Verdict from 17 experts and 14 user reviews

6 reasons to buy

  • Fast: Many runners claim that the FuelCell RC Elite's carbon plate delivered a swift pace.
  • Light: Several reviewers have expressed that the running shoe is not clunky at all. 
  • Comfortable: A couple of users state that the shoe gives a soft underfoot sensation. 
  • Grippy: Experts agree that the shoe has solid traction even on wet surfaces. 
  • Stable: Some racers compliment the upper for being incredibly supportive.
  • Versatile: It can double as a marathon shoe and as a daily trainer, praised various commenters.

1 reasons not to buy

  • Constricting: A few testers have observed that the fit is too snug, it limits foot motions.

Bottom line

Loaded with all the essentials for a winning race-day performance, the New Balance FuelCell RC Elite gives you propulsion and comfort all at once. Since it's intended for marathons, New Balance made sure to keep weight at an absolute minimum for a barely-there, effortless feel.

If you want a shoe that defies the rigid feel of a carbon-plated shoe while being a perfect fit for multiple activities, the New Balance FuelCell RC Elite is a great pick.

Tip: see the best running shoes.

Expert reviews:

User reviews:

Video reviews

Our reviews

92
/100 by , posted on .

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Upper

  • Synthetic Mesh Upper
  • Minimal Overlays for Strategic Support

Thoughts

The upper feels thicker on feet than it actually is. While being well ventilated, it feels a little too thick for a racing shoe.

The overlays on the mesh upper are pretty generous, but I would have loved to have more structure on the upper’s medial side.

There seems to be an overemphasis on the structure of the shoe’s lateral side (both the upper overlays and the midsole lateral flare). More structure on the upper on the medial side would have made this shoe more suited for overpronators, whether it be a stiffer material or more overlays.

 

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The fit is very subjective. I initially went true-to-size but found that it was a little short.

My toes were reaching the front of the shoe, and it was not a very comfortable experience, especially at longer distances. I sold my pair and went for half a size up at US 9.5.

Maybe I prefer my racers to be on the roomy side. Lengthwise, a US 9.5 RC Elite fit is exactly the same as the FuelCell TC in a US 9. Having wide feet, I did not find any issues with the width of the shoe. In fact, I welcomed the roomy fit, especially so in the midfoot.

Those with a narrow foot or a preference for a snug fit should stick to true-to-size, while those who would like a little more room in their shoes to go a half size up.

 

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I did not experience heel slippages in both US 9 and 9.5. The ankle collar is padded sufficiently without being too bulky.

One thing that I really disliked was the insole. It kept scrunching up during my run and was pretty slippery. I switched the insole out for one with similar thinness, and I liked the shoe very much more.

The tongue is lightly padded and protective, but it could be streamlined a little bit more to give a less bulky feel.

Midsole technology & ride

  • FuelCell Midsole Foam
  • Full-Length Carbon Fiber Plate

Thoughts

I love the FuelCell foam in this shoe. The foam in the RC Elite feels softer and bouncier than its more muted counterpart: FuelCell TC. Maybe it's a difference in the outsole, but I love the feel here.

It has a very silky-smooth compression. I like this midsole more so than Pebax materials. This midsole might feel slower to rebound (though still very bouncy) than the Pebax counterparts, but it has a more luxurious and less aggressive feel.

 

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Combined with the carbon-fiber plate, foot transitions are smooth but not the fastest. This could be due to the plate’s less aggressive geometry compared to the dramatic forefoot curve present in the Nike Vaporfly, Adidas Adizero Adios Pro, and the Saucony Endorphin Pro.

The less aggressive plate makes running longer distances much more comfortable than the other plated shoes.

For a 5k-10k, I would probably opt for a more aggressive shoe with higher pop. However, this shoe can still go very fast and feels amazing on foot. I especially enjoyed it at tempo up to 10k paces.

A unique part about the FuelCell lineup is a flare seen on the lateral part of the midsole. This is not present in any other shoe brand.

It does lead to some complications that will be addressed in the next paragraph, but it definitely has its benefits. I found the flare to help with foot stability and smoother transitions when picking up the pace and landing mid-forefoot.

 

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One HUGE CAVEAT before purchasing this shoe: If you overpronate, don’t. It’sIt’s not worth buying this shoe if your arch collapses inwards dramatically.

The reason why is the construction of the midsole and upper forces your foot inwards. In simple words, those overpronating will overpronate even more.

I found my arches collapsing in more so than in other shoes when I landed. After a while, fatigue developed in my arches. Carbon plated racers are usually on the unstable side, but this veering towards the extreme end.

If you have strong arches and do not overpronate, then maybe this shoe is worth a shot.

Outsole & durability

  • Dynaride outsole with two rubber strips covering the heel and medial midfoot

Thoughts

The traction is fantastic. The outsole covering the mid and forefoot are similar to the DSP rubber nubs used on Japanese racers.

These nubs provided excellent grip on any surface. Whether it was dry or wet, on concrete, asphalt, or rubber tracks, I did not experience any problems with grip whatsoever.

 

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Usually, DSP rubber nubs do not offer great durability, but this is not the case here. The nubs are not showing any signs of wear after 50km. I expect this shoe to outlast many other carbon plated shoes.

Pros

  • Bouncy, smooth Ride
  • Soft & protective
  • Very grippy
  • Durable

Cons

  • Warm upper
  • Unstable medial side

Areas of improvement

  • More upper structure on the medial side
  • Wider midfoot on the medial side or alternative ways to give more medial support
  • Thinner upper and more consistent sizing

Comparisons

New Balance FuelCell TC

The TC, while soft, feels firmer and has less bounce compared to the RC Elite. The RC Elite has a more untamed midsole feel and is more fun to run in.

The TC, however, has a more stable medial section and a more durable outsole. That said, the upper of the RC Elite has the potential to outlast the TC.

If you are using the shoe for daily runs, go TC. For fast runs, I would spend the extra $30 SGD for the RC Elite.

New Balance FuelCell Prism

I chose to make this comparison as the FuelCell foam, while having the same namesake, feels totally different.

The Prism feels duller and lacks the fun and bouncy ride of the RC Elite. It is definitely more stable and costs way less but feels not nearly as good as the RC.

Nike Vaporfly Next%

The RC feels better and can handle slower paces much better than the Vaporfly due to the less aggressive plate.

Both foams have similar softness. I prefer using the Vaporfly for races due to its more aggressive nature and lighter weight, but the RC Elite feels better for runners going at slower paces.

Conclusion

The New Balance FuelCell RC Elite is a fun and fast marathon racing carbon plated shoe with a huge caveat. If New Balance could make tweaks in the respective areas, the shoe will definitely be one of the best out there.

 

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| Level 3 expert Verified
I'm Samuel, a recreational runner, and a triathlete. I have taken part in over 30 races and 17 triathlons so far. I have an avid passion for running gear, especially running shoes. This obsession with running shoes has helped me obtain vast knowledge on each brand's technology, which led to me trying shoes from many different brands and giving unbiased opinions on the performance of each shoe.

New Balance FuelCell RC Elite: Ready to take on your fastest races and more

In this competition shoe from New Balance, the FuelCell midsole has been engineered into a composition that gives the fastest feel. The presence of a carbon fiber plate provides the runner with more propulsion without the added weight.

The FuelCell RC Elite’s noteworthy elements

Whether you are gearing up for a 5K run or a marathon, this New Balance running shoe is up for the task through the technologies present.

  • The FuelCell midsole is a standout component in many of New Balance’s stellar shoes. In the FuelCell RC Elite, this tech is made lighter and less dense. The result is a platform with more energy return when compared to other FuelCell running shoes.
  • A piece of carbon fiber plate in a racing shoe seems basic, but in the FuelCell RC Elite, it has multidirectional reinforcement. This allows the shoe to flex and stiffen at the right moments, thus improving running efficiency.
  • The Dynaride outsole is presented in a unique layout of a plastic layer with rubber pods. It gives the runner adequate traction in all kinds of weather without making the shoe heavy.

How FuelCell RC Elite compares

This shoe: 85
All shoes average: 82
57 93
This shoe: $225
All shoes average: $120
$40 $300
This shoe: 7.3oz
All shoes average: 9.5oz
3.5oz 15.4oz
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