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New Balance FuelCell RC Elite v2 Review
Team Review by Matt Klein and David Salas


The original New Balance FuelCell RC Elite was a unique offering among the carbon fiber shoe category when it came out. At the time it was one of the lighter shoes in that group yet was also one of the softest with the FuelCell foam. It also was very unique in that the last was so curved that it worked well as a footwear intervention in my clinical practice for those who supinated too much and had trouble pivoting off their first toe. This made the RC Elite a niche shoe for certain people but one that did not work for others. The New Balance FuelCell RC Elite v2 debuts with a much more centered ride, but one that is far more cushioned and softer. With more stack height and a centered ride, the FuelCell RC Elite v2 competes directly with the Nike Alphafly as a super cushioned long distance racing shoe. 



Specifications (per Running Warehouse)
Weight: 7.7 oz / 218 g (men's size 9) 6.5 oz / 184 g (women's size 8)
Sample Weight Men's Size 10 US: 8.2 oz
Stack Height: 32 mm / 22 mm (not including insole)
Drop: 10 mm Drop (per New Balance)
Classification: Carbon Fiber Plated Long Distance Racing Shoe


RUNNING SHOE SUMMARY

Matt: The New Balance FuelCell RC Elite v2 is a very soft, highly cushioned, high stack height marathon racing shoe. A wider, slightly short and stretching upper provides a secure fit. The FuelCell midsole is incredibly soft and abundant. Featuring a more centered and cushioned ride than the previous, those looking for a soft, max cushion carbon fiber plated racing shoe for long distances including the half marathon to marathon and beyond will enjoy this shoe.

David: The New Balance FuelCell RC Elite 2 is an elite racing shoe that favors the longer distances. For those that love a soft and plush ride this shoe definitely delivers a combination of responsive and plush. The shoe does have a carbon fiber plate and is another member of that "super shoe" category that everyone is drooling over lately. This racing shoe is probably the softest of any of these shoes I've tried and really settles in around that marathon race pace. 




FIT (LENGTH / WIDTH / COMFORT)

Matt: The New Balance FuelCell RC Elite v2 fits me true to size if a little short in my normal men's size 10. This feeling is partially due to the wider fit, particularly in the forefoot. My feet slide forward a little also due to the slightly loose insole. This creates a small problem when walking, but has not bother me while running. Those sensitive to this should consider taping the insole in (all credit to Ben Johnson for this idea) or replacing it. The upper is a flexible knit material with New Balance logo overlays. There is quite a bit of room for a racing shoe throughout, with additional room due to give from the upper. The forefoot in particular is fairly wide for a racing flat. There is a toe guard up front that tapers the toe box just a little, but this does stretch with time. The midfoot fits more like a trainer, with plenty of room and additional room if you loosen up the laces. The heel also first slightly wider but I idd not have any heel slippage. There is a heel counter, but it is fairly flexible. There is padding around the heel and heel collar, so only those who are extremely sensitive to heel counters will notice. Most of the security elevated FuelCell sidewalls in the heel which help lock the heel in. These extend quite high on the medial and lateral side of the heel. Thanks to the breathability and knit upper, I have been able wear this shoe sockless. I have had some mild chaffing from the toe guard, so those that have sensitive skin at their toes should be cautious. Overall the upper fits wider for a racing flat, almost like a training shoe, so those looking for some extra room will feel right at home.

David: The fit of the Fuel Cell RC Elite 2 is dialed in throughout and provides a good performance feel. The shoe has a really good hold through the midfoot and the heel with a normal width to slightly wide toe box for toe splay. The mesh is breathable with minimal overlays from the NB logo. I never had any problems with slippage or translation anywhere. The tongue is very thin but still holds very well over the dorsum of the foot. The midfoot does feel a little unstable, but I believe this is more due to the narrow sidewall and and platform throughout that region and not necessarily the upper. The heel counter does extend along the medial and lateral aspect of the rearfoot and holds the calcaneus well without being irritating. I would describe it as semi-rigid. The mesh does feel a little trainer like and probably could be thinned a little to be more of a racing like upper. Overall I really like this upper though. 




PERFORMANCE (RIDE / SPEED)

Matt: The New Balance FuelCell RC Elite v2 is one of the softest shoes I have ever run in. There is a ton of FuelCell under both the heel and forefoot, making landings very cushioned especially at the rear. The forefoot is slightly firmer with the plate, but there is still a ton of material underfoot. The heel is by far the softest, with a plush and soft landing. There is only a mild heel bevel and some posterior flare, but the sole is so soft that heel transition is super smooth. The plate is not noticeable in the heel due to how softness, but begins to pop up in the midfoot. The forefoot transition is very smooth as the cushioning and plate work well to roll the foot forward. This is due to the toe spring starting a little earlier.  However the toe spring is fairly aggressive and the toes are held in some extension. This does allow for a smooth extension over the stiff plate, however may be more extreme than needed due to how much give the FuelCell has. 




The feel of the midsole is not aggressive and is more protective than responsive. The weight allows for a certain degree of turnover, but the midsole works better for keeping a consistent pace over long efforts and not for fast paces. The RC Elite v2 has excelled as a long run shoe for me and keeps my legs going at training to tempo efforts. Anything faster than tempo pace has been difficult in this shoe. I have tried mile repeats down to 400s and the RC Elite v2 feels more like a trainer at those paces. When you hit the heel, the transition is comfortable, but not super quick. Getting up on the forefoot helps, but I tend to be more of a heel striker at most speeds. Thus, it is best as a long distance racing/training shoe. Those who want a shoe that is soft enough to double as a trainer/lightweight trainer and distance racer for the half marathon and above will like this shoe. The durability is the best of any of the super shoes so far as I see no wear after 35 miles of hard use. For those wanting a very soft racing shoe that isn't aggressive but is cushioned, this is an excellent option.

David: Ok. The juicy stuff. I like this shoe. But... not really for shorter distances. For me this shoe is very soft and feels great at controlled uptempo efforts like a marathon or half marathon pace. When I ran this shoe at 10k and under pace, I felt that it just felt like it was too much shoe to really turn the legs over. It was possible but uncomfortable. The midfoot and forefoot began to feel unstable with added force being put into the platform. At more controlled efforts the shoe was great though. I took this through a steady 10 mile tempo just fine and held up great the whole way. No change of shoes and 16 on the day. The shoe has plenty of protection and responsiveness for the marathon distance. For me this is marathon and maybe half marathon racing shoe. 




STABILITY 

Matt: The New Balance FuelCell RC Elite v2 is a neutral long distance racing shoe. Like many carbon plated shoes, the plate combined with the wider forefoot is very stable up front. As typical for New Balance, the last is wider, which provides some inherent stability. The midfoot is actually fairly normal in width and does not narrow significantly, which creates more stability. The rearfoot sits deep within the FuelCell, with very high midsole sidewalls on both the lateral and medial sides. This actually locks the heel in well. When running at uptempo speeds, the plate engagement does keep some forward momentum. However, the softness of the midsole is not stable. Despite the heel design, this is particularly noticeable in the heel, with more stability in the midfoot and forefoot due to the plate being more noticeable. While some features mentioned above offsets the soft instability for parts of the foot, the softness of the midsole is still an unstable platform which requires more stability from up higher, particularly the hip and pelvis. That is the trade off for such a soft foam. Those with stability issues beyond the foot may need to keep this shoe for shorter efforts. Those with neutral to mild stability needs actually should be fine, but those needing more may need to look at other footwear.

David: The shoe is definitely not the most stable racing shoe out there. The platform is incredibly soft but actually runs pretty stable when the pace is at a controlled uptempo effort. At top speed or slower efforts the shoe begins to have more deformation in the foam and feelings of instability. I did have a little bit of soreness in my midfoot when running hard at really fast efforts or at slow efforts. The midsole also seems to cut out slightly on the medial aspect and essentially narrows that platform a little bit. It seems as though that it makes it a little more unstable in that region. I am not trying to plant a bad picture for this shoe though. The shoe is just a softer option and some of this that just comes with the territory. For how soft the shoe is it actually does run pretty stable. The upper locks down great and the traction has done just fine with everything I've thrown at it so far. 




THOUGHTS AS A DPT / FOOTWEAR SCIENCE

Matt: The ride of the FuelCell RC Elite v2 is unique for several reasons. The softness, or durometer, is on a level I have not previously experienced. As mentioned this is somewhat offset at the foot by the high sidewalls, wider last, the plate design and rocker profile in the forefoot. However, the softness of the sole still creates instability. Soft surfaces or soles require stability at the whole body, not just the foot. The knee, hip, pelvis and spine must find a balance of stability and mobility.

The knee must stay mostly in the sagittal plane (forward/back), flexing and extending at the knee. Some rotation does occur, but excessive amounts, which may occur due to instability, is not the most stable. The hip performs several motions, including hip flexion and extension in the sagittal plane for forward motion. It also however controls rotational movement both at the hip and at the knee (the femur is a bone that is part of both the hip and knee joints). Additionally, the hip is home to many muscles including the gluteal muscles which control motion at the knee, hip and pelvis. The gluteus medius is important for stabilizing the pelvis and keeping it level in the frontal (side to side) plane. This is important to provide stability at the knee, spine and hip, as weakness of the gluteus medius can cause excessive frontal plane motion at the knee (adduction), hip/pelvis (pelvic drop), and spine (compensatory Tredelenburg gait, ie spinal side bend to the same side). The pelvis interacts with the hip as mentioned, but must also rotate in many planes of motion with the sacrum which is too extensive to describe for this post. The spine has an incredible potential for movement, which also must be balanced with stability. The most common description of spinal movements include flexion, extension, sideband and rotation. However, these movements combine in an incredible number of ways to create the amazing variety of spinal motion. The spine also has more joints than any part of the body, with approximately 24 separate vertebrae as an adult with about 4 joints per vertebrae. That leaves at least 96 joints (more or less depending on some anatomical variations) in the spine alone (not counting interactions with ribs at the thoracic spine, the head, scapulae or pelvis/sacrum. Although the sacrum is technically part of the spine...). Fortunately there are plenty of muscles at the spine to stabilize if the person knows how to use them. 




Each person has different levels of control, stability and mobility at each one of the above joints. For those that have excessive motion with poor control, a softer surface creates more instability. For those with less motion, softer surfaces may provide more shock absorption (although this is actually somewhat disputed via Chan et al., 2018 and Pollard et al., 2018). For those with more motion, stiffer shoes tend to create more stability and balanced platforms (depending on where the stiffness is) and those with less motion, stiffer shoes tend to be difficult due to limiting already limited motion. There are always exceptions to this given individual variations. If you have mechanics that may not match with a shoe you are interested in, you are going to have some additional work to do to run in that shoe. For those with more motion and less control, running in a softer shoe is going to require more strength and movement control work on the muscles that provide stability (glutes, hip rotator muscles and intrinsic foot muscles). This can be as simple as a few well chosen exercises after runs. For those with less motion and more stiffness wanting to run in a stiffer shoe, some additional mobility work, particularly at the ankle and hip, is going to be required for adequate motion. There is no one size fits all formula, so understanding your own mechanics, what works, what doesn't and what extra work might be required to keep yourself healthy is well worth researching.

References

Chan, Z. Y., Au, I. P., Lau, F. O., Ching, E. C., Zhang, J. H., & Cheung, R. T. (2018). Does maximalist footwear lower impact loading during level ground and downhill running? 
European Journal of Sport Science, 18(8), 1083-1089.

Neumann, D. A. (2010). Kinesiology of the hip: a focus on muscular actions. 
Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy40(2), 82-94.

Neumann, D. A. (2013). 
Kinesiology of the musculoskeletal system-e-book: foundations for rehabilitation. Elsevier Health Sciences.

Pollard, C. D., Ter Har, J. A., Hannigan, J. J., & Norcross, M. F. (2018). Influence of maximal running shoes on biomechanics before and after a 5K run. 
Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine
, 6(6), 2325967118775720.    




RECOMMENDATIONS

Matt: Overall I really like the New Balance FuelCell RC Elite v2 as a cushioned long run shoe, uptempo shoe and as a very soft long cushioned racer. While this shoe does not work with my mechanics fully, there is a large group of people that this shoe will work for. However, my only suggestion Is to add a heel bevel in order to facilitate faster motion off the heel. The heel is soft enough that the amount of compression that occurs may keep the foot there a little longer than necessary. I would suggest to add that bevel to facilitate a little more forward motion. The other thing that needs to be addressed is the slipping insole. There are plenty of methods to create more traction on the underside of the insole and I think that would be worth spending some time investing in. Or just telling people they need to tape down their own insoles.

David: My main recommendations for this shoe would be to refine the midfoot a little bit. I'm ok with the soft platform since this is a long distance racer anyways. The midfoot seems to curve inward a little bit and when loaded the shoe seems to deform a little more in that region. I would think making the midfoot a tad wider through the platform or adding some overlays to that region might help with structuring up that midfoot a little better. Normally I don't like doing that with shoes but this one is so soft it might need a little bit of added stability elements to keep it fluid through that transition point. 




WHO THIS SHOE IS FOR (Conclusion)

Matt: The New Balance FuelCell RC Elite V2 is for someone who wants a soft, high stack height and forgiving carbon fiber shoe with a wider fit and a more relaxed upper. The upper is secure, but stretchy enough to accommodate normal to slightly wider foot types. The cushioning is very soft, particularly at the heel. This creates some instability that is slightly offset by some factors, but transitions into a more stable front. Best for long runs and uptempo runs, the RC Elite v2 serves as the highly cushioned long distance racing shoe best for half marathon to marathon and distances beyond for those with neutral mechanics.

David: The New Balance FuelCell RC Elite V2 is a very soft and cushioned elite racing shoe that will work best at the marathon and half marathon for most. The platform is a little unstable throughout but someone with sound mechanics should be able to navigate without much issue. This is definitely a worth add to the racing shoe lineup of 2021 for the longer distances.



GRADING (SHOE CATEGORY)

Matt
Fit: B+ (Wide for a racing shoe and surprisingly secure despite the lack of security up front. Fits more like a trainer. Insole slipping/foot sliding does occur but seems to mostly disappear on runs. Fit feels almost a hair short, but could be the insole)
Performance: A- (Soft ride that is best for long distance races, long runs and tempo runs at max. The sole tops out at tempo runs due to the softness, but will also work as a lightweight trainer for some given the cushioning. Smooth toe off and midfoot transition. Heel very cushioned and softest of any shoe I have tried) 
Stability: B- (Several methods of stability present that offsets soft FuelCell in forefoot and midfoot. However, the heel is still a bit unstable will work best for those with neutral mechanics to mild stability) 
DPT/Footwear Science: B+ (A well thought out shoe that provides a high level of cushioning, yet doesn't fall into the narrow last trappings. Some decent methods of guidance, however the soft sole will still create some instability for some. However, that is not the point of this shoe. This is a soft shoe for those looking for a maximalist racing shoe. It would be helpful though to bevel the heel more to stabilize the heel) 
Personal:  B+ (A very comfortable long run / uptempo shoe for me. Too much cushioning to use for faster racing and not stable enough in the heel for me. Many people however with more stable mechanics seeking a soft max cushion carbon racer will really like this shoe as an alternative to the Alphafly. I definitely see this as a potential ultramarathon racer for many people if you have stable enough mechanics) 
Overall: B+ (One of the softest shoes out there. The RC Elite v2 is a highly cushioned, maximal long distance carbon fiber racer that is quite forgiving. This shoe will work as a lightweight trainer for some and a half marathon to ultramarathon racer for others. )   

David
Fit: B+ (Dialed in throughout. Mesh is a little on the thicker end for a racing shoe. Midfoot does have some instability)         
Performance: A- (This is going to work really well for longer distance efforts. The versatility to go faster might be limited at the 5k and 10k but I'm excited with what this shoe can do for the longer distances.) 
Stability: B- (Heel counter and upper lockdown are good throughout. The soft foam and midfoot instability definitely make this a little challenging at slow or really fast paces.) 
DPT/Footwear Science: B+ (They did a good job of integrating some stability elements into an unstable foam but still need to refine the midfoot transition a little more. The same goes for the forefoot and toe off for top end speed responsiveness.) 
Personal:  B+ (This shoe is great for those long runs and tempo runs at fast but controlled efforts. I'm not sure its quite good enough in my arsenal to reach for on race day just for my personally, but definitely has a spot in my lineup.) 
Overall: B+ (Matt and I scored the same for the first time in probably forever..... This is certainly a good shoe and a worthy shoe for those that like softer platforms. It is a legitimate racing option for the marathon and half marathon but does favor neutral runners with good mechanics)        


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FURTHER READING

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Puma Deviate Nitro Elite - A early favorite among the team for 2021
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Nike Vaporfly Next% - The other choice many will be going back and forth between

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Sauocny Endorphin Pro 2 Review  - The Pro returns with a new reinforced upper that will help runners get the perfect lockdown for raceday

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

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 USA and Running Warehouse for sending us pairs.  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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