Our verdict

The New Balance FuelCell Propel v4 is a bona fide choice at just £120, offering a slice of luxury in the world of neutral running shoes. Our lab tests confirm it's not only incredibly comfortable thanks to its premium upper but also versatile enough for easy and tempo runs, courtesy of its FuelCell foam and flexible TPU plate. On the flip side, extreme heel strikers or those who need added stability may find it less ideal, but for the majority, we consider it a well-balanced and budget-friendly pick.

Pros

  • High-quality upper material
  • Ultra-cushioned FuelCell midsole
  • Seamlessly integrated TPU plate
  • Versatile for both easy and tempo runs
  • Long-lasting outsole
  • Perfect for midfoot and forefoot strikers
  • Exceptional value at just £120

Cons

  • Not the best for heel strikers
  • Midsole foam may lack some energy return

Audience verdict

86
Great!

Who should buy

The New Balance FuelCell Propel v4 emerges in the lab as an excellent pick for:

  • Midfoot and forefoot strikers looking for a plush-and-fun ride.
  • Those seeking a versatile shoe that works well across different paces and distances.
  • Budget-conscious runners eager for a plated shoe that doesn't skimp on premium features.

New Balance Fuelcell Propel v4

Who should NOT buy

The Propel v4 delivers a soft, cloud-like experience, and that's not for everyone. If you prefer a firmer and more stable run, check out alternatives like the Saucony Tempus or the Puma Deviate Nitro 2, as we consider these to offer a better fit for such preferences.

With a 4.5-mm heel-to-toe drop, this shoe doesn't shine for heel strikers, especially those in need of stability features. In such cases, we found the Brooks Hyperion GTS or the ASICS Gel Kayano 30 could be a more fitting choice.

New Balance Fuelcell Propel v4

Breathability

At first glance, the New Balance FuelCell Propel v4 doesn't seem like a shoe that would breathe well. The engineered mesh feels heavy and thick, and we don't see any obvious ventilation holes. So, we're not expecting much in terms of breathability.

But we love testing shoes rather than just guessing. Our eye-catching smoke test gave it a 4 out of 5 score. That's good enough to call it a well-ventilated shoe, even if it's not the best out there.

When we used a light and moved the upper, we found a nice surprise. There's airflow through the midfoot, which sets it apart from many shoes that only have ventilation in the toe box.

New Balance Fuelcell Propel v4 microscope

Finally, a closer look under the microscope confirms our findings. We see the same multi-layered mesh we noted earlier. But now, we also spot some small ventilation holes that explain the better-than-average score.

New Balance Fuelcell Propel v4 microscope

The standout feature of this upper is unquestionably its high quality. You'd expect to find something like this in a shoe priced around £160, not one that costs just £120.

Test results
FuelCell Propel v4 4
Average 3.8
Compared to 221 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Breathability
5

Durability

Toebox durability

An unexpected perk of uppers that don't ace our breathability test is that they often turn out to be more durable. That's exactly what we find with the Propel v4, which earns a solid 2/5 score in our Dremel test.

When we compare it to the ASICS GT 1000 12 in the picture below, the difference is crystal clear.

New Balance Fuelcell Propel v4 Toebox durability
Test results
FuelCell Propel v4 2
Average 2.3
Compared to 155 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Toebox durability
5

Heel padding durability

Next, we turned our attention to the heel area to assess its durability, and let's just say our jaws dropped at the findings.

We could barely see any wear on the heel, making us thrilled to award one of the rare 5/5 scores ever.

In fact, we had been pretty critical about the disappointing durability of some NB shoes like the Rebel v3 (right). But it looks like New Balance really stepped up their game. 

New Balance Fuelcell Propel v4 Heel padding durability
Test results
FuelCell Propel v4 5
Average 3.2
Compared to 151 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel padding durability
5

Outsole hardness

The Propel needs to last more than just a few hundred miles, especially since New Balance markets it as a durable option.

In our lab, we kicked off our tests focusing on the outsole's hardness. We measured it with a durometer and got a reading of 78.8 HC. We found that this is a pretty average measurement, just what you'd expect from a shoe that aims to balance both durability and grip.

New Balance Fuelcell Propel v4 Outsole hardness
Test results
FuelCell Propel v4 78.8 HC
Average 80.4 HC
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 272 running shoes
Number of shoes
54.9 HC
Outsole hardness
92.8 HC

Outsole durability

The ultimate test for the outsole's durability came when we used our Dremel on it.

After putting the rubber through this rigorous test, we discovered just a minimal 0.5-mm indentation. That's an outstanding result, promising superb long-term durability for the shoe.

New Balance Fuelcell Propel v4 Outsole durability
Test results
FuelCell Propel v4 0.5 mm
Average 0.9 mm
Compared to 133 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole wear
2.0 mm

Outsole thickness

The strong performance in our earlier test is likely why New Balance decided to go with a thinner-than-average outsole, helping to cut down the shoe's weight.

When we measured it, the outsole was just 2.5 mm thick, which is less than what you'd typically find in daily running shoes.

New Balance Fuelcell Propel v4 Outsole thickness
Test results
FuelCell Propel v4 2.5 mm
Average 3.2 mm
Compared to 291 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.0 mm
Outsole thickness
6.6 mm

Weight

Weighing in at 9.7 ounces or 276 grams, this shoe isn't exactly a heavyweight, but it's also far from feather-light.

While it could stand to shed a few ounces, the culprit seems to be the thick upper that's designed for extra comfort and the FuelCell foam. This makes it noticeably heavier than other options out there, like the Saucony Endorphin Speed 3.

New Balance Fuelcell Propel v4 Weight
Test results
FuelCell Propel v4 9.74 oz (276g)
Average 9.38 oz (266g)
Compared to 292 running shoes
Number of shoes
5.26 oz (149g)
Weight
12.56 oz (356g)

Cushioning

Heel stack

Moving to the midsole, we measured a heel stack height of 33.7 mm. This clearly shows that the Propel v4 isn't aiming for the sky-high cushioning of a maximalist shoe, staying well under the 40 mm mark.

New Balance Fuelcell Propel v4 heel

But don't let that fool you—the stack height still provides enough cushioning for even your longest runs.

New Balance Fuelcell Propel v4 Heel stack
Test results
FuelCell Propel v4 33.7 mm
Average 33.6 mm
Compared to 291 running shoes
Number of shoes
7.6 mm
Heel stack
42.7 mm

Forefoot stack

We measured the forefoot stack and found that it sits at a comfortable 29.2 mm. This is a clear sign from New Balance that the Propel v4 is specifically designed for those who are midfoot and forefoot strikers.

New Balance Fuelcell Propel v4 Forefoot stack
Test results
FuelCell Propel v4 29.2 mm
Average 24.9 mm
Compared to 291 running shoes
Number of shoes
7.6 mm
Forefoot stack
35.8 mm

Drop

We just mentioned this shoe isn't really geared toward heel strikers. The 4.5-mm heel-to-toe drop serves as proof. While the shoe is user-friendly for everyone, it really shines for those who land on the midfoot or forefoot. 

It's worth noting that New Balance lists a 6-mm drop in their specs. But after multiple measurements, all in line with official World Athletics guidelines, we can confirm the drop is actually 1.5 mm less than that.

New Balance Fuelcell Propel v4 Drop
Test results
FuelCell Propel v4 4.5 mm
Average 8.7 mm
Compared to 291 running shoes
Number of shoes
-0.8 mm
Drop
16.1 mm

Insole thickness

The insole is pretty standard with a thickness of 4.5 mm. There's really nothing special to point out—it's just a solid, straightforward insole!

New Balance Fuelcell Propel v4 Insole thickness
Test results
FuelCell Propel v4 4.5 mm
Average 4.5 mm
Compared to 287 running shoes
Number of shoes
1.5 mm
Insole thickness
7.3 mm

Midsole softness

Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.

New Balance's FuelCell foam is a top pick for anyone who loves that soft, cloud-like cushioning. In the Propel v4, this comfort-focused trend keeps going. We gauged its softness at only 14.0 HA using our lab's durometer.

This foam squishes down super easily, making it ultra-comfortable. Plus, the built-in TPU plate in the midsole helps with smooth step-to-step transitions. This also keeps the shoe from bottoming out, which can sometimes be a problem with FuelCell shoes.

New Balance Fuelcell Propel v4 Midsole softness
Test results
FuelCell Propel v4 14.0 HA
Average 21.4 HA
We use an average of four tests. The photo shows one of those tests.
Compared to 219 running shoes
Number of shoes
8.5 HA
Midsole softness (soft to firm)
41.5 HA

Midsole softness in cold

Note: a low durometer measurement equals a soft material, whereas a high measurement means it's firm.
New Balance Fuelcell Propel v4 Midsole softness in cold

Difference in midsole softness in cold

FuelCell foam doesn't do great in cold weather, something we've mentioned in this advanced guide.

Yet, even after 20 minutes in our lab's freezer, the foam stays pretty soft and squishy. We ran the same test again and found that the durometer gave us an 18.8 HA reading.

We observed a 33.9% jump in stiffness, something you'll really feel if you live in places with harsh winters. This isn't great performance by any means.

New Balance Fuelcell Propel v4 Midsole softness in cold
Test results
FuelCell Propel v4 33.9%
Average 25.6%
Compared to 218 running shoes
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in midsole softness in cold
100%

Stability

Lateral stability test

If you're looking for a shoe that's good for fast-paced runs and offers stability, the Propel v4 isn't for you, check the ASICS Superblast instead—but yes, it costs £210.

The soft foam and non-supportive upper make this a no-go for people who pronate. However, it's a fantastic fit for neutral runners.

Torsional rigidity

The TPU plate in the midsole really stiffens up the shoe. We had to apply a lot of force to twist it in our lab tests. That earns it a solid 4 out of 5 score!

Test results
FuelCell Propel v4 4
Average 3.2
Compared to 270 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Torsional rigidity
5

Heel counter stiffness

The heel counter is comfy yet fairly firm, but it's not like what you'd find in a stability-focused shoe. In our tests, we gave it a middle-of-the-road 3 out of 5 score.

Test results
FuelCell Propel v4 3
Average 2.8
Compared to 254 running shoes
Number of shoes
1
Heel counter stiffness
5

Midsole width in the forefoot

Understanding that a soft foam and a flexible upper could make the shoe wobbly, New Balance designers chose a wide design (116.2 mm) to make it more stable. This approach does help to some extent.

New Balance Fuelcell Propel v4 Midsole width in the forefoot
Test results
FuelCell Propel v4 116.2 mm
Average 113.6 mm
Compared to 292 running shoes
Number of shoes
100.5 mm
Midsole width in the forefoot
126.5 mm

Midsole width in the heel

We measured the heel width and found it to be 97.6 mm, which is noticeably wider than what you'd see in most running shoes.

It's an interesting choice, considering the shoe isn't really aimed at heel strikers. It looks like New Balance is trying to make a shoe that appeals to everyone...

New Balance Fuelcell Propel v4 Midsole width in the heel
Test results
FuelCell Propel v4 97.6 mm
Average 90.5 mm
Compared to 292 running shoes
Number of shoes
74.9 mm
Midsole width in the heel
106.6 mm

Flexibility

Stiffness

With a TPU plate in the midsole, we initially thought the shoe would be on the stiffer side.

However, in our lab's bend test—where we apply force until the shoe bends at a 90-degree angle—we only needed to use 24.8N of force. This shows that the plate doesn't make the Propel feel too stiff, which is actually a good thing for a training shoe.

Test results
FuelCell Propel v4 24.8N
Average 29.3N
We use an average of four tests. The video shows one of those tests.
Compared to 274 running shoes
Number of shoes
2.2N
Stiffness
94.4N

Difference in stiffness in cold

After chilling the shoe in the freezer for 20 minutes, we did the bend test again. Impressively, the result was almost identical at 26.3N. 

That's only a 6% difference which highlights the shoe's consistent stiffness, even in colder conditions.

Test results
FuelCell Propel v4 6%
Average 36.3%
Compared to 274 running shoes
Number of shoes
0%
Difference in stiffness in cold
148%

Size and fit

Toebox width at the widest part

We initially thought that New Balance would pair the wide midsole of the Propel v4 with a spacious upper. Surprisingly, we discovered that the upper is actually medium-to-narrow. So why did they go this route?

New Balance Fuelcell Propel v4 toebox

We found two main reasons behind this design choice. First, the Propel v4 is available in wide size. So if you're looking for a roomier upper, you have that option. Second, a narrower upper combined with a wide midsole actually improves stability—it's a clever little trick to enhance performance.

New Balance Fuelcell Propel v4 Toebox width at the widest part
Test results
FuelCell Propel v4 97.3 mm
Average 98.3 mm
Compared to 292 running shoes
Number of shoes
89.5 mm
Toebox width at the widest part
109.1 mm

Toebox width at the big toe

After taking another measurement focused on the big toe area, we were pleasantly surprised.

New Balance has bucked the trend by designing a remarkably rounded fit with a generously wide toe cap (79.1 mm). We're really impressed and appreciate it.

New Balance Fuelcell Propel v4 Toebox width at the big toe
Test results
FuelCell Propel v4 79.1 mm
Average 78.0 mm
Compared to 166 running shoes
Number of shoes
60.4 mm
Toebox width at the big toe
92.5 mm

Tongue: gusset type

Given all the high-end features we've talked about, we didn't expect to see a gusseted tongue in a shoe priced at £120. You can't get a top-of-the-line running shoe without paying top-of-the-line prices, after all.

New Balance Fuelcell Propel v4 Tongue: gusset type
Test results
FuelCell Propel v4 None

Comfort

Tongue padding

If weight isn't a big deal for you, then you'll find the tongue super comfy and well-padded. But it does add some extra ounces.

New Balance Fuelcell Propel v4 tongue

We think the tongue is one of the first spots where New Balance could cut weight for the next Propel model.

New Balance Fuelcell Propel v4 Tongue padding
Test results
FuelCell Propel v4 5.8 mm
Average 5.6 mm
Compared to 289 running shoes
Number of shoes
0.5 mm
Tongue padding
14.2 mm

Heel tab

Lots of brands are getting rid of heel tabs in their shoes, and New Balance is doing the same with the Propel v4.

New Balance Fuelcell Propel v4 Heel tab
Test results
FuelCell Propel v4 None

Removable insole

The New Balance FuelCell Propel v4 has a non-glued insole that you can take out. We've easily swapped it with insoles from other shoes and even fitted custom orthotics without a problem.

New Balance Fuelcell Propel v4 Removable insole
Test results
FuelCell Propel v4 Yes

Misc

Reflective elements

The Propel v4 disappoints us by lacking any reflective elements. For the next version, we think that New Balance can add a reflective big N logo. It would be a win-win for everyone!

New Balance Fuelcell Propel v4 Reflective elements
Test results
FuelCell Propel v4 No