New Balance FuelCell RC Elite review
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.
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
That's a thicc upper
- Synthetic Mesh Upper
- Minimal Overlays for Strategic Support
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.
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.
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.
FuelCell & carbon plate ride
- FuelCell Midsole Foam
- Full-Length Carbon Fiber Plate
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.
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.
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 of the RC Elite
- Dynaride outsole with two rubber strips covering the heel and medial midfoot
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.
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.
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.