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New Balance FuelCell Prism Multiple Tester Review Review


     Since the debut of the midsole compound FuelCell, New Balance has been gaining a lot of traction in the footwear industry with innovation. Some popular shoes to note were the FuelCell Rebel, TC, and the newly released RC Elite. The foam keeps shoes lower profile while still giving a soft, bouncy, and responsive ride. The New Balance FuelCell Prism provides this, but now with a stability specific model!


Specifications (per Running Warehouse)
Weight: 8.4 oz (Men's 9), 7.1 oz (Women's 8)
Stack Height: 28mm/22mm
Drop: 6mm
Classification: Stability Lightweight/Stability Trainer

HIGHLIGHTS

David: In the world of stability running shoes there aren't many lightweight responsive options with a plush side to them. The New Balance FuelCell Prism provides a soft and bouncy platform with a surprisingly stable ride throughout. Some interesting highlights are a sharply beveled heel, a medial post in the rearfoot and midfoot, and a flexible forefoot. The New Balance FuelCell Prism is a lightweight performance trainer that adds an incredibly fun ride to the stability category.  


Matt: The New Balance FuelCell Prism is a rare lightweight light stability shoe for those wanting a uptempo or faster ride. A soft and bouncy ride is combined with a stable platform and extremely mild stability. A very comfortable upper works well for workouts, long runs and even casual use. The Prism may even work for many people as a marathon racing shoe!



FIT

David: The New Balance FuelCell Prism fits true to size in my normal 9.5 (David). Overall the fit is normal width to slightly snug encapsulating a performance like fit. The length of the shoe is slightly long but not so much there is any translation or slippage. The toe box is slightly wide for toe splay and swelling accommodation. The upper is breathable throughout, yet still reinforced well especially along the medial aspect of the shoe. There is a semi flexible heel counter that does a good job stabilizing the heel and maintaining a good fit throughout without slippage. The tongue is on the thicker end and does feel a little out of place compared to how streamlined the rest of the shoe is. There is a toe guard up front, but it is placed very well and there is no irritation whatsoever. Overall the upper is very impressive with a great lockdown in every region of the foot (heel, midfoot, forefoot), though the tongue is on the thicker side and it seems to move a little bit.

Matt: The New Balance FuelCell Prism fits true to size in my normal men's size 10. The width is fairly average in the heel, slightly wide in the midfoot and average to slightly wide in the forefoot. The toebox has a decent amount of room for a lightweight trainer. There is a little taper along the 5th toe I notice while standing, but this disappears while runningFor those that want even more room, the Prism does have a wide option. The midfoot does have some slight extra room, although it is easy to lock down this part of the upper with the laces. The heel has fairly average room. There is a small flexible heel counter that I almost didn't notice. The rearfoot is still secure and the very subtle Achilles lip works very well (nice to not see this overdone like other shoes). The upper is soft against skin, but I would still suggest using socks. The upper security overall is average but notably comfortable. I have used this shoe both for running and clinic and it provides all day comfort. It isn't anything crazy, but it gets the job done.




RIDE

David: The ride of the New Balance FuelCell Prism is a very fun ride for a stability category shoe. The shoe only weighs 8.9 ounces in my size 9.5 when measured. With that said the shoe is light with a plush yet responsive ride to it. The heel is sharply beveled, but more gradual than it looks since it mirrors the shape of the calcaneus. This makes for a very smooth heel transition. The midfoot transition is relatively smooth after this where the midfoot post isn't overly noticeable in presence, but still effective in the transition. I normally start to feel it when my legs get more fatigued. When looking at the medial post, the length of it only extends from the rearfoot to the midfoot near the navicular (arch) where the New Balance 860 extends it's post further anterior (forward). The density is also seemingly less than the sister stability shoe the 860. The result is a light stability feel to this performance shoe. It's there, just not so much you stop and think about the posting. The forefoot is very flexible for both a stability shoe and a performance trainer. The platform is relatively wide throughout and the fluid transitions make for a fun and smooth ride.

Matt: The ride of the New Balance FuelCell Prism is surprisingly fun and smooth at faster paces. There is a solid heel bevel in the rearfoot and although centered, the FuelCell Foam deforms very well during heel strike. The midfoot transitions nicely and there is plenty of toe spring despite a good amount of flexibility in the forefoot. There is an interesting mix of slightly low riding but plenty of responsive cushioning from the FuelCell midsole. The mix comes from the smooth but slightly flat ride with slower paces and that bouncy and protective ride that comes with faster paces. The relatively wide platform provides plenty of natural stability and the post is very subtle. There is a 6mm drop listed and this is exactly how the drop feels, which still makes the shoe feel ready to go fast without being too low. This combined with the toespring and heel bevel did not cause any issue with my Achilles. The FuelCell midsole does come more alive when the pace picks up. At easy paces the ride is more flexible and the midsole engages less. At faster paces, the midsole, flexibility and transition make this shoe super smooth. So the ride will change depending on your pace.


STABILITY
 
David: The New Balance FuelCell Prism definitely leans towards light stability on the spectrum from light to max stability shoes. The posting is still effective for me and the features built into the shoe work well. As stated before, the components of the shoe work alongside the posting to create a fluid light stability trainer. The heel is beveled well and the shoe has some pretty strategic flex points throughout the midline of the shoe where the midsole is exposed. The platform does have some mild sole flaring both medially and laterally as the shoe transitions into the forefoot, creating a more stable and wider platform to lever from. The foam is on the softer side and does make the shoe feel much more neutral and "less stable", though the shoe does a pretty good job taking this into account and creating a stable fluid ride. The posting itself is located in the heel/midfoot transition point through the navicular near the arch. The post itself is on the softer end and seems to help a little with facilitation of the preferred pathway of the shoe linearly. The shoe isn't overly firm in this region at all by any means, but for the purpose of this model I think that is a good thing.

Matt: The FuelCell Prism is a light lightweight stability shoe. Emphasis on light. There is a very mild medial post that I almost didn't notice. Most people even those that tend toward neutral shoes may not even feel it. It is well integrated into the sole, although with additional stability measures including a full ground contact outsole and a wider base/last. As mentioned in the ride section, the post and midsole seem to engage more with uptempo paces and less so at easy paces. On easy runs, I didn't feel the post and felt like the Prism was more of a neutral shoe. At higher paces, I noted that the ride was very stable and directed. The post is located at the midfoot using a triangle post. These should taper as it gets closer to the foot and often you need a bit more force to engage it. Which essentially means the more you move medially, you may engage it more. The Prism's stability is again very light and this is a borderline neutral shoe. I would call this a gentle guidance shoe rather than a stability shoe. The Prism will work very well for those with mild stability needs or those with neutral mechanics who just want a stable shoe. For those with heavy stability needs, this may not provide enough stability.



SPEED

David: The New Balance FuelCell Prism is a really versatile shoe. For me it leans daily training to performance training, but it can get it moving if you want it to. I've taken this shoe from paces ranging from 8:00/mile to 5:30/mile and the shoe was really smooth at controlled efforts. At this current moment marathon pace for me would probably be around 5:30/mile and when taking this shoe on a 60 minute tempo at 5:44 average during a 17 mile long run and the shoe didn't feel like it had quite enough pop in the forefoot for me to justify faster uptempo running, but if I slowed down to a controlled low 6 effort it could have sailed just fine to 26 miles. I am really liking the shoe for recovery days when I'm beat up or for controlled long runs. For many this shoe could double as a racing and workout shoe though, especially if they like a flexible forefoot and need a hint more of stability. It's just more personal preference to have a firmer forefoot for faster efforts for me.

Matt: The FuelCell Prism is a classic lightweight trainer. It has done surprisingly well during workouts and may be my favorite shoe for tempo runs. The Prism functions best at tempo and uptempo paces. I have used this shoe for several tempos and one long uptempo run. At easy paces, it is a bit flat. However it still does well for warm up and cool downs. At all out paces, the weight holds it back a bit but the midsole still responds. There is still plenty of cushioning that will keep your legs fresh after a hard tempo and this would be an excellent long race day shoe for those who many a little bit of stability. The design and responsiveness will make this an excellent shoe for half to full marathons for many people. For those used to much more structured and heavily cushioned shoes, this might be a good 10k shoe but the 1500 may be a better option under 10k.



DURABILITY

David:
The durability of the FuelCell Prism is decent for a performance trainer. There is noticeable wear after 40 miles, though nothing overly concerning. I could see the outsole lasting right around the industry standard of 200 to 250 with maybe some more mileage beyond that for those who don't destroy shoes. The midsole is really resilient and consistent with the softer bouncy ride and the upper is formidable. The rubber durability isn't anything to necessarily rave about, but it will definitely get the job done and helps keep the weight down.

Matt: The New Balance FuelCell Prism has fairly good durability for a lightweight trainer. There is some wear at the posterior lateral heel and center forefoot for me after 35 miles. The upper is totally fine and appears to be very durable. The softer rubber outsole sections may wear a little faster with more wear, so I would expect 200-300 miles out of these with hard/fast runs for me. The midsole has not lost any responsiveness but the softer outsole rubber may wear a bit faster. 
 



THOUGHTS AS A DPT 

David: Today I wanted to dive into components of footwear and how to improve stability within a model. Anytime a midsole is on the softer end the shoe inherently becomes less stable because the foot and ankle will require more proprioception to sense where it is in space and utilize it efficiently. New Balance does a decent job of providing enough stack height to be protective, but not enough to feel uneasy (28mm in heel per running warehouse). On top of this you can focus on your transition rocker points. The major ones I will touch on are the heel rocker, midfoot/ankle rocker, and the forefoot rocker. New Balance beveled the heel to match the calcaneus pretty well in the FuelCell Prism to make that transition point smooth. Then they posted the midfoot on this platform with a slightly softer post (seemingly) which helps guide the foot through that midfoot transition point without being overly rigid. Then the shoe has a flexible toe off with some toe spring built in to help roll the foot forward. This creates a pretty fluid linear pathway for the foot to follow. Obviously individual mechanics may react with the shoe differently, but in a nutshell that's what this shoe does pretty well. Outsoles, flex grooves, sidewalls and sole flares are all other components that contribute to stability, but that's a topic for another time! 



RECOMMENDATIONS 

David: My recommendations for the FuelCell Prism are mostly small things. The tongue itself is thick and inconsistent with the rest of the shoe and I think that can definitely get thinned more to fit a performance like profile. My other recommendation is to just slightly firm up the forefoot stiffness to differentiate the FuelCell Prism as a lightweight performance stability trainer. Other than that, I am really happy with overall fit and transitions the ride provides in the Prism! 

Matt
: As I often complain about, my only suggestion would be to have the bevel a little bit more lateral based on the fact most people land there (if they have a rearfoot initial contact). I would like to see the midfoot snugged up a little for more upper security. I would also like to see the midsole be just a hair softer so it is more versatile at easy paces, as currently it really seems to specialize at tempo/uptempo paces.

WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR (Conclusion)

David: The New Balance FuelCell Prism is a lightweight stability performance training shoe that is for a runner looking for a versatile shoe that's on the softer end with some hints of stability and lower profile compared to other stability training shoes. The FuelCell midsole is soft, bouncy, and responsive up to a certain point and the shoe has features like a wide platform, medial posting, and smooth transitions to help add some elements of stability to the shoe. For some this will be a recovery day and daily training option and for some potentially a long distance racer or workout shoe.

Matt: The New Balance FuelCell Prism is a lightweight mild stability shoe that excels at uptempo and tempo paces. The ride is stable with a very mild post and a wider last that will work for those with neutral and mild stability needs. The FuelCell midsole is responsive when the pace picks up. The flexibility is great for a shoe in today's age of thick soled trainers but still has the cushioning to take you through half and full marathon distances. For me, this shoe has a very specific purpose and continues to be the one I reach for during tempo workouts. 


GRADING

David
Fit                     9.75/10 (Thick tongue, not consistent with rest of shoe, otherwise great)
Ride                  9.5/10 (Really smooth heel to toe, flexible forefoot prolongs ground contact time)
Stability            9.25/10 (Good for a performance shoe, but still softer platform and post feels lighter side of stability)
Speed                9.5/10 (Can handle most things you throw at it, struggles with responsiveness at faster uptempo paces due to highly flexible forefoot)
Durability         8.5/10 (Expect normal performance trainer durability, slightly lower than daily trainer, noticeable yet not super concerning wear)

Matt
Fit                     9/10 (Plenty of room for lightweight trainer, average security, very comfortable)
Ride                  8.5/10 (Ride depends on speed. Smooth at speed, a little flat during easy running)
Stability            8.5/10 (Fairly stable shoe, emphasis on "Light" stability, Stable Neutral Shoe? )
Speed                9/10 (Better at tempo/marathon paces. Versatility down to faster stuff but not a 5k/10k shoe. )
Durability         8.5/10 (Slightly low outsole durability with good midsole and upper durability)

Total Score: 90% (M: 8.7/10  D: 9.3/10)

Thanks for reading!

TESTER PROFILES:
Dr. Matthew Klein is a 140 lb male with notable PRs of 14:45 for 5k and 2:32:44 for the full marathon.  He typically runs 70-100 miles per week and trains at a variety of paces from 8min per mile recovery runs to 4:40 per mile 1k repeats.  He prefers firmer and responsive shoes with snug heels and medium to wide toe boxes.  He is particular to less cushioned shoes and close to the ground shoes, but can handle a little cushion when he gets beat up.

Dr. David Salas is a 135 lb male with notable PRs ranging from 3:54 in the 1500m to 1:08:36 for half marathon. He typically runs 60 miles per week and trains from about 7:30 recovery runs to fast shorter efforts at 4:30 pace. He normally prefers neutral shoes with a firmer ride, but is completely open to other types of shoes.  He is a footwear enthusiast at heart and will always appreciate a high quality shoe when it comes around. For updates on training or testing, IG handle: @docsofrundavid

Dr. Brown is a 155 lb male with notable PRs of 18:18 5K, 39:25 10K, 1:29:01 half marathon, and 3:54 marathon. He typically runs between 20-40 miles per week at a variety of paces from 7:30-8:30 min/mile for recovery runs to 6-6:45 min/mile for tempo runs. He typically prefers shoes that provide some cushioning underfoot but still maintain a more firm and responsive feel. Current goals for 2020 are to break the 1.5 hour half marathon and 3:30 marathon. IG handle: @nate.docsofrunning


Editor's Note: As always, the views presented on this website belong to myself or the selected few who contribute to these posts. This website should not and does not serve as a replacement for seeking medical care. If you are currently injured or concerned about an injury, please see your local running physical therapist. If you are in the Los Angeles area, I am currently taking clients for running evaluations.

Matthew Klein, PT DPT OCS FAAOMPT
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist
Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists

Nathan Brown PT DPT MS
Doctor of Physical Therapy 
Masters in Anatomy and Clinical Health Science
Movement Performance Institute Certified in Advanced Functional Biomechanics 

David Salas PT DPT CSCS
Doctor of Physical Therapy
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist

***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the  people at New Balance for sending us a pair.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We put at least 35-50 miles on trainers and 10-25 miles on racing flats prior to reviewing them. Currently we have 35 miles (Matt), (in progress) miles (Nathan) and 40 miles (David) on our pairs. Our views are based on our extensive history in the footwear industry and years testing and developing footwear. If you are a footwear rep looking for footwear reviews or consultations on development, we are currently looking to partner with companies to assist, discuss and promote footwear models. Partnership will not affect the honesty of our reviews.

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