I am always on the lookout for great products to test on my hikes and recently, the New Balance Men 481 V3 trail running shoe came to my attention. I’ve been researching them a lot and in this review, want to share what I discovered and what you need to know about them before (and if) you buy them (including pros and cons).
Me personally, I have decided against it and the reason why will become clear as this review goes on, but if you’re a reader of this nature blog, you will know that I am someone who has an ample experience with trail running and especially testing/using trail running shoe (and other gear for the occasion).
I own several pairs of extremely high quality trail running shoes including the Salomon Speedcross 5 (and other Speedcross brands), and have been on 100s of miles of trails and hikes with them. After all those experiences, I have established a certain threshold for what I consider high quality and long story short, based on what I have seen on the New Balance Men 481 V3 trail running shoe, it’s good, but it doesn’t measure up as well against the other brands I’ve tested thus far (but more on that later).
The good news is that regardless of my personal opinion on these trail running shoes, they are still highly rated for the most part (I’ve read countless reviews on them and they played a major role in this review) and good to get if this is within your budget, but if you can afford to pay more, I would recommend a few brands that are higher in value. Anyway, before we get to all of that, let’s get to the basics of these shoes first:
New Balance Men 481 V3 trail running shoe product info:
- Full name: New Balance Men 481 V3 trail running shoe.
- Company: New Balance.
- Price: $50-$70+.
- Available colors: 5+.
- For both men and women? Yes.
- Good for hikes and trail running? Yes.
- Do they last long overall? Based on my research, it’s mixed.
- Available for both men and women? Yes.
- My rating: 3.8 out of 5
- Average rating from other users: 4.5 out of 5.
Overall, there are many good things to note about these shoes, but there are also other things I saw from other reviews I found that are important to note.
- Very high ratings from most people who use these shoes.
- Very affordable for a trail running shoe.
- Very easy to run in.
- Variety of colors available.
- Good traction for trail runs (mud, dirt).
- Many reviewers report the quality of this shoe vs previous versions is worse.
- I would say for long term uses, there may be better options for trail runners.
- Resiliency wise, I would say there are also better options (but they are more expensive).
What others say about the New Balance Men 481 V3 trail running shoe:
My experience with using/testing a wide variety of trail running shoes and especially the reviews I found on the New Balance Men 481 V3 trail running shoe is ultimately what made me decide that I should stick to the current pairs I own. Here’s what I mean:
From Amazon, there are over 20,000 reviews and the great news is that the average rating is 4.5 out of 5, one of the continuing issues I see being raised is that some of the negative reviews say the quality of this particular brand is worse than the old New Balance shoes in the same category. When I see this complaint once, I don’t really take it seriously, but I’ve seen it mentioned several times for this product.
Kohls also sells these shoes and if you look at the ratings, once again this shoe is rated very high (4.5 out of 5), but when you scroll through the comments and particularly look at the not so good ones, you see people mentioning the quality of this shoe not being very high (similar to what you see on Amazon).
Then there’s also my uncle who has used a previous pair of New Balance trail running shoes on hikes we went on (and even mud runs). He was always very happy with that brand even though to me they always looked like regular sneakers (I didn’t know much about trail running back then).
Now one can certainly argue that if the overall rating of this shoe is high (which it is), then it’s worth focusing on that and getting them. I am mostly in agreement there and that’s why I rated these shoes at a near 4 out of 5.
However, reading other people’s reviews is paramount to someone who like myself who carefully considers whether to buy a new pair of trail running shoes or not and while the negative comments are certainly rare for this particular brand, I have found the negative comments tend to get into specific details on why that rating is given, and I tend to pay more attention to that.
Furthermore, when I see similar complaints coming out, I tend to take that very seriously and a common one I didn’t mention above is how many former fans of this company have said that the quality of their shoes (this one in particular) has lessened (read the reviews yourself, and make your own judgement).
If nothing else, getting a previous brand of New Balance trail running shoes that is just much more established and less controversial might be a safer bet.
Alternative trail running shoes to consider (that in my opinion are better):
For me, I am very strict on having very high quality shoes without seeing similar controversial reviews, and this is why I am still sticking to recommending the following ones:
- Salomon Speedcross 5 (my top pick).
- Salomon Speedcross 3 and 4 (just as good).
- Merrell Moab Speed Hiking shoes (Surprisingly good in my opinion).
- Salomon XA Pro 3D GTX Trail Running Shoes (good stuff, but regular Speedcross shoes are better in my opinion).
- Skechers Arch Fit Recon Harbin shoes (better in durability, but not as mobile as the New Balance trail running shoes).
This should at least give you some perspective on what other alternative trail running shoes to consider (unless you’re going to buy the New Balance Men 481 V3 trail running shoes).
One thing to note (in accordance to being consistent) is that if you check the reviews for every single one of these shoes, of course you will also find some negative reviews, but the difference between these 5 and the New Balance ones is that they are not as frequent (at least my top 3) and the complaints aren’t very consistent (making the positive reviews have way more weight).
Do note every single one of these options is more expensive than the New Balance ones, but in my opinion their quality, durability, long term use and and comfort is above the New Balance shoes (based on what I’ve seen) and because I’ve ran across so many different types of terrain out there, I know what a good trail running shoe looks like and those 5 are either good or excellent in my book!