rocker even exists at all as  the shoe is both rigid and quite flat in exterior visible toe spring.  We can never forget the outsole in the sandwich of layers and here it provides a stabilizing element, especially at the broad forefoot  while I think delivering some additional firmer cushion and a responsive feel which goes a long way to reducing the felt impact of the shoe’s weight.  


Outsole

Jacob: The Lerato outsole is composed of five decoupled pieces of thick (3mm) soft rubber. It is nearly full coverage aside from exposed midsole channel in the middle of the heel to midfoot, a common location to forgo rubber to add softness and bounce from the easier compression of the channel and to smooth the transition from heel to midfoot. 


As the rubber is soft and thick, when combined with the high stack and carbon plate, it gives a very smooth, muted ride. It’s a tank-like ride overall but not slow or awkward at all—easy to run. Traction is solid and the ground platform is wide, so I’ve taken the Lerato on singletrack trail sections several times without any issue.


Derek: Lots of grippy durable outsole rubber here. Not much else to say. It works well, and it’s going to last a long, long time. You will get your money’s worth in durability here. As Jacob says, the rubber is soft, and that really complements the midsole well. Beyond that, it also makes the shoe run really quietly. Think of it like the first time you sat in an electric vehicle coming from a petrol car. That background buzz that you never really noticed until it was gone, and suddenly you realize just how quiet a car can be. That’s the Lerato.


Adam:  Echoing both Jacob and Derek here, the Lerato’s outsole has excellent coverage, runs quietly, and has shown no visible wear.  It’s quiet, grippy, and should hold up well over time.  Complimenting the foam and the plate, it makes the shoe feel very smooth and quiet, diminishing the harshness of impacting the ground.  


Ivan: Like the rest of the shoe, the outsole is also solid with a thick layer of rubber in five strategically placed areas to ensure some flex. The rubber is quite soft and traction has been great. It runs smooth and quiet as mentioned a few times. This is a huge plus for me and especially in this “heavy-trainer” category. Also, with this amount of rubber, I expect it to last for a very long time.


Renee: The details are covered by the other reviewers. The outsole has enough coverage to prevent a bottoming out feel while helping to absorb some shock from stride to stride. I normally run country roads so the traction and coverage is appreciated. The outsole adds to the weight, but for the purpose of the shoe it works. 


Nils: As said by the others there is outsole rubber to last for ages. The rubber however is soft which led to some minor wear signs on my pair after roughly 80k of running. 


I’m not that happy with the outsole pattern. Dry or wet roads haven’t been a problem as long as they are clean. But I experienced some traction issues on dirt covered sidewalks as well as on forest roads. 

The pattern is quite flat and acts like one big piece of rubber - traction wise. Some more deeper grooves in the forefoot would help with that issue for sure.


Jeff: I’d like more shoes to use this rubber formula. It hits in the right spot of soft/durable, which sounds like a half-hearted compliment, but it’s a little detail that makes a big difference. As a midfoot striking supinator who puts a lot of wear on the mid side of a shoe, I appreciate a very robust patch of rubber right where I touch down.

Sam: As a deluxe built to last darn near forever trainer,  the almost full coverage outsole is copious to say the least in its coverage and thickness. With the exception of the heel rubber which seems firmer the rest of the outsole is of the same firmness, moderately firm and with when pressing some rebound feel. When combined with the soft FuelCell landing and stabilizing carbon plate and clips it delivers stability and I think a touch of final responsive cushion. 


Ride:

Jacob: The Lerato is set up to be a blast to run in every way except for weight. It has a large stack of high-bounce, soft foam with a carbon plate and excellent comfort. Fortunately, while it is apparent and a defining feature, the weight does not ruin the Lerato’s fun. 


It is a fun, pleasant, easy-riding shoe. Bottomless cushion and an ultra-smooth ride make it a relaxing cruise-along shoe. The geometry and well-directed energy return are leg saving and lead to effortless long runs. 


The carbon-plated effect is on in full force. However it is not at all aggressive—quite relaxed in fact with a bit of flexibility and endless cushion. Unlike in many plated racers (including the TC and RC Elite), the plate in the Lerato doesn’t encourage speed or make it easy to run fast. The plate in the Lerato makes it easy to just keep on cruising and having a good time out on the road. 


The Lerato is enjoyable at a range of training paces from recovery to mid endurance. It runs downhills very smoothly and fast. The weight and lack of any snap (which is appreciated when going easy) makes it feel sluggish and a bit of a chore to turn over at fast (nearing and above marathon race pace) paces. However for everything slow it is a pleasant, modern ride. I ran my longest run of the year so far in the Lerato, a very casual 21-miler, and felt relaxed throughout and fresh to the finish. The Lerato kept me warm and comfortable.

Derek: I really like this shoe for easy runs. The weight of it does start to wear on me once I get past 10 miles, and so that’s the farthest I’ve managed to go in it. 


I think it’s not meant to be a daily trainer but more of a premium easy run trainer, and given its weight, would probably work best for heavier runners, and particularly heel strikers. 


I mentioned it under the midsole section, but I’ll reiterate it here. This shoe works best for heel strikers because that is where the bounce is most prominent. 


The Lerato is the same stack as the NB Fuelcell TC, and The Nike Zoom Invincible, but it rides closer to the Puma Deviate Nitro, quite a natural transition supported by a stable but springy heel. By contrast the TC and Invincible are much mushier in feel.


Adam:  The Lerato is the best walking shoe I’ve ever tried.  It’s incredibly comfortable, loves a nice heel strike + heel to toe transition, and is remarkably plush and bouncy.  


For running, the Lerato feels happiest at 8-12 minute per mile pace.  Even if you’re hitting the ground with a lot of force, the Lerato will take the edge off the impact and smoothly transition you back to the toe.  This isn’t a rockered super shoe that aggressively snaps you through a midfoot to toe transition and winds up to a quick turnover thanks to it, but rather the plate keeps the heel stable and the foam from squishing inconsistently providing a luxuriously smooth albeit slow ride.  


The biggest weakness of the Lerato is its weight.  I have trouble reaching the same cadence with this shoe as I do in the Rebel V2 and RC Elite V2 despite having the same foam.  I don’t get the full benefit of the foam as I’m not typically a heel striker, but the plate feels necessary to stabilize it and add cushion.  It is important to say that when walking, this weight and turnover limitation become irrelevant, and thus, I really love the Lerato for walking.

      

Ivan: It’s more of a bouncy, propulsive feel than a typical rockered, gliding ride. The more force you put into it, the more it gives back. Despite being a heavy shoe and probably not meant for speedwork, the midsole combined with the plate actually works surprisingly well for some uptempo sections. However, I think it really shines on those semi-short easy runs but could definitely also take it a bit longer and faster if needed. You might argue that having a carbon plate in this type of shoe is an overkill, but it makes a lot of sense. Without the plate the very soft Fuelcell would probably become too unstable. Also, the weight would be somewhat bothersome without the snap-back from the plate and the aggressive geometry of it. As Derek mentioned too, it probably works best for heel strikers and heavier runners won’t be bothered as much by the sheer volume and weight of this shoe. 


Renee: The “ride” is where the luxury and great qualities of the shoe come together with my only complaint about the shoe: the weight. 


The Lerato is comfortable, has a soft, responsive midsole with a carbon plate AND good outsole coverage.. 


Sounds like a perfect trainer for me on the rolling country roads. However, the weight of the shoe was noticeable at only 10 miles and it was not a shoe I wanted to take for long runs (15-20 miles). Because of the carbon plate, I enjoyed the shoe most while running at one minute above my marathon pace or 8;40 per mile, but I tired from the weight after that point. At a truly  “slow” pace, I really felt the weight. As a walking shoe, no issues there. The “ride” is very nice while standing too. 

Nils: Usually I can’t run in shoes as soft as the Lerato. They are just not stable enough especially at more relaxed paces when my form isn’t as powered up like at competition pace. 


A firmer and more rockered ride is more my cup of tea as it is more effective guiding me through my stride. The Lerato however accomplishes exactly that and I applaud New Balance for that. The heel construction paired with the extensive outsole coverage and the plate stabilize the bouncy and highly cushioned ride as much as I could ask for. 


However I also have to mention the weight as a limiting factor for the Lerato. I wouldn’t take them for anything longer than a mid distance run as well as nothing faster than general aerobic efforts. And the shoe is actually asking for exactly this more moderate use, because it’s plate loads up the most while heel striking.


Jeff: The Lerato is unique, in that it toes the line between bouncy and springy very well. To some, those words mean the same thing, but I like to think of bouncy as a function of vertical movement and springy as a function of forward movement. Perhaps its a result of a relatively flat plate paired to a bouncy midsole material. Either way, the result is a fun shoe to run in that doesn’t have a clearly defined purpose. It isn’t a race shoe, but it feels like too much of something to be your go-to daily trainer. 

Sam: Yes the ride is soft and bouncy but it is also well tamed by the plates, outsole, and flatter overall geometry and weight. Super pleasant and forgiving, I felt great consistency strike after strike and a mellow final rocker.  All put together they go a very long way to get past the weight for me. 


I do wonder what a less extensive thick outsole might do for the ride to bring the bounce feel and internal flex from the foam closer to the ground and to toe off. In terms of run types for me they were best at the more mellow lower end of daily training and recovery paces for me 8:50-10:30 min. miles. Faster and things got more labored. Slower paces than that were more ponderous as well except that at walking paces, agreeing the others they have a fantastic ride.


As New Balance says: “Not Every Day is Race Day” or for that matter a faster pace day and this ride will keep you aligned, smooth and off the throttle.


Conclusions and Recommendations


Jacob: The Lerato is a unique blend of classic style, heavy duty construction, and a modern high stack, carbon-plated cruiser. It has a plush, comfortable fit and ride. It is a dramatically heavy shoe, but the weight does not ruin the ride and it is a very enjoyable, relaxed, cruise-along shoe. 


It feels best at easy to mid endurance paces and is good for casual runs and easy long runs. It is very smooth and easy to run in, with good rebound and forward bounce, but it is not overtly fast. 


Moderate paces are decent and it can bomb downhills, but near and faster than marathon race pace, the weight and lack of snap put a damper on the performance. 


Overall, I really enjoy having the Lerato in my quiver. I have chosen it mostly for random by-feel runs, easy long runs, days when my legs are tired and I just want to have a relaxing cruise, or when it is bitterly cold, I’m already wearing a lot of heavy gear (e.g. double pants), and I don’t want my feet to freeze. The comfortable, warmer upper with thick wool socks and decent traction has helped me get out the door this winter and have a great time just cruising along.


Despite really liking the Lerato and running in it a lot, there are shoes that are more versatile and as fun riding, so it is hard to know how to recommend it. The TC for example (the ASICS Novblast also comes to mind) has a similarly soft, fun, propulsive ride but is much lighter and runs well at easy paces but also can rip hard intervals. Despite being an all-around trainer the TC would be a decent choice as a workout shoe or even racer, a realm the Lerato is not at all intended for. 


The Lerato is more relaxed so better for recovery runs or when trying to go slow, and importantly, more comfortable and warmer. I think a lot of my enjoyment of the Lerato was because it was winter and I cared more about just getting out the door and having an enjoyable run than about speed, so I didn’t mind the weight. 


Overall, the Lerato is a fun and unique shoe that I would recommend as long as you know what you’re getting. The Lerato is at its best on more chill runs (of any length) and is not a good pick for an all-around trainer or if you want to go fast. However if you want a premium, comfortable, soft and bouncy cruiser, definitely give the Lerato a shot.

Jacob’s Score: 9.05

Ride 9.5 (50%) Fit 9.5 (30%) Value 7 (15%) Style 8 (5%)


Derek: I consider the Lerato a modern take on a classic shoe design. A Cadillac shell with a Tesla engine. As is, at its current weight and design, it probably appeals to a smaller niche of folks, and is not intended to be a mass market pleaser. It’s probably more of a concept shoe at the moment, but I expect to see some of its tech like the heel stabilizing clip trickle down to other models, and allow for shoes with very low durometer firmness midsoles to be run in with good stability. 

Derek’s score 8.5 / 10

Ride 8.5 (50%) Fit 9.0 (30%) Value 7.5 (15%) Style 8.5 (5%)


Adam:  The Lerato is an excellent shoe for days when my legs hurt and I just want to get out the door and run easy.  Due to the weight and cost, the Lerato is targeted at a very specific customer.  It is a fashionable shoe that’s incredibly comfortable for casual everyday wear and walking, but can also be worn for easy runs. Its sublimely smooth cushioning and good energy return for heel strikers in particular make it well worth checking out.

Adam’s score: 8.00 / 10 

Ride 8 (50%) Fit 9 (30%) Value 6(15%) Style 8 (5%)


Ivan: I consider the New Balance Lerato not only a luxurious and comfortable running shoe meant for shorter, relaxed runs, but also a cool and very enjoyable everyday sneaker. I really like this shoe for what it is and I’m noticing that these sort of hybrid shoes are becoming increasingly popular. 


Despite the hefty weight it provides a pleasant ride due to a bouncy FuelCell midsole controlled/stabilized by the carbon plate. It has actually handled shorter tempo sections quite well, but this is by no means a speedy long run shoe. All in all, it has been a nice all-round shoe for me and I’m happy to have it in my collection.

Ivan’s score: 8.1 / 10 

Ride 7.9 (50%) Fit 8.9 (30%) Value 7.0 (15%) Style 8.5 (5%)


Renee: The Lerato is a luxurious and overall comfortable shoe. As a running shoe, it’s just too heavy for my long, easy runs (despite the carbon plate and great midsole). I probably weighed 110-115 lbs while testing the shoes and I’m not that strong of a runner, which does affect my dislike of the weight. I can see the Lerato being a great easy/long run shoe for bigger and stronger runners. For me, I’ll choose it on days when my legs are tired  and I just want a few miles in comfort at an even speed.

Renee’s score: 8.4/10  (-1.0 weight, -.25 identity crisis as a running shoe/limited running use, -.35 premature wear on the inner heel collar/tongue in my pre-production pair.


Nils: I highly appreciate what New Balance did with the Lerato. The shoe is a unique blend of soft and energetic cushioning with an outstanding level of stability. What I actually don’t need in a running shoe is the weird focus on the Lerato being a premium shoe. Taking away the fancy stuff and replacing the materials with a more athletic upper would save some weight and making it a far more versatile running shoe. I for myself will keep the Lerato in my rotation for days when I want to just comfortably cruise along. At the steep price I can just recommend the Lerato for people who have at least some stability needs and additionally run a lot of miles. Anyone else will get a comfortable easy day shoe for far less money. One more sidenote: The Lerato is the most comfortable walking shoe I ever put my feet in.

Nils’ score: 7.95 / 10 

Ride 8 (50%) Fit 9 (30%) Value 6 (15%) Style 7 (5%)


Jeff: The Lerato is pure nostalgia for me. More than 15 years ago I had a pair of New Balance 99x (can’t remember if it was 990/991/992) I picked up as a casual wear sneaker. For the early 2000s it was incredibly comfortable, and on my feet nearly all day every day as I was a golf instructor at a summer camp in upstate New York. I never ran in them (I was a golf instructor, not much running happened back then) but they were a no-compromise level of comfort. 


And that’s exactly what the Lerato is - all comfort. Unfortunately, that leaves them in a weird deadzone for me in my running lineup. I could never find the right spot for this shoe. It certainly isn’t a fast shoe, and the lack of room up front keeps it from being my long easy day shoe either. I did wear them to Home Depot, and flexed on all the other dads in the power tools section as I picked up a cordless drill, and that seemed to be where the shoe shined the brightest. As a general comfort daily wear shoe, that might get a few runs in here or there, I don’t know that there’s a better option on the market for that. 


They will be priced at $225, and that’s a lot of money for the most comfortable daily wear shoe around, especially since the sport version of this shoe, the Fuel Cell TC, is far more runnable and easier to find a place in your rotation. For now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to wear the Leratos to BevMo and show up every dad in the place.

Jeff’s Score 7.8/10

Ride 8 (50%) Fit 8 (30%) Value 6 (15%) Style 10 (5%)


Sam: New Balance accomplished exactly what it set out to do with the Lerato, deliver a 21st century and then some, successor to the 990: a super premium very comfortable run shoe built with the very latest state of the art materials and with a richly detailed deep in textures, appealing and conservative look that can fit in “anywhere”.


It is absolutely runnable and a great choice for easier no agenda runs. I was surprised how effective the material combination of FuelCell as in New Balance’s latest highest performance shoes and a carbon plate was here for different more easy going purposes. The Lerato delivers a mellow, soft, pleasant ride with some fun energy (plate and foam rebound) one tthat is nearly bottomless in cushion but also never bottoms out or feels ponderous and hard to move at moderate paces, and especially so given the weight of the shoe at 11.78 oz / 338g in a US9  


I will not argue much about the steep price as you get what you pay for here: state of the art materials, beautiful richly detailed design, comfort, security, and expected long, long durability. 


And  race shoes easily cost as much and are unlikely to last nearly as long and likely will be replaced with the latest and greatest in short order! Not so here as the Lerato can be a long time multi use companion which will doubtfully not go out of “style” or lose its run performance any time soon. And it can accompany you just about anywhere else for travel, walks with the dog, the office and the boardroom. Long term investment grade stuff here.


The premature wear of collar fabrics seen by several of us is a note of caution (I have slight wear where the ridged tongue rubs lining of top eyelet) is of concern and we hope, based on our testers timely feedback to New Balance, it can be resolved for production pairs come June. We will certainly try to test any fix and update the review prior to release with our results, one way or the other .


I do think the design overemphasizes security, stability, and longevity at the cost of weight. I wonder if a similar visual message and performance could be delivered at lighter weights by reducing the height and mass of the rear construction and the outsole coverage. Weight for me is the only big thing holding the Lerato back from yet greater daily training utility to go with its go anywhere do anything other than the run utility.  

Sam’s Score: 9.03 /10 

Ride: 8.9 (50%) Fit: 9.2(30%) Value:8.8 (15%) Style: 10 (5%)


Watch Sam's Video Review (12:34)


Comparisons

Index to all RTR reviews: HERE


ASICS Glideride 1 (RTR Review) & Glideride 2 (RTR Review)


Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The Glideride has a softer and mushier feel with a unique rocker feel to the ride. The Lerato is more traditional in feel, and definitely more stable feeling. I find the Glideride to be the more enjoyable and unique feeling shoe. Strictly from a running performance standpoint, the Glideride is a better shoe. 


Ivan: I don’t agree with Derek here. I actually think the Glideride feels a bit firmer, but the aggressive rocker vs the traditional ride of the Lerato makes the ride in the Glideride snappier. The Glideride is lighter, but also feels very substantial on foot. At slower paces I prefer the Lerato, but think the Glideride is superior when cruising along at faster paces. 


Renee: I only ran the Glideride 1. I tend to like traditional riding shoes, so I prefer the Lerato in this match up. I wore a women’s size 8 in both. The Lerato has more room in the toe box. I found the toe box width and height too constricting in the Glideride. The rocker of the Glideride was too polarizing for my preferences, probably because I run mostly on dirt and gravel roads. For a traditional ride, the Lerato wins. If you prefer/need a rocker shoe, the Glideride might be a better choice as a running shoe. The Glideride is super heavy for my preferences, but still about 1oz lighter than the Lerato. 


Jeff: I only ran in the 1st iteration of the Glideride, and there are definitely similarities between the built up heel and unique ride. Ultimately, I think the Glideride is the better running shoe, with its super pronounced rocker creating an odd, but pleasant running sensation. They aren’t as stable, or overall as comfortable as the Lerato, but the ASICS also has a much more accommodating toebox.


ASICS Novablast (RTR Review)

Renee: I wore a women’s size 8 in both the Novablast and the Lerato. The Novablast has more length. The overall fit, comfort, and stability are much better in the Lerato. For running, I like the easy bounce of the Novablast, and it is much lighter, something I prefer. Novablast is actually about 1.8oz lighter than the Lerato in my size. That said, the quality and overall ride of the Lerato are far better. I consider both shoes easy, long run shoes. For comfort, the Lerato wins; for a variety of running purposes, the Novablast wins. 


Jeff: I agree with Renee’s final assertion, Lerato for comfort, Novablast for running, but they are at polar opposite ends for me on the stability front. I don’t have stability issues, and the Novablast is an uncaged beast for me, while the Lerato has me planted at all times. If the Novablast upper fit was as dialed in as the Lerato, it might do it favors (just as long as it didn’t bring the plastic and weight that came with it).


Ivan: To me these two shoes are not really in the same category. Both bouncy but the weight difference alone makes a huge difference. The Lerato is a comfortable but heavy cruiser while the Novablast is more versatile and with a faster “rolling” ride. I haven’t had any issues with stability in the Novablast, with fit much roomier than the tight fitting Lerato.


Saucony Triumph 18 (RTR Review)

Jeff: These two feel and kind of look like they are cut from the same cloth (my Triumph 18 are the gray with gray colorway), but there’s no doubt that the Lerato is the bigger/softer model. The Triumph isn’t what anyone would think of as a “firm” shoe, but in a left/right comparison with the Lerato, the Triumph feels scaled down and dull. I much prefer the upper construction and fit of the Triumph, though from a comfort perspective the T18 just dropped a number of rungs by sheer comparison. Out on the road it’s a different story, with the Triumph slotting in very cleanly anywhere from a regular daily trainer to your long slow day/recovery run big protection shoe. The Lerato is an incredible answer to the question nobody is asking.


Nils: I love Jeff’s last sentence. But as we know the question now I have to say the Lerato is the better recovery shoe for me. But the Triumph beats it in any other way and can be a great, cushioned daily trainer of which the Lerato isn’t capable of.


Sam: Neither fit in the daily training category for me due to weight with the Triumph at 11.1 oz and thus a bit more than 0.5 oz less than Lerato but up there. In additionI  find the Triumph 18 flat riding at mid foot if with a lively midsole foam in PWRRUN+. If heading into the heavy premium for multiple uses run and other wise and despite higher cost I lean Lerato,


New Balance Fresh Foam More v3 (RTR Review)

Jeff: Reviewing these two back to back has been interesting. The FFMv3 feels a little taller, and actually even softer than the Lerato, with an upper that is more accommodating in the toebox, and while it feels nice, it doesn’t have the same ultra-premium feel of the Lerato. The plate in the Lerato prevents you from sinking in quite as deep as the FFMv3, and that’s not a bad thing, as it keeps it from getting into mushy territory. That said, the FFMv3 is a great recovery day shoe, while the Lerato doesn’t have a clear intended purpose. The Lerato is ultimately more comfortable, if you are looking to actually run in one of these, I’d suggest the FFMv3 for your easiest days.

Sam: Tend to agree with Jeff here. If you want max cushion and soft from New Balance in a daily trainer that for sure leans faster paces than Lerato, and with equivalent cushion at close to 2 oz less in weight, More v3. It’s not as polished and its almost cartoon like looks are certainly not as stealth or “dressy” or beyond the run practical.  Yet, the  Lerato gets to nearly the same place from a run perspective -highly cushioned, big stack with some excitement. It will just take you a bit longer to get there.  For pure run training all of  this said  the big cushion pick from NB and for that matter over many others in the class More v3. 


Mizuno Wave Sky 4 Waveknit  (RTR Review)

Sam: Mizuno’s premium neutral trainer has nearly the same amount of cushion but it is far denser, duller and firmer in feel. While its wave layers of foam do a decent job of transition and toe off things just aren’t nearly as smooth, soft, and carbon motivated as with Lerato. Weighing about the same and $60 less it is still no contest if you are looking for a premium "heavy protection" trainer, Lerato with the softer older Wave 3 a closer contender 


Brandblack Tarantula  (RTR Review)

Jeff: The matchup of ultra-premium daily wear/running shoes is interesting. Brandblack’s Supercritical Jetlon midsole is much, much more dense than NB’s Fuel Cell, and the Tarantula feels much more bottom heavy as a result. The upper is pared down compared to the Lerato, and the Vibram rubber is much firmer than what New Balance put at the bottom of the Lerato. The Tarantula also has a much higher arch by comparison, making me think that despite the wide platform, flat footed runners probably don’t have a chance. In a matchup that’s all about comfort, it’s the Lerato, by a wide margin.

Ssm: These are really quite similar shoes in having supercritical midsoles and extensive coverage outsoles to stabilize things. The Tarantula uses a very wide heel landing and minimal heel counter to stabilize the heel as well as Vibram MegaGrip rubber in a more road oriented pattern. while the Lerato relies on the much mentioned high collars, big heel counter, and plastic and carbon clips and plates. 


I found the Tarantula to be a strong smoother trails to road shoe with outstanding grip and stability. I agree with Jeff its Vibram rubber is too firm and not as well matched to the rest of the platform for road running leading to a firmer ride. Soften and reduce that rubber and for me it would be no contest, the spider. In the meantime I will go smooth with the Lerato for running and sort of like the more aggressive style and daily wear easier going comfort of the Tarantula 



Saucony Endorphin Shift (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. These are very different riding shoes. The Shift relies on an aggressive forefoot rocker but uses a relatively firm PWRRUN foam. Lerato has no real rocker feel to it at all, but relies instead on the springiness of its Fuel Cell foam and maybe a bit of a trampoline effect from its carbon plate to achieve its propulsiveness. Both have great cushioning, but I find Lerato to be easier on the legs especially at slower paces. That said, the Shift with its rocker is much smoother when trying to pick up the pace. I prefer the Shift for its versatility.


Jeff: I’m with Derek 100%. Very different rides and intentions, and even though I usually tend to prefer softer shoes, the Shift is the much better running shoe.


Sam: Agree with the guys, Shift is a firmer but better pure running shoe than Lerato  and a far less expensive and lighter one. As far as wearing them more casually or for work at least for me I much prefer the classy Lerato.


New Balance FuelCell TC (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The TC is a much more versatile shoe, and at the same stack and more than 2 ounces lighter, it’s really a no brainer for me that the TC is an overall better run shoe. The main upside of the Lerato is much much better heel stability compared to the TC.


Ivan: The TC is lighter and feels even more cushioned. It’s without doubt more versatile and I use it for all kinds of runs. No matter the pace I prefer for the TC. With that being said, I’m not a big fan of the fit in the TC, which feels somewhat sloppy to me. The Lerato conforms better to my footshape. 


Jeff: While the TC has some issues (mostly upper related - kind of sloppy fit, tongue likes to move, etc) it bring much more to the table than the Lerato. Lighter, faster, more fun to run, the TC also has a more accommodating toebox. Extreme heel strikers could have stability issues in the TC, but otherwise the TC runs the table.


Sam: While they share a similar but not identical FuelCell foam, carbon plate and a soft heel feel these two are in almost completely fields of play, The considerably lighter TC will handle a far broader range of daily training paces leaning for sure faster paces. The Lerato’s main running advantage is a far more stable heel for slower paced and recovery runs, something I will not take the TC out for. I do give Lerato the nod for execution of its carbon plate, outsole midsole foot comfort and all day versatility. TC’s plate at the forefoot is much more noticeable and it is for sure not much of a walking shoe as Lerato is.


New Balance 880v11 (RTR Review)

Renee: The 880 is one of my favorite easy, long run shoes. Whereas I found the Lerato too heavy for long runs, the 880 works for me. As a lighter weighted/not very strong runner, the stack height of 880 is all I need for long runs. The Lerato is soft and overall more comforting. I wore a women’s size 8 in both and found the sizing and fit comparable, with a slight more amount of give/width in the toebox of the Lerato. The 880 is about 1.5oz lighter than the Lerato and serves as a better trainer and running shoe for me. For recovery days, walking, and standing, the Lerato wins. 

Sam: Concur with Renee here. More cushion, more comforting the Lerato, much more versatile the 880v11 for daily run training.


Nike Air Zoom Tempo NEXT% (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The Tempo is my favourite trainer and there really isn’t anything that the Lerato does that is significantly better than the Tempo, unless again you prefer a wider or more stable platform. The springiness of the Tempo and its aggressive forefoot rocker make the Tempo an excellent assistive shoe for most people. The Lerato is somewhat softer feeling underfoot, but is also a more sluggish shoe due to its lack of a rocker profile.

Sam: Concur with Derek. The “mechanical”, noisy, brutal even in its look and feel Tempo is a far better faster heavy duty trainer and a far lighter one, almost 3 ounces lighter and this is clearly felt on the run. Lerato is everything Tempo is not: classy in looks, smooth and soft and I find more stable but is in no way the hard core, long, hard pace oriented Tempo Next 


Puma Deviate Nitro (RTR Review)

Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The Deviate has a slightly higher stack, and a more minimalist approach to the upper that can be a bit finicky in terms of fit. Both shoes have very natural feeling transitions due to more flexible carbon plates. The Lerato foam actually feels more squishy than the Deviate. Overall, the Deviate is a lighter and faster feeling shoe, but the Lerato has a softer and more forgiving easygoing ride. For easy runs, Lerato is better. For everything else, the Deviate is a better shoe.


Saucony Ride 14 (RTR Review)

Ivan: The Ride 14 really lacks the enjoyable squish of the Lerato, but it’s lighter and more flexible. I would probably go for the Levato on recovery and some shorter easy runs. Despite feeling a bit flat and uninspiring, the Ride is still a more versatile trainer. 


Jeff: I agree with Ivan, the Ride doesn’t have the same level of comfort and squish, but it is far more versatile in my running shoe repertoire. For pure comfort, Lerato, for anything else, Ride.


Nike ZoomX Invincible Run Fk (RTR Review)

Ivan: The Nike Invincible probably has the bounciest  ride I’ve ever experienced. However, both the lively midsole and the lockdown around the heel collar and the front of the shoe makes for an unstable ride for me. Both shoes can be used for recovery and easy runs, but the Invincible is much lighter and more fun.


Derek: I wear US9.5 in both shoes. The Invincible is much bouncier and softer with less ground feel, but also much less stable as Ivan points out. Even though the Lerato is a lot heavier than the Invincible, I find the Lerato more directed in its ride and easier to keep things going for those really tired days where you just need to log your miles. The plate really makes a difference. Unless you really need that mushy bouncy ride, I tend to prefer the Lerato for easy runs. 


Sam: I concur with Derek’s take for easy runs, Lerato. After all that is the focus of its design. As a more general daily trainer the Invincible is a blast of bouncy fun.


Jeff: Two of the most comfortable shoes out there, and for me, the decision couldn’t be easier. I much prefer the feel of the ZoomX in the Nike versus the Fuel Cell in the Lerato. Even without a plate the Nike has a much better rebound for me. It doesn’t hurt that the Invincible is 2 ounces lighter, and has a more comfortable toebox. That said, I haven’t found the Invincible all that unstable (though I can see where heel strikers could), and a big part of that is how incredibly wide the platform of the Nike is. The Lerato is by no means narrow, and the Invincible is almost a full centimeter wider in the forefoot (8.7mm) and is a centimeter wider in the heel. 


Adidas Ultraboost 21 (RTR Review)

Ivan: Both are top tier “hybrid” shoes and great for both running and everyday wear. The Lerato feels much heavier, but also more bouncy and cushioned. The Ultraboost has a more efficient and snappy ride with it’s torsion system.


Jeff: I’m on the opposite side of the fence from Ivan. For one, my pair of UB21 are more than a full ounce heavier than my Lerato (360g to 393g or 12.7 oz to 13.8 oz), but the weight is the least of the UB21’s issues. The firm, yet non-responsive Boost midsole is uninspiring to run in, and the exposed plate creates a non-stop horse hoof “clop-clop” on every step as well as one of the least smooth running shoes I’ve worn in years. While the Lerato feels like a square peg against a series of round holes, there’s no doubt it's a solid running shoe and extremely comfortable. I wouldn’t say the Ultraboost 21 is either of those things.


Sam: There is clearly an “aesthetics” choice to be made between these two: ultra modern, spare and colorful design vs. more classic appearances for the Lerato but with its deeper visual depth and complexity. The UB 21 checks in at a staggering nearly 1 oz more at 12.8 ounces in a US9 and while firmer and more responsive than Lerato the weight difference  kind of ends it for me. If I am headed to those weight classes for run and dual use for lifestyle I want the superior overall underfoot and upper comfort, bounce, smoother flow at all paces and friendlier feel of Lerato.. and its more conservative looks.

The Lerato releases June 2021


Tested samples were provided at no charge for review purposes. No other compensation was received by RTR or the authors for this review from New Balance. The opinions herein are entirely the authors'.
Comments and Questions Welcome Below!
Please let us know mileage, paces, race distances, and current preferred shoes

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Rich people style shoe...but of course you need a carbon plate to be the most posh.

What a joke...suckers born every minute