|Weight:||Men: 9.2oz | Women: 7.1oz|
|Heel to toe drop:||Men: 6mm | Women: 6mm|
|Arch type:||High arch|
|Strike Pattern:||Midfoot strike|
|Distance:||Daily running | Long distance | Marathon|
|Heel height:||Men: 27mm | Women: 27mm|
|Forefoot height:||Men: 21mm | Women: 21mm|
|Release date:||Jun 2019|
|Width:||Men: Normal, Wide | Women: Normal, Wide|
|Colorways:||Black, Blue, Pink|
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88 / 100 based on 12 expert reviews
New Balance FuelCell Propel review: The real “running on clouds” experienceMore photos
There are some shoes that you know you will like before you have even tried them on. The FuelCell Propel was one of those shoes for me.
I LOVE soft shoes. In my opinion, soft shoes are the crown jewel. Any brand can do a firm shoe—most budget shoes are firm rides, but few brands can get the soft midsole execution right.
The Nike Vomero line used to be my go-to soft shoe of choice. But, the latest Vomero 14, is no longer the plush, cushioned teddy bear we once knew and loved. This has left a hole in my shoe rotation and my heart.
Earlier this year, I bought two very expensive soft shoes to try to fill the hole: the Pegasus Turbo 2 and the Joyride. The Pegasus Turbo 2’s forefoot bottomed out over long distances while the Joyride was so lumpy that it felt like I was running on popped blisters.
Every running shoe brand has a shoe that they claim feels like you are “running on clouds”, but how many shoes can you honestly say actually feel like that?
Enter the FuelCell Propel. New Balance states that FuelCell is propulsive and snappy. The Propel is anything but that. If I had to describe the feeling of running in the Propel, it would be the popular overused simile of “like running on clouds”.
Weight (UK 8) 262g Drop 6mm Widths Optional 2E (Reviewed) Terrain Road Uses Easy/long runs Technology FuelCell Midsole Price 110 USD
Upper and fit
Trace Fibre is the new term that New Balance has coined for the technology it is using in the Propel’s upper; it sounds much fancier than it actually is.
Trace Fibre is the stitching that you see on the sides of the upper. It doesn’t weigh much and adds structure to a relaxed-fitting upper.
The Trace Fibre stitching is only present on the outside of the shoe. The inside is smooth over the foot.
The synthetic mesh is soft and has large, breathable pores that remind me of spacer mesh—the kind used on the early Nike Bowerman series. There is a smooth inside lining that makes the Propel very comfortable.
Pores in the mesh are large, but breathability is just average.
The gusseted tongue has wide wings, so there is no sideways movement during runs while the heel flares upwards to give the Propel a modern-racing look. My heel doesn’t feel locked down in the Propel, but it also doesn’t slip out.
The bottom half of the tongue is attached to the upper.
New Balance takes a page out of Nike’s book and makes the heel flare upward like the Pegasus 36.
The Propel’s upper fit is true to size and is very comfortable. The toe box is wide, deep, and spacious. The padding combined with the large-volume upper make you feel like you are in a running shoe version of a slipper.
Two things I don’t like about the upper are that there are no last row double eyelets, so you can’t employ heel lock lacing for a more secure fit, and the heel flare rubs your Achilles if you wear short socks.
The heel flare touches the Achilles and may cause uncomfortable rubbing with the wrong socks.
Midsole and ride
The new FuelCell cushioning material is a super foam made up of a nitrogen-injected TPU foam. The FuelCell midsole looks like regular EVA but is much lighter and much softer.
If I had to compare it to another foam, it would be similar to Nike’s ZoomX in softness but without the lively spring-back sensation.
If you take a close look at the Propel’s midsole, you’ll notice a horizontal line splitting the top and the bottom half. When pressure is applied, the bottom half splays out, and the top half gets compressed into the bottom half like into a crash pad.
The upper half of the midsole sinks into the lower half upon loading.
The reason I crave a super soft shoe is because I only weigh 60 kilograms and other shoes which people claim to be “soft” are just not soft to me because they don’t compress much when I strike my foot down.
The New Balance Propel, on the other hand, is one of the softest shoes I have ever run in. The only shoe I have run in that is softer than the Propel is the Nike Joyride, but the Joyride is energy-sapping and mushy.
I would hate to run a long distance in the Joyride, but in the Propel, I look forward to long weekend runs exceeding 30 kilometres.
The Propel’s ride is very smooth due to the one-piece upper and the full contact rubber outsole.
One thing the Propel is not is bouncy. I don’t feel much energy return with each foot strike, and I hope New Balance can tweak the FuelCell formula for the Propel sequel.
The thick midsole compresses easily when loaded, even for light runners.
The midsole flares out wide on both sides of the foot, making the ride feel very centred and stable. With the extreme softness of the midsole, the foot also sinks into the midsole. Thus, there is some “cupping” of the foot, which adds to the stability.
The midsole “wings” flare out on both sides and act as stabilisers by broadening the base of the shoe.
On the lateral and medial sides towards the rear foot are rails or barriers, which are raised. These help to keep your foot from leaning towards either side.
The raised jagged guide rails help to cup the foot and prevent lean bias.
The Propel is a very flexible shoe due to the cloud-like softness of the midsole. It flexes closer towards the middle than most shoes but not dead centre.
The high flexibility means that the shoe is more suited to long, slow runs rather than short, fast runs where a snappy shoe is needed.
The shoe flexes where the forefoot outsole lugs end at the path of least resistance.
The insole consists of a flimsy, thin material, which provides no cushioning. This ensures a strong connection between the foot and the FuelCell midsole.
There is no step-in plushness—all the softness comes from within the midsole.
The lasting below the thin insole is made of soft fibrous textile which stops the insole from sliding around.
Outsole and wear
The outsole is full coverage N-Durance rubber. This is soft, blown rubber. Hard-wearing heavy-duty rubber can’t be used on this shoe because you would be able to feel the lugs through the soft midsole.
The large, thick lugs are soft and flexible.
Wear shows slightly faster than normal because it is soft, blown rubber. On the lateral heel side of the Propel, I can see wear more towards the centre of the shoe, which is very unusual for my foot strike. I usually see the wear right on the edge of the lateral heel area.
The grip is excellent on dry and wet surfaces.
The outsole is designed in such a way that heel wear occurs closer to the centre of the shoe rather than on the edge.
If you really want to feel like you are running on clouds, get the New Balance Propel. It’s a super soft shoe that doesn’t feel mushy. It offers good protection for long distances, and the upper disappears on runs which is the best compliment you can give an upper.
The wide midsole base makes the shoe very stable while the soft outsole results in a flexible shoe that shines at slow paces.
On the negative side, heavy runners may find that the FuelCell midsole compresses too easily, and if you have sensitive Achilles heels, the high heel flare may be bothersome.
What makes the New Balance Propel so special is that its price is only $110, which is mind-boggling considering it has the cushioning to match a $150 maximum cushioned shoe but in a much lighter package. The Propel is just a fun shoe to run in.
I now finally have a shoe that fills the Vomero-sized hole in my shoe rotation.
- Super-soft ride
- High cushion-to-weight ratio
- Comfortable, accommodating upper
- Great value for money
- The ride is not bouncy
- Heel flare may cause problems
- No last-row double eyelets.
This expert has been verified by RunRepeat. Reviews are neutral, unbiased and based on extensive testing.
New Balance FuelCell Propel: A soft and exceptionally comfortable trainerMore photos
I was very excited to experience the next new super foam; to some degree, the first from New Balance, no less. The FuelCell Propel is the daily trainer model in the recently released set of shoes from New Balance making use of their FuelCell midsole.
The shoe promises a wide slab of bouncy goodness and boasts modern styling with a no real overlays, no big New Balance ‘N’, and a tall, swooped heel collar; an exciting start.
As soon as I unboxed my pair, I was struck by how large the shoe looked; a roomy-looking toebox and a really wide midsole footprint, especially around the heel. The high swooping heel collar and gray/black coloring contrasted by the bright red and yellow outsole lends a dramatic look.
The fit is ‘cush’ overall with a medium amount of tongue and heel padding and soft materials. The length is almost short, but the shoe is comfortably sized; the right amount of snug while remaining roomy.
The midsole is very soft and flexible, which contributes in giving the Propel an almost slipper-like feel. There is a lot of give to the midsole even just standing in the shoes.
The upper is sleek and minimal, with only a single overlay around the toe area. The soft mesh has a great level of give and is comfortable and never intrusive without compromising lock-in.
The tongue and heel padding is light and well-distributed. The bottom half of the tongue is sewn on, and a red cord is used instead of a traditional eyelet; really cool. The upper allows the shoe to disappear on my feet largely; I’ve had no issues with lock in at a range of lace tightness.
It is critical to the shoe’s overall comfort. The only part of the shoe I felt was notable while running was the high heel on my Achilles, though this was not an issue and sort of off and on.
I’d prefer lower, but maybe it contributes to the easy lock in. It’s not a breaking point either way, and the Propel upper is outstanding, overall.
Even from just picking up the shoe and pressing into midsole with my fingers, I could tell how extremely squishy it was. The step-in feel didn’t disappoint. A crazy soft, sinky feeling foam, but not bottomless cushion.
The rebound was notable as well, similar to Nike’s Zoom X midsole. The soft and flexible feel is reminiscent of Nike React (particularly in the Epic React), but the FuelCell midsole is much softer. For some, it will be too soft, but it’s a really exciting, bouncy, modern-feeling foam.
The Propel has a full-contact rubber outsole. Unlike many New Balance shoes which have a single-piece, full-cover outsole, the Propel outsole is composed of five separate pieces. This gives the midsole more ability to flex, which I felt worked great.
The rubber compound is very sticky, which was immediately noticeable when trying on the shoes inside. Traction was definitely above average on road, dirt, and even light trail. I took the Propel for a run in the pouring rain and had no issues at all; great stuff.
I love the bright colors as well as they contrast the black/white of the upper.
My first run in the Propel included a variety of pace blocks in an attempt to find where the shoe feels best. I found the Propel overall very comfortable and foot-conforming without being at all tight, adequately lightweight, but a bit difficult to run in.
I think the combination of super-soft foam and minimal structure made it hard to lock into my form; kind of like it exaggerated all small variations in foot strike.
In the past, I’ve found that soft midsoles (Hoka Clifton 3, Skechers GoRun 5, Altra Escalante) felt better at faster paces and a bit of a chore for an easy day, but the Propel didn’t excel or even change much in feel regardless of my pace.
However, after a few more runs in them, including a 15 miler, I’m overall a fan. When my legs are tired, the Propel feels slow and inconsistent and requires more effort than ideal to keep turning over.
However, they’re fun to run in, not too soft as I was afraid of after my first run, and always a pleasure to have on the feet. I don’t find them to be at all a ‘go fast’ shoe, but they feel great on downhills and for a steady-state run they’re just as capable as any trainer; I’m glad to have them in my rotation.
- Comfortable, well-fitting upper
- Flexible, soft, and bouncy midsole
- The midsole is on the extreme end of softness, likely too much for some
- Slightly short; the fit for me was great overall but I could see those on the line between sizes having to size up just for length and then having the shoe feel too large overall
The New Balance Propel is a fairly unique daily trainer. It’s well-designed, comfortable to wear, and boasts an exceptionally squishy midsole which is definitely fun but makes it somewhat difficult to run in.
I appreciate having the Propel in my rotation for variety and enjoy running in it, but I would not like to wear it every day and thus would hesitate to recommend it for those looking for one do-it-all shoe.
However, I think that most people would enjoy running in the Propel and do appreciate the fit, design, and innovation. Also, a slab of high-rebound Superfoam for $110 USD is pretty great. Overall, it’s a cool shoe! I’m a fan.
Overall Score Ride Fit Value Style 50% 30% 15% 5% 89 8 10 10 9
Adidas Adizero Boston 7
The Boston (7) is much firmer, more stable, and has much more ground feel. There is a lot more structure going on with the Boston from the torsion plate, dual-density midsole, and even upper overlays which provides a more locked-in, consistent ride.
The shoes feel very different — flexible, soft, unstructured vs. firm and consistent. I felt like the Boston 7 was easy to keep turning over the legs at any pace while the Propel requires more work.
I have raced both half and full marathons in the Boston and would definitely not choose the Propel in that scenario, though in some ways, it’s a more fun shoe to run in, and definitely more comfortable. Boston for a more traditional, versatile, solid feel and Propel for a fun trainer. If I had to have one, Boston for sure.
Reebok Floatride Forever Energy
The Forever Floatride Energy (FFE) has a significantly firmer ride and a bit more controlled rebound. It’s more versatile and also feels easier to lock into form/pace, but the FFE upper fit me horribly and somewhat ruined my overall enjoyment of the shoe.
There is more race potential in the FFE, though I wouldn’t choose either it or the Propel for racing ideally, so my pick is the Propel.
Nike Epic React Flyknit 2
The Epic React 2 (ER2) is one of the daily trainers in my current rotation, and I’m a big fan. Like the Propel, it has a modern design with a flexible slab of high rebound foam and unstructured upper.
They’re relatively similar shoes overall. The ER2 midsole is significantly firmer but still soft enough to be comfortable. The ER2 upper is hard to dial in, and rarely any shoe can match the comfort of the Propel upper. However, the ER2 is more versatile and consistent/easy to turn over at any pace; the definite winner for me.
New Balance Beacon
The Propel midsole is significantly softer, more flexible, bouncier, and less stable. Neither shoe is very structured-both a single slab of foam and a simple upper. The Beacon midsole is much more dialed; firm but bottomless cushion which works for runs of any pace.
Just standing around the Beacon feels almost hard, but it has a smooth and somewhat propulsive give to it at speed while the Propel feels like it almost bottoms out just standing in them. The Propel outsole/grip is better than the Beacon, but that’s about it. I’d definitely pick the Beacon.
This expert has been verified by RunRepeat. Reviews are neutral, unbiased and based on extensive testing.
The NB Fuel Cell Rebel may well be my favorite daily trainer of the year. It’s fun to run in, it’s soft but not overly mushy, it’s great for most types of runs and I think it will be a terrific shoe for all types of runners.
There aren’t many daily trainers with a soft ride and a roomy upper, so the FuelCell Propel is a much-needed addition to that sparsely populated niche.
- The New Balance FuelCell Propel is a running shoe that’s made for those who like to take to the roads on a daily basis. It can be used for speed training or exercise sessions in the gym. It has been touted as a model that’s inspired by the FuelCell Rebel shoe, a product that utilizes a fit-reinforcing feature called Trace Fiber Stitching.
- FuelCell is the midsole unit of this product. This full-length accoutrement is meant to provide a lightweight yet responsive ride, giving a performance that is reactive to the movements and capacities of the wearer. The NDurance outsole rubber shields against wear-and-tear while also delivering grip over the surfaces.
The New Balance FuelCell Propel was constructed using the standard sizing scheme. Users are welcome to get a pair with their usual sizing expectations in mind. However, it is worth noting that achieving a pleasant in-shoe experience would greatly benefit from initially testing the shoe or checking out user reviews from physical and virtual outlets.
When it comes to the width, the accessible options are D - Medium and 2E - Wide for men, and B - Medium and D - Wide for women. The various alternatives permit many foot types to fit into this shoe without worrying about a too-tight hug.
The semi-curved shape of the lasting board works with the flexible open mesh of the upper to accommodate the natural curvature of the human foot.
The outsole unit of the New Balance FuelCell Propel is made of NDurance, a rubber compound that is constructed to protect the base of the midsole from the abrasive nature of the surfaces. It has a set of non-prominent traction nodes to deliver grip on the asphalt. Movements such as swerves, turns, strafes and brakes are likely to benefit from such inclusion.
A few flex grooves are patterned on the external pad. These shallow grooves aim to make the sole unit as flexible as possible, encouraging the natural shape of the foot as it goes through the gait cycle.
FuelCell is the technology that’s used for the midsole unit of the New Balance FuelCell Propel. This in-house compound runs the entire length of the product, giving support to the foot as it stands idly or as it transitions from the heel to the toe. It is touted by the brand to be lightweight, flexible yet able to handle many running sessions. Its shock-attenuating capacity further aims to improve the quality of the performance.
A sockliner is placed right above the lasting piece of this product. This add-on offers a smooth surface for the underside of the foot, staving off a feeling of uncomfortable firmness that’s associated with any shoe’s lasting board. It can be removed or replaced with a new one if the wearer wants to do so.
The exterior of the New Balance FuelCell Propel’s upper unit is made of open mesh, a material that is lightweight and form-fitting. It is a fabric grid, with breathing holes pockmarking its facade. Air enters the ports, giving an in-shoe experience that is cool and dry. Breathable uppers are a staple in New Balance’s roster of performance footwear. Variations of this feature grace series like the enduring New Balance 1500.
The inner sleeve is made of a smooth textile. This interior layer is tasked with hugging the foot safely, staving off hot spots and chafing, occurrences that are associated with an itchy textile or a seam-filled foot-chamber.
The tongue and collar are moderately padded. Such features have the job of cushioning the back of the foot, ensuring that it doesn’t suffer from impact shock or in-shoe wobbling.
The heel part has a leaf-like structure to help with the security of the Achilles tendon. Such a design also prevents the foot from exiting the shoe unintentionally.
Trace Fiber Stitching involves a pattern of stitched-on overlays gracing the sides and the back of the shoe. These reinforcing elements bolster the upright position of the silhouette, ensuring that it doesn’t sag quickly. They also help with the attainment of a snug fit by participating with the lacing system as it tightens or loosens.
The forefoot section has a printed overlay to protect it from bumps or scratches from various debris on the roads.
A discreet lacing system is used for this product. Flat shoelaces snake through eyelets made of cords. This isolated zigzag structure averts hot spots brought about by material bunching or pressure from the placement of the lacing system.