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New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4 Review
By Matthew Klein

While still a relatively young series, the FuelCell Rebel line has garnered a following similar to the Hoka Mach and Saucony Kinvara. The popularity of simple, moderate stack height, light, performance trainers continues to stay high despite every increasing footwear complexity and stack heights. The newest Rebel reverses course from the narrow platform of v3, featuring a wide, inherently stable base. This fairly large change comes with maintenance of the incredibly low weight thanks to a brand new PEBA-based FuelCell midsole. This additional takes the Rebel series to new heights, adding faster workouts and races to its already versatile ride. 



New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4
Price: $139.95 at Running Warehouse
Weight: 7.4 oz, g (men's size 9), oz, g  (women's size 8)
Stack Height: 34 mm / 28 mm
Drop: 6 mm
Shoe Purpose: Performance/Lightweight Trainer OR Non-Plated Racing Shoe

Pros: Versatile Ride, New PEBA Base Midsole, Inherently Stable Base, Same Lightweight Ride, Wider Fit
Cons: Early Wear On Exposed Sections of FuelCell Outsole, Insole Folds on Itself Easily


RUNNING SHOE SUMMARY


The New Balance FuelCell Rebel Vv4 is the PEBA-based update to the popular lightweight performance trainer. Featuring a brand new PEBA FuelCell, the ride becomes faster and bouncier than ever. A new wider upper/forefoot sits up top while a secure midfoot and heel keep the platform locked to the foot no matter what the pace. Version 4 features a new geometry with a wider midfoot that makes for a surprisingly stable ride. The incredibly lightweight for a performance trainer is maintained, which combined with the new midsole creates a shoe that can handle daily training to racing for those who do not want or do well with plated super shoes. 

SIMILAR SHOES
: Hoka Mach 6, Saucony Kinvara 14
PAST MODEL: New Balance FuelCell Rebel v3




FIT
(To learn how a shoe should fit, check out our full podcast on fit by Matt Klein.)

Matt: The New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4 fits me true to size if slightly short in my normal Men's US size 10. The upper is an engineered mesh that fits wider in the forefoot and normal in the heel. The forefoot is rounded, although the slightly short fit comes from the fairly large toe spring that caused some mild pressure on my largest toe while standing. While running I have not noticed this at all over longer miles, likely due to how thin the translucent upper is. This transitions into a normal-width forefoot with a thin gusseted tongue. The laces are slightly thicker and fortunately do not need to be tied that tight for a secure fit. The heel fits normal to slightly snug with a low to moderate amount of heel collar cushioning. There is a moderately flexible heel counter that did not bother me but with the low level of padding may be troublesome for those with extremely sensitive heels. The security is good and I did not have to lace lock the heel. I would not suggest sockless running as the inner aspect of the upper is a little scratchy. Additionally, the insole can slip and fold on itself if you are wearing socks with traction on the bottom or going sockless. Thus I would suggest normal socks with this shoe and making sure to flatten down the insole when you take the shoe off. 

Typical Size: Men's US Size 10
Shoes that have fit Matt well: Saucony Guide 17, ASICS Kayano 30, Hoka Gaviota 5, Saucony Endorphin Elite, Nike Ultrafly
Shoes that have fit snug: Hoka Arahi 7, Saucony Kinvara 14
Shoes that have fit large: Salomon S/Lab Phantasm 2, Altra Timp 5

Doctors of Running Checklist

Is This a Good Shoe for Walking: Yes
Is This a Good Shoe for Standing: Yes
Is the Forefoot Flexible: Somewhat
How Flexible is the Shoe: Somewhat
Is This a Good Heel Bevel: Yes
Recommended for Haglunds: Maybe
Recommended for Sockless: No
Durability Expectation: Average





PERFORMANCE

Matt: The FuelCell Rebel v4 is a versatile lightweight performance trainer. The midsole is a new PEBA blend of FuelCell with a bouncy but not unstable ride. There is no plate in the shoe and the forefoot has some moderate flexibility. The 7.4 oz weight (men's size 9) is immediately noticeable and combined with the softer sole and great geometry make this shoe feel especially light. The heel features a good bevel with a small central groove that allows for noticeable separate compression of the lateral aspect of the sole. This transitions into a wider and stable midfoot. The lack of a plate keeps the entire transition easy unless you pick up the pace. The forefoot has an early rocker, a large rocker and the lack of a plate allows for an easy transition with the aforementioned flexibility. This makes for a fairly rockered shoe that rolls and bounces with control. The cushioning, with a 34 mm / 28 mm stack height, provides plenty of protection without being mushy.

The FuelCell foam feels comfortable at easier efforts but comes to life more the faster you go. I have used this shoe for a long run, easy runs, a tempo run, hard intervals and the Rebel v4 has done well with all of them. It is not the fastest shoe but can certainly still move. I found this to be a great alternative to plated shoes when I did not want as much stiffness, wanted a super foam but still wanted my legs to work a little. The speeds I hit made me completely comfortable to use this shoe for anything on road. Those who do not respond well to plates will find this to also be an excellent racing shoe for a variety of distances from 10k and up. The outsole traction is fairly average and the amount of exposed FuelCell foam means this shoe should only be used on road surfaces. I have 30 miles on my pair with mild abrasion on the outsole rubber and significant wear on the exposed FuelCell foam. I expect to get an average number of miles out of these for a lightweight trainer if they are kept on smoother surfaces. 


STABILITY
(Learn more about stability in our full guide)

Matt: The FuelCell Rebel V4 is a stable neutral shoe thanks to solid execution of geometry (that we speak frequently about). The entire sole is wider with a large amount of medial and lateral sole flare in the heel and forefoot. The midfoot is extremely wide, which combined with mild sidewalls in the heel and midfoot make for a stable-feeling, non-intrusive shoe. This is despite the softer FuelCell foam, which is also balanced by the amount and strategic medial and lateral placements of the outsole rubber and small central groove in the heel that allows separate compression of the lateral heel. The geometry is well-rockered and makes for an easy transition forward. While there are not any crazy methods of stability, the wide midfoot and sole flare makes for a solidly centered ride that has worked well for me even over longer efforts. 



Thoughts as a DPT: The Impact of Midfoot Width On Ride and Stability
By Matthew Klein

I (Matt Klein) frequently talk about midfoot sole width as it relates to stability and guidance. The joints of the midfoot have most of their motion in the frontal plane (actually more like the frontal diagonal plane as nothing in the foot is truly in a straight plane). While motion here is needed for shock absorption, a narrowed midfoot sole width can make the platform inherently unstable for those who need a little help controlling motion at this area. A wider platform is naturally more stable, just as sole flare provides resistance to motion. The wider platform also adds some degree of stiffness both side to side (frontal plane) due to the extra material present as well as in the sagittal plane (front to back). In some shoes, companies may be worried about adding too much midfoot stiffness as this can sometimes make shoes feel clunky. With stiffer, firmer type midsoles, this might be true. However, with a less dense, more compliant and resilient foam like the PEBA-based FuelCell foam, this is not always the case. What is interesting about the Rebel v4 is that the midfoot is the stiffest part of the shoe. Even when manually twisting the shoe, the midfoot retains its shape best. So the additional width does add stiffness, but that isn't always a bad thing. For those who want a faster stable neutral shoe, this shoe provides the necessary stiffness to provide some mild guidance over longer miles. 

References:

Neumann, D. A. (2016). Kinesiology of the Musculoskeletal System-E-Book: Kinesiology of the Musculoskeletal System-E-Book. Elsevier Health Sciences.



RECOMMENDATIONS

Matt: This is the best version of the Rebel I have experienced. A superfoam twist of the midsole, a wider and more stable base, a wider yet secure fit and a fast ride that can handle a variety of efforts. It is still a Rebel, meaning a versatile shoe with a softer midsole and a more moderate stack height. However, the PEBA addition gives this shoe an edge that gives it a much more competitive edge into racing for those who want a plateless racing shoe. My only major suggestion is to reduce the amount of toe spring. There is a ton, which makes the shoe feel short due to the toe extension. The forefoot rocker does not need to extend up that much and the same transition could easily be maintained by having the rocker come up to the edge of the toes rather than extending beyond them. Other than that, this is a great shoe!


WHO IS THIS SHOE FOR?

Matt: The New Balance FuelCell Rebel V4 is a versatile lightweight performance trainer that can handle everything from easy miles to racing efforts. The midsole is best for those who want a more moderate stack height, lower drop, responsive and moderately flexible ride that can handle a variety of paces. The upper is best for those who want a wider forefoot, can handle some toe spring and want a light fit that allows you to forget about the shoe. The wider midfoot and sole flare make this a stable neutral shoe mostly in the midfoot. Those who do not like plated shoes but still want a faster super foam shoe will find this an excellent choice for a variety of race distances. The price is especially attractive at $140 given the amount of performance in this shoe. The FuelCell Rebel v4 is also a great workout alternative to super shoes where it still features a comfortable foam but the moderate flexibility still requires some force to be generated and absorbed by the lower extremity. A solid, simple option for those who want a do it all shoe, the Rebel v4 is the best Rebel yet. 


GRADES

Matt
Fit: B+/A- (Wider forefoot with slightly short fit due to toe spring. Comfortable fit from upper with solid security)
Performance: 
A (Able to handle everything from easy to long to faster workouts and is a race alternative to super shoes. Great light and bouncy ride)
Stability: A- [Stable Neutral] (Wider midfoot, small heel/midfoot sidewalls and heel/forefoot sole flare make for a surprisingly stable neutral ride)
Value: A ($140 for a shoe that can do almost anything is a great deal. Wish more companies would see this price. Shoes don't need to be >$200 on the regular)
Personal: A- (A favorite this year and fun to run in. A little concerned about the exposed FuelCell outsole but holding up well. )
Overall Design: A-/A 


SHOP | SUPPORT DOR

New Balance FuelCell Rebel v4
Price: $139.95 at Running Warehouse

Shop Men | Shop Women


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FURTHER READING

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A brand new super trainer that's soft and comfortable and quite fun.












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An ultrarunning shoe meant to cruise comfortably.













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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, Santa Barbara, Danbury and Stevens Point areas, we am currently taking clients for running evaluations.

***Disclaimer: These shoes were provided free of charge in exchange for a review.  We thank the people at New Balance 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 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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Contact us at doctorsofrunning@gmail.com

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Mizuno Neo Vista

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