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New Balance FuelCell Rebel 2 Review
Written by David Salas


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. 


Specifications (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


RUNNING SHOE SUMMARY

The New Balance Fuel Cell 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)

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. 



PERFORMANCE (RIDE / SPEED)

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. 



STABILITY

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. 



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

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. 



WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR (Conclusion)

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.



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.)   
      

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FURTHER READING

Compare Non-Plated Workout Shoes
Hoka Mach 4
- Hoka's big drop of 2021 so far, the Mach 4 has been a versatile trainer for many, shining particularly in uptempo work.
Asics EvoRide 2 - Featuring Asics Guidesole technology, the EvoRide 2 is a smooth, steady trainer that can pound daily miles and pick up the pace for a large variety of workouts
Saucony Freedom 4 - PWRRUN PB gives the shoe a hugely responsive ride that's capable of heavy workouts and even races for those seeking a non-plated option
Puma Liberate Nitro Review - Super light offering from Puma that absolutely rips the road for those with the right experience and strength

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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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