|Weight:||Men: 7.3oz | Women: 6.2oz|
|Heel to toe drop:||Men: 6mm | Women: 6mm|
|Arch type:||High arch|
|Strike Pattern:||Midfoot strike|
|Heel height:||Men: 24mm | Women: 24mm|
|Forefoot height:||Men: 18mm | Women: 18mm|
|Width:||Men: Normal, Wide | Women: Normal, Wide|
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92 / 100 based on 18 expert reviews
New Balance FuelCell Rebel - A game changerMore photos
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!
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!
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.
As mentioned, the Rebel has a bootie fit, with the tongue absent and instead of featuring a sock-like upper.
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.
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.
- Contemporary design
- Bootie upper
- Level and quality of cushioning
- Versatility at all paces and distances
- Slightly short for size
- Upper durability
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.
This expert has been verified by RunRepeat. Reviews are neutral, unbiased and based on extensive testing.
New Balance FuelCell Rebel: Follow the trend or rebel?More photos
Here is my early review of the New Balance FuelCell Rebel which I was lucky enough to be sent to test. For those like me who are new to this range, they are one of four shoes that make up New Balance’s new FuelCell range.
The aim of the range is to provide maximum rebound, faster timers and more PBs over a range of distances. The Rebel is undoubtedly a racer but is claimed to have the durability to be suitable for tempo training sessions as well.
My first impression was that the Rebel was unlike any shoe I have tried before. The most similar shoe I have tried is the Nike Epic React Flyknit that came out last year. They certainly feel light, nothing new there, with a sock-like upper that feels about as minimalist as you can get.
But underneath the sole is more substantial and almost looks like a distance shoe. But the really striking bit is how the sole sticks out on the outside of the forefoot.
It is not easy to see this to the full extent in the picture but it seems almost the reverse of a support shoe and when I first saw them I was worried my arches would collapse when running but more on that later.
The design here is similar to the Nike Epic React Flyknit and pretty much nothing else. Weight, or a lack of, is clearly a priority and the thin, completely unpadded bootie-like upper keeps things flexible and airy up top.
Underneath there is FuelCell padding in the forefoot surrounded by a lighter, firmer foam towards the heel.
The sole has a shallow tread with a harder wearing material under the forefoot presumably to prolong the part you’ll land on most when pressing on. All in all, they look to be speed up to top with a bit of comfort underneath.
How do they feel?
The Rebels tip the scales at 208g and you can tell as they certainly feel lightweight. The upper, whilst feeling very thin and airy holds your foot in place well.
There is no slippage as the upper stretches and moulds to your foot, a bit like a compression sock without being quite so tight.
There is no support or padding on the tongue or cuff but this didn’t bother me. I always wear socks but I think the Rebels would be comfortable without socks as there is not much to rub on the one-piece upper.
They feel fast and encourage you to push on. They are not as soft as they look and do start to feel firm on longer runs.
I think they will be ideal for a fast, flat 5K but probably not much further. They are not great on cambers due to the complete absence of support under the arch but they don’t claim to be a support shoe.
The good news is that despite that protrusion from the sole on the outside of the midfoot I didn’t roll over any more than the other neutral shoes I have. I am not quite sure what the point of the odd sole shape is but it works ok for me.
The Rebels feel super airy due to the laser cut stripes in the upper sock. It really does feel thin and my initial feeling was that they would only last for a handful of runs.
They seem to be hanging in there a bit better than that so far but I’ll need a bit longer yet to be completely convinced. The biggest issue is likely to be that the Rebels run quite small. I am a UK 10.5/11.5 US in pretty much everything but these feel tight in a UK 10.5.
This could be because the upper is like an elasticated sock but I could see and feel my big toe sticking into the Front.
I have never had a pair of shoes where my big toe has come through the upper, the soles have always given up long before, but I think these could be the first. Time will tell but that is my initial impression.
What about underneath?
The sole of the Rebel reminds me of the Nike Epic React Flyknit in that the front part is made of a durable material with a shallow tread and a thin, lightly wrinkled heel. The FuelCell is clearly visible under the forefoot showing the expected landing area.
The Rebels were launched in early June so I have only tried them in fine, dry weather. I have had no issues with the grip and the sole seems to be wearing fairly well.
I am not planning to use them in anything other than fine weather as the uppers do not look like they would cope too well.
No doubt that speed is the overriding factor behind the Rebels. They are lightweight, nimble and shaped to push you onto your toes and get you moving quickly.
The FuelCell helps with its excellent rebound making it genuinely difficult to just plod along and I found myself running significantly quicker than I normally would.
The downside is that the firmness crept in more and more above 5K and my feet did start to complain a bit. They are as fast as anything I have run in but as to expected, you need to sacrifice a bit of comfort to achieve this.
Speedy? Never in doubt. PB worthy? Absolutely.
There are no mysteries and no surprises (other than I didn’t roll over as much as I thought) with the Rebels. They are an out and out racer and feel like foot support with a sole attached. For a short, flat road race on a warm, dry day I can see them being my go-to shoe for years to come.
On those criteria, I have yet to see anything better. But at £120 you may want shoes with a broader range. However, if you remember to go up half a size and are lucky enough to have a pair of shoes for every type of run I doubt you will regret not following the crowd and being a bit of a Rebel.
This expert has been verified by RunRepeat. Reviews are neutral, unbiased and based on extensive testing.
...this one did a nice job of holding the foot down... it really held my foot in nicely.
I'm a track runner, I like going fast, and this shoe is truly fast. And it's not just fast--it's bouncy.
- 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.