Summary

We spent 8.8 hours reading reviews from experts and users. In summary, this is what runners think:

7 reasons to buy

  • Many users find the New Balance FuelCell Rebel to be a lightweight running shoe. Some even say it feels as light as a sock.
  • The FuelCell midsole has impressed the majority of runners: a few have said it allows for smooth transitions, while others claim its responsiveness contributes to achieving their personal best time.
  • A lot of wearers are happy with the various width options of the FuelCell Rebel.
  • One reviewer mentioned that the shoe is comfortable on concrete surfaces.
  • Numerous buyers are impressed with the style of the shoe.
  • The New Balance FuelCell Rebel is excellent for long-distance runs and powerwalks, according to an athlete.
  • Some buyers like the soft and comfortable upper of the FuelCell Rebel.

5 reasons not to buy

  • A commenter wrote that the outsole has a “weird shape” that looks off.
  • Some wearers found the shoelaces to be too long.
  • There is not enough padding at the heel area, according to some runners.
  • The fit of the shoe is too tight around the toes, as stated by a few reviewers.
  • A user complained that the shoe constantly needs adjusting because of its inexact fit; therefore, not providing enough support.

Bottom line

The New Balance FuelCell Rebel is an “amazing” running shoe, as reported by numerous of its users and testers. The shoe has reliable features and technologies that make it ideal for everyday use, as well as a variety of distances. Although there are some issues with fit and structural elements, many still consider the FuelCell Rebel as their go-to running shoe and would recommend it to their peers.

Facts

Expert Reviews

92 / 100 based on 24 expert reviews

  • 94 / 100 |

    New Balance FuelCell Rebel - A game changer

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    Earlier this summer, New Balance launched a new series of shoes based on the FuelCell platform. Using FuelCell, the new high rebound foam (highest energy return yet from New Balance, minimum 39% more than Revlite), the four shoes in the series are all built with speed in mind.

    Positioned between the 5280 (MSRP US$200) for elite runners and the US$110, Propel for the middle-ground runner, the US$130 Rebel is a lightweight racing shoe for the more efficient runner who wants to go faster. The Echo, a more supportive shoe, complete the series and comes in at US$100.

     

    New Balance FuelCell Rebel

     

    Having lacked a decent road racing flat in my armoury (since my On Cloudracer was retired some time ago), I welcomed the chance to take the Rebel through its paces.

    My conclusion is that here, New Balance has a winner. The Rebel is a near game-changer of a shoe with its many distinguishing features and has become a firm part of my rotation for speed sessions and races.

    It is a true all-rounder, with a cushioned, comfortable ride for longer, slower-paced training runs, but also snappy enough to use for racing anything between a mile and a marathon. The shoe of the summer so far!

    Unboxing

    A number of notable features initially catch the eye:

    • the thin, knit upper
    • bootie fit
    • lateral flange in the midsole
    • minimal outsole with translucent blue rubber

     

    Striking looks of the Rebel

     

    It is interesting that other than the lateral flange, all these other features were also seen on the Nike Epic React, which last year was the first to feature React, Nike’s version of high rebound midsole compound.

    In many ways, the Rebel is reminiscent of the Epic React but, if Epic React is akin to a touring sedan, the Rebel is most definitely a sports car, at least on looks!

     

    Great upper

     

    The upper is made of engineered mesh and very stretchy and well-fitting, yet breathable.

    According to New Balance, trace fibre stitching provides further strength in the midfoot. This is a feature I really liked, and along with the lateral flange, keeps feet secure with none of the “spilling out” experienced on Epic React’s narrow midsole.

     

    Lateral flange, or flared midsole

     

    Aesthetically, the lateral flange is a bit of, as we say here in the UK, “marmite”; some will love it, others will hate it.

    I personally thought it made the shoes look cool, even futuristic. Form and function, however, go hand in hand, so I was equally curious about how the flange would impact the running experience.

     

    Translucent outsole showing TPU plate

     

    According to New Balance, the FuelCell midsole has multiple densities, with a higher rebound compound used in the midfoot. While not quite the carbon fibre plates used in 5280, the Rebel also feature nitrogen-infused TPU insert in the forefoot for added propulsion at take-off.

    Fit

    As mentioned, the Rebel has a bootie fit, with the tongue absent and instead of featuring a sock-like upper.

     

    Bootie fit

     

    New Balance designers have done a fantastic job here. At first glance, the Rebel looks as if it comes with a standard tongue.

    It is only when you looked from the other side, or once the shoes are on the feet, that the sock-like design and feel becomes apparent.

     

    Sock-like

     

    While the heel collar is high, with the heel cup being relatively deconstructed, the tabs are unobtrusive.

     

    The heel could use more jazz

     

    With no rough seams or stitching in the shoes, I wouldn’t hesitate to use the shoes sock-less if I was that way inclined.

    I did feel, however, as much as I like the colourway and overall look of the shoe, that the designers could have done a little more with the heel area to jazz things up a bit. But that’s just being greedy.

    I have traditionally been a UK 10 in New Balance and found the standard D width to be a good fit. The Rebel is no exception, but I feel they do tend to fit just a tiny, but snug around the midfoot and in terms of length.

    I wouldn’t really wear my thicker socks with the Rebel. But then again, I tend to wear thinner socks in general for speed training and racing. So, overall, I felt pretty comfortable with the sizing and fit.

    My UK 10 shoes weighed in at 210 grams each, so very much on the light side. Given the substantial midsole, I’d say much of the weight saving is from the upper, but like the React, one of the qualities of FuelCell is its favourable rebound-to-weight ratio.

    On the road

    Once out on the road, my first thought was that the Rebel was actually pretty well cushioned for their weight. With a stack height of 18mm in the forefoot (and 24mm in the heel for a 6mm drop), New Balance does categorize the shoe under cushioned, and I’d say that’s the correct classification.

     

    A cool way to have reflective detailing

     

    I think what I eventually had to get my head around was the initial disconnect between the minimal upper and the rather pleasant, plush cushioning underfoot.

    For a shoe which seemed built for speed, and about which everything described pointed to going faster, and designed for the more efficient fore- and mid-foot striking runners, the extent of cushioning was a surprise. And a revelation and, ultimately, joy.

    I suppose much of it is down to the heralded qualities of FuelCell, but the Rebel’s ride was responsive without being harsh and cushioned without feeling mushy.

    I have long been a fan of On Cloud, which is much vaunted for their cushioning despite light in weight. FuelCell Rebel is similar in terms of the cushioning-to-weight ratio, but comes with an added bonus of a racing flat upper, making it a more versatile shoe.

    I have over the past couple of months using the shoe for speed training, longer runs of over 10 miles, and for racing the mile and 5km, and the Rebel has handled it all well with aplomb.

    The comfort is second to none. The foot is held securely and naturally with no hotspots, and the ride is a pleasure.

    The lateral flange is very much unnoticeable when running, so I am unable to provide any insight as to its function or contribution to the experience. Perhaps the very fact it’s unnoticeable means it’s doing its job.

    As mentioned earlier, unlike the Epic React, the Rebel feels very stable when cornering at speed. Possibly that’s again the flange doing its job.

    At any rate, the flared midsole is a design feature I understand that has trickled down from the 5280, which is tailored for the elites, including Jenny Simpson, in winning high profile races, so enough said.

     

    LIKES DISLIKES

     

    • Contemporary design
    • Bootie upper
    • Level and quality of cushioning
    • Versatility at all paces and distances
     
    • Slightly short for size
    • Upper durability

    Conclusion

    New Balance FuelCell Rebel is a truly impressive shoe. I’d go as far as suggest that it’s a game-changer.

    Initially, I thought I was getting a racing flat or shoes for the faster training sessions only, but the more I use them, the more I’m impressed by their versatility and suitability for all speed and distances.

    The initial perception that the Rebel is meant for speed only is partly due to their heritage - from the 5280 which are designed from analysis of elite runners for elite runners and partly due to New Balance’s marketing pitch (significantly from the upper design, which is minimal and foot-hugging).

    My only (and the only major) reservation is over the durability of the upper due to its minimal nature. But, in a sense, the attractive price point of US$130 perhaps reflects this.

    It is only when the Rebel is road tested over time, over different paces and distances, that the versatile qualities of the FuelCell compound shine through.

    In that sense, the Rebel is perhaps best described as a sports car’s body on a touring sedan’s chassis.

     

    Check all colorways of the New Balance Fuelcell here

  • 97 / 100 |

    New Balance FuelCell Rebel: Something fresh and exciting

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    I was never a fan of New Balance shoes. It is an unfair statement as I actually never owned a pair. They just didn't past my initial visual criteria test—bulky, boring looks with that massive N on the side.

    Maybe those were great to run in, but in times when I can have esthetics, comfort, and performance combined, I will aim for the best.

    After submitting five reviews to RunRepeat, it was my time to choose my free pair reward, and I was excited. It was a bit of a pickle, as there are so many interesting releases in 2019 to consider.

     

     

    Somehow, I had a glimpse of the Rebel on the internet, and it got my instant attention. I did some digging for more detailed info and what I managed to read was good enough to decide.

    After a well over 250km of running, I can honestly say that I do not regret it. I would go as far as to admit, that at this very moment, New Balance FuelCell Rebel is my favorite runners.

    The Rebel is the best thing that landed on my foot ever. I have them in rotation with Epic React 2. Let me walk you through it:

    Humble beginnings with capturing the unboxing moment. It is available in Australia for $200 in three different colorways. Personally, I think this one is the coolest. I got them in US 11.5 (my Nike's size).

    Appearance

    So, I did notice that there is a divided opinion circulating in the runner's circles. For some, myself included, the design is visually great, but I can understand that for some the shape of the Rebel (maybe that is the genesis of that name) may be too weird.

    I like the minimalistic approach, and this shoe got my interest from the moment I laid my eyes on it. First thing you will notice is that unconventional shape that is curved (it may be helping it particular landing).

     

     

    Plus, we have a fin, which sits the outer of the shoe, designed for stability improvement. The bottom line is, I find that look very attractive and unique. I will add that Epic React is still nicer visually.

    Upper and fit

    One-piece "bootie" designed upper made out of thin engineered mesh. As an extra, and it's the first time I've seen it, we have Trace Fiber stitching across the midfoot area, which provides that perfect and secure lockdown.

    It is an essential addition as it is usually the issue with stretchy uppers, and this one is definitely super stretchy. It allows your foot to slide right in with no problem, and when those laces are tightened, it will stay in place.

     

     

    There was no sliding while running, just secure lockdown. Another great thing that I noticed right away is that the upper adapts almost instantly to the shape/ size of your feet, so there is no breaking in period plus no one would be left out.

    I do appreciate the wider toe box, and I wasn't disappointed. As advertised, the shoe runs true to size

    Just want to add, and I can say it after over 250km on the track, that upper is probably the best I have worn so far. It ticks all the boxes on my list. It's super stretchy, very lightweight, and breathable (if you live in Australia, it is a must).

    The red strands along the lacing also contribute to better fit and security. One thing I can complain about perhaps would be the length of the laces. I double knot, but still, I feel them flapping around.

     

     

    It is not something that will affect your performance, but it may distract you occasionally or lead to paranoia.

    I should mention that in my size US 11.5 according to my kitchen scale this shoe weighs approx 230g.

    Midsole

    The main feature as the name states is FuelCell midsole made out of dual-density Fuelcell foam material. As I realized, this shoe design suits perfectly forefoot to midfoot runners like myself.

    The midsole is a bit firmer in that area to improve the overall performance (I think I was missing that in Epic React). It is very responsive, soft, and light. Most importantly, that midsole got some solid bounce to it.

    It only has a 6 mm drop, which is great and feels more like no drop at all. The fit and overall construction give a sensation that you are not wearing anything whatsoever.

    I like to run fast, and that shoe is definitely a great tool in that department. I am not sure how it would feel to run a half or full marathon as my distances were mostly 8 km, 10 km up to 15 km.

    My feet were still fresh after those runs. And, I noticed that my pace improved and became more consistent.

     

    Just to compare midsole fresh out to the box and then with 250km under the belt.

     

     

    I am not entirely sure what the exact purpose of the lateral flange is, but I think it is helping to lessen the impact on landing and improve the traction. Maybe, it even corrects the way foot position itself.

    My wild guess would be that, like a sports car, this unique shape may speed-related. It would make sense as this shoe definitely can go fast. I like the look of it, too.

    Outsole

    The outsole incorporates blue/translucent (depends on which colorway you choose) blown rubber placed strategically in forefoot and heel area. This placement is meant to reduce the weight while still maintaining a good grip and traction.

    It is designed for forefoot landing, so that is where the whole durability prevention is focused. I have no idea how it is possible. But, on that blue material, there is still no signs of wear, and it's been a good 250 km of solid running.

    The rest of the outsole is just exposed foam. You can see some damage there, but it won't affect you in slightest.

    I think that there is some plate in the forefoot area—you can sense it while trying to flex the shoe and see it. But, I cannot confirm that.

    Regardless, that's how the outsole presents itself before hitting the road. The circled area is a plate that I am suspecting was inserted into the shoe.

    Below, we can see wear after 250 km of usage. No signs of damage across blue rubber. Some tears on the exposed foam area, but that was expected, especially at the back edge as marked.

     

     

    Durability here reminded me a bit outsole of Saucony Freedom ISO. It was unbreakable. I did not have a chance to test in the rain. The weather, unfortunately, was way too nice, plus I didn't want to get that pristine white upper dirty.

    I ran distances from short and sweet 5 km to 15 km. The ride was smooth, comfortable, and fast.

    I need to mention that, for a while, I had some pain in the forefoot area of my left foot. I can't really tell if that's because the shoe is quite minimalistic (blue rubber bit hard). It is a neutral road runner, so you will fell those rocks or roots when you ran over them.

    On the other hand, I had a couple of months of running extremely fast (for my standards) on each workout, so it could be just injury due to overtraining. I think it is worth pointing out.

     

    Pros

    • The bootie upper is extremely comfortable and fits like a glove no matter how wide your feet are.
    • The lacing system design gives the best lockdown.
    • The overall design of the shoe is edgy and unique.
    • Fast—this shoe can fly (have some nice PRs while wearing that speed machine).
    • The 6 mm drop is perfect.
    • Considering all the goodies you will get with that purchase, the price tag is justified.

    Cons

    • The capability of achieving long distances while still maintaining comfort is limited. I would say half-marathon would be max (more than that may cause some discomfort).
    • The blown rubber is a tiny bit too hard, very durable, but painfully solid.
    • I am finding it difficult to complain about that shoe, but let me just say that laces could be shorter.

    Conclusion

    I was nicely surprised by the New Balance capability for making great sneakers. That statement may come across badly, but I do not have any history with that brand, and I am happy that there is more than Nike and Adidas to consider if you look for innovation and style.

    It just happened that until now all New Balance shoes I've seen in local shops were just ugly or bulky (not a fun of stability shoes).

    FuelCell Rebel blew me away; my expectations very exceeded. I was hoping to like this shoe, but I wasn't expecting to fall in love again. It was right from the first wear.

    I mentioned before that you don't need to break them as they adapt instantly. Fit is on point, and I can only hope that when I reach 500 km upper stretch would not loosen too much.

    I like to run fast, and the Rebels can definitely deliver in that department. Due to "feather-like" weight and overall design, they are perfect for forefoot neutral runner like me who like to hit the track hard.

    I do a lot of tempo runs, but recently switching into aerobic development training, so I was testing them on a bit slower yet longer jogs. Either way, they are performing amazingly.

    The shoe really feels fast, and in my option in distances between 5km to a half marathon, it will shine. It has a great and smooth transition for midfoot to forefoot runners.

    I managed to get initially round 4 m/km pace on 5 km run and later on stretch that to 4:02/km on the 8km distance. I was amazed, and it felt great.

     

     

    I have them in rotation with Epic React 2, but 70% of the time, I will be getting those out. They just feel better—nicer fit, smoother ride.

    Pricewise, they land somewhere in the middle. Not too expensive, but not cheap either ($20 cheaper than Epic React).

    I would highly recommend giving FuelCell Rebel a try. I am aware it is not for everyone, and some may like it more than others, but I am basing this rating on my own experience, which was nothing less but great.

    On the side note, which has nothing to do with the making of the shoe itself, on a recent run, I got wrapped in some branches, and my beloved upper got torn. It looks like it won't get worst, but it is breaking my heart.

     

     

    Looking forward too many more runs in the FuelCell Rebel. It is a joy.

  • 92 / 100 | Believe in the Run | | Level 5 expert

    ...this one did a nice job of holding the foot down... it really held my foot in nicely.

  • 97 / 100 | Canadian Running Magazine | | Level 4 expert

    I'm a track runner, I like going fast, and this shoe is truly fast. And it's not just fast--it's bouncy.

Become an expert

- New Balance brings to the market a new running shoe that is designed for the everyday runner: the FuelCell Rebel. This lightweight shoe is intended for up-tempo workout days and race days, where a high-rebound performance is expected. Created with the help of athlete Jenny Simpson, the FuelCell Rebel is meant to represent the runner who “does not want to take it easy,” as the shoe is built for activity.

- Meant to be ultimately lightweight, the FuelCell uses an upper made from thin engineered mesh that delivers a lightweight and breathable structure.

- Meanwhile, the construction of the sole unit includes an improved version of the FuelCell, a plush cushioning with a flared design, allowing for longer distances and faster paces, as compared to the basic running shoe. It is supported by a uniquely-structured outsole that uses less material, yet remains durable.

The New Balance FuelCell Rebel is intended to be true-to-size, so runners should expect an accurate fit with their usual preference. Various foot volumes will be accommodated by the FuelCell Rebel, as it is available in Medium and Wide options for both the men’s and women’s versions.

The outsole of the FuelCell Rebel is made from the classic blown rubber. Known for its durability, the blown rubber gives the shoe sturdy and long-lasting qualities, especially at the high-wear areas. The outsole has a one-of-a-kind translucent design, which makes it softer; it also offers an increased level of traction.

The lugs of the FuelCell Rebel are data-driven and focused on the forefoot area, which means the traction it provides is especially ideal for forefoot strikers.

FuelCell comprises the forefoot portion of the midsole. It is a nitrogen-infused foam that aims to give a powerful launch with each step, resulting in a bouncy feel and an equally bouncy ride. The material is made from thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), which is known for its consistent, long-lasting responsiveness, regardless of the temperature. The nature of the TPU makes FuelCell resilient and ever-prepared for speed.

The rest of the midsole is constructed with REVlite, a refined ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) foam that ensures 30% more comfort, responsiveness, and durability over the industry standard. REVlite provides a lightweight ride but not at the expense of stability.

A thin engineered mesh is the main component of the upper of the New Balance FuelCell Rebel. It is composed of a jacquard base layer, which provides a lightweight yet secure ride, and a trace fiber stitching, which gives midfoot support. Both these parts combine with a cleatie construction to create a sleek, sock-like fit and a distinctive aesthetic.

The heel collar features a deconstructed design, as it aims to provide a dynamic and secure fit.

Author
Jens Jakob Andersen
Jens Jakob Andersen

Jens Jakob is a fan of short distances with a 5K PR at 15:58 minutes. Based on 35 million race results, he's among the fastest 0.2% runners. Jens Jakob previously owned a running store, when he was also a competitive runner. His work is regularly featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, BBC and the likes as well as peer-reviewed journals. Finally, he has been a guest on +30 podcasts on running.

jens@runrepeat.com