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REVIEW: New Balance FuelCell RC Elite

The updated carbon-plated racer delivers on its promise to be even faster than the company's first version

Today, the latest from New Balance is hitting the Canadian market – the FuelCell RC Elite. This is the company’s dedicated road racing shoe, designed to propel you to anything from your fastest 5K to a marathon. This racing shoe uses a new midsole foam and repurposes an old outsole to make a really fast shoe. The company took athlete feedback from the FuelCell TC and engineered the RC to be an even better version. Here’s a closer look. 

RELATED: SHOE REVIEW: New Balance FuelCell 5280

Stack height: 30 mm 
Drop: 10 mm
Weight: 198 g for men’s size 9.5
MSRP: $300 CAD
Available: October 1

The upper

The upper has been stripped down since the TC. The tongue is the same as is featured in New Balance middle-distance spikes, there’s no extra mesh layer and it has less foam around the collar. Generally, it’s less built up. I found the upper fit perfectly. If you’re a fan of the fit of the NB 1400, you’ll be a fan of this fit as well (it’s made using the same last). 

Photo: Matt Stetson

The shoe runs a little narrow through the midfoot, but gives an appropriate amount of room toward the front. The traditional lacing system also appealed to me, keeping my foot secure through my entire run. Another bonus was the flexible heel counter, the heel being a problem area for my feet. Overall, the upper fit my foot perfectly and I felt secure throughout my entire run, despite the minimal mesh or motion control. 

The midsole

The midsole is a first from New Balance, a version of FuelCell made with an autoclave foam combined with a TPU blend. This recipe is what makes the shoe more durable, light and squishy. You can literally push the midsole in with your thumb, making the snappy ride kind of surprising. 

Photo: Matt Stetson

The shoe delivers its snap thanks to its carbon plate, which is a stiffer version of the plate that was found in the TC. I found the ride to be really smooth and the lower stack height to be a plus. At only 30 mm (a big difference compared to a 40 mm shoe), I felt much more stable on corners and grass. This shoe also felt like it allowed my foot to move a little more naturally when compared to the other plated shoes I’ve worn – a plus for me. 

The outsole

The outsole is where this shoe really shines. If runners remember the Hanzo (a discontinued NB racing flat), they’ll remember the distinct outsole made of tiny, sharp triangles. This outsole pattern, called Dynaride, provides the best traction I’ve felt in a carbon-plated racing shoe. Especially for Canadians looking to do some hard running through the winter, this outsole will provide the grip you need if there’s a bit of gunk on the road. I ran in this shoe on grass, crushed gravel and on the road, and I found it to perform the best on the road and gravel, but still held its own on the grass. Not a small feat for a carbon-plated shoe.

Photo: Matt Stetson

Final thoughts

At 85 grams lighter than the TC, with an improved outsole and snappier midsole, the FuelCell RC is a fun shoe. However, much like the Nike Alphafly and NEXT%, this is an expensive shoe. At $300 CAD and with a life expectancy of about 400K, it’s a dedicated racing shoe that you save for special occasions – not a daily trainer. 

If you’re looking for a carbon-plated shoe with top-of-the-market grip, give this shoe a try. However, if you’re looking for a training shoe that’ll get you over the 500K mark, consider the Fresh Foam 1080, a great New Balance shoe at a more affordable price point. 

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