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New Balance FuelCell Rebel v2 Review
Written by Contributors David Salas and Nathan Brown

New Balance continues to deliver with an update to their lightweight performance trainer the Rebel. The Rebel 2 features the highly cushioned and responsive FuelCell midsole with an update to the upper. It's is a highly versatile shoe that can dabble in faster efforts, daily efforts, and easy days. The shoe is a Swiss army knife that has gained a lot of traction in the shoe world, but is it worth the hype? Find out below. 

The habanero colorway of the Rebel v2. A bright orange rear upper with white forefoot diagonally. A blue outlined N logo over the midfoot.

Specifications New Balance FuelCell Rebel v2 (Per Jackrabbit)
Measured Weight: 7.3 oz, 206 (men), 5.8 oz, 164 (women) 
Stack Height: 26mm heel, 20 mm forefoot
Drop: 6 mm
Classification: Neutral Performance Trainer


SUMMARY OF THE NEW BALANCE FUELCELL REBEL V2

The New Balance FuelCell Rebel 2 is a highly versatile performance trainer. The shoe runs neutral throughout and provides a highly cushioned and responsive ride for how low profile and lightweight the shoe is. The Rebel 2 is an impressive trainer that can be looked at as a "do it all" shoe for those that do not require much stability demands. 




FIT (LENGTH / WIDTH / COMFORT)

David: The upper of the Rebel 2 is very dialed in throughout. The length is perfect for my normal Men's 9.5 and width of the shoe runs normal throughout. The shoe provides a nice hold and lockdown throughout without using much overlays or reinforcement. The heel is normal width to slightly narrow with a flexible heel counter present for mild reinforcement. The midfoot has a good hold throughout with a little bit of room for swelling accommodation if you are going long miles. The toe box is definitely wide for a performance shoe without being sloppy or overly wide. There is a toe guard present, but it is very minimal and provides just enough to reinforcement to keep the shape of the shoe without putting any excessive pressure anywhere. The tongue is lightweight and very wide, hugging the dorsum of the foot very well throughout. One really interesting thing with the design is the use of the New Balance logo as an overlay specifically in the medial heel. It doesn't seem to do too much, but does provide a little bit of structure in the medial heel for a tad more stability at initial contact. The mesh upper has a touch of a synthetic feel to it, but is plenty breathable and comfortable. The shoe does also have some translucency to it. Overall a really impressive upper throughout.

The only thing I would look to adjust is the extended pull tab, just because it rides a little high on the heel, but that is more of a personal preference. That in no way changed the fit or ride of the shoe, I just needed some slightly higher no show socks. 

Nathan: The upper of the Rebel 2 is light and stripped down...and dare I say quite the looker. The lightweight mono-mesh-like upper is not super soft, but is pliable and forms to the foot. It is not the most comfortable shoe to wear sockless, though. In terms of length, I'd say it fits just a hair short, but not so much that I would size up for myself personally. Part of why I wouldn't size up is because there is ample width through the forefoot and the midfoot and heel fit perfectly for lockdown. If you tend to run close to the end of your shoes, however, you might want to consider a half size up for length. The tongue is soft, thin, and gusseted, helping it stay secure on the run. Overall an effective upper in terms of keeping weight down and breathability, but is a little abrasive against bare skin and runs just a hair short.


PERFORMANCE (RIDE / SPEED)

David: Versatile performance is the name of the game with the Rebel 2. The shoe is very lightweight and carries a good amount of responsiveness in the midsole when the shoe gets pushed. At easier paces the shoe is a little less special, feeling more like a plush neutral lightweight trainer. At faster paces the Fuel Cell responds really well with increased force into the ground. There is certainly a bounce sensation that comes from the toe off. The heel does have a lot of exposed midsole through the midline of the heel and the sensation does provide a sense of bounce and cushioning. The outsole coverage is thin and relatively minimal but provides good enough traction for the road. There are some perforations in the outsole which might make the forefoot feel a little more bouncy. The Fuel Cell midsole is very soft for a shoe of this low profile and certainly protective enough for longer mileage as well. The shoe has decent traction on the road, but does tend to be a little more unstable in trail or grass conditions.



The shoe can certainly handle workouts and I've taken this shoe from everything from 4:30 mile pace through 8 minute miles. The shoe does seem to do the best somewhere in the middle with more workout like efforts. For some this could be a good shoe that can double with training and racing if they don't want multiple pairs of shoes or have financial restrictions. There are some sidewalls through the midfoot and sole flaring in the forefoot which do help with some stabilization of the soft platform.

Overall, the shoe does perform really well with much versatility. It just is a little unstable through uneven terrain, but if you are good with that and don't need much stability the shoe provides a very fun and bouncy ride. 

Nathan: David surely covered a lot in this section so I'm going to hone in on a few personally surprising parts of performance. First, this shoe is mighty soft, something I typically do not do well with or enjoy. However, with some of the flaring and geometry of the midsole shape in combination with the overall lower stack, it actually worked really well for me. I could take this shoe out for slow recovery runs (9+ min/mile) and feel secure and comfortable for 45+ minutes. I didn't feel the foam bottom out during those slower, longer runs, and the softer foam felt like a nice break for my feet. That was the other surprise right there, that I actually preferred this shoe for my slower runs compared to tempo days due to that soft and comfortable ride. That said, this shoe can certainly move given the light weight and have a truly fun/bouncy ride, and the foam feels responsive as you pick up the pace. 



STABILITY

David: The New Balance Rebel 2 is certainly not a stability shoe by any means, but provides good enough stability for a performance training shoe with a soft platform. The shoe does not have quite as much sole flaring as some other New Balance models, but does have some flaring noted in the forefoot on both sides and the heel medially. The shoe also has an internal and external sidewall that runs through the medial aspect of the midfoot which gives a nice platform for the medial longitudinal arch while also helping with midfoot stability a little bit more. The heel also has a really well done posterior lateral heel bevel that transitions into an exposed midsole through the midline of the heel and midfoot. The result is a smooth transition from initial contact and loading response into the stance phases of gait. The midsole, however, is really soft for a shoe this lightweight and low profile. The shoe has a lot of bounce, but is also really plush throughout. If someone has stability difficulties, they may find themselves having a hard time controlling their stride in this shoe. The traction is good for road conditions, but does not do much good in trail or off road conditions, especially with the soft platform. All in all though the stability is decent. The upper is dialed in and I haven't had any problems with turns or slippage anywhere.
 

Nathan: For a shoe this soft, I really anticipated significant stability issues. But they simply did a lot of things right to bring this into a moderately stable neutral shoe. There were a few things that make this big impact. First is the sole flaring, there is a rather significant medial flare in the heel which gives a bit of resistance to the pronation moment as you transition to and through the midfoot. Additionally, there is a "rib" of foam through the midfoot which creates a subtle but noticeable different in the compressability through the midfoot, where the lateral aspect compresses more than the medial. Finally, the lateral midfoot to forefoot sole flare provides a wider platform for toe off. In the end, you still need to have stable mechanics and a strong foot/ankle to do well for long miles in these, but it is stable enough for the masses. 



THOUGHTS AS A DPT / FOOTWEAR SCIENCE

The New Balance Rebel 2 is a really fun shoe for being a lightweight performance trainer. Today on the DPT section I want to focus on the initial phases of the gait cycle upon landing. These are referred to as initial contact and loading response. When someone is walking or running, it is most common to have a strike at the posterior lateral heel that then pronates and transitions into having the whole foot on the ground. The act of making contact with the ground is initial contact while the process of absorbing the load of your heel and transitioning into the midfoot is loading response. Because this is the point in the gait cycle where you place all of your body weight into the ground, the forces required for stability can be quite high. What the Rebel 2 does well with the geometry is the heel and proximal midfoot transition. Even though the platform is really soft, there is a really well integrated posterior lateral heel bevel to ease the transition from the heel. After that transition, the outsole has a large amount of exposed midsole through the proximal aspect of the midfoot and heel down the midline of the shoe. The foot is going to want to take the path of least resistance and naturally follow this region where the shoe is has the least rigidity. The result is a plush and natural feeling transition that ultimately meets up with the firmer full contact outsole portion in the forefoot. To help with some of the instability that may occur because of the decreased rigidity, there is a panel of outsole that follows the medial side of the sole. Since the foam is so soft stability isn't the highest in this shoe, but the transition is done really nicely for those don't have high stability needs in that region. 



RECOMMENDATIONS

David: The New Balance Rebel 2 is done really well throughout. My recommendations for the shoe are relatively minor but I do think that they can improve the experience in this shoe. My first recommendation for the shoe is about the medial outsole panel. It is noticeably thinner that the outsole in the forefoot and heel. If it was thickened up a little bit more that could further help midfoot stability, especially when taken off road. My second recommendation is to have an external heel tab, since the tab tends to ride pretty high up the heel and I have to wear slightly higher socks. Minimal, but noticeable for me. Overall they did a great job with the Rebel 2. 

Nathan: With a shoe that runs like this, I always recommend to keep the darn thing similar and don't ruin it. In terms of changes, it might be worth lengthening the shoe just a hair to keep the sizing similar between models, especially since this can do a lot of daily training. I'd also love a little upper refinement to increase the comfort of the material itself as it contacts the skin. Finally, I think that some of the flaring (and the ribbing) present could be pulled back a bit, ever so slightly, so that it affects the foot even less when moving forward during the gait cycle.



WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR (Conclusion)

David: The New Balance Rebel 2 is a really fun shoe because it checks so many boxes. The shoe is a lightweight performance trainer that packs in a lot of plush cushioning and responsiveness into the same package. The shoe is incredibly lightweight and minimal, but still protective enough for longer efforts. The construction of the shoe is not the most stable, but you can definitely let it rip on workouts and slow it down on easy days. The Rebel 2 is a versatile training shoe for those looking for a lightweight ride that has a lot of cushioning and responsiveness for how low profile it is. This would make a wonderful training companion to a formal racing shoe, but could still be a racing option for most people who are not looking at plated or minimal stack racing shoes. The shoe, however, is not the most stable, so those having difficulty with lower stack shoes without much stability may have a hard time with this one.

Nathan: The Rebel 2 is for people who have stable mechanics and love the new midsole feel, namely soft, lightweight, and bouncy. This shoe might check those three boxes better than any other shoe that came out this year. The Rebel 2 can both do as advertised and help you nail your speed days and workouts, but also bounce along comfortably for easy days. This shoe is flexible, so if you want a bit of ground feel and enjoy flexibility through the forefoot, this is a solid option.



GRADING (SHOE CATEGORY)

David
Fit: A (Very dialed in throughout, wider toe box is very nice and comfortable, mesh is breathable and lightweight while still being comfortable for a training shoe, pull tab is really the only thing and that isn't a deal breaker)                    
Performance:  
A- (Really comes to life when the pace starts to pick up, but can run slow as well. Not the greatest off road however, even in mild trails where footing gets uneven) 
Stability: 
B- (Really soft platform with only mild stability elements, the shoe is relatively soft and flexible throughout and may give some trouble, but good for a lightweight performance shoe this soft) 
DPT/Footwear Science:  
(Midsole and outsole integration really well thought out. Bevel and midfoot done well. But even the outsole has perforations and cuts in it which I think make it slightly more bouncy.) 
Personal:  
(Really lightweight, protective, bouncy, and responsive. This is a shoe I really like doing strides in, road workouts, long runs, etc.) 
Overall:  A- (A really well done lightweight performance trainer that is both soft and responsive. Stability is definitely lacking and the shoe won't work for everyone, but the shoe definitely excels in the categories it was focusing on.)   

Nathan
Fit: B (Does really well for breathability, being light, and locking down the heel, but slightly abrasive on the foot and a tad short)                    
Performance:  
(Super versatile, fun, and can serve many purposes) 
Stability: 
B- (For a shoe this soft, you'd expect a C or lower on stability, but the flaring and ribbing bring it to moderate stability for a neutral shoe) 
DPT/Footwear Science:  
(Foam is new, and taking something so soft and making it functional is neat to see with the mechannics of the shoe) 
Personal:  B+
 (Really nice to run in, but with it being so soft I typically only can do 1, maybe 2, runs per week without soreness in my ankle stabilizers) 
Overall:  B+  

      

VIDEO REVIEW



Chief Editor Matt Klein checks in with a video review of the Rebel 2 and some thoughts on who will work for biomechanically.

SHOP | SUPPORT DOR

Visit Running Warehouse here to shop the Rebel v2. Using this link to purchase the Rebel 2 helps support Doctors of Running. Thanks so much for the support!

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Thanks for reading!

TESTER PROFILES:

Dr. Matthew Klein is a 150 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.  The stability guy of the group, he also prefers a little stability in his footwear. However, as a researcher, clinician and running shoe aficionado, he will run in anything. IG handle @kleinrunsdpt

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 to 70 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

Bach Pham MS
Marketing and Social Media Manager
Master of Arts in Cultural Anthropology

***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the  people at New Balance and Running Warehouse for sending us a pair.  This in no way affected the honesty of this review. We systematically put each type of shoe through certain runs prior to review. For trainers and performance trainers, we take them on daily runs, workouts, recovery runs and a long run prior to review (often accumulating anywhere from 20-50 miles in the process). For racing flats we ensure that we have completed intervals, a tempo or steady state run run as well as a warm up and cool down in each pair prior to review. This systematic process is to ensure that we have experience with each shoe in a large variety of conditions to provide expansive and thorough reviews for the public and for companies. 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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